Donnie Christianson: Renderosity's Very Own Superman
Donnie Christianson has been a part of the Renderosity community nearly as long as there has been a Renderosity community. In the early part of this century, most of us knew Donnie by his online-persona: Silver (now known by AtharianMedia). His articles and images have been featured numerous times on the Renderosity website and within the pages of the various forms of Renderosity's printed and online publications.
Not only is Donnie one of Renderosity's favorite sons, he is also an award-winning recording artist, journalist and, most recently, a film director. I invite you to journey with me to the outer-limits of creativity as we unmask Donnie's many alter-egos…
Dee Marie: Donnie, as an award-winning, CG Artist/illustrator, musician/ vocalist/composer, film director, animator, and journalist, you put the creative men of the Renaissance era to shame. Is there anything that you have not accomplished that you still yearn to do?
Donnie Christianson: I'm blushing. Thank you for your kind words. [laugher] There are so many things I still want to do—I feel like I have yet to succeed in any of those arenas. My biggest goal right now is to see Star Force 7 (this world, this cast of characters and adventures that are in my head) on the big screen. That's what drives me and I'm working furiously towards that goal.
Dee Marie: What other adventures do you have on your bucket list?
Donnie Christianson: I also have a lifelong dream to climb the great pyramid, guitar strapped to my back, and then play on top of it. That would be awesome.
Dee Marie: I have no doubt that everything on your list will be fulfilled. On a similar topic, which of your many talents come naturally, and which do you have to work hard to achieve greatness?
Donnie Christianson: Hmm. If anything, singing is very natural for me, I love to sing - I wish I had more opportunities to do so. Everything else I really have to work at.
Dee Marie: Do you have any formal art or computer training?
Donnie Christianson: Most of my formal training is in the web development/programming field. My degree is in Internet Technologies, and I hold several Microsoft Certifications in .NET, SQL, VB, etc. I have always taken a lot of online/self-paced training in CG, web development, video, which I continue to do.
Dee Marie: When did you discover computer graphics?
Donnie Christianson: I was always big into Sci-Fi and art, even back in the 70s. I would draw with pencil or marker, but didn't get into CG until 1993, while on tour with my band. I ended up in bookstores in the afternoons instead of clubs. I always gravitated towards the movie and animation magazines. One day I picked up an issue of Computer Graphics World (which I still have)…reading that every month led to discovering Bryce, Photoshop, Strata, Poser, and the original 3DCC, which ultimately brought me to Renderosity.
Most everything I've learned about CG has been because of the talented folks here, at Renderosity, and other community sites. The forums are an integral part of this community and probably the best resource there is.
©Donnie Christianson All Rights Reserved
Dee Marie: It's rather serendipitous that your first love, music, introduced you to the world of CG art. When did you start playing a guitar?
Donnie Christianson: I started playing guitar in 1974…a long time ago. [more laughter] I tried taking part in a group guitar class soon after, but was asked to leave because I insisted on holding the guitar right-handed, and I'm left-handed.
They tried to teach me the chords holding a right-strung guitar left-handed, and it was a mess—backwards and upside down. I left frustrated and never took another guitar lesson. So, I just figured it out from guitar magazines and jamming with friends and my favorite records. I had one vocal lesson to learn how to breathe properly, but other than that, no formal music training.
Dee Marie: Why the transition from art and music to films?
Donnie Christianson: From an early age, I wanted to make movies, but ended up pursuing music. Since my music career is winding down, I decided to just go for it. I had been dabbling in animation and comics since the 90s, never really releasing anything. I realized that it was time to either do something serious with it or shelve it.
Dee Marie: As director of the film, Star Force 7, did you enter the world of film-making with the same intuitive assertiveness as you did with your music and artwork?
Donnie Christianson: I have some formal training in shooting and editing video, but mostly I've learned all that from either self-training or figuring it out hands-on, which is the best way for me; just experiment. There's no substitute for doing it.
Dee Marie: At what stage of development is your newest film project in?
Donnie Christianson: The current project is a CG movie titled A Chill of Distant Eyes. We're currently recording voice-overs by Fluffy Starr, Candace McCarty, Dulci, and Clint Hawkins. All the voice artists so far are recording at their own studios.
While they're recording their parts, I'm working on storyboards, animatics, and dozens of other production details (design, assets, figuring out motion capture), and scouting for the rest of the cast. There are a few folks I've chosen for those, but, as of this interview, are unconfirmed. I hope to announce them soon. There are also some completed final shots for the movie.
In a few weeks, I'll be posting a project or two on Kickstarter.com.
Dee Marie: Kickstarter.com is an outstanding platform for fundraising. What specifically do you hope to accomplish with Kickstarter.com?
Donnie Christianson: We hope to fund post-production software and tasks. As well as additional voice acting; and licensing a handful of select tracks from some of my favorite independent artists, including Fluffy Starr (who is the voice of Atharian Blackstar in the movie).
Atharian Blackstar voiced by Fluffy Starr
Dee Marie: As you've indicated, working on a film is a collaborative effort…is there anyone that you would you like to acknowledge?
Donnie Christianson: I would like to give a shout out to the awesome SF7 voice actors and crew, which is still growing. I truly appreciate the work you are all putting into this; you make it something to look forward to every day. I know the fans are going to enjoy it!
Dee Marie: As Renderosity is primarily a CG website, I know our readers are always curious as to our interviewee's favorite software programs. In regards to your professional music, film, and art projects, what are your most used software programs?
