Interviewing Idols: Rich Nosworthy
Auckland-based freelance 3D designer, Rich Nosworthy, makes some of the most epic photorealistic animations you’ve seen. Using Houdini, Cinema 4D, and Redshift, he’s become a very well-known name in the industry — with much praise surrounding his online courses. His work is quality, and it was great to chat with him!
I’ll start this interview by firstly saying, Rich is a fantastic member of the 3D community. Not only is he a fantastic designer, but his courses are some of the most highly regarded in the 3d/motion community. His redshift course (chatting more about this later!) is brilliant, and I’ve heard great things about his Houdini courses. His work has been featured all over the place, and he’s done some great interviews with From Up North & School of motion.
His work is so clean. I can see why Redshift has become so popular because so many designers have created amazing work with it. Rich’s work on Instagram is wonderful to look at. His Houdini work is also amazing, and I can’t wait to check out his course. He’s worked with some of the biggest studios in the industry too, with Tendril, Yambo & Substance studio utilizing his many talents!
Why does he inspire me?
From Rich’s work on his Instagram and website, it’s clear that he’s “a bit of everything” type of designer. His lighting and texturing are lovely, but he’s also next level at animation/simulations. For studios, I’m sure he’s a dream to work with considering his skill level across the board. Working in VFX for many years, I'm sure he’s also pretty damn good at compositing! I loved his work for ESPN, the mineral simulations looked incredible, as well as so much of his work.
Most of the time I look at designers' work and go “I wish I could do this”. With Rich’s work, it’s much of the same — but it’s less of “I wish I could do this”, and more of “I want to learn how to do this”. You can see the years of experimentation, learning, and perfecting in his work. I think all of us in the 3D community are a bit mad. We always want to learn more and bring out work to the next level. This brings me to Rich’s courses.
I’ve been doing Rich’s Redshift courses for a while now (On the 2nd course now, after I finished the first), and the way he explains things is so helpful. I can’t believe how much I know about this renderer now. Coming from Octane, and not knowing much about the Xpresso node system, I was daunted by Redshift. Rich didn’t skip over things flippantly and explained things in a simple and obviously interested way. There’s nothing better than when a teacher/tutor is actually interested and invested in the thing they are teaching! I’m slowly getting m way through the 2nd part of the course, and it’s much of the same — excellent teaching from Rich. Can’t wait to dig into Houdini and try his “In Bloom” course too!
The Interview part
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Rich some questions about himself and his career. I hope this’ll give you a little bit of an insight into his life, personal and commercial as well as his design process. It’s not every day you get to interview an idol!
1. Who are you, and how did you start your journey into the world of design?
Hey Charlie, thanks so much for the interview! My name’s Rich, I’m a freelance 3d Houdini artist, working remotely for studios internationally.
I actually studied computer science at university, although I’ve always been interested in art and drawing from a young age. It wasn’t until my final year of university I got to start playing around with Maya (3D Software) and by the time I graduated I was learning 3d every day. I ended up working my way into film VFX in London and was lucky enough to work on some great films such as Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins, Harry Potter and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (Charlie here: Fantastic films, and must’ve been amazing to work on!).
Over about an 8-year period I moved through a bunch of different disciplines, from 3D generalist to lighting, to matte painting, to compositing. I do get bored quickly and so have always been interesting in continually learning new things.
But even at this point, I was getting more and more interested in the world of motion design. Going to see some of the early OneDotZero festivals in London got me hooked. Seeing it develop more and more (especially with 3D), I became more and more interested in motion as a more experimental and playful thing than the traditional VFX route that I’d been following.
When we moved to New Zealand in 2010, I started working for a motion studio. This was the first time I got a chance to do everything from 3D, to editing, to comp, it really was fun to work on the whole process and it just continued on from there. I’ve always liked working on and learning different things and I think the variety of talents you need as someone working in this field keeps it fresh and exciting. These days I mostly stick to 3D, simulations, and lighting but I think the path I took of trying different things along the way gave me a good foundation.
2. Could you give some insight into your creative process?
It really depends on the project, usually, it starts with gathering references (either finding your own or from the team/director). Sometimes I sketch ideas out loosely in procreate. If you’re trying to quickly get a feel for a composition, it’s much easier to get something down to refer to like this than getting quickly lost in the details of 3D. But then other times if it’s more of a procedural design or FX setup, Houdini is such a big playground it’s very easy to just jump in and start trying out things and seeing what sticks, which is often the way I enjoy working the most.
With this R&D route, you can often start with one idea and discover other interesting variations that can evolve along the way. Usually, though I like to spend some time on R&D, then moving into developing ideas before moving into shots and sequences.
3. Where do you get your inspiration for projects? Who inspires you!
If it’s personal work inspiration can come from anywhere. My biggest influence was always traveling. Being in new surroundings and getting to explore and photograph new places always gives me so many new ideas for things. It has definitely been harder these last few years without having been anywhere, I do miss that experience. But hopefully things will be easier to travel again soon.
Other than that it’s a lot of the usual places, other artists, instagram, film, the internet, music, video games. In terms of people who inspire me it changes all the time. I’ve been really into the work of Abe Ajay recently, he’s an incredible artist who used to make these stunning woodblock style reliefs, a really interesting composition of found elements, and contrasting geometric shapes.
