Unbelievably Slick 3D Animations by Cormac Kelly – with Exclusive Interview

Today we have the great pleasure of interviewing a very talented artist: Cormac Kelly. He’s an ambitious digital art creator, a genuine Irish man who’s hobby turn into a career and the other way around. The following post will show part of his personal and professional work, including collaborations and smaller or greater contributions to different projects. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, in an exclusive interview. We are 100% sure that all digital art lovers will have something to learn from it!

Lights Out – Regular (personal work)

This animation follows a little robotic character who’s just trying to grab some shut-eye but the factory around him springs to life unexpectedly. A serious design flaw in the factories ergonomics prevents the poor guy from reaching the off switch and the rest is history!

Q: Howdy Cormac! Welcome to pxleyes.com community. Allow us to know you a little better and share a few personal things and background.
A: Thank you very much. So the name’s Cormac Kelly and I’m an Irish man, I like my potatoes and I enjoy my beer but when I’m not being a stereotype I spend most my time living between Dublin (where I work) and Waterford (where I was born). I’m the ripe old age of 26 and over the years of gathering dust I’ve done my best to try and fit in as many creative pastimes as possible to keep any creative juices I can, flowing. As far as college goes, I spent 3 years in Modelmaking and Design for Film, TV and Media in Dun Laoghaire IADT which is an awesome course. It’s mostly concerned with things like prop building, creature design, animatronics, architectural modelling and sculpture. I veered off (ahem…sold out) into the world of computer graphics somewhere in my third year and haven’t really looked back since. I do miss the smell of clay and all the various other noxious materials we used from time to time but for the moment I’m happy enough with having the “undo” button in my tool box instead. When it comes to family, I’m an only child. I think this helped a lot with developing my imagination in some ways. With no siblings around its just you on the floor with the inanimate plastic robots (unless your friends are over, rudely interrupting you!) and without the sanity of other siblings around to ground me, it helped create and shape my warped sense of humour and twisted views of the world which ultimately feed into anything artistic I do. Except the times when I’m being dull and boring… I have no excuses for that.

Sunflare(personal work)

This is a music video created for the final year project. Everything from start to finish was created by Cormac, including the music.

Q: You’re an amazing digital artist! Is this a fulltime job for you or an intense hobby?
A: Thank you very much for the kinds words! This is most certainly a full-time job for me. I’ve been working at Piranhabar since I left college in 2007. When it comes to hobbies I have to say I’m a huge lover of music as-well as art so any chance I get I’m usually tinkering away with a new track on my laptop and synths. I find photography can be quite a bit of fun also because (if you ignore all the skill and experience that goes into the art…but please don’t!) essentially for an amateur like me, all you have to do is twiddle some dials, set your lighting and composition up and click a button!. It can be a relaxing experience to have art created so instantly which is in contrast with the craziness of visual effects and animation where not only do you have to be a photographer but you have to create everything inside the world in front of the lens from scratch! It’s nice to have the earth render your scene for you before you even hit the “render” button on the camera. Alas I’m no master of the skill of photography, I’ll leave that to the experts but I think it’s important for any visual effects artist to have some basic understanding on how images are captured so you can feed that back into your digital work. It can really help when you start to discover how lenses, depth of field and exposure all work in the real world. As for music, I think it can be a great help in areas such as animation or editing because when you’re composing something you are acutely aware of timing. I feel if you have a good grasp on how to build suspense or tension in a song that will ultimately come through in your visuals too. I find rhythm and balance/symmetry to be quite important in both the musical world and the visual world.

Avatar Days (professional work/collaboration)

What makes this short film so special is the fact that it was filmed, vfx’ed and comped all in just 4 days. It was made as part of the “4 day Film” catagory in the Darklight Film Festival.

Q: Is there something or someone that particularly inspires you with your creations, or is it mostly clients’ requests?
A: Well, when it comes to my commercial work, which is most of the content I’ve built up in my portfolio since college it will always be the client who has the final say. However, it is also an important part of my job that I do my best to bring my own ideas to the table that will work within the brief to keep the work as interesting as possible. Okay, so if you’re replacing a pack of cereal for a breakfast treat commercial, you don’t have a lot of scope in the creativity arena but for anything that involves a character or even more abstract subject matter I always do my best to breath some life and personality into it. When it comes to my own work, inspiration is a tough one to pin down. If I were inspired by only one or a handful of things it would make for some bland and predictable work! As cliched as it is, inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes I’ll be staring off into the middle distance, only half focusing on a random object and its shadows and highlights might look like or suggest something. For instance, a face or a figure in a pose might materialize from a pile of clothes on the floor and it’ll stir something in me and give me ideas. A little like staring at clouds I suppose you could say. I find looking for inspiration get’s on inspirations’ fickle little nerves and it goes and hides in a corner somewhere so I kind of have to wait (sometimes impatiently) for it to come looking for me! I find long drives can help me hunt it down.

ESB Electric Ireland (professional work)

A man, a room and some mind warping drugs that send him hurtling through time brandishing a kettle and a dangerously brittle mug full of boiling liquid. That’s what this ad may appear to be about on first viewing however, some may say unfortunately, no such luck. This one sees the ESB (now ESB Electric Ireland ) celebrate their many years of serving electrons to our power hungry country and a little brand change thrown in for good luck.

