Category Archives: Uncategorized

Alpha Map Shadows; Problem?

Link back to old alpha tutorial.

Talk about the option within the render settings to show the correct shadows – three steps, quick tutorial.

Mention compositing for the reflections afterwards.

Show the difference it makes and conclude post.

Reference while writing post:

February Fun Roundup Post

January was an odd month in terms of our brand spanking new blog schedule (which you’ll notice, has already morphed into Saturdays instead of Fridays). On the other side of the words, I’ve been working on a project I’m really excited about and I’ve started work full time. Those two things haven’t quite figured out how to play nice yet but the hour long lunches are helping.

There’s a hint about my project a little further down the post, but if you’re interested in helping me out I’m looking for some testers. Anyway, much more on that later – lets get on with the tasty goodness for this month.

SIGGRAPH is Returning to Vancouver!

In a couple of years. Before I start gushing about just how happy this makes me and why, here’s a quick summary of what Siggraph is about for the uninitiated:

SIGGRAPH (short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) is the name of the annual conference on computer graphics (CG) convened by the ACM SIGGRAPH organization. The first SIGGRAPH conference was in 1974. The conference is attended by tens of thousands of computer professionals. Past SIGGRAPH conferences have been held in Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans, Boston and elsewhere across the United States.

It’s basically one of the biggest graphics conferences in the world. Last time it was held in Vancouver and broke its prior conference attendance records. I love Vancouver and its close to a lot of my friends; if I’d known about it a little earlier last time I’d have saved and gone.

I couldn’t be happier that they’re returning in 2013 – saving as we speak. Is anyone else planning to attend?

Get a head start with this month’s Online Event

Escape Studios are holding a webinar on the 15th February called ‘The Industry’s Best Kept Secret: Houdini‘. If you were around for my take on skills needed by a VFX Artist then little bells should be ringing all around your brain right now.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Houdini has been on VFX the scene for quite some time, but over the last few years it has benefitted from somewhat of a revival. The product is renowned for combining superior performance and ease-of-use to deliver a powerful and accessible 3D animation experience for CG professionals around the world. In this webinar, Mark Spevick, our VFX tutor, will explain why it’s become a piece of software which is near impossible to live without and will dispel some myths about it being difficult to use. Mark will walk you through some definitive steps to help you get to grips with the software so you can start integrating it successfully into your workflow. As an integral piece of industry standard software, which all artists need to be in the know about, this is a webinar you don’t want to miss.

I think that pretty much speaks for itself!  The webinar is free, if you have the time I’d recommend signing up and attending.

Best 3D Student Tweets of the month

Project: Creative Author Team’s Writing Club (Meow) | RocketHub Finally updated the image! Have a look at our new logo

This may or may not be the project I referred to briefly in the introduction.

The results of yesterday’s animated GIF about SOPA – The Oatmeal And this is exactly what we love about the news. =)

Unless you’ve been happily living under a rock, you’ll have heard of SOPA over the last few months. This tweet is referring to The Oatmeal’s recent news coverage thanks to his efforts campaigning against it.

Are You Afraid to Pitch Editors? This Is the Reason You Shouldn’t Be | The Renegade Writer

Quick look at letters of intent from the editors point of view – useful and insightful.

How to Photograph Your Own Textures | Vandelay Design Blog

A skill we should probably all have as graphics professionals, especially important for texture artists.

I Am Not a Web Designer

Deceptively simple as far as tweets go. FreelanceSwitch talks about how we’re not really our job titles in the eyes of our customers and how we can take advantage of this.

Posts of last month

The Future of 3D; Mixing CGI with Auditory Illusions

Guest post granting insight into the use of auditory illusions and computer graphics with some speculation on how those techniques could be used in the future.

Alpha Mapping to Create Realistic Leaves

Mehdi Shay shows us how to use alpha maps to create realistic foliage without spending hours modelling.

Continuous Learning and Deliberate Practice for VFX Artists  and Recommended Deliberate Practice for VFX Artists

Theory posts on (you guessed it) Deliberate Practice for VFX artists written by yours truly. They show off a bunch of research I did on job postings interpreted into something we can work with.

