Exclusive interview with steven stahlberg
| Creator of Webbie Tookay, the first virtual supermodel, Steven
Stahlberg began his career with a crayon. Today he operates
CG animation studio -- Optidigit -- out of Malaysia, where he is currently
subcontracting modeling for feature films and educational language programs,
as well as TV commercials. At last his world-renowned proclivity for
fashioning 3D sex bombs has grown from a pastime into a fulltime job.
In a recent interview, he commented on his controversial gender exaggerations,
with what he calls typical Swedish irreverence, saying: "The details
seem to be somewhat culturally biased - for instance, Americans often
prefer bigger breasts, while Brazilians prefer bigger butts - well whatever
cranks your engine. In this case I guess I'm more with the Brazilians...." Here
in an exclusive interview with WDL, he reveals his less racy side, commenting
on his work, dreams and family life.
Steven Stahlberg and Alain Zaugg
WDL: Could you just give
us a little background on how you got started?
Steven Stahlberg: My name is
Steven Stahlberg. I'm 44. Born in Australia 1959, grew up in Sweden,
lived in Hong Kong and USA, and now living in Malaysia. I've always been
drawing, since as far back as I could hold a crayon; I went to 3 years
of art school and became a professional illustrator. But I've been fascinated
by computers since I first learned of them through science fiction as
a kid... and so the first chance I got, I dived into CG.
WDL: What is Malaysian
Steven Stahlberg: My dream would
be to create a 'Harlem Globetrotters' of CG - an A-team where every single
player is a star. I think Malaysia is as good a place as any to do that,
in fact may be better in some ways. You could call it a "Knights of the
Round Table" kind of thing :). Well, it's a nice dream anyway...
WDL: Tell us about what
it's like to work in tandem with Alain Zaugg, co-founder of Optidigit?
Steven Stahlberg: He's my better
half: clear-minded, well-organized, logical, methodical, quick-thinking...
and his main interest is production, a field I wouldn't really want to
enter. So we complement each other very well.
WDL: Your creations are
always included in a 'sexiest women' list. Do you use real models as prototypes?
Steven Stahlberg: Any one individual?
Only partially, in that I use a lot of reference material, and my memory;
every anatomical detail I've ever learned.
One Last Time
(And I'm constantly learning.) For a specific project, a client may send photos
of a specific model, but for my own work, I tend to use many different ones.
WDL: Your digital models are
so real and gorgeous. What are the principles that you follow when creating them?
Need For Speed Underground
Steven Stahlberg: Thanks. I simply
try to make them as appealing as possible to myself. Of course also follow
other people's criticism and advice, the Internet forums are great for that
(I can recommend it), but in the end, if it doesn't please me, it doesn't feel
WDL: Describe the work of your
studio. What are your current projects?
Steven Stahlberg: We are subcontracting
modeling for an Italian-based CG feature film project of the more realistic
kind, and we are also working on a more ‘cartoony’ character for a language
teaching program. I'm working on my latest character, Summer. In between these
projects we do the occasional TV commercial.
WDL: We know that you created
Webbie Tookay, the first virtual supermodel, who is the ownership of Elite
Models agency. Tell us about her features and the impetus to create her.
Steven Stahlberg: She was created
on the suggestion of Ricardo Bellino, who then formed Illusion2k. While
I was working on her, she was the property of Illusion2k, owned by Elite's
managing director John Casablancas, and run by his friend Ricardo. When
this failed, in the dotcom bubble burst, ownership of her passed to the
venture capitalists who funded Illusion, some Brazilian bank, I think.
WDL: What awards have you
Steven Stahlberg: Several Animago awards,
the first 3D Festival Award,
one Ars Electronica award, many website
awards, local Commgraph awards... but what I'm most proud of so far is
to have been picked by Glen Keane at Disney Feature Animation to do character
development work on the main character on his first 3D project.
WDL: What are your favorite
Steven Stahlberg: One Last Time
is my favorite so far. It's hard to explain why. I'm not sure. Maybe
the visual simplicity, yet I can imagine so many different things going
on with the back-story...
WDL: Please describe your
free time, if you have any.
Steven Stahlberg: Mostly revolves
around family, food, movies, and some games and internet. I love to watch
movies either on cable or on DVDs with my kids - they're getting to the
age when they can really appreciate the same things I do. Occasionally
we all go out to a mall or down to the local pool. I'm part of the local
Bah'ai community here, and we have our regular religious feasts. I also
go running every night, for my health.
WDL: Thank you for your
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