January 14, 2020
Here we introduce the interview with Zinaida Baklanova and Hugues Rebay, SOA students from the Masterclass#27 who established their own Studio, Zuh Visuals.

Hi guys, could you present yourself to our readers and tell them about your Studio and your position?

Hi there. We are Zina and Hugues, respectively 28 and 33 years old ArchViz artists based in Nice, South of France.
We’ve been working in the industry for almost a decade now, and decided last year to create our own Studio, ZUH Visuals, which is, to us, a great opportunity to reach our professional goals.

Zinaida and Hugues

Why have you decided to become an Arch-Viz Artist?

Hugues: When I was studying architecture in Marseille-Luminy architecture school, I started being passionate about putting the projects I was designing in 3D. The possibilities offered by 3D software like Sketchup at the time just blew my mind, and I started then diving more and more into the ArchViz field. After an internship in a French ArchViz Studio during my 4th and 5th years of studies, I felt that it was the way to go for me, and it didn’t stop since then.

Zinaida: Well, in the beginning the first attempts to do 3d images were at my university. After that, there was a short period of time when I tried to work as an architect, but then I went back to creating images. For me it was a way to revisit architectural photography in my own digital way. I realized soon that it was what I’d liked to do all the time.

Zinaida and Hugues
Image by ZUH Visuals

You met in the Masterclass#27 back in 2017, how was your experience at SOA?

H: Yes! We met in the Masterclass#27! I could say that this month brought me a fresh vision of the job I was doing for about 6 years at that time. And it was really a pleasure to see things in another way than the one I had been used to for quite some time. It brought me new ways of thinking about my work and passion and let me meet awesome people with whom we are still in contact today!

Z: Exactly! For me it was really a good experience. It gave me a representation about another type of workflow. Also I discovered Substance Designer there and since then I’m using it quite a lot on a daily basis. As Hugues said, we’ve met a lot of great people with really different experiences at this masterclass. It’s always cool to know how other people handle the same situations and how they see our field. Moreover, we met each other, with Hugues there.

Why did you decide to attend a SOA course?

H: I was basically looking to push my skills forward. After watching a huge amount of online tutorials, it seemed to me that coming to SOA, meeting the tutors directly and being able to talk to them, asking them questions, and having instant feedback was the best thing to do.

Z: I was looking for a course of ArchViz for a certain amount of time, because I’ve been understanding that to continue working and growing as a 3d artist I needed to learn more and from the other angle than Youtube tutorials. For me it was a way to improve my skills, learn new things and go out of my comfort zone.

Penthouse by ZUH Visuals - library
Penthouse by ZUH Visuals
Penthouse by ZUH Visuals - Living room
Penthouse by ZUH Visuals

How did the course help you improve your skillset and quality of images?

H: First of all, working for the same Studio for quite some years kind of locked me in a single perception of how things had to be done. The Masterclass allowed me to see things differently and think by my own about the images I was about to do. The simple yet effective workflow proposed by SOA brought clarity in the image creation process and a good guideline for the future images I’d do. In addition to that, the opportunity to discover new software, like Substance Designer, brought things further and gave me some new keys to achieve the results I was looking for. Leaving the Masterclass, I had a clear vision on the whole process of creation of an ArchViz image and was more confident than ever.

Z: I guess, one of the most important results of the Masterclass was a new way to use certain software on a daily basis. After the Masterclass, I’ve started thinking about images in a different way. It changed my perception about the feelings that the image should bring to the final viewer. It became for me a way to transfer emotions from the projects through CGI. After certain amount of time when you’re looking at the image you want to change something (at least this is how it works with me). In this case new solutions helped me a lot to look at the images that I’d done before from a different direction and to use new technics to improve them.

Is there any moment during your experience at SOA that you remember with a smile?

