Fausto De Martini is a concept artist and modeler. He worked on StarCraft 2, Diablo 3, and World of Warcraft cinematics during his time at Blizzard Entertainment in the cinematics division.
These days he works as a concept artist for films. He's worked on RoboCop (2014), Transformers 4, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and he's currently working on the Avatar sequels. And in his spare time, Fausto has created Project EDGE, an eBook series, where he designs, models, writes, and develops stories.
Working as an artist is a unique endeavor. To do it well, we have to work hard and possess a willingness to learn and expand our abilities. And because art mandates a rich, collaborative environment, we learn from each other and push each other to greater heights. In our interview, Fausto discusses this and much more.
By Bailey Kalesti
Bailey: I understand that you got your start in the industry in Brazil, where you started working on commercials and stuff like that. What was that like for you at the time?
Fausto De Martini
Fausto De Martini
Yeah, that’s correct. The way that I started was I came across 3D by accident, because I was working on a game magazine writing articles for games. You’d review the demo or sometimes you’d get the game, test it, and then write an article. That magazine would offer media where you could get the demos of the games and play them. It was a big thing in Brazil. I’m not sure if there was ever something like that here in the United States where you could play the demo of the game and there would be articles about it.
That’s essentially what I was doing. Then there was a guy who would prepare the media for the CD, where you could click on the menus and load the games. He did a quick intro in 3D with the logo of the company. There was a car and it was all animated. I asked him, “How did you do that?” He said, “Oh you know, I used 3ds Max and I did it at home.” That blew me away because I had no idea you could do that kind of stuff at home.
He was a programmer and he knew how to write games. He wrote a very simple vertical shooter where you could see the little ship shooting the enemies. It was cool, but the design was very simplistic. I talked to him and I said, “Hey man, let’s do a game together.” He said, “Oh yeah, that’s cool. I could do the programming.” I said, “Yeah, I could do the design. I would draw everything and come up with the story and all that, and you would have to do the 3D and the programming.” But he said, “Well, I think it would be easier if you learned 3D and you do all the design.” So, that’s kind of how I started. As soon as I started playing with 3D, after I installed 3ds Max, I just fell in love with it.
Since then, I started going more and more into 3D and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I was going to school in Brazil for marketing and advertising. It was my second year and that’s when I was like, “Okay, I’m going to have to stop doing this because I don’t think I’m going to be working in advertising at an ad agency per se.” I did end up working on ads doing vfx work, but that was a different thing.
Bailey: What time period was this? What year?
That’s a good question, let me think about it. I had a son really young; he was born in ‘95. So, that was probably like 1997. Around that time.
Bailey: Late ‘90s.
Late ‘90s, yeah. But that’s how everything started. And I decided to go into 3D, talking to my brother. He had a friend that worked at a company doing events. They had projections on big screens where they would have 3D graphics and things like that. I got an internship at that company.
Bailey: What kind of graphics were they?
You know when you go to certain parties, events and things like that where they do projections, and sometimes the projections have some animated things? There are a lot of raves that have this nowadays for the DJs.
Bailey: Oh, like the visualization stuff.
Yeah, and it’s motion graphics stuff. It was very basic 3D stuff they had there, but it was cool because I ended up meeting some guys that were very proficient in 3D and I learned a lot with them.
After that, I started my career as a freelancer, because the company kind of folded. And the guy that I was working with got an opportunity to do some freelance for a company that was related to doing ads in São Paulo. I got in touch with them, and I ended up doing freelance with them. We got along really well and they liked the work. That’s how I became a freelancer in that space. I was just doing a bunch of freelance to the point that I got a permanent job at a couple companies there. But after doing that type of stuff for a while I was like, “Okay, I think I really like doing this, but I really want to work in entertainment. Especially doing characters, creatures, spaceships, and stuff like that.”
Bailey: Sci-fi stuff and fantasy.
Absolutely. And because I worked at the magazine, back in the day, I had come across Blizzard games and Blizzard cinematics. That’s why I always had that company in my mind, because I was always a big fan of the quality of the work. I played the games, which was a lot of fun, but I also watched the cinematics which were just incredible. In my head, it was like, “Okay, if I want to work somewhere, I’d definitely love to work there because they do the kind of work that I want to do.”
Bailey: Yeah, I had a similar experience. I didn’t play the games very much, but the cinematics were always so fascinating for me. The first time I watched the StarCraft 2 cinematic teaser, where Tychus is getting suited up in the marine armor, I was totally hooked. For me, that was the moment when I was like, “I love cinematics.”
