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Thoughts on 3D Printing

November 14, 2014

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It seems incredible to me that I’m looking at a bronze sculpture of YodaBuddha created  by 3D printing. I conceived the idea in the morning, sculpted it in ZBrush, and uploaded the file to Shapeways in the afternoon.

The “buzz” about 3D printing has been on the technology, the printers themselves, and those start-up companies like Makerbot and Formlabs who have entered the hardware market in the last few years. The story of the individual designer with his home factory creating limited edition or bespoke items is just beginning.

From a designer’s perspective, it is very empowering to be able to go directly from an idea to a manufactured product–No set up fees, tooling costs, or minimum quantities. While it is possible that the technology could bring some manufacturing back to the US from Asia, I think that something like a home-factory craft business may emerge here.

If you have a great product idea, it should be possible to produce it directly with 3D printing. What comes to mind are short-run items like garage kits, designer toys, miniatures, collectibles. The kind of art objects that are done with silicon molds and casting resins. The same companies doing that type of product now are also places that might provide some freelance opportunities… Artistry and skill come with years of practice. The ubiquity of 3D printers doesn’t change that, but it does create a market for designers who can turn an idea into a printable file.

I was (like many artists, I’m sure) eagerly reading the brochures and specs of the latest machines–excited by the prospect of getting my own. I was about ready to place an order for the Form1+ when a news article gave me pause…Auto Desk announced their intentions to enter into this marketplace as well… Now, they create great tools–don’t get me wrong–but the majority of folks buying their content creation tools are dreaming of being artists and animators.  The spectacular Hollywood animated features and the blockbuster visual effects have them inspired–but not everyone is going to end up with a job at Pixar… Similarly, people are excited by the technology of 3D printing and rushing to get one of their own–many inspired by remarkable artwork that they see posted on ZBrushCentral –as though the right software and the right magic box is going to turn them into the next Michelangelo…Rather than being fleeced, those artists might be better served by a modest investment in some watercolors and a box of Sculpy….

Keeping this in mind, I thought I better figure out what I am going to make and who I’m going to sell it to before I plunk down the money for my own printer. Our public library has Makerbot Replicators that you can use if you have a library card ($50/year if you live outside the city), and Shapeways has lots of material choices that I can experiment with for now….

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TAR of Zandoria, Episode 1

July 24, 2014

I’ve been working on this for so many months, it feels great to finally have something to share with you! Thanks to all of my friends and family who have encouraged me to keep going, especially to my wife Sharissa for her faith and support!

I hope you will share the video with your friends and followers, so that TAR of Zandoria finds some fans :)

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Composer Alan Williams Creates an EPIC score for TAR!

July 17, 2014

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Alan Williams is an award-winning composer and conductor with more than 100 motion picture and television credits. Alan’s scores include the Academy Award nominated IMAX film, Amazon, Sony Pictures Classics’ Mark Twain’s America in 3D and some of the highest rated movies made for television. Alan composed the award-winning score to the animated film, “The Princess and the Pea” and also co-wrote the original songs with Grammy Award winning Lyricist David Pomeranz as well as the Student Academy Award winning short “Pajama Gladiator”.  His score to “Estefan” received an Annie nomination for best original score. He has been awarded the Insight Award for Excellence for his score to “Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa”, 13 Accolade Awards for Best Original Score, 8 Park City Film Music Festival Gold Medal for Excellence awards as well as his score to “Crab Orchard” being named as one of the Top 20 Film Scores of 2005.  Alan has received 3 Global Music Awards for his albums “The Cinema Collection”, “The Documentary Collection” and “Patriots of Freedom” and a Prestige Film Gold Award for his score to “Cowgirls n’ Angels.”

When Alan contacted me during last years Kickstarter campaign about creating music for TAR, I didn’t really understand just how amazing and generous his offer was. I had an idea that the score needed drums, but otherwise I was pretty clueless about music…

Today he blew my mind with the the most awesome, visceral, pounding, epic musical score for the first episode! My heart was racing as I listened to it! It was just intensely powerful–it totally takes the animation to a higher level. It is EPIC!

