Thursday, July 29, 2010

A new start in 3D

Monday July 19th, I re-open Softimage for the first time in 6 or 8 years. Back then, it was Softimage 3D (last version). Then there's another generation, XSI, which has climb up to version 7 and now 2011 (since it was purchased by Autodesk, XSI is now taking back the name of Softimage).

Obviously, there's been many changes on Softimage in 6-8 years! But at least I had an ear opened to hear about them (especially that my spouse works for Softimage since 6 ½ years now).

In front of the interface of Softimage 2011, almost identical to what it was in my memory, I timidly tried a few things... I remembered how to get a primitive (cube, sphere, circle, lattice, etc..), I still know how to make basic changes (scalling, rotation, translation). Then when I tried to move the camera... the short-keys are not the same... Woops... I stood frozen at the immensity of the software and the little I have been able to do without upgrading my personal knowledge...

The software has changed and evolved, but the rest too! Among the rest, there's the internet! Back when I finished school in 1999, our small school-demo had to be on VHS, because the DVD was not yet installed everywhere. We had to have everything on paper, because it was not all companies who had Internet access (not to mention the fact that very few people knew how to program websites at the time, and the cost for a web design was high enough...). At the time of "everything on paper", we needed color copies for our pictures, our portfolio... and that too, was not what it is today... It was expensive to get color copies of a beautiful quality!

Today, with internet, email, standard DVD burners on computers, many things change and our lives is easier! Among things, my spouse told me there is a multitude of tutorials on the web, from the most simple applications to very complex ones.

I was still head-frozen in front of Softimage; I opened an internet window and I followed some links. I came across the website of "Digital-Tutors", at the page "Artist's Guide to XSI 7", where I had access to eight hours of free videos! I started to watch them from Tuesday July 20th. Obviously, this was not only 8 hours of video for beginners, but I'll say I spent the rest of the week with these videos, listen, understanding every details, take notes and practice on the software.

Friday July 23th, I made a quick sketch of a magic staff to modelize in 3D, to practice the techniques I've seen so far. I spent the day doing things very simple. The camera isn't handled it the same way as before and I'm always on the wrong short-keys, but at the end of the day, with patience, I worked already better.

After about 5½ hours, I had to stop to eat and then the routine of life had to take back its course, like going at the grocery. I was not too happy with the results of my model, especially because he did not follow exactly the sketches (and it is something important in 3D, to find a job, to be able to reproduce 2D images into 3D models!!).

Monday July 26th, I restarted my model. The first time I did it in two pieces. The second was made with four pieces. In 1½ hours, I managed to do exactly what was on my sketch (for one ending of the staff... to do the other end, I'll have to wait to have more knowledge).

Let's go ahead, I'll show you the first pictures!

First model, 5½ hours, two pieces
Not satisfied with the result...

Second model, 1 ½ hours, 4 pieces
Satisfied with the result!

After that, I did all I could as basic, the rest of the videos were too advanced for my level and was jumping to many steps. So I went back on Digital-Tutors. As clearly shown from the front page, there are tons of videos, for just about any software about computer graphics, 2D, 3D, video editing, etc.. To see the more, you need a paying account. It is possible to pay per month for six months or a year to have access to thousands and thousands of other videos.

Having spent several days with free videos, I had a good idea of the quality of the tutorials. I'm speaking french, but I'm so glad that I understand English that much, it helps me a lot in life to have both language! The videos are clear, the English is well articulated and well spoken (some people can be harder for me to understand than other, but basically, it's not like the "any English from the street" kind of speech), and indeed, it would be possible, I think, for about anyone to do any complete formation with these videos... The downside is not having a teacher who asks questions; but today, there are forums on the internet, such as that of Digital-Tutors or CGTalk, where we can address these questions.

All those things did not exist a few years ago, which is changing everything for me today, which makes me believe that today, I'll be able to do this 3D software upgrade by myself, while I couldn't before...

I think that if someone has never done 3D, if s/he has a slightest artistic touch in the soul, a copy of the software needed, a computer strong enough to work with images (usually, a station for video gaming relatively recent can do), access to the internet and understand English, s/he could potentially become a 3D artist with these tutorials! It does not give diplomas, but if s/he agrees to start at the bottom of the ladder, I was told more than once that in this field, the portfolio is more important than studies... basically, we don't give a damn if you have a doctorate or if you've self-educated... As long as you can make beautiful things, in an acceptable execution speed, you stand a chance.

For now, I took a subscription for one month, to test the options. I don't know yet if I'll keep this monthly and stop when I'll have seen all I need and start working on personal projects for my portefolio, or if I'll switch to 6 month. I don't know yet; we'll see...

I chose "Introduction to Modeling in XSI" and I am following the exercises (so no more personal modeling for the time being). It really "basic" for me, most things shown are known to me, so it's slightly boring, but mostly they are things that I have forgotten or it doesn't come to my mind before they talk about it, so it's a necessary revision. Here and there, there are tools that are new for me, or explanations for things that I did not realize at the time. In time, I'll get to my level and it'll be more fun!

In short, I really enjoy these days and I love what I'm doing now. I keep in mind that I don't have money incomes now, so I must not dwell, but I like it! I especially like being at home, saving 5-8 hours per week in transportation (which gives me time to exercise a bit, which I didn't have time to do since I was pregnant three years ago now!) and do some deep cleaning, put my things in order on my desk... I bought some cheap cabinets from IKEA to place my things, because my desk was flooded with paper, books, pencils, drawings, CDs, etc., I couldn't even see the color of it!

See you later with more pictures maybe! ^_^

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back from Vacations

We landed in Montreal Sunday at noon. We had less trouble with jetlag on the way to France!

