Tell us a little about your self. In a few brief sentences, what are broad strokes of the path that have brought you to this point in your career?
Studied landscape architecture. Landed first job at Yung Design Group in Branson, Missouri in 1997, where I used the wierdest hybrid of AutoCAD 3D models, mylar, markers, and ink pens you've ever seen to create architectural renderings for resort marketing.
Based on a client request, I made the jump to 3D Studio VIZ R1 in late 1998, and started down the path of the architectural visualization world. Have lost track of how many hundreds of renderings and animations I've done over the years.
Opened a dedicated graphics studio for Yung Design Group in Des Moines, Iowa in 2002, which also brought me closer to home. Continued there until striking out on my own in 2010 to found PUSHpixel, which has allowed me to chase some work that was outside of the traditional architectural marketing work I'd done for the prior thirteen years.
What (or who!) were some of your major influences along the way?
The first several years of my work in the 3D world were pretty isolated. Being the only guy in the office or even the area code who knew how to do what I was doing forced me to be very self-dependent. While this was extremely frustrating (there is a list a mile long of things I wish I'd known in the first five years that were there all along), it also challenged me to have the confidence required to perform the work at an extremely high level of quality.
A foundation in design rather than in the technical aspects of the software caused me to see 3dsmax (and VIZ before I switched over in 2006) as a tool more likened to a pencil. A very expensive and complicated pencil. Once I was at the point where I wasn't fighting the interface or my skill set any longer, it was simply a matter of using this special pencil to apply the things I knew about design to my illustration and animation work.
What is favorite non-computer related creative outlet?
I have too many hobbies. I can't stop. Highlights are;
- Time with my family (wife and three kids)
- Remodeling our house
- Brewing beer
What is your favorite aspect of 3dsMax and why?
My happy place is finding the tricks that let me way, way, way over-deliver for my clients while meeting their budgets. Since I have always been in a small operation (largest group of artists I've had on staff in my career was four), the challenge has always been to squeeze more out of less.
Finding solutions for my client that don't just look good, but fit within their budget requirements, make them look better, and ultimately make THEIR project or product more successful is probably the thing I like most about 3dsmax.
I guess I didn't really talk about the software itself, though. My favorite part of 3dsMax itself is the fact that for any given problem, there are probably at least five ways to solve it. The marriage of the highly technical with the highly aesthetic is hugely pleasing to my need for feeding both right brain and left brain. The entire interface, from the modifier stack to the new Slate material editor, are in essence to me an extremely complex puzzle to solve. Solving that puzzle in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing way is what allows me to provide my clients with images and animations that bring their ideas into focus and ultimately make them more successful.
What non-cg talent or skill has proved the most beneficial in your cg-career (skill, ability, philosophy, what ever....)?
Being willing to put the needs of others - clients, co-workers - ahead of yourself. Never being satisfied that your work is good enough, but also knowing how to temper that with profitability and appropriateness (not ever project needs a feature-film level of detail).
It's not a new saying, but there are, as always, three variables to this work. They are time, quality, and money. Pick two of them.
What advice would you give to someone starting to learn 3D in hopes of building a career in 3D or VFX?
Even the simplest projects can teach you a ton. I wrestled for years with the frustration that I wasn't doing visualization work for higher profile projects. I must have built a hundred four story, twelve unit condo building models. Over and over and over, it was variations on a theme. It took me getting away from those to realize how much they'd taught me about efficiency, quality, and the process of continual refinement of my skills. Learning that there weren't projects that were "beneath me" was a big deal.
With apologies to all who make their living writing them, tutorials aren't going to teach you much beyond the nuts and bolts of the interface. Put the tutorial book down and make something. Make your desk, model your car, do an animation of an alien ship landing in your backyard, but make something.
The most beautiful images you've ever seen aren't commercial viable if someone isn't willing to pay you for them. Knowing when to stop is a vital component of this work. There is definitely a place for non-commercial art, but it doesn't pay well.
What do you want to tell me (and thus the world) that I didn't ask!
What has made me successful (wait, I'm successful?) in this business has been my ability to find a niche and do the best possible work I can in that niche. I can't animate a character to save my life. About every six months, I decide that THIS is the year I'm finally going to master particles or maxscript or NURBS or Feature X. Coming to grips with the fact that I can't do it all was a powerful thing. Knowing what I don't know frees me up to excel at the things I do know. Ultimately, that brings me back to that theme of then allowing me to make my clients more successful. Having fun doing it along the way doesn't hurt either.