Intriguing perspectives — the origins of Greypixel I.

In the last few years, Greypixel has started to gain recognition in the international visualisation space through some special projects, such as the hyper-realistic 3D modelling of the renovated auditorium and the grand staircase of the Hungarian State Opera House, or the spectacular main building of Sauska in Tokaj. The origin story of Greypixel, we hope, could prove valuable to anyone pursuing a creative, artistic career in a business.

Ákos, what drew you to the field of visualisation?

In primary school I loved to draw, copying skeletons and female figures from Barcsay's book on artistic anatomy, and putting my individual ideas on paper. One day, my art teacher took me aside during a break, saying that he thinks I have good spatial vision and that maybe I should check out an interesting piece of software. He handed me an installation disc with 3D Studio Max R2 on it. That's how it all started, first I did various design studies, for example, modelling Bart Simpson with a NURBS surface mesh, and then I started on a Trabant.

I was fascinated by this world where you can create anything that starts as an idea in your head. As a high school student, I was already earning money as a freelance 3D artist, working for game developers and an American film studio. In my further studies, I chose my field according to what I felt was most relevant to this subject. That's why I became an architect. While I was studying at university, I developed my visual design skills like everyone else at the time: learning by doing, experimenting with software and sharing experiences on online forums. They were really important int the online world at the time, CgTalk, ArtistPub, Supergamez, these were the virtual spaces where the elite hung out.

It almost goes without saying that I met Józsi on one of these forums. The many professional chats and conversations over the years have matured into close friendship. So there was no question that I wanted to start a company in partnership with him when I wanted to move on from freelancing.

Alapítói interjú

Professional and human sympathy is one thing, but why were you convinced he is the partner you need to kickstart your company?

It wasn't just sympathy, Józsi's knowledge was compelling and outstanding. From the very beginning I was impressed by his humility, his precision and his artistic vision, and we were both among the few Hungarians who managed to win the CgAward from the CgTalk admins, which was a quite significant recognition in the industry at the time. So, professionally, he would have been the strongest candidate to start working with. But in addition, it became apparent over the years that we complemented each other well. Józsi is the master of the artistic side, the real art director, he is interested in the technological implementation. For example, when modelling a beautiful interior, he figures out how to make the corner of the carpet crease. In addition to maximum realism, he is especially looking for aesthetic challenges that require complex calculations, and goes deep in working out the details.

This is great because I prefer to build processes, to increase efficiency, to maximise the results that can be achieved within the operation window. For me, the joy comes from bringing in a new solution, changing something, to make it visibly successful. So I have naturally shifted towards management in the company, while Józsi is stronger in technological and creative directions, such as light effects and realistic surfaces.

What was it like to go from the initial period of enthusiasm to the harsh reality of company management?

Since high school, I knew I didn't want to be an employee. You can't really change things that way, you're just performing tasks. Entrepreneurship is a much freer genre than that.

Of course, there's also the fact that you just can't know what exactly it's like from the outside. Owning your own business is a bit like having children: you can't have an objective view of it in advance, and if you just dryly spell out what it entails, it's not necessarily an attractive state of being, but once you're in it, you can't imagine your life any other way. If you feel the call, you have to go, and I felt it, quite strongly.

But I had to accept that I wasn't going to do everything perfectly the first time. In the beginning we waited for a while for our breakthrough to happen, and then we changed our approach.

When I am faced with a new challenge as a company manager, I have two options: either I learn how to deal with it or I find someone I can collaborate with.

The former requires capacity, attention, energy and, not least, some receptiveness. The latter requires money, it is an investment, the cost of which we have to cover with our own professional work. It is a continuous and never-ending balancing process that I have learned to enjoy over the years.

3D portrait

Can you give some examples of things that being a CEO has taught you?

A simple example of the first type of solution I mentioned above, when I am trying to strengthen the company through my own development, is to take English lessons. I speak English well, but I feel that Greypixel's international development would benefit from participating in the global professional discourse a bit more, so I would like to express my thoughts even better in this language.

On the other hand, one thing I certainly wouldn't have thought about at the beginning is how much energy I will have to devote to dealing with human problems. As a humble 3D artist, you're not necessarily equipped to bring out the best in people, to create an optimal environment for them.

Our team can be described as a group of friends, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails. We make a lot of decisions consensually. For example, at the start of the week, we decide together how we share the workload. This has the advantage of creating an encouraging and safe environment. Specific techniques need to be developed to handle emerging problems, which sometimes benefit from the involvement of a qualified professional.

The introduction of a transparent career development model has also been an important achievement in further strengthening the stability of the team. For us, it is key to express our appreciation to our employees in financial terms. This model provides perspective, predictability and clarity. A good atmosphere and human relations are paramount, but it is also important to back this commitment up financially.

We are also seeing a global market trend in competitor offices where a large part of the team is now expatriate and there is significant turnover. Commitment, on the other hand, is an important value for us. We take a long-term perspective and mobilise considerable resources to solve problems so that we don't have to say goodbye to anyone too early.

3D Helmet

Could this culture of close human relationships be the key to Greypixel's success so far?

Success is always a relative term, but the fact that Greypixel is still around after 12 years and is able to keep growing and becoming more and more well-known is certainly a success. But we are never satisfied, and perhaps we should never be satisfied, because that would mean that the flame of passion has been extinguished. We constantly want to work on the best and most beautiful projects possible, and that's what drives us forward. To be honest, everything else is secondary.


We are approaching 500 successfully completed orders, most of which have exceeded our client's expectations, and we ourselves have always felt that we have made the most of the task at hand.

I think that this 'craftsman-like' commitment to quality, and even excellence, is perhaps one of our hallmarks.

The second component is openness and agility towards innovation, the way we approach learning new things and finding solutions. This, by the way, is another good example of why you need your own company: you can do all the crazy things that a sane boss would never approve of. When the revolution of accessible 3D printing burst a few years ago, we experimented with it, we have printers, and we are looking for ways to create value between the virtual and the physical world. It hasn't become a serious business yet, but who knows what the future will bring. On the other hand, there is the example of our sister company Greypixel Geometrics: it is also a technology-based geospatial business but with a hard engineering dimension rather than an artistic one. They do practically the same thing 'in reverse': they transfer real buildings and relief elements into virtual space with great precision. The two companies share know-how and synergies, they complement each other well, with the potential for even closer integration in the future.

And the third important element of our DNA may indeed be what your question was about. I definitely sense that there is a difference in mentality, a human-professional interdependence that is perhaps a little 'slower', deeper than what is typical in this segment of the labour market. People from many different backgrounds work here, including ethnic, cultural, national, and professional backgrounds, and they all work here because they are committed and they want to excel in this art form. This is what we have in common, it's a melting pot that helps us to achieve the best results while creating in diverse styles and in different visualisation markets.


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