H: I remember the Masterclass as a one of a kind experience! Living with unknown people sharing the same passion for a month was pretty cool. It rapidly became a family-like holidays in which we were all learning new cool things and progressing at the same time. Of course this all came with amazing parties in Venice with way too much spritz and missed trains… work hard play harder!

Z: There were a lot of cool moments at SOA. I think in total it was a moment with the smile all day long. It was like a camp for people with the same interests. So, at the courses and after, there were a lot of funny situations, missed trains, lost in Venice, only 6 of us in the empty streets of Jesolo trying to find our way back to San Donà. Also a lot of jokes kind of ‘lost in translation’ were born there.

Penthouse by ZUH Visuals - front
Residence Australia by ZUH Visuals
Penthouse by ZUH Visuals - details
Penthouse by ZUH Visuals

What were the biggest difficulties you faced at the beginning of your working experience? How did you handle and overcome them?

H: Getting hired after my graduation at the architecture school saved me quite some troubles. However at that time I was working with Cinema4D and the Studio I joined was using 3ds Max. Therefore the adaptation from one software to another was quite tricky, but in a few months everything was going pretty well. I would say that the biggest difficulty I faced was to adopt and perceive the production workflow of an architectural visualization studio, taking into account the clients’ changes, even at the last moment. It took me also a few months to get comfortable with it and it made me more comfortable working in a professional environment.

Z: I think, in the beginning the most complicated moment was to find a proper workflow. I’ve been working as a freelancer for companies of different sizes and it was really complicated for me to switch from the workflow of one company to another one at the beginning. After certain moment I found my way how to manage it and now, partially, we are using it at ZUH Visuals.

Is there a work/ an image/ a project that you created which is most valuable to you? Why?

H: I would say the Townhouses in Hamburg. This project was our first commissioned work as ZUH Visuals, and it meant a lot to me. We’ve loved working on this project with Corona, for the first time for us on such a scale.

Z: For me the most valuable image is the one that we’ve done together for Mars Competition in 2018. It was our first experience working together as two artists and a couple at the same time. Each of us were learning new technics to achieve the result that we wanted. For me, this image is a result of an all-day long exchange of ideas between us, search of solutions, a lot of attempts with new technics in different software and lots of scientific texts. It was a really interesting experience. I guess, that’s why this image is so meaningful for me.

Townhouses in Hamburg by ZUH Visuals
Townhouses in Hamburg by ZUH Visuals
Mars Competition by ZUH Visuals
Mars Competition by ZUH Visuals

You’re now a couple both in private and professional life, did it change your work? If so, how?

H: Well, yes, it definitely changed my work as I’m now working together with Zina. Managing professional and private life while trying to grow a studio is quite a task, but we’re doing well and try our best to split things and keep moments out of CGI, even though it’s always next to us as our job is our passion.

Z: Definitely, it changed the way how we worked before completely. Each of us had a certain way to work, certain perception of the whole working process, how things should be organized and life’s regime. And when we’ve started doing images together it was a moment when we had to find the balance between working moments and our life as a couple.

What are your hobbies in your free time? Can you balance your working life and your private one?

H: I like to go to the gym quite often. Doing ArchViz is quite an intense job. I personally think that it’s good to keep an healthy way of life, and as we are sitting on a chair for hours, sometimes at night, lifting weights is a way to free my mind and push myself in another domain.
I also like cinema, arts, and these are perfect hobbies to share with Zina! I always try to take time to see my family, friends, even though sometimes it’s a bit complicated with the fast pace and short deadlines of our work.

Z: My biggest hobby is oil painting. Unfortunately, for the moment I don’t do it that much cause we’re in process of growing ZUH and it takes nearly all our time. For me, painting it’s like 3d without client. It’s just me and the canvas. We’re also trying to visit a lot of cultural places, giving us really a lot of inspiration for our CG works.

Image by ZUH Visuals
Image by ZUH Visuals

Thank you guys for being part of the SOA Family. We wish you the best in your life!

All images and photos are under ZUH Visuals copyright.

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