Inspirations: A Conversation With Scott Pagano

Inspirations: A Conversation With Scott Pagano

We recently posted a video to our inspirations page by Scott Pagano. We decided to catch up with him and talk to him a bit about his style, background and software he uses for his unique creations. His site is, if you’d like to pay a visit.

Toolfarm: What inspires you? Is it nature, art, music, other vfx or traditional artists?

Scott Pagano: My inspiration comes from a broad range of sources. The main things that drive me are composition, light, and graphic form. I find these inspirations in cinema, architecture, concept art, graphic novels, lighting design, natural landscapes, modernist painting, and fashion design.

Music and sound clearly play a large role in many of my works as well. My goal with audiovisual interaction is to find images that can create a constructive interference with the audio – combining to form a sum greater than the parts that seems to be born from the same engine. Musical inspiration is trickier to define in finite specifics, but I am inspired by modulation in tempo, mood, structure, and dynamics to conjure up the most compelling and attuned imagery I can.

TF: What programs/software do you use? Do you use any 3rd party plug-ins?

SP: My primary 3D tools are Houdini and Maya. My 2D toolset is After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and the usual suite of Adobe products. As far as After Effects plug-ins, I use GenArts Sapphire, Frischluft’s Lenscare, RE:Vision’s Twixtor and ReelSmart Motion Blur, and Trapcode’s Sound Keys and Particular.

On the less-traditional front, I have spent the past year and a half studying and creating a myriad of projects using Derivative’s Touch Designer. This is a piece of software that has its roots in Houdini but is designed for real-time applications and gives the user the power of high-end game engine rendering capabilities but in a node-based patchable system building environment. Currently I am working on a series of projects with Obscura Digital creating high-resolution real-time 3D pieces leveraging my design, asset-creation, and system building abilities.

I am grateful to the many people who create and post scripts, project files, and other tidbits of knowledge on the web. Information received via,, and (among many other sites) has been invaluable to help me along the way. Training materials from Gnomon, Digital Tutors, and cmiVFX have enabled me to learn quite a bit that would have taken much longer otherwise. Good tools are one thing, good technique however is the real weapon.

TF: Do you have a particular style or niche you like to fit in? You seem to have a theme of structural elements, whether man-made or architectural, or organic structure within the natural world, and how they intertwine.

SP: In my pieces there is undoubtedly an interest in the structural/graphic form found in urban/futuristic environments and in nature as well. These are both worlds I have a deep interest in psychologically and visually. The interaction, interplay, and contrasts between them and the mix of beauty and destruction that juxtaposing them brings is something that has organically developed in my work and that I actively pursue new ways of approaching.

TF: Often there is a randomness to the movements and structures in reaction to the soundtrack. How do you create these dynamic elements?

SP: My process involves a lot of procedural animation where I will set up a system that reacts and animates to an incoming stream of data (often derived from sound analysis). Tools such as Houdini are phenomenal for such work as they allow for a space of play to both manipulate data and experiment fluidly with ways to connect animation data to anything.

My first experience with tools that used this mentality was in college with Max/MSP where I spent a lot of time building experimental generative audio systems. It was a pretty natural evolution to bring this style of thinking over to the visual world. The process and study of generative and procedural processes is something that I will eternally be a student of.

TF: When you begin a project, how do you like to first approach it? Do you storyboard ideas out, create ideas around music, or start with video and then break that down into abstract forms?

SP: I still find that my absolute best work begins with pen and paper, sketching rough visual concepts and finding the forms that will define the core of a piece. Storyboarding is an integral part of my process and everything from the most commercial to the most experimental works are solidly fleshed out before intense animation and production begins.

That being said – often 3D elements for storyboarding are created as working systems in Maya or Houdini as proof-of-concept experiments so I can be assured I can accomplish the shot I am conceiving.

With music-driven projects there is a lot of listening to a track repeatedly for a long time while allowing images to form in my mind. I have never been a practitioner of Dali-style lucid dreaming – but I find it important to be able to detach from the world as much as possible, close one’s eyes, and really allow oneself to discover images and movement that would not occur if one didn’t actively attempt to detach from the swarming hectic chaos that surrounds our lives.

Occasionally there will be a particular technique or image in my head that I have been wanting to create and a project will allow for that sketch to be fleshed out into a piece of a final project.

All that being said, there is a large amount of experimentation over the course of producing a piece and the old adage about some of ones best work being the result of trial-and-error and beautiful accidents rings true here as well. Obviously not so much for the commercial projects that require a more direct approach, but for the graphic short films, music videos, and fine art pieces this is all a part of the process.

TF: Any upcoming projects that you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

SP: Currently I am deep in development on a series audiovisual HD artworks. These are thirty minute long very slow mediative CG pieces created with Houdini and After Effects that will be realized in several forms including room-based installations as well as sculptural video objects. Other projects include a series of sculptural lighting fixtures, a fashion photography / animated CG digital portraiture series, and the design phase of a live action / CG short film.

via Toolfarm


  1. Carolin Belling, your web address is “” but you still like CSM? WTF? Even horrible spyware likes us.


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