Ben Althoff

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What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Ben Althoff and I am the CEO, Founder of Polycount Studios, LLC.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?

I would have to say one of my crazier jobs when I was younger was delivering “post therapy knee machines”.  I lived in San Deigo at the time and I was about 24 years old.  I would drive within a hundred miles of SD delivering these things and I would meet the craziest people.  Did I mention I also had to set these people up in this machine?  I remember meeting a guy who actually worked in the factory that made “Real Dolls”!!  if you don’t know just type it in your internet browser and you will get it, lol.  Maybe don’t do it at work!  Anyway, he was telling me about some of the orders and how the “Bones” are made…what a character.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?

The project I’m most proud of is my Expose 7 publications.  I wanted for so long to be in this book and finally after learning 3ds max for about 2 years I jumped in head first with a couple images and sure enough, they both got in.

How did you become interested in animation?
I think I really started wanting to get into animation and 3D Vis when I was playing “Star Fox” on the Super Nintendo.  I went to college and took 1 class for 3ds max and after the first class I was playing around with it EVERY DAY!  Sometimes for 8 hrs…just nonstop.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?

I’m from all over really.  My dad was in the Navy.  Enough said, right?  I would say my home town as an adult is Baltimore, Maryland.   I got into the business by applying for jobs on craigslist.  Every once in a while I would see a 3D job posted and every time I did I would apply.  Of course at this time I had only 1 class and at home experience.  One day of course I get a call back and they want me to come in for an interview.  I was pumped but they requested that I know Vray.  At the time I knew nothing about Vray but I said, “of course I know Vray”!  So for the week before the interview I crammed on Vray….for not just hours, days!  I got the job and that started me on my current course in Architectural Viz.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?

Well, I wake up from bed and stumble to the kitchen and the stumble to the computer….just kidding…sort of.  I would say It involves me reading emails and talking with clients about projects.  If you watched me work, you would fall asleep.  Unless I’m playing my classical music to loud…haha.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?

I love creating in 3D.  I don’t know how to describe it.  I if had to put it in words I would say it’s like playing god but without the ego.  It sounds strange but waiting for those render buckets to show me what my space looks like with the sun at 7pm instead of noon…is so exciting to me.  So any job I work on is fun.  The best part of my job is seeing the clients face when I show them their idea in a photorealistic 3D image.  Its like magic to some people.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?

I like it all lol….well, maybe not the finance end 🙂

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?

I think the hardest part of the Business is prioritizing projects.  Everyone wants something and they want it yesterday.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?

I use a lot of computers.  Nothing much more crazy then that.  I use 3D Studio Max, vray, Photoshop and After Effects.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?

As far as 3D Celebrities….?  No.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.

Well, when I was a kid I went to so many different schools I can’t even remember.  People would think that is a hard thing to go through but as an adult I think it played a huge role in who I am today.  So im ok with it.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I love to go to the rock wall gym.  Im also into traveling.  I plan on moving to Costa Rica in September!  That’s another great part about 3D, you can do it from anywhere if you have the right computer and an internet connection!

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m really patient….a rare talent lol

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?

When people say you have to work for what you want…they are being nice.  You really have to want it!  I see a lot of students going to class and then never touching the software again until the next class.  School is an introduction to what you want to do.  It will not make you a professional!  If you are in school and you don’t want to be involved with your major ALL the time, even when you are not in school then you might want to think about doing something else.  Being great means you do it all the time.  If you can’t do it all the time and love it, move on.  Also, don’t be too hard on yourself.  There is a big difference between constructive criticism (good) and destructive criticism (Bad).



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