Thursday, October 25, 2007


I'd been meaning to get into digital painting. I figured a good way to start was by creating one simple thing at a time, same way I picked up Max.
I finally got around to finishing up our toy model for 3d Design, I'm gonna run it by the professor to see if I should change anything, then I'll be ready to rig and animate. Today I stumbled upon a Camera Match Utility in 3DSMax as well as a Camera Tracking Utility. Man, if only I'd known about that last year it would've saved me so much time. Depending on how quickly this project comes together I'll probably try to implement some real world compositing for the final product.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Up to speed

So now that I'm at Ringling, I felt it'd be good to create a blog and share my progress while I work toward my degree in Computer Animation. I thought first I might talk about how I got started with 3d animation; A massive entry to make up for the years of no posts.

I've always been more technically oriented for an "artsy type"and because of my experiences with my C.A.D. classes upon graduating high school in 2004, I knew I wanted to do something with computers and 3D. I didn't know, however, if I would be able to make a career out of it. So I went to a Community College, worked part time, and started teaching myself 3D Studio Max in the time I had left over.

In attempting to create such things I really started to learn the interface and get comfortable with 3DS Max but more importantly I learned how to be very resourceful in finding and learning new and necessary functions/techniques.

In 2005, less than a year of teaching myself, I found a community college not far from my house that had courses in 3DS Max. It was here that I met the single most influential person to my 3D work, my professor, Dennis Summers; an eventual friend, co-worker, and mentor. The class was primarily review (I was already putting the final touches on My First Animation, which premiered at a local film fest), but this allowed me to think about the fundamentals of 3D, particularly rendering , as well as simplifying my approach.

(coincidently, these were rendered exactly 2 years ago)

For my final, I created my second animation, regarding a stapler's paper addiction (the animation, however, was embarrassingly amateur so I'll stick with just sharing a simple screen shot).That class is also where I learned poly modeling which seems baffling in hindsight, considering my first animation was already finished it.

Of course, this new technique, my fascination with 3d toon shaders, and my love of the television show, Futurama, had a strong influence on how I spent my winter break...

Unfortunately, that winter the 3d program at Schoolcraft College was suffering, Dennis was let go due to union policies and the advanced classes only had 6 students and barely ran. On the bright side, our new instructor, Randy Rockafellow, a CG freelancer and the former chair of a local chapter of Siggraph showed me some very useful tricks- he introduced me to mental ray, the advance ray tracing engine- and that was paramount.

Recognizing my enthusiasm for 3D, Randy dropped my name to a former client who was looking for 3d artists to further supplement his photography studio. Andre LaRoche enjoyed my portfolio, however, being so close to Detroit the 3d business revolves around the automotive industry, and I had little to show in that respect.

Luckily for me, he was generous enough to allow me access to his workstations and software to try to get acquainted with rendering for the auto industry. I taught myself to render paint, use the farms, and became familiar with the beauty of V-Ray. A month later the car catalogs started and I was officially an employee of Stage 3 Productions. At this time I ran into Dennis Summers once again and got to work along side him a great deal as he freelanced for Andre during the summer months,.

I learned more that summer that summer than I ever have in my entire life- without a doubt. Looking back on it, it's no surprise. Working 50 to 70 hours a week next to a 3d guru, rendering for commercial prints with intense deadlines for clients like Ford and Dodge... It was intense- a 3d boot camp, and I really grew.

Not only did I learn how to render photo realistic cars, work with half-gig scene files, or render for print. I found out what it was like to be in the industry, what it was like to work 19 hours strait, deal with art directors requests, or handle the stress of yours company's reputation, at times, resting on you and no one else. It was stressful but very rewarding. I was too busy working to even think about the money I was making, and it was then I realized I could make a living working in 3d. A life in which I was financially stable, but so satisfied with my career that money wasn't even a concern.

Were it not for my opportunity to work at Stage 3 I probably would have never thought about going to Ringling, and I definitely would not be able to justify, to myself, going severely in debt to do so.When hearing about my luck and my paycheck people often asked why I even wanted to go away to school.

Before Stage 3 I worked at Kroger for 6 years (the Michigan version of Publix). I worked with a few specialist, graphic artists for example, who had tons of on job experience but after time that wasn't enough and so here they were, working at Kroger, putting up with lousy customers, managers, and making even less than I was (Kroger's unionized and I had seniority). The 3D industry is growing so fast and changing so much, who knows where it'll be and what the expectations might be in a few years. Sure, even a degree is no guarantee but a lot can be said for having so much passion and faith in something that you're willing to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because you're confident you'll be able to recover and come out on top.

There's a simpler version too. The auto industry feels so cold to me, I originally got into 3d because I love animation and I was good with computers. 3d animation seemed like the most practical way for one person to create a good looking animation. However, I lacked the foundation to be a good animator. If I ever want to be really good, I'd have to dive in head first and really challenge myself, like I did that first summer at Stage 3. Dennis, who also started the 3d program at CCS, recommended Ringling to me.

In 2006, after the summer workload died down, I focused on putting the quality and speed I'd picked up professionally into more personal work for my portfolio. I revisited my passion for Futurama and toon rendering, this time with the intention of making a production quality model, rig and animation.

At roughly the same time I'd begun work on a experiment to create realistic water. It quickly changed directions and became "The Allegory of August," what I consider to be my first truly original piece of 3d artwork.

And finally, the last major portfolio piece that I worked on before applying to both CalArts and Ringling is an idea that's been in the works for many years. As I mentioned before, I worked at Kroger for 6 years, and in that time I accumulated lots of stories, met lots of interesting people and never had a shortage of inspiration. While working, me and my friends would often pitch ideas for stories involving various characters around the store. Eventually we came to naming this cartoon grocery store Skooners. As a matter of fact, one of the first things I'd created in Max when I began teaching myself in the fall of 2004 was a prototype logo for Skooners.
A year and a half later I decided to take another stab at it in my advanced 3D class. Influenced by having recently completed Fry and picking up Mental Ray, this edition seems to be more of a technical experiment and was abandoned after the assignment had been turned in. At the time just before turning in my portfolio, winter of 2006 (less than a year after this bland edition) I decided to create a portfolio worthy Skooners with the skills I'd picked up while working at Stage 3.

So that covers my art story up to application time. You might be wondering if I've done anything outside of a computer monitor. I'd be lying if I said I'm here at Ringling studying Computer Animation because I love to draw. I'd taken some art classes senior year of high school as well as a few art and figure drawing classes at community college to try and beef up my portfolio. My traditional work, however, is something I'm currently working on a lot to develop. Subsequently, in talking about what brought my to Ringling my traditional work gets swept under the carpet. In future posts, however, I will mention and share some of my older 2d work as well as more current work, both 2d and 3d. Thanks for reading.