I will not give personal details of my vacation here; I'll remain on the subject of my projects.

Going to France, I made an appointment with a friend living there, Jean-Claude Dunyach. He's a writer and was editor. He's also a friend of my mentor Elizabeth Vonarburg. He introduced me to his city, Toulouse and we (my spouse, my daughter and me) was invited to eat at his home. I've never seen a house with so many books inside in my life! And mostly science-fiction and fantasy books! He has so many that he wanted to give away some titles: he has given me nine-volume of fantasy and science fiction, and the six books of his collections of short stories that I had trouble to find in Quebec. All together, they must worth at least $300! It's crazy!

We discussed about writers we know in person and their latest works, the experience of Jean-Claude as publisher in Bragelonne... Among anecdotes, Jean-Claude said that in the field, with the beginning of a project done (detailed plans and say... 100 pages of manuscripts written), it is possible to send to the publisher and to have a publishing contract before the project is finished writing, with (I think) an advance to provide financial support to the author. I don't know if other publishers do this, and most importantly, I wonder if this practice applies to novice writers (never published professionally) like me ... But that makes me dream! =)

Another writer friend who works in the reading committee for the publisher Alire, told me that in Quebec, after four publications, it is possible to ask for a subvention to fund for the next project. As this conversation happened several years ago, I can't remember the details, such as: Does this apply to non-professional editions (fansines, for example, where I have 2 non-professionnal publication)? If we have published four short stories, can we receive this subvention for a novel project? I don't know... We'll see...

Among others things, we also discussed about writing. After several days of writing workshops with Elizabeth, where I had several monumental revelations about writing a story, it was refreshing to have a different opinion on some technical points. And also reassuring, because Elizabeth is so meticulous, precise, perfectionist, and so on, sometimes you may feel that you'll never be able to write a decent text! But we must remember that when Elizabeth publishes a book, she wins all the literary prizes! ;o) My goal is not that high; I'll be happy to be published; the rest will only be extra! ^_^

This reminds me of when Guy Gavriel Kay was the guest of honor at Boreal Congress 2006 (as of now, Kay is one of the authors I most admire).

Kay spoke about "penny dreadful and dime novels". He told us that the 19th century, a novel was worth a dime (which was very expensive at the time and often, only nobles and maybe bourgeois could afford them). These novels had a certain quality. On the other hand, many publications of poorer qualities were sold for a penny, price affordable to most scholars of the time. According to the critique of the time, they were for most of them dreadful.

Both penny dreadful and dime novels relate to stories of popular fiction. The "dime novels", more expensive, were sold in less quantity, but were Art, while the "penny dreadful", cheap, were selling most, without much quality.

Following this story, Kay explained that it is a choice that every writer should do: write for the Art of literature or for massive sell.

Art does not interest necessarily the general public. It might even be misunderstood by the general public and could be appreciated only to a certain elite. These works are more likely to travel through time and to be studied in the history of literature, like the great writers of their times, such as Victor Hugo.

On the other hand, there are works that gives more smoke and mirrors, subjects are more simplistics, less worked sometimes, or maybe naive, but sell well. Things may be changing now, we won't be in the future to say, but from the past, more than... I don't know 99% (?) of them will go a certain time and then sink into oblivion.

So basically, we must choose if we wish to write for literary art, or for sale. And yet, sell... it is a big word! How many writers are living from their writing? I could not even try a percentage, but in Quebec, for sure, they are little... may be more or less 1%.

In short, I think we all aspire, secretly or openly, to make history, but more fundamentally, for the most part, we simply love to write and for that, it takes time... The ideal to maintain our passion, is to make it our livelihood. The sale is inevitable, we need to create a product that sells well, even if sometimes we have to lower the quality because that is what the public demands.

It is too early for me to located in this choice, but as I am a novice at the moment, I do not think I can make great literary art one day ... =P

During the holidays, free from working, I thought a lot about the outline I have in mind. I can not remember if I talked on this blog or on a forum ... Recently, my spouse came across a special article on a subject quite rare... a topic that long ago, I wanted to take as background for this series... but as I lacked documentation, I let the idea aside. The article, really interesting, revived that idea. I went on vacation asking myself if I would put the topic back in the series... which would add so many adventures. Those adventures would also allowed me to graft another series over it, making even more adventures!

Upon reflection, I decided not to put it... well, not in this series! I'll keep the idea for another project later. My thoughts are clearer now. Rather than make a series of too many books, I will separate them. For now, it makes me three distinct series projects. There is a fourth topic that I'm not sure yet if I'll insert it into one of these three, or if I will also put aside as a fourth... We shall see! One series at a time!

I really have to write, because ideas accumulate over time, I don't lose them, I add them up! I have too many books in mind, it's heavy! I must write to clear my head!

And I also have to think about updating my computer graphics skills and look for a job!
(I've started my training on Softimage right this Tuesday; I'm so hooked that it took me everything to put it aside and finalize this post!) ^_^

... And I surprise myself thinking that maybe I'll just work on my writing project (with income)... it is unlikely that it works as well (since I'm not yet known, professional, etc..) and unlikely that it would pay me well (because it is a genre literature, less sold... but also and mainly because I'm in Quebec, where the audience is even smaller) ... but hey, I'm dreaming! =D (and again torn between writting or drawing...) ;o)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A little fast post

Yesterday was my last day of work, woot!!!

Today, I'm in the bags and other preparations for the travel. I feel free and "stressless"!!
Tomorrow, we're going to see my dad with the cats; he'll be the "kittysitter" during our absence.
Monday, we will be in the plane for Toulouse, France, to see my in-laws. =D