Nick Shaheen's journey to creating hit 3D animations

July 24, 2023
15 min read
By
Rokoko

We recently got a chance to talk to Nick Shaheen, who's been making a name for himself as an up-and-coming character animation talent, especially since his "Dreamer" animation conquered the web (and our hearts).

Enjoy the interview, you're sure to find some great inspiration and useful tips on your own journey as a creator.

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

I’m an unassuming introverted desk jockey that moonlights as a freelance motion graphic designer and visual effects artist. I think everyone has a creative alter ego they keep hidden away. Mine tends to come out after sunset.

How did you get started in 3D and how did you first start animating?

I've always had a passion for filmmaking, particularly visual effects. I started using software like After Effects and Element 3D back in the early 2000s to make short films with my friends. Over time, I got into more powerful 3D tools like C4D, Zbrush, and Blender.

If you had to choose, what is the single most defining characteristic that makes your content unique and entirely yours? In other words, what would you say is your artist trademark?

I have what I like to call “'AADHD” (Artistic Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). For my personal projects, I tend to create whatever sparks my interest in the moment. I look at each project as an opportunity to practice; whether it's experimenting with looping mocap animations, exploring physics simulations, or recreating a movie scene.

I’d say around 90% of my personal projects end up in a folder on my hard drive and never see the light of day, but I do it to keep my mind in the process and refine my skills.

Do you have a favourite artwork or project you're especially proud of?

The perfect loop animation, “Dreamer”, is one of my favorite projects. It's almost autobiographical in a way. I mean, what kid didn’t jump on their bed and dream of flying into outer space? I spent most of my time recreating my childhood bedroom down to the thundercats trashcan and spaceship night light.

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What has been the most significant change to your life, since you started creating 3D content?

You constantly have to adapt and be willing to learn new disciplines. Working in 3D requires you to understand multiple facets like physics, cinematography, coding, sculpting, drawing, and even running a business.

Constantly being curious is a good motivator to work late hours. I love it though! I usually have to remind myself to take breaks.

Name three pieces of equipment (software or hardware) that you can’t live without.

Oh that’s a fun question. A wise man once said “only a poor carpenter blames his tools,” but I say “you can’t paint the Mona Lisa with a #2 pencil”.

You have to have a decent PC preferably with an Nvidia GPU. There’s nothing worse than a processor with “integrated graphics” and false promises.

Next, I’d say a really good mouse like a logitech G502. Your hands will thank you in the long run. Some people swear by graphics tablets, and I do think they are really great for specific tasks. But for 80% of the work you need to have a reliable comfortable mouse.

Lastly I’d say a good basic 3D software. C4D is my home but sometimes I vacation in Blender.

Talking about gear, what do you love about Rokoko mocap tools / why should anyone buy them?

I have v2 of the Rokoko mocap suit and also a pair of gloves. It’s a really powerful tool that lowers some of the barriers to creating character animation. Rokoko has the best bang for your buck in terms of mocap suits, glove, and software solutions.

Rokoko also has a huge online community (and support team) which is great if you need to troubleshoot issues or get inspiration.

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Do you currently have any artists that inspire you in your work?

I tend to gravitate towards individuals that share their process like Jonathan Winbush, Clint Jones, Clement Morin, Ian Hubert (obviously), Kris Theorin, and Andrey Lebrov, to name a few.

However, it's worth mentioning that I follow something like 500+ artists on Instagram, and they all produce amazing work that continually fuels my passion for creating.

What advice do you have for aspiring 3D creators? What would you say are the key ingredients when learning 3D you wish you had known from the start?

  1. Invest in the best tools you can afford and stick with them. Don’t get hung up on what gear and software others are using. Use your limitation to your advantage.
  2. Find other people with similar interests and become part of a community. Participate in contests and watch as many tutorials as  your data plan will allow.
  3. Be consistent and practice daily. We talk’n bout practice! Regardless of what’s going on in my life I try to post at least one or two personal projects a month.

Can you reveal some of your next projects that we can look forward to?

I have a couple projects in the pipeline. I’m currently working on an animated halloween music video where we used Rokoko hardware and software for some of the character animations. The project will hopefully be ready to go by late September (finger bones crossed).

What does an average day look like for you?

I have a day job that keeps me occupied from about 7 am to 5 pm. Then I come home and spend time with the family and I’ll try to squeeze working out in the mix at some point.

Finally, once everyone is in bed and the whole world is asleep I dive into my second job. I try to put in around 5 hours a night, give or take a few. Sleep is for Sundays and old age.

Thank you, Nick, for having taken the time to talk to us, we're big fans here at Rokoko!

If you want to follow what Nick is up to, here are his socials:

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