Q: Please tell us which is the software you use and love most.
A: I’d have to say I’m a big fan of Softimage. In college I was using 3D Studio Max and that has many many great things going for it but when i started in Piranhabar I was tasked with learning Sotimage and I have to say it just fits my style of working a little better. With ICE (Softimage’s Interactive Creative Environment) having been introduced as part of the package a few years ago it’s really come on leaps and bounds. Lately the lads at Softimage have been piling on the functionality with things like Lagoa Physics and ICE Modelling tools so it’s quickly becoming a one stop shop for 3d. Anything that saves me having to jump from program to program to get the job done is very welcome. It would be nice to get some third party renderer’s in there for a little variety but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. I find After Effects a really useful tool to have around for testing comps out aswel before I hand my stuff to the Flame guys downstairs when I get the chance. Photoshop is also pretty integral and essential to what we do. Those would be the main ones but then there are usually tasks that require you to learn a new piece of software to get the job done from time to time. You can’t stop learning in this business because you’ll get left behind pretty swiftly if you let yourself lose touch with new technology!

2FM – Come Together (professional work)

This ad is about a load of 2FM radio presenters dressing up in their finest role playing gear and deluding themselves into thinking they’re having fun in what must be a freezing warehouse…it was December after all. A little known fact about this ad is that it was filmed during the Cold War and a nuclear explosion was reported to have gone off within a mile of the bunker they were filming. This is said to be the sole cause for both the apparent lack of aging of the cast since the incident and Mr. Tubridy’s unfortunate limb length in relation to his slight frame.

Q: What is your greatest achievement, the thing you are really proud of?
A: It’s in the past and I’ve said my goodbye’s to it but if I’m honest, I’d have to say I’m fairly proud of my final project from college called “Sunflare”. Not because I think it’s fantastic and can’t be improved…faaar from it but because it pretty much required me to really suck it up and work my ass off till the project was finished to the standard I wanted it to be. This kind of pressure is really something you should experience before you enter the post-production industry because it will prepare you for the shock of the deadlines and standards required by clients! For the project itself, I wanted to make a complete piece of work encompassing sound and visuals all completed by myself but with no meaningful previous experience it was no easy feat! The main reason I’m proud of it is that I wasn’t 100% sure I could ever get the project completed in time as I felt it was a little ambitious but in the end I figured I could trust myself to make it work. In summary it was a 3 minute music video to a track I wrote which follows the evolution and growth of a robot feotus that grows inside its mothers womb. The challenge was worth it and the video was completed on time and thankfully just good enough for the good people at Piranhabar to give me a job! As a bonus, a year later the video also won me a trip to L.A. which was nice. So don’t forget to chance your arm and throw your videos into a few competitions and festivals, you never know what might come of it!

Bord Na Mona Firepack (professional work)

The following ad is about a pyromaniac woman who trip balls after setting fire to a bag which in turn envelops her cold and heartless cave and turns it into a cosy and warm living room with a free husband to boot. You’ll notice in the ad we never see his feet. That’s because he doesn’t have any, he’s merely an abomination of her twisted imagination.

Q: Please give a little advice for the newbies just starting out in this field of art.
A: If you’re still in college and looking to get yourself in the door of the industry you’re going to need some kind of show-reel or something you can prove yourself with. My advice if you end up doing to final project of some kind in your course is to aim high but not so high that you’re working outside the scope of what you as an individual can achieve in a limited space of time. Don’t try and be an one man Pixar or ILM and try and create a mini feature film all by yourself. I’ve seen this go horribly wrong in my college for a few people and ultimately they didn’t really have anything particularly polished or even in some cases, finished at the end of it all to show for all their hard work. Make sure whatever project you’ve chosen to do is do-able to as high a standard as you possibly can as there is a lot of competition and talented people out there gunning for that place in the post-house too! If you’ve just started in the industry, my advice would be to make sure that you can take criticism on the chin. In other words, you’re vision is rarely 100% in sync with what the client or director has in mind so be prepared to make some changes to you’re lovely work! It can be difficult as an artist not to be precious about the the awesome piece of art you’ve just stayed up all night creating but its a necessary skill to learn not to be so precious. Also, check in with your team-mates from time to time, see how they feel about your work and the way you go about things. You all need to work together and you will be spending a good chunk of your time with these people so it’s important to make sure your working relationships are as solid as possible. This is something I personally have to work quite hard at as I’m used to doing things on my own having being raised as an only child! I hope some of this waffling helps someone a little bit anyhow! It’s been a pleasure.

Dulux Weathershield (professional work)

A little girl with powers beyond our comprehension body-slams a house into submission while the cruel elements taunt it. Nasty leaves, tracer rounds of water and footballs adorned with suspiciously brown matter pelt it relentlessly.

RTE Two Interstitials (professional work)

This is basically a few of the Intersitials (those little one second reminders that pop on between ads to remind you which station you’re watching) Cormac did for the rebrand of RTE Two.

Kellogs Rice Krispies Supermarket (professional work)

This is an ad Cormac worked on just before Christmas ’09 for Rice Krispies Squares.


Giulia is a 25 year old girl from Romania. She runs a blog dedicated to cute animals on furrytalk.com. She's also an amateur photographer and has a passion for Photoshop.

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