I’ve been feeling totally horrible all week, so it’s hard to get myself motivated to go find interesting things to blog about. So, tonight, I decided to visit some of the sites I find most enjoyable. Before you know it, I’m finding a whole lot of things that I think you’d want to know about.
One of my favorite online publications is SMASHING MAGAZINE. It’s just full of wonderful and amazing articles. It’s primarily a design magazine so it’s a visual treat to spend time with it. They also offer a lot of great freebies and links to terrific tutorials. Two that got me excited tonight were the links to ULTIMATE MAYA TUTORIALS and 50 TRADITIONAL DRAWING TECHNIQUES. Check out the tutorials and dig around in the magazine. It’s worth your time.
One of the great things about being a professor is that I was always getting (and reading) new books. Publishers shipped them to us constantly because they hoped we would adopt them for our classes. If it’s a popular class it can mean hundreds and hundreds of sales. In addition to Review copies of books, it seemed that I was always picking up something or another for class. Something wonderful and exciting to share (to go along with one of the BEST things about teaching, always something new to LEARN). Which leads me to mention my latest reading musts!
I was reading HOW TO WOW IN FLASH on the plane. Written by Colin Smith, the book is nine chapters of the things you most need to know and use when building a flash website … things like incorporating a dynamic image page, a scrolling text box and bitmap caching for faster image loads. Best of all, it’s written from a designer’s point of view. So, it included the code but emphasis is on how it’s going to look and work. Great book. I’m looking for more books like it.
I think I already mentioned the Rockable Press book HOW TO BE A ROCKSTAR WORDPRESS DESIGNER. Still amazed at how accessible PHP, CSS and WP became after reading that book. I’ve taught CSS in the past and, had this book been around, it would have been required reading because it takes you really far, really fast.
While I’m unpacking (groan), I also like to take time to read things for pleasure (gasp). I’m working on the Emily Dickinson story so I’ve got two wonderful pleasure books I’m perusing (now that I’ve got my books unpacked). The first is the Emily Dickinson HERBARIUM, a copy of the 400+ plants and flowers that 14-year-old Emily collected, pressed and labeled in her own inimitable hand. In later years, she would use plant and flower imagery in many of her poems. The HERBARIUM is the genus of her genius. Alec picked this up for me in Manhattan at Strand Bookstore (18 miles of rare books). I love it, absolutely love it.
I’m also reading Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s FACE TO FACE WITH EMILY DICKINSON. The daughter of Austin and Susan Dickinson, the niece of Emily, Martha has the unique perspective of someone who grew up in the presence of these two amazing women. Her firsthand account of their lives is fascinating.
I am getting so much grief about not writing more often. I have been so crazy busy for the last few months, I have hardly had time to breathe much less write on the blog. Closing things up in Arizona, transitioning to California. Packing. Unpacking. It’s been stressful for both Alec and me. We spent the last six weeks in Arizona teaching gifted students in a summer program at Phoenix Country Day School. It was awesome. Two weeks of Maya 3D animation, two weeks of filmmaking and two more weeks of Maya.
The most exciting thing last week was Alec getting a job at Sony (on the Visual Effects Production Staff, on the Sony lot!) working on the film PRIEST. According to the internet, the film was introduced and discussed at Comicon this last week. According to the website, they unveiled the poster which features Paul Bettany. Very cool poster. Back to the story of Alec. He interviewed on Monday and got a call on Tuesday. He started on Wednesday and he loves it, loves it, loves it. He works with the super talented, super amazing Jenny Fulle. He will learn soooo much. It’s looking like it will be about a one-year production position which extends from pre-production through production AND post production. What an education! What an opportunity! What a lucky guy! The funniest thing (in my opinion) is that his Sony ID has his photograph, his name and the film he’s working on … so his ID says, “Alec Hart, Priest” … this is hysterical for everyone who knows Alec.
We spent the last to weeks working with Autodesk Maya. This time, it was at Phoenix Country Day School with students in grades 5 through 11. I am always amazed at how quickly and easily the students adapt to the logic of the software. Within a few hours, they were modeling with polygons, NURBs and subD’s. They were applying surface textures and animating their objects using keyframe and path animation. The thing they liked the most was Learning Maya 6 | Dynamics. They were building bowling alleys, fountains, mousetraps and Rube Golberg devices. It was inspiring, simply inspiring. I’ve read hundreds of (mediocre) Maya books. It’s hard to find good books. The BEST book out there on dynamics is actually published by Alias … and amazingly it was written for version six but it works just as well with the latest versions.
My blogging has been atrocious, of late, and I am quite disappointed in myself. I have a really good excuse this time (of course, I always think I have a really good excuse). This time it’s a really good one. I just got back from Los Angeles where I went to see Jordan Pack, a former animation student, win a student Emmy for an animated film he produced. The film was entitled KITES. The film is the story of a boy who comes to deal with his Grandfather’s death by doing something they always did together, flying kites.