So You Want to Become a 3D Animator? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Guest post overview of what it takes to become a 3D animator. Not sure I’d call it exhaustive but its a good starting point.

Happy New Year; World Domination Just Round the Corner…

Plans, purpose, and all that fun stuff for the blog in 2012. Worth a read if for no other reason than to see the good intentions before they get altered. 😉

What to expect this month

Not quite so many posts planned for this month (though no promises on that count). Here are my plans such as they are:

Theory: Building Change into Your Workflow.

What do you do when you’re almost finished a scene, and suddenly you need to change something? Does it throw off your entire workflow or have you prepared for such eventualities?

Tutorial: Modelling or Unwrapping Small Accessories.

I haven’t decided which yet, if you’ve a preference let me know (and I’m happy to do both).

Review: Android 3.0 Animations.

I received a copy not long ago in a Giveaway and since mobile seems to be increasingly relevant for everybody – Why not?

Next Steps

Leave a comment to let me know what you thought of this style of post, and which ONE part you found most interesting.

3D Image of a doorway in a dirty alley at night.

So you want to become an Animator? Here’s Everything you Need to Know

School is back-in-session which means high school seniors applying for college and even current undeclared college freshmen and sophomores will soon need to select a major-of-choice. If you have a passion for the arts but are not sure which specific niche to delve into, you may consider pursuing one of the more popular areas that is predicted to provide an adequate number of employment opportunities in the coming years—animation. If you are unfamiliar with this career choice, continue reading below to discover what this job entails, including working environment, the skills you need to possess to be successful and starting salary.

What does an Animator Do?

In a nutshell, an animator creates original 2-D or 3-D visual images or special effects for a variety of industries including film, television, gaming, publications and the web. While traditional methods such as hand drawings are still mildly used, the industry is more or less dominated by the use of digital tools to create animation. That said, it’s important that those who choose to pursue this career are not only naturally gifted artists, but are also a wiz with computers so they can easily learn how to use all of the digital-creating software. Some other skills a successful animator needs to possess include the following: an eye for details, excellent time management skills, strong image-editing skills, and the ability to create and read storyboards.

What are the Educational Requirements and Classes you Will Take?

Typically, you need a Visual Arts or Fine Arts bachelor’s degree with a concentration in animation to get hired as an animator. While animation is usually a concentration within a broader field, students may just very well be able to tailor their skills even further and select a specialization within their concentration, such as 3-D imaging or visual effects for example. Regardless, some sample classes you will be required to take are the following: Computer Animation and Graphic Design,  Composition and Design, Illustration, 2-D Animation, 3-D Animation and Film Making just to name a few.

What is the Career Outlook and Working Environment?

Unlike other laborious careers, animators typically work in a cool and well ventilated, lighted area such as in a studio, loft or other type of office space. They may need to do some light traveling to sister studios or visit exotic places for inspiration, but other than that they tend to stay in a centralized location. Working hours are sporadic (generally not a typical 9 to 5 job) and on a daily basis animators work with animation directors, photographers, graphic designers, and other clients.

While many careers are unstable, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics those pursuing a career in animation should see many employment opportunities within the next decade. In fact, the Bureau predicts that employment opportunities should increase about 14%, creating about 11,200 new jobs by 2018— especially in the movie, gaming and television fields. This is because these areas will demand more “realistic” imagery in the coming years, the Bureau states. Other trending popular areas include design agencies and scientific/medical research facilities (medical experts for example need animators to illustrate procedures etc.)

That’s not to say that competition won’t be fierce because it will be. But to make sure you increase your chances of employment and to beef up your resume, focus on obtaining a lot of experience via internships while pursuing your undergraduate degree or consider become a “specialist” and earning a master’s degree in the subject. While salary will depend on various factors, including place of employment, degree level and previous experience, according to the Bureau animators typically earn anywhere from $41,710 to $77,010.

Happy New Year – World Domination Just Round The Corner…

Happy New Year!

