Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Hourglass Principal ⏳

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I’ve told this to my students from experience in myself  and colleagues. I call it “The Hourglass Principal”. When you start in whatever, the choices are endless. The goal appears to be across a massive gulf. Eventually, things get easier. Then, it gets really tough, even though you know how and what to navigate. Eventually, after the toughest part passes, things get easier. Then the options seem endless, and you begin to flounder because there are too many options. You may even overdo things. The same can be said in buisness

When I was in the game industry I did my best to not encounter this by testing the items I made and asking other people to look at my tests to make sure I stopped at some point. I rely on others to double check me in order to not work on something forever. I also watch others in their efforts getting through their hourglass. This will help develope knowing what is “good enough”.

It takes a great deal of time to develope the skills to know when to stop. It also takes patience as you will mess up.

And that’s ok, so long as you learn.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Respect is Earned 😇

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

Just because someone has been in the industry a long time does not mean they deserve respect. Respect must be eared (and given). Treating coworkers like garbage will only get you so far, and word travels fast.

I've known art/creative directors who think they are the top shit and expect to be revered. Even worshiped. I've seen people looking for their first jobs melting down into fanboys/fangirls when they meet the industry folks they revere. I’ve known junior artist, who happen to have good talent, expect to be respected and worshiped. Some of these folks (junior and senior) can't even do the simplest art tasks. Especially for what they are demanding from others.

It's wise, from the onset, to treat each other with grace and dignity. Don't get me wrong, Its alright to admire someone, especially if that person is your senior. So long as there is a mutual exchange of respect. Mutual respect goes a very long way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Your First 👎

 Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I encouraged my students to save images of the first item they modeled and not look at it for 6 months. Then look at it after. The reaction is always the same. Disbelief and shock that they made such a rotten model. This is important as it will demonstrate concretely how far one has come. and where one will be many years from now. I showed them a photo of the fist drawing I did in school and how much it sucked compared to my graduation images. Today, I can hold my own with pros (while I look at things I made a few years ago (and cringe).
It's not fair to yourself to compare your work (code, film, models, paintings, etc.) with high end pros. You won't be as good as them at the moment. And that's ok. It's good to favor them. To admire them. To emulate them. Learning their techniques will help develop your own. 
Remember: they all started just like you. DaVinci was not born with his skills. He had to start somewhere. He sucked when he started. It took years to develop his style.
You will develop your own style. Who knows. At some point someone will look at your work and be inspired by it 😊

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Be The Change 👁️

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

Let's face it. Ours is a unique industry. While you're in it you will meet a wide assortment of people who like different things and have different view points. I’ve met good and brilliant people. And I’ve worked with assholes.

First off, this is becoming a very open and welcoming industry more and more. It’s becoming less and less of a “good old boy network”. There are more women and LGBTQ+ entering the industry than when I started. It’s growing more every day on all fronts. And it's awesome 😁

75% of my VFX class were women. About 1/2 of the Game Art class were women. It was about 20% women in the Programming Class (and growing every year). Culturally, all these classes are very diverse, and were getting more so.
Diversity can't be escaped. Yet sometimes someone can cause a problems. They will attempt to take it out on you, no matter who you are. I had the misfortune to have to work with elitist types. All I could do is respect their work and keep going. I don’t know where they are now. And I don’t care. 

It is the things that you WILL and WILL NOT do that will always speak as to what kind of person that you are (what you will of won’t do will ALWAYS come back to you). Sometimes, all a person needs is a little help. 
Or, said person may need to complete the struggle on their own, and they just need room. Don't carry a burden for them. This can be very difficult to detect in yourself.

This industry is getting more unaccepting of bigotry. I know that there are still issues everywhere. Personally, I’d rather be a part of the solution. And I really believe in starting with yourself. No need to attempt to change the world (you’d go mad). Just your corner of it. You’d be very surprised at how far the effects will ripple.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Secret Sometimes 🤫

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

You’re a creative person. You may have good ideas you want to share with the rest of the world. The company you’re at wants to know what the ideas are and want you to tell them.
This may or may not be good. This is where it’s important to read the contract before you sign and ask question to clarify. It may state that all ideas you have, and document in some form (whether at work or at home), belongs to the company. 
Or higher ed schools. Yes, schools.

This is a common practice because the company/school you’re at wants full commitment from you. Full and complete commitment.

While I was at a company, in my early career, I was told that the company was looking for new ideas and to submit them. I wrote it up and turned it in hoping that it becomes real. 
I found out a few things later: 
1- Only new-to-the-industry folks turned anything in. 
2- All the ideas were put into an archive file and never looked at. This was devastating. 

Fortunately, it was not my best idea. So, years later, I’m glad it was never made. 
This taught me a valuable lesson, though.

Now, the following is for your personal ideas. Not ideas that might help at your current job/class.
If you have original ideas, it may be prudent to not present them to anyone… yet. If it’s possible, in between jobs, to set up a Holding Company (where no $ is made) so the ideas can live in there. Fully protected and yours. A web site need not be made or anything.Later on, the ideas created at that point might still be with making, changed, or leave them. There may be a time you’ll need to disclose them at the next company you work at and state they are yours. I did that several times.

