Everyday objects melt before our eyes as Julian Mateus reimagines Adobe Stock assets
The Colombian visual-effects artist and animator creates four new films using Adobe Stock 3D assets and Stock videos around the subject of climate change.
For Found in Adobe Stock, It’s Nice That has commissioned creatives to explore the world of Adobe Stock and create a new series of works. The project asks a creative to dive into the depths of Adobe Stock as a starting point, choose a selection of 3D models, then devise new short stories or create new worlds from the chosen assets. We follow each creative’s journey on their stock narrative endeavours and unpack how they use their individual findings to make new innovative final pieces.
“All my projects need stock material,” says Julian Mateus, a 20-year-old animator from Bogotá. He’s not a photographer, nor a filmmaker, nor a 3D sculptor or texturisor, in fact, he’s a seriously talented visual effects artist, transforming stock material into concept-driven artworks.
Though the Colombian animator may seem at the very beginnings of his career going by his age, in fact, his love for video art began half a decade ago. At the tender age of 15, Julian learned to use Adobe After Effects from handy YouTube tutorials. “I fell in love with visual effects,” he reminisces on this first introduction to the medium. “I was so into visual effects that I lost a year of school, but in the end, it ended up being the best thing that could happen to me as it gave me more time to discover the wonderful world of 3D.”
From there, he ventured into using more complex 3D software, still using YouTube as his main vehicle for learning to expand his technical prowess. Combining these skills together, Julian was granted the tools to fully express his ideas. He could mix reality with the 3D, carrying his work across different programs to achieve the mind-boggling results he set out for.
In time, the visual effects artist and animator established a signature way of working based on experimentation and trial and error. He reveals how his usual creative process is in fact not too dissimilar to this commission. For one, his idea conception started out the same. His ideas usually come from the external world, like walking down the street or watching a film. But more often than not, the vast majority of his ideas come from looking at stock material on the internet incidentally.
Stock imagery has impacted Julian’s practice in a “big way” so far. “If I have good material to work with,” he says, “the ideas flow and the possibilities increase. You can’t make great videos with poor materials.” So when he was presented with this commission, Julian was eager to take up the task. “For a while I’d heard about the great quality of Adobe Stock,” the VFX artist continues, “great quality, a variety of content and formats. And it’s easy to interact with other programs and tools.”
Eager to get started on the commission, Julian had the tools from Adobe Stock and the resources in place to create a great project. Now all he needed was a solid topic to explore and to ground the work in a concept. Looking around him, Julian decided to investigate a particularly prevalent topic at the moment, one that is also, literally, everywhere: climate change. His idea involved bringing climate change to the forefront of society where it couldn’t be avoided. Buildings, cars, benches and mail boxes suddenly warp and burst in the heat, and just like that, regular objects that we pass by every day are transfigured by the glare of the sun.
“I wanted to talk about climate problems that we are living with right now,” says Julian. Taking everyday objects found on the street, Julian found the suitable objects in Adobe Stock’s extensive 3D library, then melted them down in a runny display of climate change horror. For Julian, not only was the commission an “exciting opportunity” for the young VFX artist, it also gave him the chance to push the possibilities of Adobe Stock footage and send a message to as many people as possible.
His search through the Stock library was made easy by the vastness of the database. Scouring through a variety of models, textures and HDRI (high-dynamic-range-imaging), Julian’s search was made easy thanks to the powerful search engine and its organisation. “I just had to search ‘street’ on the search engine and all these models appeared that would’ve been suitable for my project,” he continues. “And as I didn’t have a specific model in mind, when I was looking at the models, the ideas just started to come to me.”
He picked out the models that would be most interesting to melt down, taking into consideration which would complement the Stock videos on offer. Pairing 3D assets and Stock videos of urban street scenes against each other, Julian eventually came up with a satisfactory combination to highlight his urgent message. For his first video depicting a melting car, Julian goes on to tell us: “I wanted to ironically show how some of the guiltiest producers of smoke are also damaging themselves.”
Using Cinema 4D to create the 3D track of the scene, Julian then took the work into the 3D animation software Houdini to create everything else in the realistic simulation. Using Redshift for the render and Adobe After Effects to touch up the final corrections and improvements, as is expected when it comes to this level of detail, the intricate process presented its challenges to the young artist. One of the main difficulties involved was striking the right balance between the solidity of the car and the rapidly liquidating metal. Ultimately solving the situation with Adobe After Effects masks, Julian’s final film is a hypnotising ooze of hot melting magic.
For Mail, Julian’s second film of a melting mail box, the VFX artist wanted to make use of a familiar urban object, “something that people are used to seeing most of the time,” he reiterates. The idea behind this short was simple. “An action as simple as sending a letter involves fossil fuels which contributes to the heating of the planet,” says Julian. Adopting the same process for the first video, but with an added process at the end – using Twixtor to slow down the video – the film’s timings proved tricky and the animator worked tirelessly to create the right amount of fluidity in the slow melting mail box.
For his third film, Building, Julian makes a big splash on the largest scale yet. “I wanted to talk about the heating that buildings can generate,” he says. “And due to air conditioning and overpopulation, the problem becomes even bigger.” Using the same processes of Cinema 4D, Houdini, Redshift and Adobe After Effects to create the simulation, the exploding film took a staggering 66 hours to create due to its pace and level of detail.
His final film, Bench is all about creating a feeling of discomfort. “What is the purpose of a bench?” asks Julian on the thinking behind the fourth film. “It’s basically made to rest but right now, with climate change, there’s no time to rest as we have to act right now.” The primary difficulty in creating this film involved getting the texture of the bench to look realistic while it was melting. As wood doesn’t exactly melt, he had to come up with some innovative tricks to simulate the right kind of textures to bring the film to life.
Though he’s never used Adobe Stock before, Julian’s been fully won over after working with the database in-depth for this commission. “I’ve learnt that it’s a powerful and useful tool and without a doubt I will continue using it,” he adds happily. It was also his first time producing a series of works under the same theme, an exciting exploration for Julian which challenged him to realise a series of films rather than just the one.
“I’m really happy with the result,” Julian says, reflecting on the multitude of hours that have gone into the complex commission. After graciously thanking Adobe and the team at It’s Nice That for giving him the chance to flex his creative muscles using stock imagery, he finally ends with: “I think it’s a really good commission and it’s really cool that artists have the chance to work with tools that work better for them!”
Adobe Stock offers a curated collection of thousands of 3D models, photos and videos – perfect for artists and visual storytellers who are looking to jumpstart their designs and create inspiring scenes.
Its diverse marketplace of royalty-free assets is uniquely and natively integrated within Creative Cloud, saving you time and enabling uninterrupted creativity so you can search and license high-quality assets without ever leaving your favourite apps. Say it with Adobe Stock. Click here to try Adobe Stock free for one month.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.