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Interview with Stefan and Christoph from [zerone]/cgi

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Christoph and Stefan consider themselves to be true pioneers in the rapidly evolving post-production industry, having set the bar for post-production standards in Germany in the late 1990s. Below we chat to the two about their journey so far.

When did you start with your business, how long have you been in the industry?

Stefan: [zerone] was founded in 1997 as a retouching company and was extended in 2005 to [zerone]/cgi.

Christoph: I’ve been working with 3D software since 1992. I started as a freelancer and was hired by Alias in 1995. Then I worked for 10 years as Application Engineer and Consultant until I co-founded [zerone] cgi in 2005.

How did you start doing what you do, what inspired you?

Christoph: When I studied Industrial Design I had the chance to work on a Silicon Graphics workstation running Wavefronts Advanced Visualizer. In those days I had no clue what could be done with this technology but then I figured out that I had access to the same technology that was used to create the visual effects in Abyss and Terminator 2. Realizing this and starting to learn more about CGI I was blown away by the creative power this tool offers. Since that moment I was addicted to Computer Graphics.

Stefan: When we started zerone in 1997 there were no post-production companies in Germany, only retouchers in pre-print companies. Our idea was to involve the photographer and art-direction in the creative process of making fine art-works which wasn’t really the case in those times. Not a bad idea if I consider the post-production market today.

What part of your work do you enjoy the most?

Every new project is challenging and different. That’s why it never gets boring in this industry and this is what we love the most. Dealing with all kinds of different creative people also is a great pleasure.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in your professional career, or who were you most excited to work with?

Christoph: During my 10 years as Software Engineer and Consultant at Alias I had the great pleasure to work with a lot of talented people at many different companies all over Europe. But the most exciting group of people I have worked with is at [zerone] cgi, because we combine talented retouchers with skilled 3D artists. In addition to this I have the great pleasure to work with brilliant programmers to develop software that will enrich the workflow for high-end visualization. So this combination is the best I could ever dream of.

Stefan: We changed the market with our ideas again and again. Post-production, post-production on location, post-production in combination with 3-D cars – we were the firsts! To see that today the standards are what we invented is so thrilling! The most exciting client was clearly Clint Clemens who is always two steps beyond the rest of the world.

What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?

From a production point of view we’re really proud that [zerone] cgi made the visualization for the Mercedes Benz CL brochure in 2006 (see image below). Photographer Georg Fischer was responsible for the photography and supervision. Every car on location in this brochure was rendered and retouched using our production know-how and shader technology. This was the first time in Germany that a car manufacturer relied on cgi technology for a huge and important print production. So the CL brochure was the first full-CGI-car-brochure in Germany and we did it.

What resources do you use to promote your work?

We use mainly Production Paradise and our Facebook site.

What have you found most useful about being a Production Paradise member?

It’s a very comfortable way of promoting our work, well organized and for a fair price. We like the way the work is presented and we believe that many people in the industry will take a look at it.

Have you made any interesting connections through Production Paradise?

Not until now, but you never know why clients make bookings.

Any interesting anecdotes that happened to you recently?

Often people say, that certain images can clearly be detected as cgi work although they have been photographed and vice versa.

What do you think is the future of this industry?

In the current print advertisement industry CGI is seen as a competitor to photography. I believe that it will be seen more and more as an additional tool to create images and will get a position as it has in the film industry right now.

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