Yeah, that’s awesome. You’re talking about Building a Better Marine, right?
The StarCraft 2 teaser, released in 2007.
Yeah, that was like my dream come true (my first dream come true). Because when I was working in advertising, and planning in the back of my head what I wanted to do, I told my friend, “Dude, I really want to work on StarCraft 2.” So, when I had the opportunity to work on that cinematic in particular it was just amazing because that’s exactly what I wanted to do for so long.
Bailey: What kinds of things did you learn while you were working on that project?
Well, I worked with Nick Carpenter, a super talented director. He was the director of the Warcraft cinematic. Those cinematics were so amazing. Actually, there is this interesting story. You know those boxed DVDs that Blizzard used to have of the cinematics? They used to have a box of all the cinematics in DVDs.
Bailey: Yeah, I have some of those.
Yeah, I would go to the Blizzard store and try to buy them, but they would not ship to Brazil. [laughs] So, it was frustrating for me. But I ended up finding a company that could open a remote PO box in the United States for you to buy things that are not shipped to your country.
Bailey: Oh, wow.
And I opened a PO box just to buy the box of DVDs. [laughs]
Bailey: That’s awesome.
Yeah, and I did not regret it. Because when I got it and watched all the cinematics (I hadn’t seen all of the Warcraft cinematics), I was just like, “Jesus. This is so impressive.” At that moment, I was working on the space marine that I posted on CG Channel and CGTalk (which was what led me to the job I got at Blizzard). But when I saw those cinematics, I was just like, “Jeez, man. My stuff sucks.” I kind of got demotivated to even apply there, because the stuff I saw was so incredible.
Bailey: What motivated you to eventually go for it anyway?
Well, so that’s the cool thing. When I was working at Casablanca FX, which was one of the companies that did CGI and post for advertisements in São Paulo, I met a bunch of guys and one of them’s name was Mario Ucci. Super talented modeler and 3D artist. He’s living and working in England nowadays. He was really big into the forums and he was very connected to the community. And I showed him what I was working on and he was like, “Dude, why don’t you post this on the forums, man? I think people are gonna like it.” I was like, “I’m not sure. I wanna do this whole thing.” My plan was to design, animate and do simulation on the character, and then put that onto a DVD and send it to Blizzard.
At some point, we got so overwhelmed with work, so I had less spare time to work on that marine. My work hours were long, so I would work on that marine sometimes from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. It was pretty hectic. That’s kinda how I work on Project EDGE. So, I guess I never stopped doing that type of stuff. [laughs] But to me, the one thing that is very important is if you want to break through the next step in your life, I think you need to bleed. You’re gonna have to put in the effort that other people are sometimes not willing to give.
Bailey: Oh yeah, you gotta push yourself.
Yeah, absolutely. I never stopped. I mean, it was much easier back then when I was younger. Nowadays I’m 40, and I don’t work late. What I do is I wake up really early, so I think that helps a lot.
But anyway, when I was working, I got overwhelmed, and Mario came to me and was like, “You should post that.” There was this one night where I worked until like 7 a.m. We had to work the whole night to deliver a bunch of stuff. And when I got home, I lay down, and something came to my mind. I was like, “You know what? I have to post that. I have to change this lifestyle.” [laughs] I went to work the next day, and asked my friend Mario to help me post the marine on CG Channel and CGTalk. It was a Friday. I posted it and wrote (all in English) that I would love to get a job at Blizzard. Then, on Saturday, my friend called me. He was like, “Hey man, you should check the website. Take a look at CG Channel because your work was plugged on the front page of both websites.” They were being super nice and saying, “Blizzard, take a look at this because the guy wants to work there,” and things like that. And when I opened my email, it was crazy. There was like seven or eight job offers from companies from different parts of the world. I was speechless. I called my dad and I was like, “I don’t know what’s going on here.” [laughs]
Bailey: Yeah, crazy.
Yeah, it was crazy. It was insane. All of a sudden all those different opportunities show up in front of you. So, I started talking to a couple companies, but Blizzard was the one that I wanted to work for. It took them two weeks to get in touch with me, but I finally got an email from them and that’s how I ended up working there. I flew in for an interview and talked to them. Then I applied for a visa. Then with my wife and kids, we all flew over here to the United States.
Bailey: Wow, that’s a big move.
