Who is 'Pret-a-3D' and how did you come to use that name?
Prêt-à-3D is basically myself, Paolo Ciccone, with the help and consultation of my wife Holly. She helps with things like UI design verification, policy evaluation and she reviews the documentation. I do the development of the programs, provide customer/technical support and I take care of the commercial aspects of the bussinnes.
One of my interests is fashion and fashion photography. In fashion you have basically two main lines of production: the Haute Couture (High Fashion), where stylists create beautiful garments specially tailored for a single person, and the "prêt-à-porter" or "ready-to-wear" fashion. Prêt-à-porter fashion is the largest market today and it produces garments that are designed by a stylist like Valentino, Michael Kors, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and many others. The prêt-à-porter market produces beautiful clothing that is affordable. On the other hand, Haute Couture products cost several thousands of dollars for a single piece. The cost of some professional 3D software today reminds me of those Haute Couture prices. So I created Prêt-à-3D to bring high-end software quality in the hands of everybody.
It's "3D ready to wear."
How long now have you been involved in digital art?
I started using 3D in 1999, with the first version of Blender that was available to the public. Since then I used other programs like Photoshop, Painter, Poser, ZBrush, DAZ Studio, 3D Coat, modo, and, of course, LuxRender.
What made you decide to become a Vendor?
For years I worked as a professional software developer for several companies. In 2000 I left Borland, where I was a developer for JBuilder, to start my own company, Hellriser Customs. Hellriser's business was to sell motorcycle accessories online. I designed the website and all the e-commerce infrastructure. It was an experiment that went well up until the economic crash of 2008. Motorcycle accessories are bought with disposable income and in 2008 there was very little of that. Nevertheless, I had a taste of what it meant to be "on your own" and I wanted to continue like that, if possible.
I left the company and started feeling the need to get back to software development and to art-based software. When the idea of creating Reality, at that time for Studio, came up I naturally looked at the market players in the Poserverse. Renderosity was right there at the top. I used Renderosity for years before, so it was an obvious choice to become a vendor here. Renderosity provides a lot of services for the vendors and your staff has been always very helpful and responsive. The Vendor Control Room is really great. I take advantage of it to control sales, promotions and to obtain sales reports.
What might you currently be working on?
Reality 3 for Studio, plus some other project that I'm not ready to discuss yet...
What software is in your digital toolset and why?
Well, code development software is what I use the most since I write software. I develop on Mac OS, which is a big help. The Mac and its OS are the foundation of my workflow. My programmer's editor of choice is Sublime Text 2. The Reality UI is designed with Qt Designer. The Mac version of Reality is compiled with XCode 4 and to create the Windows version I run Windows 7 virtualized via Parallels. The compiler used for the Windows version is Visual C++ 2010.
On the 3D art side, I use Poser, of course, DAZ Studio, modo, Blender and ZBrush. modo is probably the most versatile and easier to use 3D modeler in the market. It's a pure joy to use and it's darn fast! ZBrush is a class of its own; it defined digital sculpting and it's getting better and better with every update. It's really a fantastic piece of software. Blender has its unique features and is a very advanced 3D modeler. The OBJ importer/exporter of Blender is more advanced than the one in modo so it's just more convenient to use.
Of course, I must ask about your fantastic Reality plug-in. Presently in version 3, can you tell us a little bit about Reality, how it has come along, and what we might see in the future?
Thank you. Reality's job is to take your scene and render it via LuxRender for maximum realism. Reality is unique in the sense that it is possibly the only program that tries a deep conversion of the Poser shaders, including procedural nodes. This was designed to make it easy for the Poser artist to start using Reality and Lux from established Poser materials. Renderosity sells tens of thousands of Poser products. The goal of Reality is to give you access to those products with the least amount of adjustments needed. Poser and Lux materials are very different and so there might be situations where it is necessary to manually fine tune them. For example, Poser materials don't carry any information if they describe glass, metal, or water. Lux materials on the other hand have a type: glass, metal, cloth, mirror and so on. Reality allows you to take the basic converted Poser material and then edit it to take full advantage of what Lux provides. The Reality material editor allows you to create very complex materials without having to use nodes, which I think is an improvement in usability.
With Reality 3 for Poser released it is now time to bring this technology to DAZ Studio. Reality 3 for Studio is in the works. The good news is that the Studio version uses exactly the same UI of the Poser version and so about 70% of the program is already done.
With your experience, do you have any advice you could share for aspiring Digital Content Developers?
Be unique and bring quality to the market. Test as much as you can and make sure that you have good documentation. A comfortable customer is someone who will come back and buy more of your products, and for that condition to happens it is important to provide good, clear documentation.
The Renderosity forums are a great place to contact your customers, be visible and provide help. This is a great community with very supportive people. Create excellent products and you will have success.
How has this online Community (Renderosity) enhanced your work, relationships, and learning?
I'm on the Renderosity forums every day. I subscribe to several forums (love that feature) and read as much as I can. The Reality 2 thread ( http://www.renderosity.com/mod/forumpro/showthread.php?thread_id=2849428 ) is now 260 pages long!
The wealth of information available online at Renderosity is simply invaluable. Several features of Reality have been added as a result of discussions with customers in the Renderosity forums.Do you have any final words or advice for other digital artists?
Steve Jobs said in the best possible way: "Stay hungry, stay foolish." I believe that art has a new Renaissance today. The tools and the markets available, from illustration to game art, to film production, comics and all the other fields provide such an ocean of opportunities that were not available before. With the Net connecting people all around the world there are no barriers anymore. Anybody can be anything anywhere. Take that opportunity and stay positive. The world is a wonderful place and we have all the reasons to be happy.