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Riki Babington: Eat 3D
 
 
Posted: Dec 05, 2012
Published by: the area
Homepage: Visit the page
Software: Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Mudbox
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The Area:
Hello Riki - it's an honour to have you on AREA. As some users may know, you are the guy who started Eat 3D -- a name which is synonymous with CG learning content that demonstrates tips and techniques utilized by some of the top professionals in the industry (who have in fact authored Eat 3D dvds). For those of you who are unfamiliar with Eat 3D, check out some of the free tutorials that Riki will be making available on AREA and see for yourself :)
So -- let's go back to the beginning, to when you first started out doing 3D. When was that, and how did you get hooked?
Riki:
I want to start off with first thanking you Fianna and also Autodesk for this interview and your continued support for our work here at Eat 3D.
After High School I decided to pursue my desire in art at the Art Institute of Houston. I honestly don’t think going to college is really necessary with the power of the internet at our fingertips and the ability to find good training at an amazing cost compared to college. Having said that, college was something very important to get me going in the right direction and provided an environment of like-minded people to challenge me. This is where I got hooked. I remember taking my first 3D class and I instantly fell in love with the complexities and endless potential of the software.
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The Area:
Did you start out using Max as your first 3D application?
Riki:
Yes. My first 3D class was using Kinetix 3D Studio Max 3.1. I was also very interested in Maya after watching the famous “Bingo the Clown” animation, but I was never given the chance to use it. I can vividly remember the excitement of using 3d Studio Max while creating entire animations from scratch.
The Area:
What was the first paid CG gig you did?
Riki:
I graduated with a 2 year degree and was extremely fortunate to land an interview at Timegate Studios only 2 weeks after graduation. At the same time I had started doing freelance for one of my instructors from the Art Institute. My classmate (and good friend Cliff Young who now works at ID in Dallas) and I both got the job at Timegate Studios and spent the next 2 years having our minds blown and egos humbled. Zac, Phillip, Enrique, and Tom (who still work there) were amazing mentors and I owe them a tremendous amount of respect for their excellent leadership. During my 2 years there I was able to work on “Kohan II: Kings of War” and “Axis & Allies”, both for PC.
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The Area:
What are some past gigs you've worked on, and what were you principally working on?
Riki:
Since working at Timegate Studios I have had the pleasure to work on “John Woo’s Stranglehold”, “Blacksite Area 51”, “DC Universe Online”, “Stubbs the Zombie” cinematic (I did the car explosion at the end), and a few unannounced projects that never made it to the shelves. While at Timegate Studios was mainly just an “artist” and did everything from FX, animation, texturing, modeling, cinematics, video editing, and so on. It was great to be able to try different things in production and find out what my strengths and interest were. I quickly realized when leaving Timegate that I needed to specialize in something in order to get a job at larger studios like Midway and SOE. That is when I realized my main strength was in environment production. This started off by creating a lot of environment assets but then grew to lighting, rendering, performance optimization, and other production practices to get the games out the door.
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The Area:
Are you a default out-of-the-box guy or do you have some "must haves" scripts/plugins for your 3D work...if so, what are they?
Riki:
I guess I would be considered an out-of-the-box guy. I’ve never really got into doing heavy customization or scripts. The only plugin I can remember always installing is “Ephere Scene Manager”. Markus hasn’t worked on this plugin in a long time but he did create something better known as “Zookeeper”.
The Area:
Asides from Max, what other CG apps (and game engines) do you use?
Riki:
I am a big fan of Unreal Editor 3 and UDK, having used it most of my professional career. I also really enjoy using Autodesk Mudbox and have used it in a few different DVDs including the Mudbox Comprehensive Introduction DVD. Other apps I use from time to time are Autodesk Maya and Pixologic ZBrush.
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The Area:
How did you get the idea to do Eat 3D? Great name by the way :)
Riki:
I started off loving video tutorials and I realized there was almost nothing on video game production. I had an idea one day to create a DVD on creating a next-gen asset from start to finish. I realized I would need to make a website and create a company, but this was all just for fun, I really didn’t have any long-term ambitions. I had a lot of ideas for names, but I wanted it to be easy to remember and I also wanted it to end with “.com”. 2 of the close contenders for names were “drysponge” and “absorb3d”. eat3d.com was very short and easy to remember, so I decided to go with that. The next big challenge was to come up with a logo, so I spent some time and sculpting something in Mudbox. During these months of cultivating the idea, I would always seek feedback from my colleagues; Richie, Marshall, Gary, Jim, and many more. Creating the first DVD (Old Damaged Pillar) was very difficult for me and took around 5-6 months before I was happy enough to release it on the website. The Pillar DVD seemed to hit a chord with professionals and hobbyists alike and for a good while after its release the 3D community seemed to be inundated with variations on the theme. It was pretty overwhelming to see how many people seemed to have an affinity to it. I had friends from many different studios telling me that an “Old Damaged Pillar”, or a variation of the theme, had become a staple piece on a lot of submitted portfolios for Environment or prop artists.
