Information concerning general artwork.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

Recently, I had to a build a new file server for my home office and noticed slow file transfer speeds across the network. I’m running a gigabit switch with most of the latest gear. In my case, the main factor in file transfer slow downs are actually a result of hard drive speeds and not the network itself. I’m going to briefly outline a few tips (speed hacks) that you can use to help speed both your network as well as your individual computers. Keep in mind that you don’t have to even have a network in order to gain some of the speed benefits of this article. But first, let me explain my background so that you understand where I’m coming from.

The field of 3D artwork requires extensive libraries full of textures, models, and backups. For higher-end 3D renderings, artists often employ distributed rendering which uses multiple computers to process a single file or a sequence of animations in order to reduce long hours of processing time. Due to this high-usage of file storage resources and transferring, I’ve gotten to know my network and servers fairly well over the years. By no means am I a Network Engineer (and I don’t plan on being your tech support), but I can hack most things together in order to get them to play nicely with one another. That being said, here are a few tips:

  1. Hard drive compression. Slow file transfers? That might be because everything is getting compressed on the fly. Sure, you save some space but turning it off should make things go faster. Right click properties for your HDs and turn it off.
  2. This seems to be limited to some older SATA hard drives – in particular Western Digitals and Seagates. By default they install with a jumper on the pins limiting the drives to older 150 MB/sec versus 300 MB/sec. Sadly enough, I found this both on my server as well as one drive on my main computer…
  3. Jumbo Frames. You can enable this on most newer network adapters by going into its properties. Just a note of warning that I’ve had some mixed DR results by having enabled this on some adapters when other computers didn’t have that feature. You can turn it on, transfer, and see if it makes any difference.
  4. HD indexing. If you don’t search much, you may notice a gain turning it off. And if you do search a lot, there’s other software for searches which are more efficient:
    Addictive Tips.
  5. *Still testing* Possibly disabling Write Caching (I only recommend this if you have a Backup UPS.) I still have to test this one out. Supposedly if you turn it back on after running a Windows Experience Index test (windows 7), the newer score remains…:Seven Forums.
  6. *Still testing* Disable Command Queuing on nForce-based motherboard controllers: Seven Forumns.
  7. If you’re experience “too many files are in use” errors while copying files over from a Windows 7 install to a server, it’s because your server is using SMB 1 and has problems with Windows SMB 2. Some people recommend turning off SMB 2. Personally, I would just update the server since SMB 2 is better. I experienced this issue transferring files over to my NASLite server and have written them about this issue. https://www.petri.co.il/how-to-disabl…erver-2008.htm
  8. Use ReadyBoost / SuperFetch (unless you had SSDs): https://www.groovypost.com/howto/micr…ng-readyboost/
    Article from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReadyBoost

Last but not least, you should remember some of the more common speed tips such as keeping your hard drives defragmented, deleting temporary files, and running the occasional registry cleaner such as CCleaner (free.)

If you’ve read this article and followed some of my tips, please let me know how your experience goes.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I receive resumes on a daily basis. Having looked at every single one for the past few years (even for just a brief moment), there are things I know now as to what “not to do” when approaching a prospective employer. I also receive inquiries and phone calls asking for advice as to breaking into a graphic-related field. While there isn’t a patent answer, there are some things a person searching for design jobs and work can do to help increase their chances of obtaining a job in a design-related field.

Earlier today, I received an email from a student asking how one could “break into” the field of architectural renderings.

Here’s a copy of the letter this student had written with some edits to personal information:

My name is Kris.

I am interested in graphic design but my main interest  lies within Architectural modeling, walkthrough animations and photo realistic Rendering.

I currently live in Australia  and I’m a 19 year old student, doing Certificate III Media as well as year 13 at College studying Art Production and Graphic Design.

The main reason for me wasting your time is do you have any tips to get into the industry and what programs do you use etc.

I’ve been using 3D Studio Max for about 4 years my latest project was my major last year for graphic design.

Here is my reply:

Kris, thank you for writing LunarStudio.

