Meet the Speakers 2020: Pete Zoppi

Meet the Speakers 2020: Pete Zoppi
January 22, 2020 CG Futures


Pete is currently a Character Art Specialist at Treyarch Studios where he has worked for over 10 years on the Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise. He has experience in both the gaming and VFX industries and has a deep understanding of both pipelines. Pete has extensive artistic and technical knowledge that allows him to interface with different departments to not only drive visual quality, but also design tools and systems for efficient art production.

Q: Can you briefly walk me through your story – how did you get your start in the industry? What’s your current role like?

A: I attended Gnomon from the Fall of 2003 until the Spring of 2005. In the Spring of 2005, I was hired at Luma Pictures to work on Underworld: Evolution as a modeler and texture artist. In 2006 I transitioned into the game industry and have been working at Treyarch on the Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise since 2008. I’m currently a Character Art Specialist where I create benchmark assets, mentor junior artists, provide art direction, review assets and drive visual quality while interfacing with other departments.

Q: Tell us about your work. What are you most proud of?

A: Professionally I’m focused on real time assets, but in my personal time, I enjoy working on pre-rendered, high quality assets. I find that it helps me drive my professional work forward, and I enjoy the creation process of realistic assets. I also have a passion for teaching and mentoring others. While I’m passionate and proud of my work, I’m most proud of the fact that I’m able to pass knowledge on and assist others.

Q: Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for others?

A: It has not been a smooth road- it has been enjoyable for the most part- but not easy or smooth. Things that are worth pursuing are never easy and smooth. If it was, it probably wouldn’t be much fun. I enjoy the process of experimenting with new tools and workflows. I enjoy creating interesting characters and creatures, but the process always has challenges and hurdles to overcome. My advice to others is to keep pushing forward, work through the problems and learn from past mistakes.


Q: How do you stay inspired and keep from burning out?

A: I always thought that I would need to be inspired at all times, but as I’ve done this work for a number of years, I’ve come to accept the fact that inspiration comes to me in waves. When it comes, I ride the wave and am productive. When there are times of little inspiration, I have to remind myself that it will come back again. In times where there isn’t much inspiration, I do seek it out by looking at the artwork of others, watching movies, playing games etc- but I’m also careful not to force it. For me, forcing things is where burnout can occur. This is why working in production can be a slippery slope, because you need to be productive day in and day out. I find I have to pace myself and understand where my limits are so I can put restraints in place to protect myself.

Q: What’s one random fact that people would be surprised to know about you?

A: In 2008 I tried out for the LA Galaxy and made it down to the last 45 people.

Q: Any final words of advice?

A: Be nice…. Kindness goes a long way. As you work in the industry, reputation is extremely important. If someone’s portfolio is good, then the first thing I’ll do is ask around and see if anyone knows the person. I want to make sure that the person will fit in with the team and be respectful of others. Good team morale is imperative in a production setting.

Don’t overload your portfolio with too much work and seek the advice of others so that your portfolio is tight with only your best work. Also be aware of the type of job you’re going after. A great example is the role of a character artist vs. a character concept artist. I often see character artists designing their own characters. While the execution may be good, the design is often not, and final product isn’t as good as it could be. As a character artist, you’re hired to execute on designs that are already done. In the classes I teach, I urge the students to work from real world reference, so that they are focused on execution and not design. You can certainly approach design later, but when trying to get hired you want to show that you can execute.

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