CAREERS: Moving to the Mercedes dash

October 21, 2015

Mike Jagodzinski teaches modelling and sculpting at The Digital Animation and Visual Effects school in Orlando, FL. Every 12 weeks, he starts with 40 plus students of all backgrounds. Throughout the course, he sees the variety in moments when and the reasons why students have their breakthrough moments, where the seemingly complex becomes suddenly clear. Even for those who struggle, under his supervision, he guides them to that “a-ha” moment, knowing that eventually it will come. 

And he should know. The first time Mike tried his hand at 3D modelling, he did so as a hobbyist, looking to do some 3D work around a WW1 aircraft. He downloaded a trial copy of MODO 301, watched some videos and got he got so frustrated that he walked away. “I remember thinking ‘this is NOT for me,’” said Mike. 

But apparently, it is. Mike just contributed his skills to the highly successful Project Dash, the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and The Foundry to create the next generation UI/UX interface for the in-car experience. Mercedes represents just one of many of the global brands known for design and performance where you can see Mike's 3D design skills in action.

For Project Dash, Mike needed to recreate the car from CAD data into a usable Mesh. In particular, he focused on the rear fins and the front slats of the car, which he found the most challenging aspect about the project. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh man…there’s a lot to do. I have to nail the shape and form of the car.’” 

Even though he worked on Project Dash, the unveiling of it within the Mercedes show car concept blew Mike away. 

The day they unveiled the show car concept, I saw the video and thought “oh, that’s so awesome.” The UI elements are just perfect with the 3D elements of the car.

As a designer, Mike loves how the underlying strategy of Dash has the potential to impact the design process, both in terms of what it offers and how the industry closely watches Mercedes’ innovation.

“I can see you can do different iterations and animations of model. Dash allows the UI designers to add elements to their items. If you have to model, rig, animate and render it, just takes time. Now, the speed of iterations are much quicker than what you could previously do. I’m excited to see how far Mercedes goes with it. People generally follow trends like what companies Mercedes do.” 

Mike’s path started with love of history and interest in models of planes and tanks. At the time, he worked in the automotive industry. And, he was, in his own words “a bit bored.” After his first failed attempt at 3D design, he gave it another go, watching tutorials, playing and experimenting. Finally, he decided to commit to becoming a professional 3D artist “I realized that I needed to choose. Either stick with what I was doing or jump whole hog into 3D. I chose 3D.”

Since then, in addition to Mercedes, Mike has done work with SkullCandy, Vitamix, 3D Artist Magazine, USMC, and various flight simulator creators and law firms.  

While modelling an M-4 Sherman Tank, Mike realized he wanted more texture on the model he had created. After watching videos of Justin Holt and his work with MARI on the movie Battleship. Mike downloaded MARI and started working with it. Mike’s work so impressed Jack Greasley, head of new technology at The Foundry, that he asked him to create some of the MARI training videos.

I hope that my trajectory shows that you shouldn’t set limits.

As you can tell, Mike it a bit of a self-starter. But as an instructor, he says there are multiple paths to becoming a 3D artist. In fact, there are times he wished he could have had a teacher or supervisor to help him out. 

“There have been times when I’ve spent 3-4 hours working on something and it would have been helpful to have had someone to help me through the process.” 

While the students taking Mike’s class eventually specialize in either visual effects or games, his biggest piece of advice to them is to remain open to any and all possibilities. 

“Every student has to take my class and I make a conscious effort to not force students to choose between the two industries while in my class. I hear students say ‘I want to go into either VFX or games’ and I think, ‘Guys, that’s not the only direction you can go. Don’t limit yourself. There are more choices than just A or B.’ And always be open to new opportunities.”

“I hope that my trajectory shows that you shouldn’t set limits.”

You can see more of Mike’s work here.


Emma Handley

Worked in the software and CG industry for 3+ years. BA hons in Events Management with a digital marketing background. Usually found tweeting and eating.

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