Sunday, August 31, 2003

Helpful Rendering Ideas - Part 1

Keep a binder that contains all of your sketches and renderings in it.

You keep an up to date resume of your best work right? What you probably do not do is to keep a history log of your work. Some time back my good friend "Miker the Biker" shared with me the simple idea of keeping a binder. This has become an effective tool in showing the transformation from a concept sketch to the final product as well as a helpful reminder of the hardships and lessons learned along the way.

Now I know what you are saying, I have a binder, what do I do with it to make it special? Great question. On each print/sketch you place in here, write down what you see that you need to improve on. This includes items that you feel are great as well. The more you do this the better your eye will become for the details that make your renderings stand out.

Happy Rendering...

Bits and Pieces

This recent disney article shows a difficult situation forming for 2d animators at the studios in Florida.

Autodesk has recalled service pack 1 for AutoCAD 2004 due to issues with the AutoCAD optimized device driver for Hewlett Packard (HP) DesignJet and LaserJet devices that could result in printing errors.

The Autodesk service pack 1 update can be found here.

This page shows all udpates and service packs to ensure your Autodesk software is up to date.

The Macromedia MX products are available for pre-order and will be available mid-september.

I just watched the Blur Studios reel for design and animation and found both to be incredible. If you are not familiar with the name, chances are you have seen their work.

Happy Rendering...

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Catching Up

Before I continue any further I have to give another big thanks to the blogger team as I had another issue that I wanted to resolve and they immediately responded back with an explanation and support. 2 days later you now see no ad on the blog page. Thanks Kimmy (again). I have had a great experience and your customer service is top notch.

The daily battle of getting control back over my inbox has been going well. I have been using the iHateSpam program for the past month. Before this my daily spam catches were exceeding 120 each day. Up to this point I have only had 2 semi-important emails that were quarantined with this program, which is by far better than what some of the other products I tested. Once you take the time to "train" this software what is spam and what is not, the rest takes place behind the scenes. One feature that I am impressed with is the bounce option. This will generate a bounced message back to the sender (keeping in mind that some addresses do not permit replies) and will help to get you off the spammers list. I definately give them a thumbs up for a great program. As with all products the real test is tech support, and I have had 2 items that were both resolved within 2 hours by e-mail.

Happy Rendering...

Thursday, August 28, 2003

RSS Rocks

As mentioned before I spent that past weekend getting more familiar with RSS and XML now thanks to the original push from Chris, I have begun cutting down on many of the e-mail based publications that were being delivered to my inbox with those forward thinking companies and individuals who are generating RSS feeds.

With the addition of a news aggregator (of which there are many including both free and fee based versions) into my arsenal of tools I can control what information I wish to have at my finger tips.  Right now I see 14 breaking news items that just got published.  Unfortunately the CAD and Rendering world seem slow to adopt to using this technology as a means to deliver their information and/or ideas.  Are you listening out there? 

If you have an e-mail based publication that you send out, blog content that you wish to share, late breaking information for your product(s) or (insert your item here) then consider an RSS feed as this gives those who wish to receive your messages another way of doing so in a non-spammer like environment. 

Now I know what you are saying, How do I start this transition? 

1.  Read the information in the RSS and XML links above and here.  Spend some time researching this further to understand how this process work.

2.  Create an RSS feed based on what you learned in Step 1.

3.  Add an  link to your website, blog page, e-mail publication etc... and they will come.

4.  Reap the rewards of finding a way to reach others in a no-spam, no e-mail box filling way by embracing the future of digital publication.


Happy Rendering...


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Hardware Upgrade

I recently added a new D-Link hardwired ethernet router to my set-up at home. Up to this point I have not been happy with the software only firewall approach we were using. In this age you need to stay as secure as relatively possible.

If you do not have a firewall (software, hardware, or both) and anti-virus software installed on your personal computer you should take the time to do this simple step as it will save you from more wasted time and frusturation later.