What’s ultimately important is to protect yourself and your ideas. No one else will do it for you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Compete 🥇

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

It’s very important to know your rights as an individual. Sometimes this means having to read your very dry contract. We all hate reading this. It's full of legalese and sand be very dry. I've not read every contract I signed at the start of my career.
There are a few things that are noteworthy. Like most Non Compete Clauses are not enforceable.
I've been in the industry a very long time. And not once has this been an issue. I'm an artist. I love what I do. I've been able to work at several companies in the same industry and leveled up.
Do yourself a favor: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
I recommend to read your contact before you sign. Ask questions. The company who wants you should give you time to review it. You don't need to know all legalese. The legal dept. is not your industry. It really helps to understand the basics, though. 
Below is a link to a vid-cast that I love. It's worth a watch.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Rush 🌪️

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I know we’re all pressed for time. At home, at work, etc. There will be moments where your supervisor will say “That’s good enough”. And you’ll be shocked that they think it’s “good enough” by any standard… and you’ll know it’s not.

I remembered seeing a show with really bad VFX. I found out later that the VFX was a temporary place holder, meant to be updated later. The placeholder was considered final due to time. The supervisor said “no one will notice.” I remember playing a game where the textures on a structure were very wrong. The pixels of the texture we as big as the main character’s head! I’m not sure what happened there.

A studio I worked at promised to deliver their goods by a certain time. I was once told by the art director that I needed to deliver an asset in an hour. I looked at him and, very calmly, I asked “I have to deliver this thing, which would take 8 hours to make, effectively, and get it done in an hour. Am I correct?” He said yes. I stared at him for a heartbeat, then, calmly, I said “OK” and got to work. I did my best. I knew it was not good work. However, it was not my decision to rush it and not “my art” anyway. The art belonged to the company. I happened to make it. Needless to say, I never put it in my portfolio.

This is why your team needs a very good Producer.

A great Producer will schedule enough time to complete all the work. A great Producer will know when to say “No” or have contingency plans.

All you can is your best. Always do your best.

No one should ask for more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

You Ask The Strangest Things 🤡

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

One of the toughest experiences you’ll have in the industry is The Interview. You must remember that the prospective employer has already seen your portfolio, resume, code (whatever) and they liked what they saw. Now that they have you in front of them, they want to check if you’d be a good fit for them. It can be stressful and very intimidating. Sometimes it’s designed to be.
The toughest interview I experienced was I was interviewed by the creative director, then the art lead then the whole art team at a lunch. 12 people total.
Another was that I was a guest speaker and one of the main directors was in the audience (I had no idea). She came up to me after, we talked a bit, and she offered me a job right there. I still had no idea who she was at the time!

Sometime, you’ll get VERY odd questions that are designed to check out your personality. The oddest question I ever got was “Father Sword or Atlantean Sword?” That’s the whole question. And I new exactly what they meant. A great lively discussion followed. I found out later that they loved the discussion. 
I did some research from my industry friend on what odd questions have been asked:

“You come to a fork in the road. Do you turn left or right?”
“Name a Micheal J Fox movie that is NOT a Back to the Future film.”
“Have you ever attended a clown school?”
“Can you quote a line from a Monty Python movie verbatim?”
“If you had a Time Machine what form would it be in?”

Questions like these are to find out more of your personality (bonus if a good discussion rises). To see if you’d be a good fit in their team.

Always remember that you’re there to see if the company would be a good fit for you. At one interview I had I had a sense that the interview was not going well. Eventually they said I was not a good fit. I’m glad (really glad) that I didn’t get a job there.

Remember that even if you didn’t get the job it was experience to be interviewed..

I do recommend a few things:

Research the company you want to be at. Just because they made something you like does not mean it’s a place you’d want to be at. Can you discover what their culture is like? Who are the key people there? What have they made? Do you know anyone who works there and are willing to talk to you about them?

Dress well. Good hygiene is very important (I interviewed a person who looked rotten and had SEVER bad breath)
You don’t need to wear a suit, unless that’s the culture of the company or it’s you usual attire.

Be yourself. I’ve seen interviewees who think they know what the company wants. The interviewer may have a very good BS meter. They want to get to know YOU.

Ask meaningful questions. Don’t be a bump on the log.

Do your best to relax. It’s ok to be nervous. I’ve said I was nervous at an interview at the beginning of my carrer. And it helps. Remember that the interviewer may be nervous, too. It would be bad to appear desperate. Desperation is bad cologne.

There are some things that can’t be asked by the interviewer.

There’s more. This is a good start though.

Best of luck 🤘🏽

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Theft 👎🏽

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I may have said this before. I REALLY believe this:

Plagiarism is theft. Simple. I’ve been in the industry a very long time. And I’ve seen way too many people attempt to pass on another person's hard work as their own. One time, a friend was reviewing a portfolio with it’s artist there. Only to come across her own art being passed off as the interviewee’s pro art. Needless to say, it did not go well for the interviewee. My friend conducted herself professionally and let the interviewee dig his own grave. 