Glad 2011 is over? There’s something magical about a clean slate that, while it can inspire gut-clenching dread, is so pretty and inspirational.

For the last few months I’ve been running around like a headless chicken trying to complete a Showreel (not done yet, but I’ll keep you posted), buy presents (all on time and accounted for!), set up a business or two and work at my day job. Am I likely to be any less busy this year? Doubt it. However I’ll be hanging out regularly on my own blog; I get points for that, right?

What this blog is and the point of it all

This blog will be about making believable effects and 3D. What this means is they can be as outlandish or ‘realistic’ as wanted but they have to be believable.

Tutorials will show how to make specific effects and how to give effects you have more gravity.  Longer topics could be about adding believability to your scripts and scenes – what elements should be there and what shouldn’t.

The point is to enable everyone (me included) to create better effects; ones that add gravity and an extra something to the scenes they’re a part of.

Who is this really for?

I’m really trying to appeal to two different and distinct audiences with this site now. This is for you if;

1. You’re a student, recent graduate or trying to break into the film, TV or games industries.  You’ll probably want to know how to improve your skills, get hired, and make cooler stuff than you currently are. Not quite beginner level, but just creeping into intermediate and feeling your way.

2. You’re already out there creating movies and/or games.  Maybe you’re trying to make a particular scene look more real but there’s something not quite right with your current effects, or maybe the effect just doesn’t seem to fit with the story and you want to find some other way of accomplishing the same result – but better. You’ve been around the block a bit and are just looking for solutions, or a way to improve your workflow in the future.

Why am I bothering?

I’m writing so that I can learn and improve both my writing and 3D effects skills.

That’s all. No money to be made from this yet, learning and building relationships are the main points of this current site from now on. That way if I decide to offer affiliates or advertising later to cover costs I can (and probably will) but its not the main issue.

Why should you read?

Quality content on a real issue that people across the board have; how to make effects more believable within our scenes, shorts and movies. From the writing to completion I’ll be looking at exactly how to do this and anyone reading can use and apply that knowledge to become better and make more awesome things.

Also, it’ll save you time figuring out what the problem is after a while using my methodologies, reduce stress associated, and bring re-known to projects where you’ve added a bit of pizzaz.


After the initial ‘January Scramble’ time frame quiets down you can expect one post a week (on Friday, about 4.30pm GMT) falling loosely into these for topics.

  • In depth theoretical post
  • Review of something useful, fun or interesting
  • Video tutorial on a practical tip, trick, or effect made by yours truly
  • The fun post.

Before the eye rolling (or possibly after) – the fun post will have giveaways, reader competitions, answer readers questions, or even just have an interview with someone awesome.

Open to suggestion there – if there’s someone you’d like me to get in touch with, or some training tool that you’re drooling over give me a shout and I’ll do my utmost.

In addition to all that, the newsletter is going to have its own set of updates and some unique content so if you’re not already subscribed I’d mosey on over before you miss out!

Where can you find me in 2012?

Here for a start! I’m going to be around on my blog and through my regular contacts page whenever for obvious reasons. But in addition to all that I’ll be focusing on these social networks:

I’m likely to completely ignore:

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Other 3D Forums (I may change my mind on this later)

They’re all linked to my profile on each active account for your convenience, feel free to add me to any (or all) of them and say hi if you do!

Weekend Wanderings Diablo and some Typography

This week’s been a little weird on the blogging front.  On Friday I accepted a full time position with a local fundraising company (excited!) – I start on Tuesday.  Therefore I’m back to juggling time a little more with writing and so on, definitely not complaining but you’ve all been warned.

I also discovered some really interesting industry news (Twitter followers will be nodding along at this point, I’ve actually been using my account this week), I’ll be talking about two of the best pieces today.

Weekly Recap

Keen eyed observers may have noticed that there wasn’t a feature post this week.  Rather than making things awkward between us and mumbling for a few minutes with some excuses (which are good) and an apology (implied, sorry folks) let’s just skip to what I’m going to do to get things back on track.  Tomorrow (the next Monday) I’ll be posting last Monday’s feature post on the Two Types of Purpose.  Then on Friday I’ll be posting the one that should have been posted tomorrow; you’re getting two this week to compensate.  My bad.

