Interview with 3d modeler & concept designer Vitaly Bulgarov

Could you give our readers a brief introduction of who you are what it is you create

Hi, my name is Vitaly Bulgarov, I am a 3d modeler and a concept designer working in entertainment industry for about 10 years. I started off as a 3d generalist in 2003 working for small videogames and local advertisement. I quickly realized how passionate I was about character modeling and complex mechanical designs. So I started to practice my all free time until eventually it became my primary specialty. Currently I work as a senior cinematic artist at Blizzard Entertainment. I am very fortunate to be allowed to do both 2d and 3d design work as well as production modeling for characters, props, vehicles and environments for Blizzard’s cinematics. When I get free time I keep working on my personal projects. One of my favorite areas to explore in design is that thin line between raw rational functionality of design and pure aesthetically driven solutions that just look cool but do not really contribute to practicality.



You mostly use both XSI & ZBrush when you are working on a project, what is the advantage you find with using these two pieces of software over many of the other popular 3d programs?

XSI, ZBrush, Keyshot and Photoshop are indeed my primary tools when I work on concept designs. But I do use other software when dealing with a specific production pipeline or a specific task. The thing with XSI & ZBrush is accessibility to very powerful tools and very direct approach to creating complex models that makes these two pieces of software stand out for me among their competitors. Both programs are very efficient with heavy geometry and also provide some unique features that are extremely helpful when dealing with tight deadlines. Both XSI and ZBrush can be effectively customized to meet the needs of specific tasks.



Alot of your work has a very futuristic/hi-tech design look, do you take influence from things from like games and real world technology?

I do inhale influences from all kinds of resources I have access to. From games, films and real world robotics to modern architecture and street art.
I used to take a lot more influences from videogames during my early years in CG as I was a hardcore gamer myself. I remember when being a teenager I played Quake 3 a lot, and later Doom 3. So id Games style definitely was a big influence during my gamer’s years.
Later the more I was getting in-to movies the more I started to appreciate real world technology and how it can be pushed to a sci-fi unique design yet keeping the essential functionality and reason. I still remember how excited I was when I first time saw Starcraft 2 cinematics “Building Better Marine”. That was a major influence on how I did things years after that. Also I have to mention “Deus Ex” art-direction, I really liked tech and clothing designs for this game.
On the side of the real world tech, it’s fascinating to see how the modern technology in certain cases can reach an uber hi-tech appeal. Currently I follow the work done by Boston Dynamics which is very inspiring for every geek who’s into robots:) I think we live in the time when the generation that once played videogames is now building real machines and that is very entertaining to watch ha-ha.
Besides of the real world tech, once in a while we also get design gems in the movies like Avatar and District 9 that definitely make a huge impact upon entertainment designers around the globe.



Your work has been in some big games, do you play these once they are finished? And if so how is it to see your hard work running around in its finished form?

I surely do! Although I don’t play as much anymore. Part of the reason is that I haven’t done an actual “running around” game content for the last 4 years. The work I do at Blizzard Cinematics can be seen in between the gaming parts when a player gets to enjoy a short movie that binds together the story. To see my work running around in some first-person shooters I worked on before was really fun but at the same time I only saw what could be better in those models and I tried to analyze what I did wrong when I was modeling it and how to improve the process next time. So it was a little painful sometimes so I tried to shoot that thing with a bazooka or shotgun or whatever I had to not to look at the model for too long haha. To kill a monster I modeled was definitely a pleasure.



How do you find working on something such as a game or movie, where you can be restricted by things such as poly counts and having to match styles with other members of your team opposed to working on one of your own pieces?

I try to treat any limitation whether it’s technical or artistic as an opportunity to grow in that specific area. A polygons limit only means that there is a smarter way to use polygons and the better you learn this, the better you’ll be a professional. On artistic side, I feel that my personal style always gains something new whenever I have to match the style of other members in the team, or a pre-existing style of the franchise. It pushes me out of zone of comfort in-to the zone of learning. That is great.



With working on many big named projects, are there any that stand out as a favourite to you?

It’s a hard question because a lot of times feel like whatever I work on at the moment is my favorite project. Usually, if it has anything to do with mech design it falls in-to the list of my favorite projects ha-ha. But I would definitely mention the two last projects I worked at Blizzard as some of my favorite. One of them is the opening cinematics for World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria, because I was very lucky to be a concept artist during its preproduction working on designs for characters and environments and later during the production I got to be a lead character modeler which brought more responsibilities and a new set of things to learn. That whole experience because of its wide range of roles and things I was able to learn was a lot of fun. Now regarding what is my favorite project by its style, look and feel, it is no question about it, the opening cinematics for Starcraft2: Heart of the Swarm, which will be released in March this year. I love this cinematic because of its tone and how design-wise it feels much closer to how I do stuff when work on my personal projects. I was able to design and model a lot of hard-surface stuff including re-designing some of the iconic units from the Starcraft universe. For me that was especially exciting since Starcraft is one of my favorite games. Also Jonathan Berube, art-director of the project did an amazing job on pushing the cinematic quality and realistic look of the designs. I did learn a lot from him and overall I feel that this is one of those key projects I had after which I got substantially better at creating more convincing designs rather than just throwing stuff together that just looks cool.



What can we expect to see from you in the future?

In my near future I plan on doing more concept design work for film than games. There are couple big projects approaching that I can’t talk at the moment. But stay tuned, I’ll be updating my website with all the news I can share with the community.
Also I took some time off recently and started working on an art-book with photographer Maria Skotnikova. The working title of it is “Black Phoenix Project”. The idea is to create an album that is filled with mech designs from props to robots and vehicles that are integrated into photos of a real world environment. I’m very excited about this collaboration since Maria is specialized in creating HDR-environment maps. She is responsible for shooting photographic backplates and creating 360 HDR-environment maps that I will later use to integrate my 3d designs in. Maria’s contribution is critical to this project as every environment map provides unique lighting and environmental context where designs become alive. The book will be basically a sci-fi exploration on the subject of the futuristic military tech. The raw aggressive aesthetics of real world military vehicles, weapons and tech in general is something that has been fascinating me for years. So in this book, even though it’s fictional I want to preserve more of a realistic feel of scale and tech language in general, focusing primarily on robotics. Obviously it’s going to be an “on and off” project that I’ll be working when have free time and will take a while to finish but the overall format and the idea of making a series of designs that could be a product line of a sci-fi military corporation that is utilizing nano-technologies and creates autonomous mobile robotics is something that will keep me excited and I’m sure that eventually it’ll be done some day. Images below are some of the early previews and work in progress. Hope you like it. Thanks!




A big thank you to Vitaly for joining for this interview! To check out more of Vitaly’s work head over to:


Vitaly’s Gnomon training DVD:



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