Happy Rendering...

12 Principals to 3D Animation

The twelve principals of animation were created in the early 1930s by animators at the Walt Disney Studios.

Happy Rendering...

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

File Corruption Update for Microsoft HOTFIX 823980

Autodesk® has confirmed that the installation of Microsoft® Hotfix 823980 or Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Service Pack 4, can lead to the corruption of MAX and DRF files. Consequently you are not able to open MAX or DRF files that were saved after you installed either of these Microsoft® Windows® Updates.
The following Autodesk products are affected by this issue:
Autodesk® Architectural Desktop 2004
Autodesk® Building Systems 2004
Autodesk® VIZ 4
3D Studio VIZ® R3i
3D Studio VIZ® R3

The following operating system configurations will experience MAX and DRF file corruption:
Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Service Pack 4
Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Service Pack 3 or lower, with Microsoft Hotfix 823980
Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional with Microsoft Hotfix 823980
Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition with Microsoft Hotfix 823980

If you have installed either of these Microsoft® Windows® Updates and are experiencing MAX and DRF file corruption, Microsoft is now providing temporary direct access to the beta Hotfix, which affected users can download from the links provided below. Please note that these links will expire when Microsoft posts the fully tested public version of Q824136 Hotfix.links will expire when Microsoft posts the fully tested public version of Q824136 Hotfix.

To apply the Hotfix:
1. Download the appropriate version of the Hotfix for your operating system and language.
2. Double-click the downloaded file. The action will uncompress the contents of the Hotfix and the installation will automatically begin.
3. Once the installation process is complete, you may be prompted to restart your system.

Microsoft® Windows® 2000 users must install Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 or 4 prior to the installation of this beta Hotfix. Autodesk recommends updating all Microsoft® Windows® 2000 systems to Service Pack 4.

This Hotfix is not publicly available through the Microsoft website as it has not gone through full Microsoft regression testing. If you would like confirmation that this fix is designed to address your specific problem, or if you would like to confirm whether there are any special compatibility or installation issues associated with this fix, you are encouraged to contact a Microsoft Support Professional in Product Support Services (in the U.S. call 800-936-4900).

Once installed, the user's computer may still appear to be vulnerable to the Blaster worm to some virus checking software, even though it isn't. This situation will be resolved when the official patch is release in the next month.

Links to Q824136 Hotfix for Microsoft® Windows® XP Users:

Links to Q824136 Hotfix for Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Users:

The following languages are also supported:
Chinese (Simplified)
Chinese (Traditional)
Japanese (NEC)
Portuguese (Brazil)
Portuguese (Portugal)

This will help many users, including me.

Happy Rendering...

Monday, August 25, 2003

Usability Testing

I ran across this information on Usability testing that ties into the past Product Designer post. For those of you who are just starting out doing product design and for software developers be sure to review this article.

Happy Rendering...

When Plans Come Together

Before I go any further I have to give a big thank you to the blogger team for helping me with an item that I have been wanting to implement (RSS feed). Their quick response and outstanding customer service needs to be mentioned, thanks again Kimmy.

As you can see with their help we have now added an RSS feed for this blog. After spending a great weekend reviewing how RSS/XML works this is a great start. If you have not used an RSS/XML feed before, I recommend looking into this as the future of communication is coming soon.

Today I attended a seminar on Business Continuity (Emergency Response Planning for Your Businesses) which was put on by Skill Path. This seminar was good for me in particular as the company I am employed by has been dealing with how to continue with business after an event (fire, terrorism, hurricane, flooding, etc...) has occured. This is something that every company should have in place. For me this started out as a plan for getting our network infrastructure up and running if anything should happen. Of course this is an important step in the process, but this is only a part of the overall bigger picture.