When I was teaching we conducted interviews of potential students. One of my fellow teachers was very suspicious of a 3D piece and asked to see the original. Needless to say, after the piece was inspected the candidate was rejected with prejudice and it was recorded why.

In the industry plagiarism is one of the ultimate sins. In fact, plagiarism anywhere is a very bad thing that WILL come back on the person who commuted it. Especially if they are expected to replicate it or its quality.

Remember, it not only the theft of the item. It’s the theft of the hard work leading up to the item that was put into it by the originator of the item. Additionally, it’s the theft of the years of schooling and , potentially, pro work done by the originator.

And you never know who will see it. 

Like the person who created it.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Enlightenment 🌟

Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I am firmly convinced the world is entering a new Age of Enlightenment. Call it Renaissance 2.0. It’s going to be very painful to get there. Some people will not want the world to change. 
We will be able to understand each other more easily. New tools are being developed all the time.
What dose that mean for us as digital artists?
It’s a bit of a double edge sword:
The new tools will make creating art much easier to make!
Some people in charge will see this as you being able to deliver art faster or make more art, aka, more work. 
If the person in charge understands you as an artist, new tools simply mean that you’ll be able to do your work better.
For artists, AI is not to be feared. It’s, currently, a tool. Like a paint brush or a pencil. AI is written by humans, and humans are limited. It can’t be creative. Artists will ALWAYS be creative. That is something AI can’t touch.
I’ve played with some image making AI tools. It’s really bloody tough! The final result is only as good as the input from a human. Even then, I had to go in and adjust the final to my specs.
I don’t think that the “machine overlords” will take over creativity. Artist will remain for sure.
We are made for creation 😬🖌️

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Normal Map Tut for Affinity Photo

 Onegai shimasu (おねがい します)  🙇

I usually don't post any tutorials. However, I found that it was very tough to find a decent tutorial concerning the proper blend of normal maps for Affinity Photo. It took a couple of weeks to figure out the right way to do this in Affinity. So I decided to share what I learned. I can't make a vid due to my vocal disability. Hope this works for you. Please contact me with any questions.

Affinity Photo Norm Tut:

A simple overlay of the detail layer is ineffective as the result is a washed out blue channel and the z-depth info is flattened. This way is inaccurate.

For those of us in the industry that don’t use Photoshop/Substance and want to blend normal detail into a standard normal map, the following will be of good use. This uses layers in Affinity Photo and is very easy.

Start with 2 normal maps: a standard main normal and a detailed normal.

When you start, always remember to duplicate the base layer you're going to manipulate.

Remember the basic of how normals are determined in 2D space: x, y, z = r, g, b

  • You will need to use the Layer Pallet in order to control the layer type. You will also need to use the Channels Pallet to manipulate the rgb channels. You’ll need to create the Spare Channels here in order to properly manipulate the rgb channels. I like think of the Spare Channels as an extra clip loaded with the right greyscale/white image ammo to be used upon the correct rgb channel.

  • Open the normal map that needs normal detail. This will be it’s own untouched layer and the foundation.

  • Bring in the detail normal on a new layer. Set it below the foundation normal layer so its hidden so that its ready to be used and hidden.

  • Duplicate the Detail Normal image twice and group them above the main Normal layer. Rename this group layer to something appropriate. You’ll be able to change the opacity of this group layer of the details to your liking.

  • Now for some organization:
    • Rename the two duplicated detail layers so that they make sense to you.

    • I renamed mine to r/g_overlay (red/green channels overlay layer) and b_multiply (blue channel multiply layer).

  • Make a fill layer as the top layer (this will be temporary) with medium grey (128, 128, 128).

  • Make a fill layer as the top layer (this will be temporary) with white. This will be the top layer.

  • Select the topmost visible fill layer:
    • Select the red, green, or blue channel (they should all be the same level of grey/white).

    • Right click the r, g, or b channel and select Create Spare Channel. A new spare channel will appear.

    • Right click it,  rename the channel (to keep organized).

    • Delete the topmost fill layer that corresponds with the color you made the Spare Channel for.

  • Repeat the above steps for the next Fill Layer.

  • Select the first Detailed Layer dupe (r/g_overlay):

    • Select the white Spare Channel,

    • Right Click and select Load To r/g_overlay Blue

    • Set this layer to Overlay (this image should have the Blue Channel as white).

  • Select the next Detailed Layer dupe (b_multiply):
    • Select the grey Spare Channel,

    • Right Click and select Load To b_multiply Red

    • Right Click and select Load To b_multiply Green

    • Set this layer to Multiply (this image should have the Red/Green Channels as grey).

  • The final result is the normal image now has detail where the opacity of the detail can be controlled.

 The steps ablove seem lengthy, yet after doing this a couple of times it will get very fast.

Its always best to keep the original layered master file in case changes need to be made.