Interview with Jeff Mottle of

By September 14, 2013 No Comments

CGarchitect was started twelve years ago by Jeff Mottle and has grown to become the leading online magazine and end-user community for the architectural visualization community with over 80,000 members from around globe. Jeff himself has been a tireless advocate for the profession and has been instrumental in helping to establish and foster the industry’s growth and recognition. ­This summer ReviewStudio was excited to announce a partnership with

Jeff Mottle (left) presenting a 3D Award to Thiago Lima at Mundos Digitales.

Jeff Mottle (left) presenting a 3D Award to Thiago Lima at Mundos Digitales.

I recently talked to Jeff about the current state of the industry, his goals for CGarchitect and the partnership with ReviewStudio.

SF: Since you started CGarchitect twelve years ago, how have you seen the industry change?

JM:  When we first started, 3D was a very technical exercise. Rendering was done by people, for the most part, who were the most technically enabled in any of the architectural or design firms. The software was very complicated and it was a novelty that anything at all was being done in 3D. The art behind visualization for the most part – and there were certainly exceptions – was not really something you considered. It was just the novelty of 3D is what got everybody excited.

That started to evolve as 3D became more mainstream within architecture and design, and all of the rendering products became more than capable of delivering an absolute photo real image by just mastering a few settings. So just understanding the technology was no longer enough to carry you along.  That was the next major turning point in the industry. That’s when the people who also had a talent in lighting, photography, and storytelling started to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd.  The companies that do the best work now are the ones that probably do at least 50% of their work in post. The work that they do is very cinematic in their treatment and the way they approach things. Those are the companies, for the most part, that are still around today. The successful ones, the ones that survived the recession, are the ones that have been able to diversify themselves.

SF: Yes, it seems like many of the top digital studios that do architectural work are quite diversified and will promote themselves more as multi-disciplinary media communication companies.

JM: I think there are a number of reasons for that. Certainly over the recession those who were savvy in business and were able to grow their companies quite large before the recession really needed to do the smart business thing and diversify their companies to ensure their survival. For the most part, architectural work dried out for a while there. If you wanted to stick around you really needed to do something else.

The other is that people who are successful, who are able to grow companies and have really creative people on their staff – or even individuals who are real creatives – those skill sets transfer to many different mediums other than architecture. There are people who have gone on to work in visual effects. People like Joe Kosinski, that many are well aware of, started out as architects and started doing some visualizations in the beginning. It’s interesting to see and a natural progression of people who are creatives.

Another reason that I think that companies have diversified is because the margins and the profits you can make in other fields are so much more. One of the very last projects that I did before I left visualization production was for a TV commercial. The fee that I got for doing 3 seconds of animation for a TV commercial was probably 10x of what I would have made in architecture.

SF: So what are your current goals for CGarchitect?

JM: Most of the things I’ve been doing with CGarchitect in terms of the industry surveys, our 3D awards, and the artists we feature on our site is really about bringing recognition to the artists in the industry and working to legitimize it as a field. A lot of people only caught wind of this last year but for the last five or so years I’ve been on and off running a private group of some of the top visualization companies in the industry. We get together in different cities. Last time there were 22 of us from, I think, 8 or 9 countries.  We get together and discuss the state of the industry, where it is and what can be done to further it and improve it. That’s really been my passion for the last few years now that I’ve been out of production. What can we do to really make our industry a long-term, viable, and successful career path for people? One that’s highly respected by all the people involved with it.

SF: Last month you presented the annual CGarchitect 3D awards at the Mundos Digitales conference in Spain. Can you tell us about the awards?

JM: This was the 10th year for the 3D awards and it was by far the most successful year we’ve had. We had a 3x increase in the number of entries, so we had just over 3000 entries between the seven categories.  This year was really interesting. I would say the last four or five years there’s been a smattering of the same companies that rotate around the different positions. This was the first year where the vast majority of people nominated were brand new. I had never seen their work or heard of them before. There were still many established names but it was interesting to see that there’s a whole new generation of people coming into the industry.

Our industry has a tendency to be very self-referential. So to have some new people, some fresh blood in the industry, who are saying, “this is how we think it should be done” and inspiring a whole new generation – I think is fantastic.

SF: You’ve been very supportive of our work with ReviewStudio. Can you share why you think ReviewStudio would be something of value to your users in terms of their workflows?

JM: You and I have known each other since you started Lightscape and I’ve followed your career path for quite a few years. When you started up Cozimo – which has now evolved to ReviewStudio – it just made sense as a tool that people in our industry needs. Having worked in production for many years myself, I know what a challenge it is getting markups and communicating changes and intent. And with the rapid growth of animation and video that’s happening now, the ability to markup at a key frame level and communicate synchronously with the client I think is something very powerful and unique. That’s really what intrigued me about it and why I decided it was a good partnership and a great fit for the CGarchitect community.