Following his graduation from MCC, he was accepted in the Animation and Film program at Brigham Young University. He produced this film his senior year at BYU. He now works for Avalanche (Disney’s gaming arm) were he is a generalist (meaning he does all facets of the gaming production including design, texturing, modeling and such).
Jordan is a really terrific guy … talented, hard-working, creative, generous and kind. He even offered the director (Jed Henry, standing behind him) one-half of the prize money because of all his hard work. He’s just a really decent guy.
Anyway, the ceremony was on Saturday evening at Sony’s Culver City Studios. Fourteen awards were given out. The top three candidates in each category were in attendance. The winner was announced that evening (no one knew who would be the first prize winner). Jordan, James and Jed’s film KITES was the first place winner.
During his acceptance speech, Jordan thanked his wife, his crew and his teachers. He mentioned two professors from BYU (who were in attendance with me). He also thanked Mesa Community College professors Jim Garrison and Cyndi Greening. It was pretty cool to be called out in front of everyone.
Among the presenters were Chris O’Donnell who played Robin to George Clooney’s BATMAN, Masa Oki who plays Hiro from the television show HEROES, and Pauley Perrett who stars on NCIS. There were tons of other industry folks there. Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua (writer/producerrs of EL TIGRE: THE ADVENTURES OF MANNY RIVERA) were the presenters for the animated film category. During their speech, Jorge revealed that he had won the Student Emmy ten years earlier and it had completely changed his life.
Click on the image above to see the photos from the event.
I love the Knoll brothers. No, they’re not a musical group, like the Neville Brothers. They’re the whizzes behind Adobe Photoshop and Knoll Light Factory. They’ve done amazing things in the world of digital visuals. Brother Thomas created the digital editing program that has become a verb in the common lexicon. People (even Ross and Chandler on FRIENDS) talk about how they “photoshopped the image.” Brother John is an award-winning visual effects guy who also did a program that adds light effects to still photos and motion footage. I enjoy going to the Luxology site to look at the Image Gallery. Luxology created modo (now on version 3.01), an extraordinary modeling, texturing and rendering tool. On the site, there’s actually an image John Knoll modeled for the film APOLLO 11. There’s even a rave endorsement. That’s not too shabby. If only there were an animation component in it … until they can get that integrated, I’m hanging with Maya … although I’m sure they’re feeling the pressure of the modo competition.
Some fun emails recently. Former MCC Animation student, Jordan Pack is up at BYU finishing his program. A terrific and talented guy, Jordan updated me on his exciting adventures with Pixar and Disney.
Jordan says, “Animation life is also good. I work part time at Avalanche, Disney’s game studio in SLC, as a work builder (modeling, texturing, and game play set-up). I’m finishing producing a short animation mentored by Pixar. Two of my classmates/friends just got accepted as interns. So I am hopeful that there is an opportunity there for me, too.” Jordan has a second website with artwork and commentary. I’m expecting great things from Jordan.
Talk about a blast from the past! I grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Much of my family and some of my dear friends still live in that small town. Two young fellows from Chippewa decided to get into the film industry. Jason Behnke came to Arizona to attend Scottsdale Community College’s film program and ultimately went to LA where he now works as an editor. One of his good friends, Noah Arntson went to school in Florida and now lives in LA and does 3D work. Noah has also worked on live action films like the Jim Carey film, BRUCE ALMIGHTY. It was fun to get an email from him with a link to his portfolio.
I’ve been teaching Maya for the last three years. I have to admit, I do love Maya. It’s an amazing and wonderful piece of software. It consists of four modules—modeling, rendering, dynamics and animation. It’s a sophisticated piece of software. Recently, however, my son turned me onto Luxology’s modo. And, you can try it for 30 days for free.
Modo (they always write it with a lowercase “m” but I just can’t make myself do that at the beginning of a sentence) is a terrific 3D modeler with seamless, sophisticated, multi-threaded Paint and Rendering capability built-in. Modo allows you to move between polygon and SubD geometry by simply touching the TAB key. Modo’s UV texture editor is soooooo much easier to use than Maya’s. This is one area where Modo really stomps Maya. The modo Shader Tree is similar to the Shake Shader Tree—both are dynamic and easy to modify. And, it renders like nobody’s business.
What I don’t like … no animation. So, everything has to be moved to another application. If I were doing product modeling or character modeling only, I wouldn’t care BUT, since I do want to move things, it gets a bit frustrating. Thus far, moving models into Maya hasn’t proven to be as easy as I’d like it to be but I haven’t given up, yet. More updates as I learn more about how to better integrate these two tools.
I almost forgot to mention, Luxology offers a number of Tutorials and Training Papers.