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! ^_^

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