Now this should get you thinking about what happens if something happens where you work? How will the business continue to operate if you have a flood? Can we continue to do business as usual if something happens to our CEO (or other mission critical personnel)? These represent just a few of the ideas you need to consider and have a plan for. If you or your company does not have a business continuity plan in place, I recommend you spend some time documenting what your process to recovery will be or better yet attend the seminar to understand this process further.

Happy Rendering...

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Tid Bits

The trouble with SlideShow presentations article struck me as interesting as I have been jotting down notes about a similiar future article.

A couple of new tools from Autodesk are available for users to download.  These include the Batch Drawing Converter 2004 and Customization Conversion Tools.

Architectural Desktop 2004 Service Pack 1 is available.

SplutterFish Brazil version 1.2 is now available.

Discreet 3ds max 6 Technical Specs.

Sorry for the "composed with ..." message this is only temporary as I complete testing before purchasing.

Happy Rendering...

Composed with Newz Crawler 1.4

Friday, August 22, 2003

The Never Ending Thrist of Digital Content

This post is being written using the demo version of Newz Crawler.  Currently I am researching/learning more about RSS feeds.  There seems to be a surge of individuals and sites that I visit that are using this technology.  With information freely available and without the hassle of spam in your inbox this is certaintly an area that you should at least be familiar with as this technology grows.

The EVAUG meeting last night was full of great conversation and tips for users of Excel and AutoCAD.  If you are fortunate enough to have a users group near you, for any software that you use on a regular basis, you should try to attend and support them.  This group has been a true benefit to me.  At the conclusion of each meeting I always walk away having learned something, at times I am able to help other users, other times they help me.

Currently working on a new animation short for a competition due early next week.  Images to follow soon.

Happy Rendering...


Composed with Newz Crawler 1.4

Reading Material

I am currently reading through the papers that were posted from the presenters at Siggraph. Thanks to Tim Rowley for providing this page and the links. There is quite a bit of good information here to digest. Unfortunately I did not attend Siggraph this year as my focus in the past has been more cad oriented but obviously this has been shifting to digital visualization (of which cad is still a part of).

I am especially interested in reading the writings of Henrik Wann Jensen. If you have ever used Photon Mapping but do not fully understand the process be sure to read some of the articles (and books) from Henrik on the subject.

Happy Rendering...

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Don't forget the apple

It is that time of year again when students head back to school and teachers prepare lesson plans to educate them. Why mention this? Yours truly has been asked to teach again at the local college. My task will be to teach the students how to use Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT). This is exciting as up to this point I have only taught AutoCAD for this campus (multiple locations). I did mention to my boss after class one day last fall that I train the staff at the firm I work for during my day job to use ADT and that I also train other users/companies on a contractual basis. Now one year later they have asked me to teach a class in ADT for them.

I have been toying with the idea of writing a book for sometime now as a way to get the knowledge out of my head and in a legible written form that others may benefit from. The initial concepts for a specific book keep coming back to tying in multiple software packages and showing how they work together to get projects done. The first downside to this concept is that it is hard enough to sell a software specific book as it is and by tying in more than one piece of software to the book you limit your user base that you can effectively reach. A good case in point is my good friend Dave Stein. For those of you who want to learn Visual Lisp, Dave wrote a great book and after shopping it around to several publishers he has not found anyone to publish the book. So for a limited time Dave is offering the book to you free of charge in a .pdf download from his site.

Why did I mention the book idea? My boss at the college asked what other ideas I had for students. I mentioned possibly teaching a photoshop class and he asked how we could tie this into the curriculum offered. This seemed like the perfect time to pitch the idea of a "Digital Visualization" class, and so I did. I mentioned the idea of teaching students how to use photoshop with Max and/or VIZ render to get the beautiful images that are produced by many visualization artists. This idea seemed to have perked his ears up as he has asked me to put this information together and plan on doing this in the near future. So with any luck I can get this implemented as I start the book.

Reading between the lines (or what you should take away from this):
1. Self promotion and sharing your ideas is a good thing. Whenever possible share this with someone who can help to make it happen.

