It can be during difficult times where one discovers what they are truly passionate about. When people are pushed to their limits they find happiness, no matter how old they are.
This is what happened for Simone Lombardo, who is now an internationally recognized 3D artist in visual effects in both film and video games.
As a young boy growing up in Liege, Belgium, Lombardo was frequently very ill, and was limited on what he could or could not do, and where he could and could not go.
“I couldn’t go outside and play until I was about 8 years old, but even then I was a bit weak, so I would stay inside,” he described. “One of my teacher’s setup a computer for me during lunch time at school so I didn’t feel bored or lonely. That is when I fell in love with computers.”
It did not take long for Lombardo to start discovering different software that the school computers had to offer, such as Logo and Turtle Graphics and later Klick & Play which would let him do mini-game, and finally 3D Studio 4, which he says made him discover 3D.
“I was always interested by Japanese animation because of my grandfather’s love of it, as well as Walt Disney, but when A Bug’s Life was released I knew this was the future of animation, and I knew this is what I wanted to do, this and video games.”
Lombardo has achieved his childhood goal. He has worked on the blockbuster films The Maze Runner and its sequel The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, the Academy Award winning film Hugo, as well as the largely successful video games Resident Evil and Soul Caliber V.
“I love the fact that if I have an idea late at night, I could just jump on the computer and quickly prototype something. I went to art school, but I always have had problems learning how to draw. many of my friends tried to teach me, but somehow it never works. But, when it comes to visual effects, everything is possible. It’s like magic,” said Lombardo.
Lombardo is an award-winning member of his field. He was an honorable mention at the CG Society International Challenge Spectacular, and first runner up at the Journey Begins. He won the Vocation Foundation Price in Belgium, in the CG Animation category in 2007, and is in the official 3dsmax Bible Book of 2008 and 2009
“Simone is an elite visual effects artist and animator of extraordinary ability,” said Saku Partiamies, the VFX supervisor at Pixomondo Shanghai, who worked with Lombardo on Hugo. “Simone possess excellent interpersonal skills and is a natural leader on set, instructing a large team of people how to achieve the most effective results to make the best film possible.”
Despite his overwhelming success and accolades, Lombardo says there are still challenges he faces each day.
“VFX is a young industry, and it keeps changing almost every day. It can be difficult to jump in the middle, as it is difficult to keep up to date with it. It has so many branches and variations,” he described.
But Lombardo has done a good job at keeping up-to-date with his chosen field. While studying advertising at a young age, he mastered programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and branched into 3D Studio 4, despite there not being any access to it in his hometown.
“I just learned by reading the documentation and finding really rarely some book at the library. I ended up knocking on the door of the only company in my country at the time that was doing 3D Animation at the time, Neurone Animation, and asked them how I could learn more,” he said.
This sheer determination led Lombardo to a night school where he could refine his skills.
“They had computers, and software like Alias, and 3dsmax. I was freaking out,” he said. “For 3 years I made the trip from my hometown to the school every day. It was one hour on the bus, two and a half hours on the train, and then a thirty minute walk each way.”
A four hour commute to school has paid off for Lombardo, who worked on Take Back Your Power, which was done under Reuben Langdon at Just Cause.
“It was a really great project to work on, because the time was short, and I could test some game engine render with it. While 80 per cent of it was done with traditional CGI, the other 20 per cent was done using a really early version of my Game Engine Hybrid pipeline, it was a really good warm up. And the director was really nice,” he described.
Langdon, the founder of Just Cause Productions, knew from the time he met Lombardo that he wanted him to work at Just Cause.
“I can honestly say that working with a visual effects artist of Simone’s caliber has been one of the high points of my career,” said Langdon. “Simone’s work changed the way the industry looks at game engine.”
Working with Just Cause, Lombardo also worked on Resident Evil and Soul Caliber V, which many gamers recognize for their outstanding visual effects.
“Working on an amazing game like Resident Evil taught me a lot about motion capture and game tech. It re-connected my visual effect knowledge with my game engine root from Amsterdam. Working on Soul Caliber V, I could learn from the amazing team at Just Cause, and their amazing knowledge of Facial Motion capture and voice-over,” described Lombardo.
Lombardo has ambitious goals, from wanting to become a director for a movie or game, as well as release his own IP he wrote called HOPE, which will consist of three movies, two games, one comic book series, and a television show.
“Once that is done, I think it will be ok to take a break,” he concluded.
Well, he has definitely earned it.