Virtual-Mechanix: Good Carma

January 13, 2008 1:14 pm

Chris Wise loves cars, and is equally passionate about reproducing them in 3D. To Chris, there is nothing more gratifying than crafting a completely realistic 3D representation of a Ferrari F430 or a Porsche GT3 RS. While an auto manufacturer might use a bevy of tools to design, shape and build an automobile, Chris only relies on one: SOFTIMAGE|XSI. Little did he know that one day his love for cars, and his skill for modeling them in XSI, would transform his passion into a global business.

 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

The Crew

Chris began modeling cars as a professional at Torus Games, and created his first cars for a racing-combat game entitled Carmageddon TDR 2000. Shortly thereafter, he took his craft into the open market as a freelancer and founded his Australian-based company, Virtual Mechanix. Bizarre Creations soon noticed his skill with SOFTIMAGE|XSI and asked him to produce cars for their upcoming game, Project Gotham 2. His business, and his workload, accelerated.

As Chris’s new business began to grow, he knew he could not continue to do all of the modeling on his own. Rather than limit his search, Chris turned to the global marketplace to find other modelers with game experience, knowledge of SOFTIMAGE|XSI and a love of cars. He recruited colleagues and XSI artists he had networked with through other jobs, and turned to contacts he’d made at industry trade shows such as SIGGRAPH, GDC and FMX. He connected with professionals through XSI Base.com (www.xsibase.com), the largest XSI community on the Web. Though they were located across the globe, Chris provided his virtual team of “mechanics” with the work they loved and the flexibility they desired – a combination they found hard to resist.

 
“The level of care and organization put in by Chris makes it feel more like an in-house role than a contract position…”
- Matt Clark, Car Modeler, Sheffield, England
 

“Working with Virtual Mechanix has been fantastic,” explains James De Colling, a member of Chris’ team who worked for Atari  Melbourne House in Australia and now resides in Japan. “I can work whatever times I want, which gives me flexibility to do things with my family whenever we choose. Also, the fact that Virtual Mechanix is centered on cars brings together very like-minded people.”

 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

Those advantages have benefited the client experience as well. “Many studios consider outsourcing this kind of work to less expensive markets,” explains Chris. “But our team really knows the business and loves creating car models for games, so there are fewer quality issues, fewer training requirements and far less overhead.”

 
“I can work whatever times I want, which gives me flexibility to do things with my family whenever we choose. Also, the fact that Virtual Mechanix is centered on cars brings together very like-minded people.”
- James De Colling, Car Modeler, Tokyo, Japan
 

The benefits to clients and employees alike have paid off. Virtual Mechanix continues to be busy, and now employs thirteen freelancers from locations across the globe, including:

  • Montreal, Canada
  • Sheffield, England
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Vaterstetten, Germany
  • Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Shanghai, China
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

The Blueprints

On average, Chris and his team produce 50-100 cars per game title. To minimize the complexity that that volume of work can create, Chris tries to ensure that each project starts with detailed information from the client. This usually consists of a game design document, a list of cars to produce for the game, deadlines for producing each car and the platform constraints to which each model must adhere. In addition, each car comes with digital reference material, such as photos, CAD models, and blueprints.

 
“Our team really knows the business and loves creating car models for games, so there are fewer quality issues, fewer training requirements and far less overhead.”
- Chris Wise, Founder and CEO, Virtual Mechanix
 
   

“The level of care and organization put in by Chris makes it feel more like an in-house role than a contract position,” explains Matt Clark, an ex-lead artist from Argonaut Games and Particle Systems in Sheffield, UK and one of Virtual Mechanix team members. “There is a detailed and clearly laid-out brief so everybody knows exactly what to do. Plus, the reference material for the vehicles is excellent.”

 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

Once they have the information, it is up to the team to turn it into car models that are not only beautiful, but that work on the game platform. “We’ve never found the constraints too difficult,” explains Chris. “I guess this comes from the experience of the car modelers who work on our team. Each of us has modeled cars for many games and knows how to find the balance between beauty and practicality.”

