Tuesday, March 28, 2006

TurnTool will be turning heads!

Business is growing swiftly across the board and not only in numbers, but in distance too. People are collaborating all over the world on a multitude of projects. VizualJourney alone has visitors ranging from Singapore and Jakarta to Hoofddorp in the Netherlands and Beamsville, Canada. Until the recent mass adoption of broadband, it has been fairly hard to communicate 3D work over the internet. But since, many new avenues have been opened for new and innovative tools.

TurnTool is a great service that takes advantage of this growing global community and allows 3D artists to present their information online in an interactive format. A 3D object can be created in a somewhat similar fashion as a Quick Time VR, and the end user can easily navigate the artist’s work. The end user does have to take a couple minutes to install a quick plugin for their browser but this is trivial when considering the communication benefits (see an example here). However, I have noticed that the applet does crash every once in a while, but it is developing in the right direction. A limited edition version would be a good idea to from TurnTool as well because most of us aren’t ready for the $239 startup fee and $798 every 6 months. If it’s a plug-in for our favorite existing programs, what’s the deal with paying a subscription? However, the water-marked free version is a good start.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pricing – A fine art in and of itself

I’m constantly coming across questions in the 3D world requesting help on how to price services. Price to high and you may scare away valuable connections for the future. Price to low and your work won’t be respected, and furthermore, from that point on, that client will always expect that level of work for that price.

A good starting point for defining what your pricing should be is in a book done by the Graphic Artists Guild called Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. After much research I’ve found that everyone has a different answer for different types of projects, and this book is a good reference for where to start. Of course you will have to add or subtract based on different factors specific to your unique project. I do think that this book tends to inflate the pricing a little, but this is to be expected from the Guild to help raise the value of the Graphic Design Industry.

Despite its hideous cover and frequent misspellings, it covers a lot of ground for all projects ranging from map design and comic book illustration to computer animation and video production. It also has some great templates for different types of contracts that you can tailor to your specific needs. However, I think contracts done in the wrong way can get a relationship off on the wrong foot, so be sure to be careful with you wording and presentation of these legal documents. It’s priced at 22 Bucks over at Amazon which is well worth it if it ends up getting you that extra stack of high society.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

3DStudio Max tutorials – There’s so many, which one do I pick?

It’s hard starting off on your own staring at a blank 3D program and not knowing at all what the hundreds of buttons do around the interface. It can be intimidating and quite frankly, a real frustrating experience to pick up on a new 3D application.

There are great tutorials all over the web but sometimes it’s hard to fish through them to get anything worth while. Here is a great series of video tutorials that I’ve found that gets your feet wet for modeling well in 3DStudio Max (you’ll have to scroll down a bit when you click on the link to get to it). Things are taken slow and steady just like a good teacher should do things, however there is no audio. The homepage screen has about a dozen excellent tips that help tremendously as your go through the tutorials. It has five parts that you can download here – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

I would also note that 3DStudio Max has one of the best integrated help files out of any program. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as trouble comes knocking on your door. I find that these video tutorials are a great addition to the help file because actually seeing someone else’s efficient modeling process is difficult to explain in words.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

RPCs - Are they worth it?

RPCs are a quick way to help boost the proficiency of any still vizualizaztion. It allows vizualizers to import quick versions of usually very complex objects (such as plants, cars, or people) in 360 degree views. Free RPC plugins can be used in many programs and can be found on their site here. However plugins are probably the only thing you will find for free from Archvision (the RPC umbrella company). RPC models tend to be on the expensive side; up to $50 per model! Archvision leans towards productivity in Photoshop and 3D Studio Max (programs ViZualJourney will cover in the near future).

Up to this point I have used RPCs in Photoshop and have found them to be helpful in streamlining post production. RPCs dramatically decrease the amount of time spent refining the details of still images. However, in reviewing the results of RPCs in 3D renderings and animations, I have one concern. It becomes difficult get the right lighting when RPC objects are rendered into a 3D scene; the brightness and contrast levels often do not match a dynamically changing scene. Realism drops off more than you would think when these image levels are not adjusted correctly. If a more realistic scene is desired straight out of your 3D package, I would steer clear of RPCs and model or import actual objects themselves. I would only import RPCs into Photoshop as new layers that are easily adjustable.

