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

My newly redesigned website, HDRSource is up and running again. In all actuality, it never really went anywhere – I just had laid off promoting it for several years as the real work with LunarStudio managed to keep me preoccupied. It’s one of the first online stores that sold HDRs and HDR libraries. I created HDRSource when the term ‘HDR’  turned up around 20 links maximum when ‘HDR’ was searched in Google – so it’s really been something that I’ve worked on in the background since the technique’s infancy. This site even predates Photoshop’s support for High Dynamic Range Images. As some of you might have followed, I’ve take time off this summer to completely update all of my websites, and this was the last website on my list. So I’m proud to announce once again that it is up and running with newly-minted 360-degree images.

Originally, HDRSource was all hand-coded – long before the popularity of blogging systems and CMSs came into play. However, having to manually update it every single time turned into a really big pain. That’s why I made the decision to use a WordPress installation and to “fake it” into resembling more of a regular, non-blogging look type of website. I have absolutely no regrets with this system now. I don’t have to fiddle with Photoshop every time I want to insert a graphic. I don’t have to open up Dreamweaver and peck through code – trying to remember every single time what I had did and what each piece of CSS stood for. It’s simply, much easier to maintain and update. And if I want to add additional functionality, then that’s mostly a breeze as well. Plus, I know search engine optimization – and if you look closely, I have all of those tools mostly at my disposal.

As for the HDRSource website itself, it caters mostly to the 3-D community and ties in directly with my work at Lunarstudio. It’s a store that specializes in High Dynamic Range photographic panoramas which I have manually produced. 3-D artists sometimes use HDRs to surround and light 3D models and scenes. It is a form of technique which we often call Image Based Lighting – or IBL for short. HDRs tend to lend a realistic look to our models because of the nuances in lighting, variations in color, as well as reflections. They can make a flat, almost toon-like 3d model into something realistically convincing. The differences between using them and not using them can often be quite drastic.

HDR originally has its roots in computer graphics research – and assisted 3D artists. As Photoshop released it’s first basic import option, it started to gain the interest of the general photography community. Soon, photographers set out to capture some pretty remarkable photographs using the HDR technique. However, while I appreciate many photographers adventure into this avenue, I’ve somewhat insisted on staying a purist for the 3d world. My photos generally don’t have what some call and over-saturated ‘radioactive’ glow to them. I prefer mine to match exactly what the human eye can capture.

If you have a moment, please head on over there and check out my photography work. I’m not asking anyone to buy anything – perhaps you’ll simply get a ‘kick out of’ browsing some of my 360 degree HDR panoramic image.

HDRSource High Dynamic Range Images

www.hdrsource.com

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

I’ve had a few jobs come through recently and I’ve been working hard on getting good results out the door for my clients. Combine this with every day life activities – buying fresh veggies for my guinea pigs, taking the car in for routine maintenance, buying groceries, cleaning the house, etc. – running one’s own business can be quite hectic.

I think many people on the outside look at you and assume, “he’s living a good life working from home.” What I think they don’t realize is that I probably work twice the amount I used to when I had an office – easily a good 16 hours a day. The first thing I do when I wake up is put on a cup of coffee, turn on the computer, shake out the cobwebs, and check my emails to see if there’s any fires that need to be put out. And if it looks like it’s going to be a slow day I’ll decide if I have time to shower and shave and maybe take care of some paperwork. But most of the time, I get up and it’s “run, run, run” – often just making something to eat quickly for lunch and eating in front of the computer, and often the same for dinner and way into the late night hours. This also includes weekends.

Quite often, I have to squeeze in other daily activities in the interim periods. Sometimes I’ll actually let a rendering “cook” simply so I can have the time to go run some errands, and other times it’s just to let my thoughts decompress. Sometimes it’s just making a blog post – taking a much needed break before getting back to work. Other times it’s just quickly skimming news headlines and scrolling down Facebook to see what my friends have been up to. Then it’s back to work.

I’ve seen others who work from home – and I don’t mean this to sound condescending, but many don’t seem to keep or want to keep a routine. They let their projects fall behind, lose motivation, etc. That’s why I’m very skeptical of most people working from their own office. It works well for a few that are highly determined and motivated, but is completely lost on the majority of others that lack the drive or a well-formed structure. One pattern that I’ve noticed is that most of the “successful” people (mostly artists that I know) that manage to keep working from home over the years work just as hard as me if not harder at times – putting in those long hours and working weekends in order to keep their clients happy and to keep some semblance of normalcy.

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

It’s always good to hear a simple one word sentence when you turn on your computer, grab a cup of coffee, and then check your email. “Wow” was the word I read today and it brightened everything up.

I’m so used to beating myself over creating artwork for people and making them happy, that often when I send them a piece – people always seem to find “something” wrong – ie. “change this color, don’t like this camera angle, not sure about the chair, let me run this by the other people in the office, etc.” The list of revisions can be really infinite especially when it gets into the realm of photorealism.

So to hear “wow” alone in an email is a big sigh of relief. It means that someone likes the direction it went in. Now for them to run it by the rest of the office lol…

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

I read the news. Of course, I don’t like to believe everything I hear. I also hold whatever I read to some level of skepticism. But I still read a lot of stories and take most things “with a grain of salt.”