 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

The Toolbox

Once the modeling begins, the team at Virtual Mechanix turns to their modeling tool of choice, SOFTIMAGE|XSI. While most of the team started their modeling careers using other 3D tools, they eventually converted to XSI completely.

 
“XSI has been great to work with on the cars due to the straight-forwardness of the tools and the ability to handle massive amounts of geometry on-screen, the great shrink-wrap deformer, proportional modeling tool and the more recent Tweak tool.”
- James De Colling, Car Modeler, Tokyo, Japan
 

“I converted to SOFTIMAGE|XSI from Lightwave 3D after Softimage launched their 3-Democracy campaign,” explains Matt Clark. “What I liked about XSI from the start was the solid feel of the working environment, the accessibility of everything within a scene and the ease in which it handles larger, more complicated projects. The precise feel of the modeling tools suit the technical nature of this kind of work very well and the addition of the Tweak tool has made smoothing out car bodywork a breeze.”

 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 
 
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
© 2007 Virtual Mechanix
Click for larger image
 

James De Colling concurs. “XSI has been great to work with on the cars due to the straight-forwardness of the tools and the ability to handle massive amounts of geometry on-screen, the great shrink-wrap deformer, proportional modeling tool and the more recent Tweak tool. Each of these has been a huge timesaver.”

Having an entire team of XSI users minimizes the technical challenges that can often result from working remotely. Files are easier to transfer and to work with since no conversions from one 3D package to another are necessary.  In addition, clients can provide one set of reference files and be confident that Chris and his entire team can work with them. With many of the technical challenges out of the way, Chris and his team can focus on what they do best: creating beautiful cars.

 
“I converted to SOFTIMAGE|XSI from Lightwave 3D after Softimage launched their 3-Democracy campaign. The precise feel of the modeling tools suit the technical nature of this kind of work very well and the addition of the Tweak tool has made smoothing out car bodywork a breeze.”
- - Matt Clark, Car Modeler, Sheffield, England
 

Looking Ahead

Racing games remain a popular game genre; and as long as they remain popular, Virtual Mechanix will continue to build 3D car models. However, their success has also enabled them to expand their reach into other car-related areas. For example, they are currently working on their own game and are co-producing a racing simulation with a Formula 1 team based in Europe.

But the object of their creative talents is only half the picture. Virtual Mechanix has created a work environment and work ethos that provides like-minded car lovers with a freedom of schedule and a freedom of expression that feeds into the cars they create. It is little wonder that Virtual Mechanix has done as well as it has in such a short period of time.


All content and images within this article are copyright and used with special permisson of 
Avid Technology, Inc. Use of this content without written permission is prohibited.

About Softimage Co.
Softimage Co., a subsidiary of Avid Technology, Inc., delivers innovative 3D animation tools to digital artists in the games, film, and television industries. Its product line includes SOFTIMAGE|XSI, the most advanced 3D software for modeling, animating and rendering; SOFTIMAGE|FACE ROBOT®, the first product for lifelike facial animation; SOFTIMAGE|CAT™, a complete character animation system plug-in; and ALIENBRAIN®, the leading asset management solution for artists.
  • For more news from Softimage, visit their website.

January 14, 2008

Please note: If you find the color of the text hard to read, please click on "Printer-friendly" and black text will appear on a white background.

Create your masterpieces with products from the Renderosity MarketPlace

Silent Fright Backgrounds

Beach Babe Poses for V4

Raging Moon AURA

Eclipse of Heart

Swimming Hall Part 1 - Clothing and Locker Room
Check out What's on Sale and see the Hot New Products for more items!

Article Comments


3Dillusions ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 15 January 2008

Congratulations Chris, your superb work and you love of 3D has taken you and you colleagues far. Much success in the future. Angela

deemarie ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 21 January 2008

Earning a living doing something you love...Outstanding! Especially when you can receive a working wage for your creative talent as a 3D artist. Bravo! Dee-Marie