Eduard Tucaković, Monolith
As part of our ongoing series of conversations with practitioners using game-based technology to make art, we chatted with Eduard Tucaković, a 25 year old artist from Croatia who has been using the Source Filmmaker in unexpected ways, because "the street finds its own uses for things". The Source Filmmaker is the movie-making tool built and used by Valve to make movies inside the Source game engine. Because the Source Filmmaker uses the same assets as a Source-engine game, what goes into the game can be used in the movie, and vice versa. However, Tucaković does not use this tool to make machinima, but for scenebuilding purposes. Scenebuilding consists of creating virtual dioramas - static, hyper detailed images - using a video game engine. In fact, there's a vibrant community of scenebuildiers online and Tucaković is one of the most active and prolific members. He creates scenes imbued with a sense of melancholy and loss for a future that never materialized. They depict dystopian futures that are part cyberpunk and part 1950s techno-utopia gone sour, often with a sense of peaceful resignation. These images are built on the very notion of intertextuality: pop culture - Star Wars, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park, 2001: A Space Odyssey, although some references are less explicit - is used as an infinite archive. What follows is our conversation, edited for clarity, which took place via email in March 2021.
Matteo Bittanti: Can you introduce yourself? When did you begin using Source Filmmaker to create virtual dioramas?
Eduard Tucaković: I am a 25 year old artist from Croatia, in the community I'm more known as Atlas. I'm a full time photographer and when I am not shooting photos around mountains I'm probably home sitting at my desk scenebuilding in Source Filmmaker. I originally started using Source Filmmaker in late 2014, early 2015 as a software to make machinima movies, but as I got the grip of the software itself I became more interested in building dioramas, that eventually led me to rendering only 1 frame of a scene and later editing that frame to make it a full fledged artwork.
Eduard Tucaković, Delivery Man
Matteo Bittanti: How long have you been making these virtual dioramas? How would you describe the process? And how visible is the community on the cultural sphere?
Eduard Tucaković: I have been actively scenebuilding for around 5 years I believe. As I mentioned earlier, first it was scenebuilds for machinimas rather than for artworks. You can look at scenebuilding as set dressing, some people make their sets for animations while some make it for artworks. The community is slowly but surely becoming bigger, our artworks are reaching people beyond the community, and at this point even Valve is somewhat aware of what we're doing. That's all thanks to sites like your own, that lets us speak of our craft, and we as a community are really grateful for that.
Eduard Tucaković, The Scenebuilding process.
Eduard Tucaković: Yes, machinima has been a big part of my life, I originally got introduced to this medium through Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, that eventually led to Source Filmmaker. Nowadays I am only using Source Filmmaker for scenebuilding and rendering pictures, but I am also helping scenebuild environments for a couple of famous Source Filmmaker series such as The Reinstated or Exile/Vilify a Half Life/Portal series. In the past, I used Source Filmmaker to make short commercials for names like ESL. And these days I've been even using it as a means to make concept art for feature films.
Eduard Tucaković: It's really hard to say, In my book it's all about the composition and the atmosphere. Lots of newcomers struggle with mastering the lighting, and that's something that takes a long time to fully understand. On the scenebuilding department, just like with any other art form, you have to understand the composition and the scale. You need to know where to add the detail, and where to sacrifice it for the benefit of the workflow, I think understanding all of that together makes for good artwork.
Matteo Bittanti: How long does it make to create a scene, on average?
Eduard Tucaković, scenebuilding breakdown
Eduard Tucaković: Source Filmmaker compared to other big rendering power houses such as Blender these days is much easier to get into, due to its own limits. There is a whole lot of documentation from the community that can kickstart anyone to render their first scenes. We also have a workshop from where you can get various props and models you might need for a scene. However I would like to mention that Source Filmmaker is still a 32 bit software, and that can be a hustle since you have a memory limit and it's prone to crashes. Valve recently released Source Filmmaker 2 alongside Half-Life Alyx, but even though it comes with quite a bit of improvements, it's not standalone and it still lacks a workshop. We also need to port everything to s2fm, and source 2 itself still lacks some of the toolset. If anyone from Valve is reading this, we as a community would gladly help you out with the Source Filmmaker. Maybe even with our help Saxxy Awards could become a thing again.
Eduard Tucaković: I'm sharing my latest artwork here with you along with the behind the scenes of how it looks in the engine. I'm also sharing a 50+ page Scenebuilding guide google doc guide I wrote with some of the friends from the community. If anyone wants to find me online, they can reach me on my Twitter page @AtlasRedLine, and if anyone is interested in more of my sfm artwork they can check it out on my Deviant Art page. I also hang out in our Source Filmmaker discord server, where there are whole lots of veterans from the community, you can grab an invite link on r/sfm.
LINK: Eduard Tucaković