Ric Holland's Blog

Marco Nero interview



 Ric       How long have you been using Wacom Pen/Tablets?

Marco  For the last 6 years I’ve used Wacom tablets for all my work. Prior to this,

I was executing all my work (including Mattes) with a mouse which drew the odd gasp from fellow staff from time to time.  I had heard that the tablets were good for photographic retouching and eventually requested one for my work computer.


Ric       What type of Tablets do you use now?


Marco  I have two Intuos 3 Wacom tablets of my own and two older models which
I have recently passed on to friends to try.
One Intuos 3 is for my laptop and the other is currently used on my
desktop computer.   I’m eying off recently released Wacom models
already and like the new additional features concerning ratio-to-
screen on the newer ‘widescreen’ Wacom tablets.  But the rugged nature
of the tablets make it unlikely that the owner needs to upgrade
regularly and I have never heard of a tablet failing.


Ric       Tell us about your work?


Marco  As a Film Designer, my job covers Conceptual Design, Retouching, Matte
Paintings and Texture Maps for 3D Models.
Projects for Film & Television that I’ve produced work for which required an interface such as the Wacom tablet include Happy Feet, Farscape, 28 Weeks Later, House Of Flying Daggers, Stealth, 300, Revenge Of The Sith and dozens of book covers, magazines and television commercials raging from Optus, Smirnoff, Nintendo, Visa and Holden to the exotic Chanel No. 5 commercial with Nicole Kidman.  I also enjoy traditional illustration and photography, both of which I can enhance greatly with further digital manipulation when required.  Retouching pictures for a catalogue or a portrait is many times faster and more efficient with a tablet than any other means for me.  I can’t bear to think about going back to the days without one actually.


Ric       What innovations in your work are due to the use of Wacom Pen/Tablets?


Marco  There’s a lot of subtle effects and specific techniques which can only be achieved efficiently and professionally with a pressure sensitive tablet and pen. The Wacom tablets have been a steep learning curve for me after trying one out in a store some years ago. The work I do ranges from Digital Matte painting to Photographic work on a professional level and almost every project benefits from the freehand potential of this particular type of interface.  It’s easier to use when applying gradient tones to scanned illustrations than a computer mouse or track pad can and the increase in speed is one of the reasons I’ll actually pack a tablet in my backpack when working in the field to enhance a commercial photograph etc prior to burning a disc straight from the laptop.  I can recall sitting next to an annoyed rattle snake in the Badlands of Alberta Canada whilst digging for dinosaurs and photographing the fossils around me.  I needed to quickly edit the images and transmit them to a publisher the moment I returned to the hotel.  The Wacom tablet I’d bought with me allowed me to conserve battery power on my laptop whilst splicing and compositing several dozen images together to form panoramas and to remove unwanted elements. I made it back to my car just a few minutes before a twister slammed into the ground where I’d been working and made the deadline without a hitch due to the speedier work flow that simply couldn’t be achieved with any alternative such as a mouse or track pad. I won’t go anywhere without at least one of my Wacom tablets these
days if I can help it.


Ric       What applications do you use in your work flow and what functionality is driven by using a Pen/Tablet.


Marco  Primarily I use Adobe Photoshop, Painter and occasionally Adobe llustrator. Photoshop is one of the most versatile programs afoot and I must confess that I avoided computers altogether for some time until recent years. Now I have to kick myself just to pull out the brushes and inks.  One of the biggest advantages for me with the Wacom tablets has been the ability to produce work which looks to have been airbrushed or even applied with oils.  I usually switch between
Painter and Illustrator and more than one I’ve been asked by major studio producers how I achieved a particular effect because the work looked to be hand painted.  I recently coated the inside of my home with blue paint from
an airbrushed acrylic painting on art board.  Even the cat took on a decidedly blue tint on his otherwise pristine, white fur and we were sponging residue from surfaces and fixtures for nearly 6 months afterwards.  With the Wacom tablets, I can execute the same degree of quality in illustrations without the need to rinse brushes and cleanup afterwards.  In fact, I even ended up retouching the painted and scanned image using the Wacom tablet to allow for more details and gradients in the painting after I scanned it into the computer. I find that applications such as Painter are perfectly matched with the Wacom tablets since the recording of individual brush strokes can be applied more concisely with the digital stylus-pen.  I just can’t do this with a mouse.  I’ve been able to paint book covers for Penguin Books using the tablets, giving the resulting images a more organic and hand rendered feel.  Working with multiple layers in Photoshop is a breeze with the tablets and I love the side buttons on the tablets these days… especially the sliders which make zooming and pressure settings even more versatile. Occasionally you only have a few minutes to produce an image during
production and the Wacom tablets allow me to move very quickly to
build up layers of colour and highlights to produce a final image.  The ‘chunkier’ style that I’ll sometimes switch to for such work hints at being far more
detailed than it actually is.  And I think that when you break art down to it’s simplest form, a sign of the skill of the artist is often found in very minimalistic approaches.  Capturing as much information with the least possible number brush strokes is an interesting exercise to me.  I also just love the freedom to manually manipulate the pixels by painting an image freehand.  But it’s not always about applying colour:  Sometimes the best application of subtle contrast and highlights for an image is achieved with my Wacom tablet.  I think the
orientation and ergonomics of the pen & tablet lends itself better to the hand for freehand work than any other method.

Ric       Conclusion – If you could ask for any new features or future
innovation with Wacom Pen/tablets what would that be?


Marco  Perhaps I’m just content with the tablets as they are but I find them to be a natural extension of the hand and thought process.  If you make a few bad strokes with a digital pen and tablet, you can erase them and start over… ink and paint are unlikely to yield with as much ease.  I wouldn’t mind seeing self-illuminated LCDs fitted inside some of the side buttons to identify recorded functions or even allocate their strength assignment.  The recent sliders are already great for tracking in and out of an image and even altering brush sizes etc… I’d be interested in seeing a colour sensitive pressure-based track pad which would show what preferences have been selected by the user so that an adjustment could be made at a glance.  In this respect, whilst the pen itself is already pressure sensitive, perhaps some of the controls for paint ‘injection’ or
eraser ‘sensitivity’ could be applied visibly via optical fiber to the tablet buttons rather than require a manual selection via the software application.  Modern iPods and some Computer Screens today use an advanced form of touch control which may also find their way into peripheral devices and this may make future drawing tablets more versatile than they already are.  But simplicity is obviously paramount and I can’t ask for much more than the current range of tablets today.