It was a huge move, but I felt that it was the only time for me to do it, you know? I was totally willing to do that and change my whole life in order to achieve this. And I felt that moving to a different country would also be helpful for my kids in the long run. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to experience other cultures. It was definitely tough, but nowadays it’s great because we have this sense of not even living in the same country we came from. My son—who’s 21—visited Europe recently. He’s studying 3D as well. And art, design and all that. He went over there and met with a couple other artists and now he’s talking about how he would love to move to Europe at some point. He was super excited when he came back. To me that sounds awesome. Earth is so small, we should take the opportunities to live in different places in different times of our lives. I think that’s amazing.
Bailey: That’s a pretty awesome story, man. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, and a lot of risk-taking, you know?
Yeah, it definitely took a lot of effort, for sure. It was very hard for my wife. She wasn’t as prepared. She didn’t speak English at that time and we came here with small kids. But Blizzard was super supportive; they helped us. We were here on a visa, which made things easier. Looking back, it was a huge thing but I think that’s how you should live life. Take a couple risks and try different things.
Bailey: I definitely agree. When you were working at Blizzard, what was one of your favorite cinematics to work on?
So, that was Building a Better Marine. What happened was, when I got to Blizzard, I was super excited about StarCraft. I would go home and create designs for StarCraft. I designed like ten different space marine suits in my spare time, and I would show them to Nick who would say, “What if this," or, "How about this?” And it got to the point where Nick was going to direct the teaser for StarCraft. And we kind of combined our strengths.
An ambient occlusion render of the marine. This model was a team effort.
A good friend of mine, Joe Peterson, was also working there. He did an amazing job doing the concepts for the space suit. Back then I was a modeler, but I had a little bit of an influence on some of the designs, especially the internal parts in that cinematic. To me, that was the most fun because the cinematics team was very small back then. It was like twenty-eight people, and I had a lot of freedom as far as deciding how the internal parts of the marine would work in that cinematic. How things would connect. Basically the director shot the low-poly model from the angles that he wanted to see. And I ended up filling in all the blanks with all the mechanical stuff happening. That was besides the mechanical arms. I’m just talking about the marine suit itself.
Bailey: Like when the pieces of the armor are coming together, fusing and screwing together. That kind of stuff.
Yeah, exactly. So, the environment itself was designed and modeled by other artists. There were a lot of people that ended up touching that cinematic. As for the suit itself, I had to a do a lot of work in designing a lot of the parts. But that doesn’t mean that I did everything. There were a lot of people that helped with textures, and then there was a whole finishing team. So, it’s always good to talk about how many people were involved because it’s definitely a huge team effort. Even if you’re doing your stuff and you’re modeling something, you’re getting critiques from other people. Our director, Nick, was always directing and art directing everything. It was a big collaboration.
A frame from the cinematic.
To me, when I think back, the project was one of the coolest things for me to work on. Especially because it had an effect on my career. At some point, when I was working at Blizzard, I came across the work of Ben Procter. Ben is an amazing 3D concept designer, and now he’s a production designer. He is one of the production designers on the Avatar sequels, which is the project I’ve been working on for two years (which is another dream come true). So, this whole thing connects because Ben saw those cinematics and one day I met him. I knew his work because I’d seen his work on Transformers 1 and the concepts that he did for it. It was just beautiful. And I realized that he was using a lot of 3D. I talked to him at a little Gnomon gathering that we had at Alex Alvarez’s house. I met Ben and he asked where I worked, and I said, “I work at Blizzard.” And the he was like, “Oh man, did you work on that StarCraft thing where the marine is being assembled?” And I was like, “Oh, yeah,” and I explained to him what I did and he was super excited.
A final frame of some of the inner mechanics from the marine suit.
Procter inspired me to kind of jump to my next thing, because after a while, I realized that the most fun I ever had on a project was actually designing a lot of the mechanical pieces on the marine. And I started getting my skills in my career to design more and more. To create designs more than actually being involved in production, like building a model and UVing. I got less and less interested in that part and more interested in the design part of everything.
Bailey: I think that that’s a common story among artists. They start off building the stuff and then later on they kind of want to get more into the design and the storytelling. Not everybody, but a lot of people. And I know I’ve experienced that as well.
Yeah, I think that’s a natural thing because at some point, after people do a couple years of the production work, some people (but as you said, not everyone) tend to get more excited about the design-oriented tasks. Things that are a little more blue-sky. It’s way more fun, to be honest. [laughs]
Bailey: [laughs] Yeah.