Happy Rendering...

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Design Visualization - re-learning lessons through the years

You often hear the term "photo-realistic" in regards to renderings and visualization services that are offered. Now with a resurgance in my personal life I have been inspired to go back and rediscover freehand sketching as my work feels incomplete without this process. Without storyboarding your ideas or pre-thinking your views you are probably modeling unneeded geometry. This additional time costs money, both to you and your clients.

The use of freehand sketching by itself is a true artform that most individuals involved in visualization services seem to be forgetting (myself included). Whether you decide to sketch on a pad, napkin or digital media the use of pre-planning is critical to your work. Consider how many prints have been made to pick the "money" shot by individuals who have not pre-planned the shot. Much of this could be avoided with the use of pre-thinking what your final deliverable will be.

Two closing thoughts I would like you to take away from this are:

1. Pre-planning sketches can help you to reduce the time you spend working.

2. In the end the use of software should be considered a tool in order to assist you in delivering your final product.

Happy Rendering...

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Rendering frustration

Currently working tech support for a team using VIZ 4 with file linked ADT geometry and rendering with Brazil on a large site plan (several multi-story detailed buildings, contoured site model, exisitng neighborhoods and trees). If you have ever used any RPC content ( then you know that they can help to fill out your scene while keeping your polyface counts relatively low as opposed to using a fully modeled tree.

Why the frusturation? RPC content has always worked great for me in VIZ, Max and ADT using the scanline renderer. I recently got netrendering set-up for this group and all the production tests went great, however one project animation that needs to go out asap will not send the RPC content (500 trees +/-) out via netrender when using the Brazil engine. The 'fishes were helpful in trying to iron out the issue and brought in a few other users to help troubleshoot. After discussing this issue with a few others it seems that the RPC content has caused a few problems for them on random projects as well. I will be contacting archvision tech support on Mon. to get help to address this issue we are having. I am sure this issue can be isolated and resolved, but not tonight. In the meantime it is rendering fine on a single machine (dual processors) and will be ready for the first release in time.

4 Important Steps You Should Learn From This Post Before Contacting Tech Support:

1. Know the make, model, amount of ram and what the other components of you computer system are. I would recommend saving a copy of this information in a text file so you can retrieve the information when needed.

2. Know which version and release of all releated software that you have. This includes your os and service packs for each program. Again it would help to have this in a text file for quick retrieval later.

3. Before contacting tech support for any issue, try to repeat and isolate what is causing the issue. Ex. If you press the alt key and the space bar at the same time and the program crashes this would be helpful information to know and provide to tech support. Simply stating that the program crashes and you have no further details is not as helpful. :)

4. Search for the answer/solution first on your own. A quick internet search using the keywords of your problem may turn up the solution to your issue and save you a tech support call. This may also let you know whether this is a known issue or not.

I will keep you updated. Until next time,

Happy Rendering...

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Test from my handheld....

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Product Designer

Now I enjoy alpha and beta testing a variety of software as this to me is a way to directly influence the software to work effectively for me and my users needs. Typically an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) is given when testing software. However there was no such agreement in place for our meeting so it is ok to discuss here (but i will be leaving out the company name and product).

Recently I was asked to attend a training session for a new program that would be implemented at a company I do business with (we will call them Company A). I was told this software would soon be in use for me to transfer information to them for production prints. So of course I took them up on the training offer.