One of the latest headlines on the Wall Street Journal news today read:

Commercial Real Estate Lurks as Next Potential Mortgage Crisis

Of course, The Huffington Post (where I originally read this headline) loves to sensationalize headlines in order to attract readers (they have a habit of sensationalizing things – but is that anything new with the news?) In some ways, sensationalized headlines can have a major impact on how society behaves and interacts – as well hurting or helping the stock markets – and I do take issue with that as I really prefer objective news sources.

This article has direct consequences with main line of business which is architectural renderings – so it is a legitimate concern for people in my field and it did get my attention. But I have a few points to make in regards to the WSJ article. Let me begin by giving you a little information about my background.

Over a summer ago, I day traded for slightly over a month right as the economy went sour. Without going into too much personal detail, I traded a lot stocks and a lot of value in that time-frame. I actually was given a TD Ameritrade Apex account based on the amount of trades I was making. I walked away just about even.

Later on, I talked with a few people over at TD Ameritrade and a couple of them stated that they were amazed that I walked away with my “shirt intact.” Now, I’m not trying to brag about this. But what I am trying to convey is that I’m also not a “complete fool” either – I do have some first-hand knowledge of the stock market, commodities, as well as general economic issues on both a micro and macro level – probably more so than the majority of people. And I have a good sense of market psychology.

That being said, I witnessed how the market behaves in times of panic. I’ve also witnessed how the news feeds into people’s fears of how things “really” are. You see, people in many ways behave to some degree with pack/herd mentality. For example, if you’re in a crowded club and everyone around you starts to run for the door – your natural inclination would also make you want to run for the door as well – even if you have no clue as to what is going on. I could probably easily list over a hundred examples how we all tend to behave and mimic each others patterns. The same applies to the stock market – if bad news hits a newspaper or television channel about a company – investors usually won’t take the risks and will pull their stock, causing more people to suddenly yank their stocks out as well.

What we are currently experiencing in this country and even on a global level is simply fear which originally had some roots in reality (reality being high oil prices and bad lending practices.) Consumers are afraid to spend money because they are afraid they will need it later on. They’re also afraid that they may lose their jobs. Businesses are also afraid that they will lose projects and further income. And to a large degree, this is actually what is happening. People are in a negative feedback loop – instead of gaining “consumer confidence”, they are holding back and waiting to see how and if things will improve. And in many ways, this also is a similar pattern to how the stock market behaves.

This feedback loop is dangerous. Essentially, people don’t want to spend money so businesses aren’t making money as well. And since the businesses don’t make money, they have to lay off or fire people. Now, those people are definitely not spending any more cash because they’re out of a job. And this process keeps repeating until you essentially hit “rock bottom” or something is put in place to restore that confidence. It is a very dangerous downward spiral that keeps on feeding on itself.

Now, I’m not saying that one should completely “ignore” the warning signs. The signs are definitely there and it pays to exercise some level of caution. But what I am trying to emphasize is that just because you’ve seen a pattern develop, recognize that a lot of this is based on simple psychology – or “consumer confidence.” There’s even a term for “consumer confidence” on Wall Street – it is known as the “CCI” or “Consumer Confidence Index.”  You can read more about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Confidence_Index

So our “consumer confidence” is currently in fairly bad shape. We’re basically driving an old, beaten-down used car and when one thing starts to break, other pieces start experiencing problems as well – which is the point of that Wall Street Journal article. Business Real Estate is currently suffering because our overall economy has started to tax that particular part of the system.

However, “it is what it is” and there’s no sense in complaining because the damage has already been done. Instead of letting our “lack of confidence” drive our fears, we as a nation really need to stand up to the issues and say to ourselves – “this can be fixed and even better yet, improved upon.” We really need to stop thinking “bad” and start using the word “good” again. In this country’s toughest times – at the end of the depression and the start of WWII – after the attacks of 911 – we as a country picked ourselves up and did exactly what we needed to do. We started to build and spend again. We started to invest once more in our futures. We need to take that broken down car and repair it – or better yet, build a new and improved one. We need to fix our method of going about producing once again.

What we are currently experiencing is nothing short of a global enema. It is a global colonic. It is the fallow for the fields. It is a growing pain. It is a trimming of fat from the meat. Where some of you see gloom and doom – I see that we are in the process of healing as a nation. We need those periods of trouble in order to fix what is wrong and improve for the future. We, in some ways need this “wake up call” in order to move forward. And it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be. We’ve actually cut down to some degree on pollution here in the United States due to having less money in our wallets – we are driving less. We are also being less wasteful. We aren’t buying bottled water and disposable diapers like we used to. And regardless of whether or not you “believe” in global warming, I think we are all of the opinion that we should research more efficient means of energy production. There have been a lot of positive lessons we have taken away from these troubling times.

So, while I’m not advocating that we all go out and blow our next paycheck, what I am saying is that we need to recognize that we bring a lot of this economy on ourselves simply due to a lack of confidence and feelings of insecurity. On the other hand, we will run into some problems a long the way to improvement. But we can work through these issues. You have to spend to some degree in order to keep businesses and employment alive. And perhaps most important of all, we need to start thinking optimistically again in order to support one another.