But there are production artists that really love what they do, so that’s awesome. Different artists have different tendencies.
So, I was going through that and Ben inspired me a lot. I kept in touch with him; once in a while we would exchange emails. I was following his career and seeing the stuff he did. Finally, Avatar came out. I went to the theater with Vitaly Bulgarov. We had become very good friends, and he was working at Blizzard at that time. We went to watch the movie together at the first screening at 8 in the morning. Because when I saw the trailer, I was like, “That movie has everything that I love.” Super realistic CG plus all of the beautiful mechanical work. I was really excited to watch it. And once I had watched it, I was in shock with the amount of quality stuff in there.
Bailey: It’s so beautiful.
It’s beautiful. It’s really well done. People complain about the story, but to me it was something very relatable. Characters you could get attached to, and I loved the world. I got very immersed. And it was just gorgeous, right? So, that movie inspired me a lot. Then, I went to watch a presentation and Ben was there with the other artists. Dylan Cole and so many other talented guys. And I was really in awe with all the mechanical parts of that movie, so I went and talked to Ben. I was like, “Did you work on the mechanical parts?” He said he designed a lot of the consoles and so many things for that movie.
So, I went and watched a four or five hour presentation at Gnomon about the making of Avatar. I got super inspired, so when I got home I started doing some pieces inspired by Avatar. So, that project was kind of always in the back of my mind. I was like, “Oh man, I hope one day they start making Avatar sequels. I would love to be able to work on that.” What ended up happening was I got an opportunity at some point to do some work on the side for RoboCop. It was being rebooted in a way. A friend of mine, Vitaly, started working on it. Eventually he got me in touch with those guys and I started doing some stuff. RoboCop was another movie that was pretty big when I was growing up. When I was a kid, I used to draw the RoboCop suits. I had a folder that my mom recently showed me, and out of twenty drawings that I had there, ten were of RoboCop suits in multiple poses. I had forgotten about that.
And as the universe works in very interesting ways, I was in charge of completing the design for the silver suit. Eddie Yang was in charge of doing all the blue-sky. I was not involved at that time, but once they got it to a point where they had a rough sketch and model of what they liked, I took that and worked to get it to completion. But it was awesome. It was a honor for me because that movie was also huge for me. It was very inspiring.
Bailey: So, when you got in touch with them, did they say to you, “Hey we need some help designing this and this,” or were you more of like a hired gun to do specific tasks?
Well, Vitaly was doing a lot of designing in 3D, and they got very excited with the stuff he was uploading. They ended up going to him and asking, “Do you know anyone else that can do this kind of work?” And I was the one guy that he knew that could do a similar style. I ended up just creating an art test, like a quick head, to get on to the project. I sent it to them to just kind of show that I could do a more realistic rendering of mechanical stuff. They saw it, and got in touch with me saying, “We have this silver suit, and we need someone to do that and bring it to completion with that kind of realistic look.” That’s what I was hired for, and I guess I did a good job there because they ended up putting me on more tasks like designing other drones and all the other stuff that I posted on my website.
Bailey: Were you working remotely?
Yeah, I was working remotely. And, again, I was working crazy hours. Waking up at 5 a.m. and going to work. Blizzard was really kind to approve the project as a side project. So, I was not doing anything under the table. I was being upfront about it. It was a really cool opportunity.
Concept work for RoboCop. The Assembly was first worked out by Igor Knezevic.
Eventually, after I wrapped that project, I continued doing my work at Blizzard. But, you know, I was very excited about this whole concept design stuff for the art department in films. And after a while, at the end of 2012, I got an email from the production designer of Transformers 4. He asked me if I wanted to work on that movie. Ben Procter was involved; he was one of the art directors. I talked to Ben and they told me, “Okay, we need to make sure that you’re gonna be in the union.” So, they made a case for me to get into the union for the art department, which is an important step if you want to work more in movies. To be part of the union for artists is not an easy thing to do, but they presented a good case. And, fortunately, I got accepted. So, that’s when I made my transition to full-time. I was like, “Okay, I’m just gonna start doing this.” Then I worked on Transformers.
Dropship Cockpit from Transformers 4.
Bailey: Was that when you left Blizzard?
Yeah, that’s when I decided to move my career, 100%, to movies.
Bailey: How do you like working as a freelancer?
