How did you get started in 3D Graphics?
Having been a doodler and illustrator from a very early age (my Mother says I drew my first sequential word-story when I was three), I knew all my life that I wanted a career in art but had no idea of what that would look like (apart from drawing cartoon characters on napkins to give to waitresses instead of the much more expensive and hard to scrape up tip).
After getting married in 1997, and realizing that I was gonna have to get a "real" job or start getting a lot better at drawing on napkins, my wife and I read an article in US News that identified computer animators as among the highest-demanded new professionals. Having had, up to that point, virtually no experience with computers (apart from a Commodore 16 - yes, I said a 16 - when I was 14 or so) I was apprehensive but hopeful for my future prospects in that career field.
I attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio the following year, participating in their computer art program. I was immediately enthralled with the possibilities inherrent in 3D digital art and threw myself into my projects with near suicidal abandon. 18 months later, before finishing my degree, I was hired by a company in St. Louis, where I now live, that specialized in stereoscopic computer animated content for virtual reality theme park rides. How long have you been working with 3D Graphics?
Does playing Atari count? My gramma bought my brother and I an Atari 2600 when I was about ten and I was completely bat-poop over it. One would think 40 consecutive hours of "Yar's Revenge" wouldn't be good for a kid, but here I am. Otherwise, I began my studies in 3D graphics in the Fall of 1998, and have worked consistently in the industry now for five years. Do you have any formal training?
Yes, and it was exceptionally valuable training, starting with the absolute basics of Adobe Photoshop and how to use a mouse (I'm serious; I had NOT used a computer up to this point, except for teaching my Commodore to play the opening theme of Star Wars using Basic! And I couldn't even ave that when I was finished! I did say it was a Commodore 16, right?) and moving into the theory and basics of 3D design. Also valuable was my further training, at the same time, in traditional art, painting, design, and life drawing. I am absolutely convinced that great digital art arises from a solid foundation in classical art and illustration. What software do you use for product development?
I was trained on Alias Wavefront's Maya 3D program, which continues to be my primary workhorse, but I also use a smattering of 3D Studio Max, the ever-essential Adobe Photoshop, and, while it doesn't technically count as software, I would get nowhere without my Cuisinart coffee maker.How much time is required for product development?
The XCC-900 Cyborg, for instance, began life as a concept sketch in a Barnes and Noble cafe in late November, 2004, and was uploaded to Renderosity, I believe, by the third week of December. This was a fairly complicated endeavor, and was my first self-rigged figure (I had been farming out the job of rigging my figures prior to that), so it took longer than many of my other products. In general, it would take approximately a week to design, build, translate and format a prop-type product, and two weeks to a month for a figure-type product. These estimates, however, are based on the reality that I am also employed full-time as the creative director for a large-scale digital publication, which takes up the vast majority of my typical work time.Can you give a brief overview of your development cycle for a new product?
I won't bore the readers with technical yadda-yadda about how I model (polygons in Maya; no NURBS) and how I translate the models into Poser (I use Poser 5 because of it's broad shader and texturing potential), since I am sure that those topics will have been covered myriad times by others in the past. I will say that I always start with a pencil and paper well before I ever take mouse in hand, doodling and sketching until I have very carefully fleshed out the details of what I plan to create in the 3D environment and how it might work. These sketches are the real soul of any model and form the direct template for the 3D content. I have learned that the more time I spend developing any product on paper, the less time I will spend in the creation, texturing, and translation of the element into the Poser environment. Just like my old soccer coach used to say, it's all about fundamentals (and boy I hated it when he said that, but drat it all, it's true), and in this case, the fundamentals are all about figuring out how the project should look, work, and "feel" well before anything hits the 3D environment. Where does your inspiration come from when developing new products?
I am fortunate that I have found a niche in the Renderosity Marketplace that matches my own ideas about what is fun to design and create, since it allows me to be very passionate about the products I design. I love the visual worlds of fantasy, sci-fi and horror, and cull from my own explorations of those themes via the movies, comic books, and popular culture in general.
My primary inspirations arise from my love of, not so much telling a story, but creating a mood, a snapshot, a lightning bolt flash of feeling that the viewer can instantly hook into and connect with. I paint a picture in my mind, emotionally, of what I want any new product to broadcast to users, and then I try my best to distill that emotional landscape into something that not only others can tap into, but that they can customize and blend, something they can make their own. One of the slogans I have dabbled with for ImageNation content is "It's not what we make, it's what you make out of it". On a broad level, this is my personal inspiration.Do you have any advice for aspiring Digital Content Developers?
As tough as it may sound, one of the strongest bits of advice I might offer is: it isn't enough to make what you know. Here's an example: I play the cello. I like and know the cello, and I would LOVE to model a very detailed cello for sale on Renderosity. The fact is, however, that if one takes a quick glance through, say, the first ten pages of the top selling items at Renderosity, one is most likely not going to find highly-detailed classical musical instruments amongst the products on those pages. It wouldn't matter that my cello model might be excepionally well made-- cello models are just not generally what buyers want.
On the other hand, one cannot simply decide to make products based exclusively on what is dictated as popular by the top-selling items. It has to be a blend of what you know, what you can be passionate about making, and what people want. For instance, if I made a cello model, and then paired it with a nice wooden chair, an ornate brass music stand, and finally some flirty cello poses for Vickie (come on, who doesn't think an attractive, demure woman with a large stringed instrument between her knees isn't strangely provocative?), I could probably create a package that would inspire myself as well as be a fairly good seller.
The key, to summarize, is to balance what people want and what you want. And there is almost always that balance. How has Renderosity's on-line community played a role in regards to your products, friendships and learning?
The art created by Renderosity's members continues to be a source of inspiration and excitement, keeping me fueled to create more content and work on art of my own. The contact I have had with other Renderosity merchants has, as well, been extremely helpful and encouraging. I would heartily recommend that aspiring merchants not be shy about introducing themselves to established merchants and asking them about their work and their experience. This has been very helpful to me. Do you have any final words?
Yes. I have three final words that I'd like any member of the Renderosity community to think of when they think of winnston1984 and ImageNation: "Free Market Research!" Which means, essentially, I want to know what everybody thinks! Contact me and let me know what you'd like to see released into the Renderosity Marketplace. I have taken suggestions from many users in the past and always found the input invaluable, so just know that ImageNation listens and I wanna know what you wanna see!