I receive several resumes every day for the past few years, most of which (unfortunately) are of a substandard quality. I have to say that the biggest mistake I see is a lack of portfolio. Sites such as Flickr and DeviantArt work, but there are plenty of other free websites which are available to people who don’t have too much HTML or blog setup experience. I feel that when it comes to graphic design in general, every aspect should be “packaged” neatly, just like showing up to a job interview well-dressed and kempt. This field is all about presentation. That’s just a personal preference on my part, however most of the really good designers I know are even pickier than I am.

If someone wants a career in the field of architectural renderings (or any other design-related field), you need to have a good, relevant portfolio. One cannot expect to obtain work with just a few images – there needs to be diversity. For renderings, that might include interiors and exteriors as well as a broad spectrum of lighting conditions. I do not recommend using pre-made scenes downloaded off of the web or through tutorials. These are often easily spotted by industry veterans. However, there are plenty of plans and photographs you can work off of from simply browsing the Internet.

No matter what, there is no easy shortcut in this field. If there was, everyone would be doing this line of work. It involves hard work and one needs to put the time into this whole process.

As for actual resumes, to be honest – most of the time I skip right through the writing. The first thing I always do when someone applies to LunarStudio is to look at their portfolios and images. If something catches my eye (usually I look for photorealism followed by style), then I’ll review the rest of their work and resume. If an image or two looks bad, I won’t even bother looking at the rest of their work as I get flooded by inquiries daily and simply do not have the time to review every single application.

As for what defines a “good” image from a “bad” one, there are numerous indicators. I’ve had people apply and send images that contained door handles as big as watermelons. I’ve seen images where the people they inserted touch the ceiling or simply look copy and pasted. There’s plenty of images in which people do not use Global Illumination (aka Scanline) in which their work appears “cartoony.” There’s even situations in which their subjects are simply boring (just a box with windows.)

Occasionally, I do receive a portfolio in which a person’s body of work is not necessarily photorealistic, but I can see their design intent and the work they put into all of their details – clean lines, etc. This is often enough to warrant serious consideration. However, I’m not looking to always train someone in my methods as I often have much better stuff to do with my spare-time. There’s plenty of resources on the Internet in which a person can learn the various aspects of rendering before approaching a company.

When approaching a company, show that you really want to work with a particular company. And person could send out a hundred copy and pasted inquiries and cover letters, but those are easily spotted from a mile away. Explain why you would want to work for someone. Show some passion. Show your dedication. Also explain how you can contribute and how you want to help grow another person’s company (I know that’s a bit of a stretch but that’s what someone wants to hear.) If you don’t show initiative in those areas, then I wouldn’t expect any business owner to want to hire you. My main concern in taking someone on is having to train them, and a couple of years later they take my methods and move off to “greener pastures.” In today’s day and age, people tend to float around with work as there’s little job security in general – as a business owner, you really want to know that someone is willing to stick around otherwise it could be a big loss.

As for software, if you’re using 3D Studio Max, than you are using an industry rendering standard. Couple that with Vray and Photoshop, then you should be good to go. If you happen to know Mental Ray and Sketchup, then those pieces of software are an additional bonus. As for learning them, there’s plenty of resources scattered throughout the web. Take a few months to go through some tutorials, then start creating your own scenes for your portfolio.

I realize that this reply was rather long, but I hope that might have helped answer some of your questions.

I have also previously written another article on the topic here which may be worth reading:

***Outdated Link***

Kindest Regards,

Charles

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal two days ago regarding my attempts with my company LunarStudio to pursue payment from another company that refused to pay a couple of months ago. If you have a moment, please take a look the article as it applies to small companies, contractors, and freelancers:

Article on freelancers looking for payment on the Wall Street Journal.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions if I would be able to provide someone with an example contract that I use prior to commencing on a project. As much as I would like to help others out, I consider my contracts part of LunarStudio’s intellectual property – these are pieces which I’ve worked on and just like all of my work, I do not simply hand these items out for free. I’ve spent years working on them. While most of my contracts are cookie-cutter/boilerplate, my contracts are continuously getting revised on a per-project basis. However, without providing you with the exact wording, I’ll outline many of the items which my contracts do cover. My contracts with some proper rewording can cover other avenues of freelancing and business – it is not simply limited to my field of art.