Donnie Christianson: Bryce and Photoshop are hands-down my favorite apps. I have recently started using Manga Studio for drawing and love it; also, DAZ Studio, Poser, and Vue.
I edit video in Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects, with audio in ACID Pro and Cakewalk's Sonar and Z3TA. My preference for audio recording is, and always has been, analog tape—big ol' clunky reels that still sound phenomenal.
Dee Marie: That's rather ironic, to go old-school (using analog tape) in this modern era. Tell us something else about yourself that would surprise our readers?
Donnie Christianson: [in a hushed voice] ...should I mention golf, or my penchant for 70s soft rock? Oops, did I say that out loud? [laughter]
Dee Marie: That's OK, Donnie, no one will know your secrets…other than our million-plus readers that is.
Donnie Christianson: [more laughter]
Dee Marie: If you were stuck on the proverbial (yet somewhat mythical) uninhabited island, what material items would you bring with you?
Donnie Christianson: Well, if the island had electricity and satellite Internet—I'd take my guitar, microphone, headphones, my M-Audio Axiom; and a laptop with its magically-self-recharging-battery, and music library/software (the laptop only counts as one, right?). If no electricity, then I'd just wish for a nice Takamine acoustic guitar.
Evolution ~ Souls On Ice ~ Dreamer's Highway
Donnie Christianson's Album covers
Dee Marie: Enough frivolous questions…
Donnie Christianson: [gives a slight sigh of relief…followed by a tinge of fear in his eyes]
Dee Marie: Give an old friend the inside scoop…in the upcoming year, what projects (music, art, film, and/or writing) will you be working on?
Donnie Christianson: Hmmm, this answer could get long... [more laughter]
Dee Marie: It's an Internet interview; we have lots of time and space.
Donnie Christianson: Most of the projects are related to Star Force 7, with the aforementioned CG movie, A Chill of Distant Eyes, being the main project on my plate, so that will be where most of my time will go. Besides directing and animating most of the shots, I'm scoring the film and working on two songs for the soundtrack. I'm also trying to work out logistics of two music videos for those two songs.
Other Star Force 7 projects this year are the 6-issue digital comic book mini-series, Hellsquad: RECON (we just published #1 in April, #2 comes out May 7th), then hoping to publish The Skartiri War graphic novel. I also have to tighten up the script to the second SF7 movie. But, more about that one later...
A non-SF7 animation project: a 2-minute Sci-Fi horror film I wrote while driving home from work one day back in February called Stasis (strictly a for-fun project). All the shots are done and in the render queue.
I've also been working on-and-off with a series of Bryce animations I've named Worlds: Volume One, editing them into a short film. Worlds has animations going as far back as 1996 with Bryce 1 (yes, Bryce 1) through Bryce 3. I've got literally thousands of scenes and shots sitting on my old Mac systems. All the Volume One clips were done on either a PowerMac 6100, 8600, or my iMac (Rev B, 1998). Volume Two is in the works, with about 12 completed shots using Bryce 5 and 6.
Dee Marie: Wow, your year is packed; is there anything else on your creative plate?
Donnie Christianson: There are also some collaborations. One is very near and dear to your heart, and I think now you and I can let the readers in on it: it's to start working on the animated short-film version of your novel Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy. Then, I'm scoring Brent Bowers' (Greybro) Respawner web series.
Dee Marie: Needless to say, I'm very excited about you bringing life to the characters in the first book of my Sons of Avalon saga. Dare I ask…is that all you have planned for 2010?
Donnie Christianson: I'd like to say that's all, but I also have to keep up with Posertrax releases, launching a few new websites this year, my role as lead guitarist for Southern Rock band Dukes Nitemare, and one more single from my solo project Silverwing.
If there's an assistant out there, I will gladly supply your favorite Ben & Jerry's.
Dee Marie: With a schedule like that, I would imagine your assistant will gain his, or her, weight in ice cream over the next few months. All teasing aside Donnie, what are your secrets to success?
Donnie Christianson: Well, I don't really have any big secrets, but it seems that every time I do something with passion, it always turns out better. I'm motivated by the people around me. My wife has long been my number-one supporter and fan. She is just awesome.
My local and online friends, and my voice artist team for the SF7 movie, are all a huge inspiration. They're all incredibly talented people and I don't want to let them down, so I push myself to make sure I'm performing up to par and can keep up with them. Finally, the SF7 fans keep us all going. Knowing that someone else is enjoying this is the best feeling ever.
Dee Marie: In regards to fans and online communities…when did you discover Twitter, and how has tweeting influenced your creativity?
Donnie Christianson: I first discovered Twitter in September 2008, but didn't really do anything with it until early 2009. For one thing, it's definitely helped me write better headlines (I really wish they'd up the character limit though).
Twitter has been great—because it is just so easy to take in as much, or as little, as you want, and I've found many resources for design, graphics, magazines, education, you name it. And, with the exception of Clint and Brent, I met all the Star Force 7 voice actors on Twitter.
Dee Marie: Thank you so much, Donnie, for taking time out of your over-busy schedule for the interview (it was great to play catch-up with you).
One more question (don't moan, you've known me long enough to know that there is always "just one more question"), please give our readers your top 5 tips on how to make a living doing what you love.
Donnie Christianson: You're very welcome, and thank you too! I can give 5 things that have worked for me. I hope these will fire some synapses:
We invite you to visit the following:
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May 17, 2010
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