Simone Lombardo revolutionizes visual effects

Simone Lombardo has always known he wanted to do visual effects. Although it may not have been a dominant industry, growing up in Liege, Belgium, he never strayed from that path.

From the time he was eight and first had the opportunity to play with a computer in school, Lombardo had a passion. He did not accept just being good, he is exceptional. And since then, he has worked on films and video games that have been recognized all over the world.

Lombardo worked on the visual effects for the blockbuster films The Maze Runner and The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, which together grossed over $600 million in the box offices worldwide. Lombardo’s touch is a contributor to that.

Maze Runner Escape Version was really special, because it gave me the opportunity to test my pipeline, a pipeline in which not many people believed in. I always wanted to use game engine technology to render movies. Doing the escape version of Maze Runner was a big chance to prove it could work. We had so many shots to do in such a short time, but the pipeline held it together and we did deliver. This was the first time, (and only time I believe, with Maze Runner Scorch Trials Escape) that a game engine was used to render a AAA movie for theatrical release,” he described. “I use this project as proof that I was not crazy when, 5 years ago, I was advocating to use game engine instead of renderer for movies. I’ve done it, proved it can be done, I can now move to the next step.”

The Maze Runner films are widely regarded as having outstanding visual effects, and Lombardo’s vision saw to that.

“It was a year of taking risks, but finally it was done,” he continued. “Some people before that were not taking video game engine seriously.”

Lombardo’s determination to stay up-to-date with technology in his industry has led him to be recognized internationally in 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.

He also had the opportunity to work on several commercials during his career with the production company Luxoom, an experience that Lombardo describes as “special.”

“I went to China without really any idea of what I would be doing, but I ended up at Luxoom, fresh from my training in Visual FX and particles work, and I had the chance to be one of the only people there with understanding of fluid dynamic and advance particles work,” he said. “So working at Luxoom let me use that knowledge on amazing project, and work with great brand like Porsche, BMW and Mercedes. But even more, it taught me efficiency. We had no time to do these projects, while in movies you have rarely have enough time to do what you really want, in commercials it’s even more challenging. We did one mini-cooper event video in 2 days once, from storyboard to shooting and post. And we were only 4 guys.”

“What I liked as well, is that it was the first time I saw general manager being so hands-on. Tobias Sievers, the GM of Luxoom Shanghai at the time, was an amazing artist and technical guy. Many times he jumped on the project and actually made it so that we would deliver. He was at the office longer than anybody else. This was a great experience and a big learning step in my life” he continued.

Alexandre Ouairy worked with Lombardo at Luxoom for a variety of different commercials.

“Simone Lombardo and myself work together on several national and international campaign during our time in China, at Luxoom and Idcreation. While pushing the limit of technology and executing pixel perfect 3D rendering for the like of Porsche, BMW, Audi, Nike, he was simultaneously taking online courses learning to program particles rendering,” said Ouairy. “It is always mesmerizing to see the speed of execution Simone can achieve and the dedication he put to is work, mixing his learning from the world of video game production with 3D rendering. Simone shows a passion and commitment to its industry that you rarely see.”

Lombardo uses the skills he has from working on video games such as Soul Caliber V, Resident Evil, and films such as Hugo and combines the two different technologies.

“They are really different but similar industries,” he said. “I like working on both video games and film. I like the polishing and real-life implementation of the movies part, and the time you can spend on one shot. But there is also frustration on the time you have to wait, and the politics involved. On the other side, video games are all about optimization. You have a finite number of memory, any draw call you can save, the better it is. It’s cheating to the extreme, but everything is real time.”

It is no wonder that with knowing the technology so intricately, Lombardo is regarded as an expert in visual effects in both film and gaming.

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