I feel that contracts are a necessity in conducting work. Not only do they protect you, but they should also protect the individuals or companies that you are going to do work for. They also lend you and others a sense of legitimacy and professionalism to your business – especially if you are just starting out. They should also clearly outline the scope of your deliverables – this way if someone asks for unreasonable demands outside of the original scope which was agreed upon, you can simply point back to your contract. It also shows a potential client that you are responsible for your own work as well as that of others.

“Word of mouth” agreements and emails are also viable between two parties and are admissible in a court of law (at least here in the United States.) However, “word of mouth” is often harder to prove, so the burden lies on you or the other party to prove their case should a disagreement ever arise. It’s simply much easier to take 5-minutes to a half-hour to send off a contract instead of going back and forth over emails, phone calls, and communication issues. Plus, having a contract that outlines specifics of a job helps delineate which obligations you and the other party have towards one another.

I’d also recommend that you search the Internet for other contracts and ideas and see what other areas they may cover as well. As always, make sure your content is original and not simply copied from here or other sources. When in doubt, you can always consult an attorney.

Here’s a brief outline of what my contracts cover:

1. Project Scope:

This details the overall scope of a proposed project. For example, if someone asks for a single exterior rendering of a condominium, I’ll mention it here and any additional information related to this requested project.

2. Delivery Date:

If there is a set date set by a client, I will mention it here. If there isn’t one, I’ll mention how long I plan on spending on a particular project.

3. Project Stages:

This is an optional section. Since I encounter a lot of people who are unfamiliar with my process (or the rendering process in general), I like to lay out step-by-step what  we will do when provided with plans, at what point we will send over a piece of artwork for review, at what point a client can or should request changes, and at what point we will deliver the final artwork. I found that if you don’t outline your process clearly, people have a tendency to keep coming back and asking for more changes as a lot of people tend to think our process is a simple push of the button when in-fact a seemingly “simple” change can add days to a project and push off deliverables for other clients.

4. Costs:

Here I’ll mention the costs of a project. Sometimes I’ll break it down into stages so that a client can pick and choose which elements they want to proceed with. I’ll also mention the total estimate.

5. Terms of Payment and Delivery:

This can be broken down into sub-topics:

  1. Payment due upon delivery. This is my general practice otherwise you’ll end up playing the game of waiting for a client’s client to pay in order for you to get paid. I’ve seen this stretch out for a whole year once. Of course, there’s exceptions to this rule. But if someone really wants to work with you, they will bring this issue up at the beginning. Some people will have a clause for 15 or 30 days. These terms almost never get paid on-time. I find that it is safer just to leave “payment due upon delivery” in there.
  2. Watermarking. Reserve the right to watermark all of your images. It’s your work until you get paid then you can remove your watermark. I find that this process works best.
  3. Change rates. I feel that hourly is best. Of course, you could have just built this into your initial estimate and inflated your numbers, but that doesn’t always look good. I know people that charge $150/hour for changes. If you’re presented with incorrect information in the beginning or someone changes their mind, that can push off your delivery date for other clients. You need to be reimbursed for your additional time and efforts. People have a tendency to assume that in the field of art, a change might only take a few minutes when in fact some items might add additional hours to even weeks to a project. You need to mention your change rate in all of your contracts. If a request is truly small, you can choose to look the other way but at least you have these terms to fall back upon. The change rates also has a tendency to indirectly force your client to provide you with consolidated and correct information at a project onset versus later down the road.
  4. Other payment terms. On large projects, you may want to ask for 1/3 to a 1/2 of the project’s total for retainer. If you hire out a crew of people or sub-contractors to work with you and you expect to project to last for a couple of months, you’ll need to have some income as well as an assurance that a potential client is not going to waste your time and money. The client is paying to reserve your time.
  5. Payment delivery methods. You may accept Paypal, money orders, checks, etc. Let your client know who and how to make out their payment to.

6. Required Assets:

From this section and below, I start to get more involved in my contracts. The first page is a quick summary. The items listed above are usually a quick summary someone doesn’t have to wade through five pages of text.