On Wednesday we also had our first video tutorial (How to Animate a Dodgeball Throw) by Prantic, and the continuation of Jonathan’s 3D 101 series (3D 101 Rendering Fundamentals).


Skyrill, a creative company run by the Almossawi brothers (Ali and Hussain), recently released a font set.

This particular font set was created by modelling basic 3D letters in 3D studio Max, then using Realflow to give each the consistency of paint.  They were then released from their shape constraints and left to explode; each frame was rendered and the most distressed, best looking, and easily recognisable images were chosen to represent the letter.

When I first saw how the letters were constructed and destroyed I was split neatly in two with both halves suitably impressed.  The first half was quietly in awe (that happens to be the same half that gets distracted by shiny, pretty things.  Also destruction and explosions) while the second simply wished I’d thought of it first.

Either way I’ll probably spend the next year looking for an excuse to do something similar.

Diablo III

If you’re a gamer you’ve heard, if you’re a fan you’re drooling, and if neither you should go and watch the cinematic trailer for Diablo 3 right now.  I’ll wait.

Back?  Excited?  Excellent, I’m there with you.

No concrete release date as yet but I did find something on Blizzard’s site that made it incredibly hard to sit still.  As you might know there are 5 character classes in this installment; barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, and demon hunter.  Perhaps predictably I was drawn to the hunter.

Click on that beautiful image below and watch the class trailer to see why.

Wrapping up for the week

Next week you’ll be treated to two heavy-duty concept posts as well as the Clipping Frames in Photoshop tutorial with James and the next installment of Jonathan’s 3D 101 series.

As always I can’t vouch for next weekend’s post; after my first week at a new day job I may be a little loopy (as if I’m not already) so there’s no telling what I’ll come up with.  We’ll have to see.

In the meantime though comment and let me know what you think of this week’s highlights!

Weekend Wanderings; 2 Short Animations you Must see

This is the part of the week where I take a look at the things I saw that connected with me, made me laugh, or were just interesting in general and report back. This particular week that means I’m talking about two animations; lets get to it.


Alight is a short animation less than three minutes long about a fire boy (Sparker) and a water girl (Aquanna). It was made by over 20 people; Jason Keyser was the one that posted it online. Before I get into any more detail, watch the animation.

Alight from Jason Keyser on Vimeo.

When I watched Alight there was an instant connection with the two main characters; you understood who they were and what they were about straight away and even though the animation was short you really felt sad when things didn’t quite work out for them.

The style was beautiful, the animation well executed and seemed to breathe, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Dream Maker

Dream Maker took four years to complete, and once featured in Siggraph (among other film festivals) winning the jury honours award. The creator, Leszek Plichta, is a short film director and CG Artist to this day and you should definitely follow him on LinkedIn after you’ve checked out this short.

DREAMMAKER from Leszek on Vimeo.

Dream Maker’s story is touching. There’s no other way to describe it really; you really want things to turn out well with the characters, the plot makes sense (both marks of good writing), and it has a happy ending. The visuals are gorgeous and you can see a lot of work and thought has gone into the whole thing.

Very well done Leszek!

If you haven’t already seen them, remember to take a quick look at this weeks posts. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

June Month in Review – Secret Plot Edition

After the dreaded college deadlines had passed and I was left with a bit of spare time my eye wandered up to that tiny bookmark in my FireFox nestled between a Gap Year Underwater Filming course page and a link to SlideRocket.  The one that points to The Dashboard.

Jumping past all the vaguely guilty feelings and banging my head off the wall (not quite literally, but there were moments), I decided to pour some real effort into making things work in a sustainable way.  There are now various schemes and plots unfolding in the background – you’ll learn about most of those later.