4. What are some of the largest challenges you had to overcome during your artmaking process?
Burnout, stress, overthinking things and imposter syndrome.
All of these can often appear from time to time in projects. I’m still working through trying to get better at managing these but it’s something that can hit you unexpectedly. I’ve definitely got better over the years but I still struggle with it.
There’s a lot of pressure these days for artists — your overall skills, software, learning, and training, but also a constant deluge of amazing work. The amount and quality that is coming out each day is something that’s both a blessing, but can also be overwhelming.
It’s important to try and remain objective and not always be comparing yourself to others. But it’s tough.
Likewise, it’s always amazing to get the chance to work with other artists that inspire you or are at a higher level than you. It pushes you and your skills to develop further but at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure to keep that bar high. I can’t remember where I heard it but someone said on every project you can expect to do better than your worst but not as great as your best. It’s good to remember we’re only human.
5. Do you have any big designs/projects in the works or anything that excites you about the future of your career?
Yeah absolutely! I have some fun client projects that I’ve been working on, sadly nothing I can talk about at the moment, but also always have ideas for little side projects and things on the go. Looking forward to working with more studios in the future and seeing what new opportunities arise. I don’t really plan it too much, these days projects mostly come around from a bunch of different places and it’s fun to see the variety of things that come up.
6. I started learning Redshift at the start of this year, all thanks to your course (recommended by the legend Wex Cockx). Is teaching something that has come naturally to you?
Oh that’s great to hear, Wes is super talented. Loved his design for the new Maxon one screen!
It’s always nice to get feedback and have had lots of good comments from many people about the training which makes it so worthwhile. The teaching came around after Tim Clapham from Helloluxx started talking to me about it after a presentation I made at the Node motion design festival a few years ago in Melbourne. I’ve always loved sharing knowledge but had never really done teaching before. Anyone who’s tried to make a tutorial knows that it’s generally much harder than you think it’ll be, and of course, that was my experience. There’s a lot of preparation needed not just for the project and your teaching but also how you explain it and to try and be engaging to the audience.
Also, there’s nothing worse than recording half an hour of teaching to really mess it up on the final part. Editing helps of course but sometimes you have to redo. I have a lot of outtakes of me swearing haha!
But yes, I do really enjoy teaching. It’s something I never thought I’d do but I definitely want to do more. I have some ideas for some future Houdini content, but it is time-consuming and client projects come up and then you lose momentum. But I’m hoping to have some new stuff coming soon.
7. You’ve worked with so many amazing brands and studios! Any favorite brands/companies/people you’ve worked with?
There are a few places, in particular, I’ve worked for on numerous occasions. Future Deluxe and Substance in Sydney and Tendril in Toronto. It’s always a great collaborative process and they are all really exciting studios to work with. I’ll give a shout-out in particular to Adrian Lawrence at Future Deluxe, Chris Bahry at Tendril and Scott Geersen at Substance. All are the most talented people you’ll meet and at the same time the most humble, which I think often goes hand in hand with the studios that do some of the best work.
As well as this there are a great number of artists at the studios and freelancers that I’ve worked with, too many to mention individually but again as always some of the most talented and friendly people i’ve met. It’s always great and inspirational to continue working with them all.
8. Your work on your Instagram and Website is absolutely fantastic! What do you like to do in your time away from work?
Thanks so much. I’ve been getting back into playing music a lot over the last few years. I’ve been both learning to play (piano) and program analogue synthesizers as well as trying to learn music production. It’s a big thing I’ve been digging into, but it feels like a lifetime of knowledge to learn, still. There’s something about sound design and big synth soundscapes that really appeals to me in a different way from the visual side of things I do in 3D. I’ve always loved music but actually making it and using instruments that have such a deep sonic palette, I can get lost for hours. I keep planning to get some time to record and release something, but I say that every year!
I also love photography. I really got into it when I started traveling in my early 20’s but I think it’s a really great way to develop your eye and style. I hadn’t done too much for a while, but I just recently switched to a FUJI XT-30 recently from DSLR, and the portability of the mirrorless cameras now with the quality has got me hooked again. It’s also great for my reference images, and it’s even more fulfilling when I’m using my own references for projects!
9. What’s your absolute best advice for young designers wanting to get into the 3D space/career path?
I think you should follow your passion. Try to learn what you are interested in, and take your time.
Following the thing I was most inspired by at any particular time always guided me well. 3D and motion is a huge discipline, there are so many elements from storytelling, to design and aesthetics, animation, and camera work. The list really does go on and on. It’s really a lifetime’s endeavor. As I said before there’s a lot of pressure these days as it’s never been more accessible for people to learn. There’s a lot of competition and amazing artists, but having said that your quality of work is what is important, irrespective of how fast you get there.
Be humble to others, take your time to learn, enjoy the process and also remember to take many breaks! Burnout (which you often never see coming), will kill it for you.
10. Thank you for taking part in this for me, Rich! It’s been great having the chance to talk to you and learn more about you and your process!
Thank you so much, Charlie, it's been a pleasure.
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