Well, it has two sides. It’s definitely something where you have to hustle much more. I mean, I’m in a very fortunate position because Avatar became a very long-term project. There are many sequels that are being announced and I’ve been working on that. But, in general, the gigs are short, like six to eight months maximum. You have to go from movie to movie. But so far it’s been working really great because I love the fact that I’m able to work on multiple projects. I really like that. It’s like you work on a project for a little bit, and then another really cool project comes up and you start working on that. [laughs] Yeah, it’s fun.
Even working on one movie more full-time, you get another production designer that will want to work with you, and he’ll say, “Hey man, can you do some work on this other show?” So, during late nights, or on the weekends, you can do some work for the other movie. Recently, I ended up doing some work for Independence Day 2, which was a lot of fun. Also, there’s something that I posted recently on my website—the work that I did for this indie movie, Kill Command. It just got released in the UK.
Multi-arm Mech from Kill Command.
The trailer for Kill Command.
Bailey: I watched the trailer for that, yeah.
Yeah, that was also a lot of fun, you know? And that’s the kind of opportunity you get when you’re freelancing. The other thing that is awesome about being a freelancer is you have a little more freedom to also do your own thing. At some point I decided to start my project because after working for other people, and companies, and movies and different directors, it’s very cool that I now have the possibility to create my own universe. And use everything that I’ve learned and try to kind of expand that a little bit.
Bailey: Yeah, definitely. Freelance work is a whole different world. I mean, it’s amazing, but like you said, very different in terms of how much you have to pay attention to hustling and the business side of things.
You have to make sure that you stay current in posting new stuff, and people seeing that you’re very active because in this industry, you’re as good as the last thing you did, right? And there are so many talented artists coming up and it became a very competitive business.
Bailey: It can be, yeah.
I think it’s always been, but there are way more capable schools nowadays that can teach really well. And I have a good friend, John Park, that has Brainstorm and he does a really awesome job in teaching concept design there. So, you have to make sure that you’re keeping up with all that. So, to me there are two sides. You have to stay current, but I also still really love what I do. And I think that’s great because I get to do it and I have a lot of fun doing it.
Bailey: That’s great. That’s the dream, man. To be able to do what you love and to be able to get paid for doing that.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I feel that this position is extremely fortunate. Everytime that I talk about my career, or my life in general, I always talk about how fortunate I feel I am. Just to have the opportunities I had.
I could speak English and talk to Blizzard, even if it was a very rough English, but they could understand me somewhat. One of the reasons for that was because my dad was always exposed to English. He was in a very good position back in Brazil, and he was traveling to the United States. And my brother spoke English, so I kinda grew up around it. I grew up around computers too. My brother was working with computers. He was interning at a computer company there, Hewlett-Packard. I saw the development of computers since the first Apple. The first video game, the first computer, the first PC—I saw all of that. Because my brother was always bringing one of them home for testing.
Bailey: Oh that’s cool.
Yeah, it’s really cool because I think everything that happened in my life kind of fits really well together. And that’s why all the Avatar stuff is very cool too, the way it happened. Because I ended up working with Ben Procter on Transformers. Then he got a production designer opportunity in another movie, so he left. Then I stayed in touch with him, and then at some point I got an offer from Darren Gilford to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He was the production designer on TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, and then he did the production design on Episode 7. He invited me to do some work on some of the vehicles. And that was another huge honor.
TIE Fighter Special Ops 01, for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
TIE Fighter Special Forces Interior, for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Fausto's version of the "War Hammer" (a ship that was later removed from the movie), for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Another concept of the "War Hammer."
That was the first movie I ever watched, which was on VHS. [laughs] I grew up watching it many, many times. It was a huge influence on me. So, I was very fortunate that I was able to work on some of those projects that were so iconic. You know, I grew up watching that and ended up at some point touching that. It’s just awesome. When I was working on that, I learned the news that Ben and Dylan Cole had got co-production designer positions. I was just super excited. At some point I talked to Ben and he said, “Well, you know eventually I think we’re gonna need you here.” And there you go, man, that’s the other dream come true. That’s when I started working with him on Avatar.
Bailey: Yeah, I totally agree. I think that’s kind of how this industry works, right? You have a sequence of opportunities that come up, and the trick is to try to open yourself up to those opportunities. And to be someone who is really fun to be around, and to be a hard worker, and to make friends and keep those connections alive. Because I think that’s how you get work and stay involved in the community.