Here, I mention that a client is expected to provide me with the latest information and plans in order for me to carry out my work. I had a situation this past winter in which a client provided me with some plans that were for the wrong building. I spent almost a week modeling the building interior only to find out that they had provided the wrong plans. I shouldn’t be expected in this situation to start over from scratch without billing out for their mistake. It’s like bringing in a car to an automotive mechanic, having him replace a transmission, and then telling him afterwards, “oops, I gave you the wrong car.” Either way, they’re still going to charge you for that. In turn, the client should be responsible for providing up-to-date and accurate information even if something is still in progress.

7. Deliverables:

In the deliverables section, I’ll mention exactly what I will provide. For example, all still images will be provided at 3200×2400 resolution. I might mention that all animations are rendered at 29.9 frames per second and at a resolution of 720×486. By mentioning this ahead of time, it prevents someone from coming back and asking me to render out a 30,000 resolution image which might take a couple of additional days to process and that I cannot bill out for and me even impact somebody else’s project. It also may prevent having to render out a HD animation that could add additional weeks to a project. As I said before, people tend to think architectural rendering work is a push of the button. If you don’t lay out your terms otherwise, you can find yourself spending an extra month working for free.

8. Artwork Accuracy:

In my particular field, you have to remind clients that your artwork is ultimately artwork at the end of the day and that it is not intended to be a 100% accurate representation of the final product. Most clients are well aware of this. However, some people that are unfamiliar with the process (in particular photorealism) expect 100% accurate results which is impossible to achieve in reality. If you’ve been in the field as long as I have, you may encounter a situation in which a “green isn’t green enough.” What they may not understand is that readjusting a final might require a rerendering, which can add an additional day’s worth of work or more. You have to let them know that your artwork is just a representation. This may protect you from demands which get out of control.

9. Artwork Ownership:

I reserve the rights to own all of my work. My work is commissioned for use by others, but I actually own what I produce. If a client pays for my images, they are entitled to use these images for their own purposes. I stipulate that I am allowed to use the work I produce for marketing and any other purposes I deem permissible. Of course, there’s exceptions to this rule but ideally you hold steadfast to your ownership. If you have ever worked with a high-end art rep, they insure the same exact clauses where they are the ones who are entitled to art ownership and not the company which is hiring you. This is probably the one area of my contract that is often questioned.

10. Proprietary Ownership:

You should retain all rights to the actual working files and shouldn’t bend from this rule. If you purchase a model library or stock photography to be used in your scene, you are generally required by law not allowed to redistribute those items to another company or client without them having purchased those model libraries for themselves. I’ve had clients ask for my actual working 3D files and have had to refuse their requests. This can also protect your work methodology and intellectual property. Having someone ask for your working files is the equivalent of hiring a painter to paint your house, then asking them for their sanding equipment, ladders, paint brushes, rollers, and paint buckets after the fact – in the real-world, that is not going to happen. The same rule should apply here.

11. Additional Legal Information:

Here I mention additional legal information such as court fees, attorney fees, arbitration, severability, “acts of god” (in case my office gets swept up by a tornado, fire, or flood), liability, etc. I have roughly five detailed paragraphs regarding these items. It is my suggestion that you search the Internet for other contracts which can help you out in this area in case an issue ever arises. Hopefully, none of this ever occurs, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

12. Termination:

Here, I reserve the right to terminate a project. An example of this may be that a client provides you with completely incorrect information leading to an additional month’s worth of work that bleeds into another projects schedule. Another example might be that someone strings you along a whole year and keeps promising that they will provide you with more information. If a project becomes unreasonable, you should be able to terminate that project. Again, hopefully this never occurs.

13. Cancellation Charges:

I’ve heard of situations in which a project is agreed upon by a developer and that an artist reserves their time to work on their project. They hire out a crew and they start to work on it. Later on, the developer finds out that their project has been denied for zoning reasons, etc. Suddenly, they want to cancel the project and not pay your company for the time you reserved and possibly had to say no other clients. That is money you have lost. Do to this unfortunate circumstance, you should have a cancellation clause in your contracts. It doesn’t have to be the full amount (mine isn’t), but instead could be a percentage of the total. Your time is your money – and people pay to reserve your time and expertise. It’s unfortunate that this should ever occur, but your business should not be put in jeopardy on the account of someone else or unforeseen circumstances.