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The Area:
Did you intend for it to be a paid thing from the start and how successful was it when you first started out? Over the years, there have been a lot of very useful tutorials and tidbits released by other CG artists online... sometimes it is hard to compete with “free”.
Riki:
I did intend for it to be paid but I never cared about the money. There were necessary costs that I couldn’t avoid when I started, like buying 3ds Max, Mudbox, Adobe Suite, DVD cases, etc. My goal was to hopefully break even someday. I realized there was a lot of competition out there, but I was confident that I was doing something that no one else was doing. What made the Pillar different from many tutorials at that time, was the fact that it showed the entire process from start to finish and was edited down to something manageable for normal artists. I can remember spending more time on the editing, than anything else. I can’t tell you how many times customers told me that they followed through the DVD to the end, then created a few other similar assets, and then found a job using it in their portfolio. Not only was it comprehensive, but the end result was high quality. That is where Eat 3D has really excelled and set the bar for all the competition out there. We treat the viewer with a lot of respect and hold back nothing to guide them into creating portfolio-ready projects. It’s also worth mentioning here that my partner Andy Davies has been instrumental in Eat 3Ds success and has been pouring his heart and time since near the beginning.
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The Area:
Everyone in the industry has some CG idols whom they respect and look to -- who have been yours in your CG journey?
Riki:
My mentors and colleagues have always been the ones who have inspired me the most. I would list some names but I know I would forget someone. I never gravitated to people who I didn’t personally know and work with.
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The Area:
The industry grows at an incredible rate -- new tools are being made daily by users, which help to drive new ideas, techniques and faster workflows. How do you stay on top of that; and are you doing any contract work on the side?
Riki:
I decided when Midway shut down that I would not take any contract work so I could focus on making Eat 3D what I wanted. I have had many opportunities to do freelance but I always just roughed it out lived with less money so I can do what I love. Working in video games has really drained me over the years. Each year working on a video game was more like 2-3 years in actual work hours and I am really enjoying the peace of working at home and spending more time with my family. As for the technology passing me by, I generally have a very high interest in these things and I regularly stay on top of them. Also I have expanded the company to include many amazing instructors who can work in the industry and be able to release the kind of DVD they want without a lot of pressure.
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The Area:
Eat 3D probably takes up a chunk of your life ;-) but outside of that and given your games background -- do you play any games? if so what are your current games, and what are some of your past favourites?
Riki:
I love Zelda games and can’t get enough of them. I spend a lot of time on my iPhone playing puzzle and strategy games. I also love paper Mario, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, and other games like that. I also play a lot of Chess, almost every day online now.
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The Area:
ok...and now the question ;-) you've been a long time max user and you have seen it transform over the years -- what are some wishlist items you'd like to see granted for max in future releases?
Riki:
I know I said I come from an environment background but one thing I have always wished 3ds Max did better was in animation. I love animating and want to get in it more, but I generally feel like I should probably just use Autodesk Maya since their tools are more mature.
The Area:
Riki - thanks for your time, it's been a pleasure. I look forward to upcoming DVDs from Eat 3D....actually, what are some DVDs that are in the pipe now?
Riki:
We are hard at work on many amazing DVDs. We are hoping to release several more this year but I can’t promise anything. At the time of this writing we are close to finishing a Maya Gameres DVD by Michael Pavlovich, a Maya Scripting DVD by Luiz Kruel, a Prequel Portrait Production DVD by Tony Reynolds, another ZBrush DVD by Mike Jensen, Modular Environments with Tor Frick, and so many more! :-)

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Posted by Demenkov on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM
That guy master!
Posted by gavinfla on Dec 29, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I like his work and bought the video and tried to get some help from him or people on his forum with some issues I'm having with it but no one stepped up to the plate. First off these videos are done with older versions of the software I don't think it makes difference, technique is technique. I'm just not getting good results when I do the pillar.
Posted by gavinfla on Dec 17, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Hi Riki, I'm a hobiest at 3d, love 3d CG and as your logo says, I eat 3d thats how much I love it. I really enjoyed reading your interview and glad I came accross it because I'm always looking for tutorial, I learned a lot in the past from 3d Buzz and moving on to Lynda and now I'm looking forward to visiting your site, doing some tut's and probably ending up buying your CD.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences

Gavinfla
Posted by makan_ansary on Dec 17, 2012 at 01:41 AM
He is a great guy Indeed, I've watched his tutorials, very great, helped me a lot, keep up the good work :)