Adventures in 3D modeling

Putting the fun back in 3D Modeling

tron - tank

Long, long time ago, I watched a movie in the theatre called Tron. Yeah, I know, it’s older than dirt and about as dated. But back then…it made me think, and it changed my life and made me realize I wanted to do computer graphics for a living. Luckily, I already had a large head start having taken a considerable amount of art training, but…finding a computer that would fulfill my dream turned out to be not so easy. So, I studied programming..

Which was boring and frustrating, and gave me fits, so I finally gave it up and just waited an eternity for something I could actually use. In fact, I didn’t really find anything within my influence sphere or grasp for many years. In the 80’s, basically all a mainstream computer had to brag about was (.eps) postscript (for printing). Even the first SGI was a terminal, and required a mini mainframe. So, when PC’s finally started having the ability to do some 3D, they were very slow – but they could do it. I recall ad’s bragging about 640k of memory, and a 10MB hard drive. That’s not even a wristwatch by todays standards.

So, fast forward up until our futuristic, modern times, I am older, and the tech isn’t a $325,000 mainframe, or even a $50,000 SGI. Modern PC’s are quite powerful, cheap, and have caught up. For a small price, we can basically do anything we wish in CGI, if we have the time and the patience, and the energy.

Tron lightcycle rez

The reason I say this is because recently, someone at 3D-coat delivered me (generously!) a educational version to play around with. And, wow…what a nice piece of software. All the things that frustrated me about many modeling packages – gone. While, yes – it is primarily for doing organic models, it has poly’s and is only limited by ones imagination. Still, the interface (for me) makes sense and is (after watching some tutorials) is easy to grasp.

Elmer Fudd capture,

Zbrush always frustrated me, as it seemed convoluted in functional UI concept, and I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. I watched any number of videos, and just never got it. Many people want to do artistic things, and just bulldoze through lousy software interfaces (or whatever) until they manage to reach familiarity, and stubbornly stay creative. The rest of us have to face our creativity diminishing because dealing with a crappy UI, the fun is dead with some overly complex technical wrangling, and we quit, and never go back, and end up doing something else instead.

I tried Zbrush for some time, and just couldn’t “get it”. In fact, Zbrush made me feel like a brainless monkey. Yeah, keep your insults to yourself, thanks. 3D-coat seems more…obvious to me. The UI is direct. I like the modeling tools, and the fact that Booleans can be done easily  (cool)…reminds me of Groboto a bit (even if edges are a bit soft). Also, I really am really impressed by what seem to be metaballs (“Zspheres?”) sorry – not sure what they are called, but they seem to be a far more obvious (and useful) implementation than Zbrush (or any other program I have seen) ever did. It is very rare that 3D applications leave me thinking creative thoughts, because my brain is usually forced into “engineering” mode just to keep up. Well, that or swearing.

Mr Roboto

The advertisement for Groboto has suggested a similar idea…that creativity is the most important part here. When artists get so bogged down with facts and UI’s, well…art does too. The creative part tends to take a back seat, because we focus on details, and realities of making software function. I would postulate that this has maybe even affected art to such a degree and possibly why so many artists are fixated on realism. Cameras do a good job of capturing reality…why use 3D for that (unless there is no other way)?

3D is just another tool for us to create and use and branch out in search of new horizons of and for art, and that should not include “reality.” It sort of reminds me of what some writers have done to science fiction..its all science, and forget the fiction. Some have become so enamored of the science, the inventiveness has been lost. Worlds and universes have to be “real”. The problem is that defies imagination. Your imagination has become a slave to your logical mind. But I won’t stop you: Go slap some characters into a a generic backdrop and here’s a trope story. Now, about those 2,000 sequels…

Frankly, I have a demo and have yet to give Groboto a fair shot, too tied up in 3D-coat right now. But. If you are at all interested in 3D, go try some of this software out. If you just want to play around, you might find you are far more capable than you previously thought. I suggest this because it is easy to spend years getting bogged down trying to do things rather than fast tracking yourself by keeping the fun in your creativity. So: I’m telling you now, and sparing you grief – enthusiasm is everything.

You just don’t have to be Disney to build a Tron-like movie or game these days.

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