Just starting out, I would hold off on the investing in RPCs until you can justify the cost. I probably wouldn’t be using them if they weren’t already provided by my current employer. I just don’t see them being worth it when similar effects can be created by clipping your own images. However, they are a valuable tool to keep in mind for the future and rest assured VizualJourney will keep a close eye on the developing RPC technology and let you know if things change for the better.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Evermotion - An insight into the interesting

Evermotion is a great aggregator of many CG (Computer Graphics) news sites across all industries; however it leans a little towards the ArchiVizualization industry. As stated in the some of the previous VizualJourney entries, it’s difficult to find places for aspiring graphics entrepreneurs to see how others have entered the industry and what they have done to get where they are today. Evermotion's “people” tab is an excellent resource to help reveal many CG industry unknowns. This section is a place where visitors can access great “get to know them” interviews that give a sneak peak into what real professionals are doing. There is some great insight into the workflow process of experienced professionals and the studios they work in. However, I've found that these interviews tend to be on the brief side and lack some personality, but do include some great images.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Creative Cow - For the Vizual Producer

VizualJourney’s writer, Michael Brown, was on the 22nd and 23rd shows of the Creative Cow podcast these last two weeks. It was a short clip that was recorded via cell phone on my way home from work. The creative cow community and podcast are great resources for us Vizuals that are more into final 3D production and post processing. The Creative Cow podcast is a great weekly show about an hour in length that goes over all sorts of content production products, reviews, and has great interviews.

For those who are unfamiliar with what a podcast is, they are downloadable audio files of broadcasts that people do all around the world. The great part about them is the ability to find your own niche of interest and listen to content geared specifically to what you’re interested in. Topics range from a weekly visit to Kyoto Japan to Harvard computer science classes. I find the best way to get them is to search the podcast section of the iTunes music store.

CG Society - where the creative experts hide

Starting out on your own you find that the world of 3d is unlike any other industry. For the most part, other industries have experts that share information to interested companies via conference or company training sessions. An observation I have made in the realm of 3d is that the best information from the industry pros falls in-between the cracks and isn't as visible as one might hope. I wanted to share a couple of places I have found that really help to discover what the best people in the industry are doing and how they practice. I’ve found researching what the pros are doing helps to drive direction and desire in your own goals.

True, there are helpful 3d conferences that occur often (Siggraph, Gnomon Workshop events, & CG Overdrive to name a few), however the cutting edge of the fast paced 3D industry finds itself imbedded online in discussion forums & 3d community sites. I have a lot of these places in my stock pile that I'm excited about sharing in the future but for today I'd like to share CG talks meet the artist bulletin board. It's a great place to interact with industry pros in real time and have them answer your specific questions. Great artists from mostly the creative side of 3d interact and share great stories and information about their experiences.

Here at VizualJourney we are always excited to hear back from our readers! As you read through these entries and you think “wow! I think this should have been included,” or, “I can’t believe VizualJourney didn’t bring this up,” feel free to add your thoughts in our comments section below or
email your feedback.

Blender - 3D Visualization Alternative

Blender has been in circulation for a while now and becomes more widely used every day. It is a great solution for those getting started or for smaller visulization firms that don't have the pocket book to fordge ahead with 3D Studio Max or Maya. Overall, it's a very comprehensive program and suprisingly fluid with many advanced features. The learning curve is a little steep, however the greatest advantage of this open source program is the immense ammount of support information. In fact, there is so much information available that it's sometimes hard to filter through and find what your looking for. If you have broadband access, I've found that video tutorials with audio are the best way to pick up on how to use Blender's beginner, intermediate, and advanced features. Blender's community is on the cutting edge of product support with the blender wiki book project providing one of the first wiki online support manuals.

As I begin to delve more into 3D studio max (more the industry standard for architectural visualization) I find that many features of blender translate fairly well into 3d studio and it eases the learning curve. Having this said, I have noticed that the development of blender has taken more of a creative media direction with its development. This may or may not be because of the orange project that seems to be pulling the development of blender right now. The architectural visualization tools are not very well refined and "just adding a window" isn't as easy as it should be. Hopefully these tools will develop more in the future and you can be sure that ViZualJourney will let you know when they do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Invigorate the passion! - "Stay hungry, Stay foolish!"

In light of the previous post, I would like to share a commencement speech that was given by Steve Jobs at the Stanford Graduation Ceremony on June 14, 2005. I've found it very insightful and representative of our readers attitudes towards life as an adventure. "Stay hungry, stay foolish!" Keep this one in your archives for a time when you feel like you've lost a little of that "pow!"

- The mp3 & ACC can be found here; if you have any trouble finding these, drop 3djourney an email and I will be happy to host it for download.

Invigorate the passion! - Venture Voice

Getting Started can be the hardest part of...well...getting started. I would like to share some tools that I have found to invigorate the entrepreneurial spirit and drive motivation. I find when it's becoming hard to keep the creative juices flowing, to listen to others who have gone through the same process as a catalyst to inspiration. Venture Voice is an excellent podcast I follow Hosted by Gregory Galant. Here you will find over 20 interviews with some of the top players in many cutting edge markets. Many of them are tech related but not all. Yes, I realize tech isn't the same as the 3d visualization market; however the unique outlooks of these different individuals can be applicable to any business or individual philosophy.