Absolutely. I totally agree and think the circle of friends you make, and people that push you, there’s this whole thing that we feed off of each other. I honestly think it’s one of the most positive industries around. It’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of really level-headed, nice people that work in this industry. We share the same passion and similar views of the world and how this whole dynamic works. We’re very fortunate to be around these type of people.
I recently had an opportunity to go to Paris for an event where I was speaking. I took my wife with me on the trip and she ended up meeting a lot of people in the industry. She was like, “Oh my god, everyone’s so nice.” That’s how it usually is. People are super humble, hard-working, and legitimately nice people.
Bailey: I’ve found that the people working at those high levels of capability, and on those teams where they’re really collaborating a lot, are really extraordinary to be around and are such a pleasure to work with.
Yeah, that’s totally true. I agree. I mean, I work with guys on Avatar that are really talented and super giving. I’ve learned so much from them. I met John Park in person there and became friends with him. I’m super blessed and fortunate to just be able to be around them and learn from those guys. I think that’s one of the coolest things. That’s why I was super excited when my son decided to kind of go into the same thing. I told him, “No matter what happens, you’re gonna learn and grow so much just to be around the people in the industry.” So, I think that was super positive.
Medical Unit, created by Fausto.
Bailey: So, you’re talking about working on multiple projects, and sometimes working really late—or more recently getting up earlier to get your work done.
To get more of my work done on EDGE.
Bailey: Yeah, so what kinds of things do you do—or maybe not do—to make sure that you’re still well-rested and able to function well so you don’t overextend yourself? What kinds of things have you learned?
One thing that I try to do is I try to have a good amount of sleep. Seven to eight hours. I always exercise; I think that’s very important, you know? We eat very well here at home. My wife is always cooking very healthy stuff. And I think we kind of have this healthy lifestyle that is very helpful. To me, this whole thing of going to bed early and waking up early on the next day is very, very productive because I learned that your body isn’t really made to be awake at a certain time of the night. Your brain actually starts shutting down. So, I started paying attention. Even if you get like three hours of work done in the morning, you’re so sharp that those three hours are sometimes worth like six.
Bailey: Yeah, you’re not yawning and trying to keep your eyes open.
Yeah, exactly. So, that’s the kind of stuff I do, and it’s what I started doing for EDGE. It’s very helpful. That’s how I’m able to still keep up.
I’m not sure if you have me on Facebook or anything, but I recently released a Patreon for EDGE because I’ve been thinking a lot about what are ways for me to be able to focus and build up more of the universe. I think that that is one of the ways. John Park suggested it. He has a Patreon and he does really well. He does a lot of great work there. He suggested it a while ago, and I decided to do that recently. It’s also a way for me to dedicate more time to the project. So, hopefully that’s going to help with that part a little bit.
Bailey: Hopefully, man! Yeah, I do want to talk about Project EDGE. Did you always know that it was gonna be an eBook, or did it kind of evolve into that?
It evolved into that. We are all super passionate about art books. Like, I have tons of them and I’m sure you do too. I love seeing the making-of of everything. So, in my head I was like, “Oh man, I would love to do my own project and have that as an art book.” I started building up that universe, I think at the end of 2013. Building the story a little bit and what the factions are, and what kind of companies and what kind of story I would have as a background.
A page from Project EDGE showing AGRO.
But at that time, I was like, “Okay, so I’m going to do all this artwork and I’m going to do a print version.” At some point I kind of realized what it takes for you to actually do a printed book. It is quite a bit of work and you have to be financially ready to get your book ready to be published and things like that. At that moment, that was not something I was really prepared for. So, I thought a lot about it. I was like, “Okay, I think I will be looking into potentially releasing this online. What would be the best way for me to do it?” I looked into releasing PDFs and things like that, but I came across the company that I ended up using for my eBook. I saw the format they had, and I thought, “You know, I think that’s gonna be a really good solution for now. I think it’s gonna be more accessible, and help to get this going so I can establish the project. I think this is going to be a very interesting venue.”
But my intention is to do the published version for EDGE 2, so I’m seeing if I’m gonna be able to do both. If it’s gonna be the eBook and also having the printed version, or just printed. I’ve asked more people what they would like to have. Everyone tells me, “Ah dude, I want to have the physical one.” [laughs] Just because it’s cool, right? But I think at the moment, it was the right thing to do in order to get the project off the ground.
Front and back of the Deep Space Probe, from Project EDGE.
Bailey: That makes sense. I know that publishing is a whole lot of work. There’s a comic book by Dave Rapoza that got Kickstarted last year, and just following his process to get that done has been like six months of lots and lots of work.