Summary

I hope that this article regarding my artist contracts helps others out. I think you can clearly see from what I’ve written how a contract really does help both you and your potential client. A simple phone call conversation or email leaves out most of these details and that’s why I prefer outlining all of these various situations prior to even working on anything. I’d also recommend looking over other contracts you can find through an Internet search to see what additional items may be relevant to your field of work and expertise.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

There’s a saying between 3D veterans which says, “there’s no make pretty picture button.” If there was, a lot of us would be out of work and business. Many people tend to have different opinions as to what “art” actually is. Many years ago, my impression of 3D work was very similar to an average person’s general understanding of the 3D field – that is to say, not very understanding at all. As I became more involved in the field, my opinion eventually changed.

I was going through some social networking posts I had made a while back with my architectural rendering company LunarStudio, and noticed some comments. While most of them were pretty flattering, one stood out:

great photorealistic renderings are not creative in my opinion, Im getting kind of sick of seeing them, and less artistic/conceptual perspective

I replied:

Anyone that knows how to do this type of work would disagree with you. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a “simple press of the button” – otherwise everyone would be doing it.

This is actually my work. I modeled and textured all the furniture and hardware by hand. It’s not much different than sculpting. On top of all that, you have to know how to operate the rendering applications.

It’s a mix between art, technology, and science. If you think it is easy, you’re more than welcome to try your hand at it. ;)

Yes – I do get defensive about all the time and effort I put into my work. I think rightfully so. If you just sit back, take the punches, and don’t try to at least make an attempt to put things into their proper perspective, others (including some clients) tend to take your work for granted. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in almost all of my conversations with clients at some point or another. It sometimes gets to the point where they don’t realize the time and skill involved and their expectations are set unrealistically high. This really brings about a much deeper question – “what is art?”

The best thing I could possibly do here is to give some examples. When photography first came around, I’m sure that most people were completely amazed (if not a little frightened.) But over time, cameras become commonplace to the point where now everyone who has a cellphone probably has a camera built-in. Just because we all have cameras on our phones, does that automatically make one a photographer? No. I think most of us agree that good photography requires a level of skill that most of us do not possess – proper light balance, framing, color-usage, contrast, etc. It’s a skill that takes time to develop and not necessarily something that “comes natural.”

Let’s take the example of landscape paintings. I’m certain there were people who first saw them and thought, “that’s not art, that’s just trying to recreate what already exists.” Perhaps you fall into that same camp of opinion, but there is a certain quality which makes a Monet a Monet. Not everyone can be Monet.

I used to have a friend that would bash Photoshop artwork back in the late 90’s. He would tell me that it “didn’t take any skill to use a mouse and the eraser.” Well, fortunately with the modern-age, he eventually changed his opinion. Would you still be of that opinion today? Just about every commercial, movie, magazine, billboard, poster, package, and album cover has been run through some post-processing application such as Photoshop. By saying that you “cannot create art with Photoshop”, it would be tantamount to turning a complete blind-eye to the entire world around you.

So what is the definition of “art” exactly? Here’s Merriam-Webster’s take on the definition:

Art:

1 : skill acquired by experience, study, or observation <the art of making friends>
2 a : a branch of learning: (1) : one of the humanities (2) plural : liberal arts b archaic : learning, scholarship
3 : an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>
4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : fine arts (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art
5 a archaic : a skillful plan b : the quality or state of being artful
6 : decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter

The key point to the definition is that art involves “requiring knowledge or skill.” To an average observer who doesn’t think something is “art”, they may not realize the amount of work or understanding involved to get to a certain point. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people automatically assume that my work (as well as that of others) is a “push of the button.” When I first started in my field, I had found this to be an insult but over time my own view had changed to become one of tolerance and education.  It actually has less to do with their subjective opinion as to what art actually is, but more to do with a lack of understanding of what goes into the process itself.