Have you ever seen or played a video game so scary, you couldn’t turn away from the screen even if you wanted to? Chances are, it was set in a place not unlike the environments Emiel Sleegers’s team makes at FastTrack Studio.
Emiel’s team creates realistic 3D models that make scenes feel more lived in, even if they just happen to be a mall in a post-apocalyptic undead nightmare. So, come along with us to learn about how he went from video game development to creating his own 3D modeling company.
Can you tell us what got you started 3D modeling and how long you’ve been working in the field?
I’ve been in the industry for approximately eight years now, with my journey beginning back in high school. It all started when I discovered the Unity engine, where I divided my time between “trying” to program and exploring 3D art. I ended up falling in love with the art side of game development.
Following high school, I spent a year in art school. However, I soon realized that I wasn’t suited for traditional schooling. So, I started seeking job opportunities and was fortunate enough to land a position as a Junior Environment Artist at Playground Games. I continued to gain experience, spending roughly five years working with Ubisoft.
Eventually, I decided to take the leap and establish FastTrack Studio. At my company, we specialize in developing high-quality tutorial courses and creating 3D environments and prop content.
The 3D objects and equipment you sell on TurboSquid look like it would fit right in with your environments. Can you walk me through your typical creative process when starting a new 3D project?
I’m fortunate to have a small team of two additional artists working with me. Our creative process begins with brainstorming and thorough market research to determine the type of environment we want to create. This involves considering various factors such as use cases, competition, scale, and style.
Once we’ve settled on an idea, we gather extensive reference materials and begin our work. As the project’s art director, I often handle tasks like creating the environment blockout, level art, and lighting. This focus allows me to stay aligned with the project’s vision. Meanwhile, my fellow artists support me by planning and creating blockouts for the assets required in the environment. We streamline our work using standardized tools like Jira, Confluence, and Source Control, which are essential for efficient collaboration on projects with hundreds of assets.
When all the blockout components are in place, we transition into the most time-consuming phase—turning everything into the final product. This entails creating final models, materials, polishing the environment, perfecting the lighting, and more.
We conclude the project by crafting a cool trailer and capturing high-quality screenshots before preparing it for publication on TurboSquid.
How do you balance artistic creativity with meeting the practical requirements of selling an object on TurboSquid?
We find ourselves fortunate in this regard, as our focus primarily lies in crafting realistic environments. We typically have a large amount of reference materials at our disposal, which greatly streamlines our creative process. Additionally, our well-established workflows—encompassing aspects such as polygon counts, texture management, and folder structures—play a crucial role in simplifying the preparation of our artwork for TurboSquid.
Where do you draw inspiration from in your creative work? Are there any artists or 3D designers who inspire your work?
Like any artist, we love exploring breathtaking environments and concept art on platforms like ArtStation. Nevertheless, our primary source of inspiration mostly comes from the real world. To illustrate, consider our warehouse environment—we came up with the idea for a warehouse when I was walking through the IKEA warehouse.
This is a common occurrence for us. We draw inspiration from real-life locations and conversations with people discussing the kinds of settings they’d like to see, and often, we simply go with the flow from there.
Can you share an example of your favorite or most challenging 3D project you’ve worked on?
This is by far the Airport Environment.
Creating this environment was quite a journey, spanning nearly seven months. It includes more than 580 different assets and showcases an expansive airport interior, complete with security areas, terminals, shops, and restaurants—just like a real airport.
Throughout this project, we gained valuable insights and experiences, making it both a significant learning opportunity and the most enjoyable environment we’ve worked on to date.
Have you gained any useful insights into 3D modeling since you started selling on TurboSquid?
We collaborate closely with TurboSquid to ensure you receive the best experience possible. While we’re confident in our artistic abilities, TurboSquid has taught us valuable lessons in making our art accessible to a wide range of industries and people.
For instance, initially, we offered our entire environments for sale on TurboSquid. However, we recognize that sometimes, individuals may only need a single prop from within those environments. Consequently, we’re diligently working on making individual assets available alongside our complete environments, starting with our “Hero Assets.”
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in 3D technology?
The industry has always been known for its rapid pace, but with the introduction of AI tools, things are accelerating even further. Fortunately, a segment of our company is dedicated to producing tutorial courses under our brand “FastTrackTutorials.” This allows us the valuable opportunity to invest time in learning new workflows and staying current with industry trends.
While it can be challenging, we find that a combination of internal learning efforts and collaboration with external freelancers provides us with a solid understanding of the latest workflows and techniques.
Are there any new techniques or technologies you’re interested in exploring in your upcoming projects?
Currently, our primary focus is on workflows such as USD, photogrammetry, the development of engine tools using Blender Geometry Nodes, and a deeper exploration of various AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. All of this is done while keeping ethical practices in mind. Even this interview has benefited from the use of ChatGPT to refine my sentences, as English is not my native language.
Do you have any other thoughts or advice for people interested in getting into 3D modeling?
Let’s talk about reference—it’s something we’re really passionate about, and we can’t stress its importance enough. Unless you’re working on a stylized project, it’s not advisable to dive into creating your artwork purely from your imagination. More often than not, this approach can lead to issues or result in a model that falls short of expectations.
In addition, we strongly advise content creators for marketplaces to have a solid understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. While it’s perfectly fine to work on improving your weaker areas in your spare time, it’s crucial that when you create content for sale, you deliver nothing less than the very best quality. This is one reason why we steer clear of natural environments, even if we have the know-how. It’s just not our strong suit.
Lastly, as a shameless plug, if you’re starting your journey as a 3D artist and aspire to learn the ropes, we recommend checking out our tutorials on ArtStation.
Need realistic 3D models for your next project?
Vehicles, architecture, furniture — TurboSquid has a vast array of time-saving models.