You will hear it soon, and I know you will love it too. Until then, check out his work at http://alanwilliams.com

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Behind the Scenes…

April 1, 2014

My wife captured this slightly embarrassing video of me choreographing a fight sequence for TAR in the back yard. I was using the lid to one of her pots as a shield, which made for an even more ridiculous situation when the neighbor came out to walk his dog….

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Stylizing the look…

March 18, 2014

Have you noticed that the “look” of big budget animated movies has become  homogenized?  However beautiful those globally illuminated, sub-surface scattered, realistically simulated CG worlds have become, there is a common look to them…. I think it is because the artists and the tools are the same from studio to studio…

From what I understand about the industry, artists move from film to film, studio to studio, as each project ends (self described “pixel gypsies”)… The tools are similar between studios, the feature orgy in 3D software pushing in a Darwinian way towards a synthetic hyper realism.

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The last animation that I posted suffered from this same look, and I had to stop and think about why…. I think  there is an unconscious bias towards that style, because our tools favor it, and there is an expectation that for it to be accepted   it has to have that look.

I am just one guy.  Even if I thought that this homogenous CG look was great–there are hundreds of people involved in creating it–and if my work attempts to emulated it, then it will rightly be compared to it.  The animation, the particles and effects, the lighting–everything has to be at Hollywood level…If it is not, then rather than being immersed in the story with the characters, the viewer is going to be distracted….

Realizing I needed to stylize the look–Dig a little deeper than what the tools want to give me–make them give me what I want,  I started looking at my influences for TAR of Zandoria to see what it was that I liked (and figure out how to make the computer render it).

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Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and Simon Bisley are my favorite fantasy artists. So I started looking at their paintings for stylistic cues that I could try to emulate–since that genre is the inspiration for TAR, if I could make it come to life that would be more satisfying….

The first thing that jumped out at me is the strong contrast between light and dark–It is called chiaroscuro in painting. The defined contours in Frazetta’s and Bisley’s work also stood out–I think this comes from their background in comics before they started painting…

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The backgrounds are painted of course, and since I was already using a matte painting approach to creating my backgrounds for TAR, this is an easy shift–Even running a Photoshop filter was an improvement over the realistic matte painting…

I added toon shading to the edges of my objects, and I relighted the scene with a key light and a couple of fill lights.  I think I am also going to tweak something with the diffuse falloff at the edges, to get a look for like my airbrushed version of TAR.

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Shot 1(5)

February 12, 2014

I was watching some behind the scenes shots from the Blue Sky film “Epic”, and saw a lot of reference footage that was acted-out by the animators and used as a reference. I thought that the motion and timing was very naturalistic, and if a big studio can do it, then why not me?

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So I opened up the iPad and filmed a couple of takes of me taking off my shield/hat and flipping my staff around to use as a club, as storyboarded.

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Dropping the footage into Animation:Master as a rotoscope, I was able to step forward in the timeline and see myself acting out the shot.  The timing and spacing was already worked out–I just stepped to where I needed to set keyframes and posed TAR to match….

One thing that had struck me as odd on the Blue Sky example is that the reference shot matched the finished shot exactly for the camera angle…. To me, I had thought of myself as TAR, standing looking into the shadows at Ninja Pass–preparing to charge into a fight! The best camera angle came after I had dropped TAR into the Choreography.

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3D Print your own TAR of Zandoria Collectible!

January 23, 2014

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Download and 3D print your own TAR of Zandoria collectible statue! Print it and put it on your desk. Print it and give it as a gift. Take a picture and share it! Every time someone sees this statue, they are going to ask “What IS that!?”

That is going to help spread awareness of this project, and the cost of the .stl will help me keep the lights on ;)

Pierre at Cults3D invited me to upload  my sculptures to their new 3D model marketplace where people can buy print-ready models to build on their 3D printers. It seems like a great idea–I imagine that there are only so many Stanford bunnies and Yoda heads that a person needs… As 3D printers become ubiquitous there is a need for high quality sculpts to fill the build platforms.

I foresee that there is going to be a market for commission work too, so if you need a little help bringing your idea to life, please give me a shout. Here it is on Thingiverse

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