Yeah, it’s pretty huge. I think you need to be really well prepared to go through that, and you have to be financially prepared, so it’s not an easy setup. But publishing the eBook was also some work because everything has to be written, and grammar checked and I have to assemble all the pages. I had to do two versions because I made a smaller version available online, and there’s the one that you can download that is just the file. So, it was a huge thing too, but I don’t think it compares to how much planning you have to do for the printed version. But I’m still looking at the options. Either doing a crowdfunding thing or looking into some other self-publishing companies as well. But my intentions on EDGE are definitely to have some physical copies available, if not all of them.
Bailey: That’d be great. If you ever do a crowdfunded version of it, I’ll definitely support that.
Aw, thanks man. I really appreciate that. The reason that I continue doing this project is to see what interest people have in the universe. People that are like, “What else are you doing for it?” I ended up getting in touch with a guy in Brazil, his name is Gustavo Ribeiro. And he’s been helping me write and doing some research into the world and kind of developing that side of the story a little bit more.
I have this whole story set up for it. I’ve been slowly introducing parts and hinting at the story in specific parts. My intention, with EDGE 3 for example, is to have the story all being established and told. I’m kind of thinking a little bit ahead and putting a couple things in place where I can actually introduce a story at some point that has characters. All of the stuff that I’m establishing right now kind of makes sense, and it’s gonna be used in the story. So, it’s not just like random designs.
A page from Project EDGE featuring Heavy Lifters.
Bailey: Right. Kind of building a background. So, are you starting with the story and the writing or are you letting passion and your interests in the designs be the main drivers for what to create next?
I started with the story first. I wrote a base for it, and it was very broad. It was just kind of like a political turmoil idea where the United States removed almost all the military forces and decided to go full military in space. So, that was kind of the background, having this whole political thing. I let my passion and what designs I wanted to see be the dominant factor at the beginning. But the more I developed things, more things fell into place for the story. But I still build things where I’m like, “Okay, I really need to do this, I need to do this shot and I would love to design this.” But nowadays it’s going more towards what is going to serve the story. So, to answer your question, yes in the beginning it was more on my passion and what I wanted to see as a design because at the end of the day we design things we want to see, right? Things we are fans of. But now it’s a much stronger combination of what is necessary to tell the story.
Bailey: What’s been one of the more challenging parts of the project?
Besides finding the time for it? [laughs]
Bailey: [laughs] Is there some aspect of it where you’ve been pushing yourself to learn something new?
Definitely, that’s a really good point that you bring up. I was always much more into designing things. I’ll design the tank or I’ll design the robot. But I’m having to learn how to put those in context and telling stories with images, which is much more about composition, storytelling, lighting, and drama. That’s a whole ‘nother universe that I recently got introduced to. A lot of times in movies you have to do a couple frames using your design. Even if I don’t mainly do that, sometimes I have to do it just to sell the design a little more. And that’s something that I had to start pushing myself in. I know that I’m not great at it, but I definitely love doing it and I’m trying to be better at that part. Because it’s important to sell the drama of the story, and since EDGE has a story, that part is huge. I’ve been studying it a lot more and I bought some books about it. And I work with people that are really good at it too, so I’m always trying to pick their brain about it. So, that’s one of the aspects. It’s challenging, but it’s a lot of fun because I’m learning something new.
Bailey: Oh yeah. That’s the best place to be, right? Like on that edge, where you’re doing something that’s new to you so you’re really invigorated, but you’re also not too bad at it so it’s not so frustrating.
Oh yeah, absolutely. At some point, I think you have to try different things that will expand your knowledge. For me it’s a lot of fun to have this project because the universe is so open and there are so many aspects to it. I can navigate throughout that space whenever I’m inspired to do something different. I have enough of a canvas and options there that I can jump from space exploration design, to military design and more construction robotics designs. So, it’s a lot of fun to navigate around that.
And I’ve been doing these news articles on the EDGE Facebook page. Basically on that page I post updates on the project, and I’ve been posting those updates as news articles. It’s formatted like a newspaper page; it has the images in it and tells a little bit of the story. The conflicts and the stuff that is being generated in them are all sort of connected with the main story.
A news article from Project EDGE.
Bailey: Yeah, I’m looking at it now. That looks pretty cool. I like the approach to reveal bits of the story in that way.