Changes on the Record

The two main things I can tell you about – if I didn’t you’d see for yourself in the next few days anyway – are the new site design, and my new contributors.  The site design is fairly self evident so I won’t make too much of a fuss about that, though I am super excited about that other thing.

There are now 8 different people writing material for this blog.  On Wednesdays every week a new tutorial will be posted, written by one of them and already a few have signed up to write multiple tutorials.  Thursday has its very own column run by Jonathan Palencia on the very basics of 3D and using code in conjunction with it.

You’ll get to know all of them really well over the next few months and their stuff really is amazing; I’m honoured that they want to be a part of this and extremely impressed with what they’ve already done.  Welcome guys, it’s a pleasure to be working with you!

Month Ahead

In line with the revival there’s a new post schedule, and I can even share an editorial calendar for July.  Each Monday I’ll be writing a themed feature post; the theme changes each month.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are tutorial and 3D101 days written by our contributors, and Saturdays are now all about news, points of interest, etc (complete with a video each week).

Here’s what July looks like:

A Full Month of Plans!

Want to be ahead of the game?

One last thing before you go – those plots I hinted at earlier?  They’ll start to unfold over this month and next, and to be in the best place to see them you’ll want to make sure you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and/or LinkedIn.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the plans, site design, plots and schemes so far.

Until I’m 60 or so…

Subconscious Interface Test - Mixed Emotional Colours

Look at the shiny, emotional colours... Don't they blend nicely?

Where to begin.

I suppose I could start at the beginning as per conventional wisdom, but really, where’s the fun in that?

My super secret project that I was planning on unveiling near the start of summer changed. It had been a tutorial interface for videos, downloads, etc, but I got bored and changed my mind. It’s sitting half planned on the back-burner, cooling its heels in the waiting room alongside a couple of tutorials I could mention, leaving the way clear for me to do something much more fun. Drum-roll please….

The new college project is:

A digital imaginary friend/mirror that you can talk to as easily as you talk to yourself and actually gain some sense from it.

Subconscious Interface Test

When getting to know you, the entity doesn't use colour.

Not a sliver of 3D involved you’ll notice, but I do have pretty pictures of proposed interfaces (that’s what those things dotted through the post are). Instead there’s a large chunk of programming, another large chunk of psychology, and a portion of colour theory and digital typography.

Over the course of its development (which I’m optimistically stating will be finished in approximately 40 years) I’ll be posting strange, interesting, or useful facts about the project along with a smattering of more lighthearted posts and maybe some 3D stuff if I have other things to work on. No posting schedules – I dislike announcing those anyway, obvious reasons – and absolutely no promises. But it’ll be fun, I can tell you that much.

For me, at least.

Right now I’m working through the planning stages in college so that I can pass my course (like a good little student), posts will likely reflect that for the next little while and I’ll be sporadic at best. In the meantime if you feel like helping out, comment below with any opinions or thoughts on the project and if you haven’t already please fill in the survey over here.

Small Favour – Project Survey Time!

Post is sitting half-written in drafts as we speak, honest. Though in the meantime if you could answer this survey I’d be endlessly grateful!

It’s to do with the project I’m working on in college, proper introductions etc on Friday.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

News from the Frontlines

Hey all!

Yes, it’s been forever (slight exaggeration) since I posted anything.  I’m still running on low amounts of time however I do have some really good news.  Well, good news for me, debatable for anyone else. 😉

As of next week making this blog a success has become part of my degree project.

What this means is that, while failing to do so won’t make me fail my course, I’d get a better chance of success by making this work.  Great, I hear you say, but what’s in it for me?

You’ll get your regularly scheduled dose of tips, tricks, concepts, and tutorials for a start (we all missed those, right?).  The writing here will improve out of necessity, and I’ll come interact more often again.  Further, there’s something big going on that’s due to launch in the summer.

Very big.  I’ll start telling you more about it soon but for now I’ll leave you with this one hint;

Tutorials, and this site, are going to change.

Best I can offer you just now folks; once I get my computer back and running (or, at this stage, a brand new one) you’ll be hearing a lot more from me.  Let’s do something fun this year.