The training session location was changed a few times and ended up being held in one of the executives private office. After waiting and helping to set-up the network connection in the office we began. The training session consisted of myself the trainer and a conference call with the software programmer and a sales rep. Now this is when they told me that they appreciated me taking the time to view their product and provide my opinion on the software and as it turns out the "trainer" knew very little in regards to the software because this was his first learning session with it. How did I get here again..... :)

In the end I sat through a webmeeting/conference call and provided some feedback to the developers. Afterwards Company A asked me to provide them feedback on whether they should purchase and use this software. I took some time to go though the pros and cons of this software and how it compared to other products I use and sent this to my contact at Company A. After sending this private correspondance I received an e-mail from the developer of the software asking me to clarify me feedback and give more detail on what should be changed/updated. So apparantly someone forwarded my comments straight on to the developers. Not that big of a deal, so after a few more e-mails of design advice back and forth we are nearing the end of my feedback to them. This should make for a much better product for them in the near future. One funny thing is they asked if it was okay for the president of the company to contact me.

So this brings us back to todays topic of "Product Designer", because it is painfully apparent that this company does not use one. Two things that I would like you to take away from this is:
#1 - For any item you design, whether it is software/websites/renderings or any other item, make sure that the interface, layout and color schemes that you are using match or at the very least have a consistent layout. If it does not this will detract immediately from the product no matter how functional it is.

#2 - Know what you are getting into ahead of time instead of being surprised when you get there. :)

So for today my job title also consisted of non-payed "Product Designer". Do people really get payed to do this for a living?

Happy rendering...

Monday, August 11, 2003

Copyright Infringement

You see small cases of this everyday on many websites whether you realize it or not. I ran across a site link that was sent to me by a friend that had many great images posted in the gallery. The images varied from architectural visualization to character models to hollywood film shots. For a freelance artist this was impressive, but something just did not sit right with the images. In my experience someone can be great at one or two things but only a few truly talented individuals posess the ability to do it all.

Now benefit of the doubt says that this person could have done the work even though the name did not sound familiar, after all the world is a large place right? Upon further inspection using a search based on this individuals name we run across another site with some information about the artist including the programs used to create the work. Now my software list is decent sized but not as long as the grocery list of software listed to be in use by this person, but you have to wonder if a. is all this software really used? and b. how does this person afford the software? Now here comes another interesting twist, the individual is 16 years old. Not to slight any young emerging artists as this is a perfect time in their life for learning and using software.

Ok so this 16 year old is a very talented individual who can afford a multitude of software and do several different styles of rendering each of which is impressive. Each of these images in the gallery varies greatly, in fact maybe they vary a bit too much as there is no similarities between any of them. The web is a great tool, since these images vary so much let's perform a little search on a few of the better images to find something similiar. Great big guess on what we found.....

Yes that's right the images were a little too good and it appears that they were that good because we found them on other sites as well, however the copyright listed here did not have the same name listed on our young talented artist's site (which is hosted by another group).

Now this brings us back to the daily abuse of copyright infringement and the degrees of separation that are in place with the web. There is no way to completely stop someone from stealing your image if they can be found in any public forum or website, however there are five things you can do to help reduce the problem:

1. Place a copyright symbol and your name on the image itself and use some type of identifying watermark.

2. If you have a website place your site address on the image, this makes it easy to reach you and also gives you an advertisement if your image is copied.

3. When posting a file, make it as small as possible while maintaining the level of detail you need or desire. This will make it a bit harder for any image pirates to modify and/or use your image.

4. Disable the ability to right click and save an image with JavaScript or VBScript (technique and code available freely on the web).

5. Switch your image with another when the mouse cursor moves over the image using a mouse over event with JavaScript or VBScript (again more information is available on the web about this method).

Keep in mind that this will not stop a sophisticated web user from stealing your work but it will slow them down and limit what can be done with your image.

Happy rendering...

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Okay, lets get this question out of the way first, why the blog?

With so many different forms of technology available I wish to share some of my thoughts and experiences using digital media for rendering and conceptual design. As I customize and use many different products for production work you may see comments, thoughts and experiences that stem from the use of, but not limited to, the following software:

Autodesk products:
Architectural Desktop

Splutterfish products:

Adobe products:
After Effects/Premier

Macromedia products:

Well I guess this is the start to our blogging experience together.

Happy rendering....

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