And I have sneak peeks of designs that are gonna be featured on EDGE 2 as well. But this whole thing of the news part was suggested by Gustavo. He came up with it. He was like, “It’d be really cool if you came up with this news format.” And I was like, “Dude, I totally agree.” He writes a lot of that and it’s been super fun. And his sister writes as well, her name is Gabriela Ribeiro. Also, I have a friend of mine, Rodrigo Abreu, that started writing as well. He’s more like a creative consultant. Sometimes I just touch base with him and show him a couple things.
Bailey: What were some of the main references for all this stuff that you’ve been working on?
I’m trying to gravitate towards my main passions. Which is, as bad as it can be, the military design. I’m not in love with so much of what they do, but, visually, those things are really cool looking, right? And I really, really love space exploration and robotics in general. I’ve studied astronomy as a hobby since I was like ten years old I think. I’m a huge fan of everything about NASA and SpaceX. So, my main inspiration for all that is just all the real stuff that is happening with those categories. The robotics, stuff that is being developed by Boston Dynamics and all this kind of stuff. There’s the DARPA Challenge. Have you seen that?
Yeah, so one of my robots was very much inspired by the legs of the winner of the first year of the robotics challenge. So, those are my main inspirations. The actual, real designs for the military, space exploration and robotics that exist nowadays. And I’m trying to spin that a little more into stuff with a more interesting silhouette so it’s not really conservative. I try to rely on that, and my reference folders always have this type of stuff.
Timelapse of the actual DARPA Robotics Challenge Final winner. Team Kaist created this robot.
Bailey: Art is an interpretation of reality, but you still want to look at reference to find how things are functional and if it can be believable.
Yes, absolutely. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always been really passionate about and that’s why Avatar made such a big impact on me. How functional everything feels. Cameron’s sense of design and aesthetic is something that I always want. He has a background in engineering, so he pushes for everything to feel very functional. So, that’s my main thing too. I always prefer to design things that are gonna look like it can work. I try to study how things are made by going online and seeing blueprints of machines. Sometimes it helps a lot. I built an armored, personnel carrier for EDGE 2, and I was looking at blueprints of how those things are made. Because I wanted to make sure that I had the proper space for where the engine went. Even if I came up with different technologies, I wanted to make sure, at least, that it could fit enough people. And where the pilot goes and things like that. All that is very important to me.
Bailey: I really appreciate that stuff in art. Like you were saying about the Avatar stuff being well thought out. And you know, James Cameron isn’t too bad of an artist, actually.
He’s pretty amazing, yeah. It was impressive seeing some of the stuff he did for Aliens and other things he did by hand. Not only is he a genius creating the worlds, scripts and things like that, he’s very strong on the design level.
Bailey: Did you have any direct interactions with him?
I did, yeah. The reviews in the art department are usually done directly with the directors.
Bailey: How is he to work with, is he very collaborative?
Very much. I mean, I usually don’t talk much about the experience that I have with directors just because they’re so private. But generically, yeah. Very, very collaborative. The guy is a genius. And since he’s a genius, he’s very smart about taking ideas that are good. Definitely collaborative.
Bailey: Well, before we start to wrap it up here, I just want to give you a chance say anything that you wanted to talk about or mention. What I like to do is to try to get at something that is important to you that you like to share with others.
Well, I think the most important message to me is that, as an artist, I think you have to find ways to always keep your passion alive. It’s one of the reasons I create EDGE. As any type of artist you have the possibility to influence a lot of people in the world with things that you do. Some movie, or some music or illustrations. And I think that we all need to be very aware of the impact that we have and the positive impact we can have when we’re creating art. I think that all artists have to find the best way to maintain the passion. Keep that alive and better yourself. And use all that for making the world better. That’s my main thing.
Bailey: I think that’s good, for sure. Pushing yourself and staying on top of that stuff.
And also when you’re pushing yourself, you end up influencing a lot of things around you. We are always pushing forward and helping each other. I think we put little dents in the world making things a little better. A lot of times movies, games and music have a huge influence, as I said, and art is a huge force all behind that—all the creative force behind all those properties.
Bailey: Well Fausto, I just want to say thank you so much for talking with me today and sharing your experiences. It’s been a pleasure.
Of course, absolutely. The pleasure was all mine. Thanks for the opportunity to talk more about EDGE. It’s definitely very important to me to kind of talk about what I’m trying to do with that. And your curiosity about my career...I’m very honored. Thank you for your time as well.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the people in this interview and do not necessarily reflect the views of their employers.