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

When it comes to blogging on a regular basis, I’m inconsistent. Being inconsistent is probably one of the worst ways to attract a regular audience on the Internet. To be frank, having a regular readership has never been my goal with this website, nor was it meant to make any money (hence no advertisements.) It’s meant more as a one-off type of site in which I might come across some ideas that might prove useful or interesting to others. Trying to be useful to others also serves some level of promotion for my field of work.

That being said, I’ve had an extremely busy winter concerning my architectural renderings and illustrations and haven’t gotten around to writing here much. Every winter for the past eight plus years, for some odd reason has been usually busy. The pattern usually lasts until the spring, calms down, then picks up again late summer only to be followed be another slow spell. I don’t know what it is about this line of work which creates this cycle. I’ve often wondered if it is related to other companies quarterly budgets, or follows a seasonal building and construction pattern. I’ve asked both developers and architects to see if they have had any insight, and so far the response has been blank.

Many years ago, I worked at a start-up company in which the owner had a track record of being a good businessman. He told me to always answer the question of “how are things going with your business” with “great” although his new business venture was struggling. His patent answer never really sat well with me – it always struck me as a bit dishonest, although I can see where he is coming from and what he’s getting at. Are things always perfect? Honestly and objectively no, but I suppose it depends on whether or not you view your glass as half empty or half full. The honest answer is that the economy kicked the crap out of people in my line of work for the past few years. I think it’s definitely improving after the collapse – this year has already shaped up to be one of the busiest years in recent history.

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

A very intelligent man once said,

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

That person was Albert Einstein.

Recently, I received a email from a colleague who very kindly, complimented my work. He then went on to write:

I don’t know the status quo between fellow renderers, but if it is anything like the architectural community then there is a free flow of information and knowledge tempered by the fact that our peers and friends are our competitors.  If you wouldn’t mind talking to someone who is a few years your junior, then please feel free to email me.

First, let me add by saying that “a free flow of information” and it being “tempered” are two, totally different concepts. You cannot have a “free flow” of information if it’s being limited in the first place.

When I started out as a graphics artist, I read all the books, online tutorials, and forums that I could find. I taught myself everything because I couldn’t afford several thousands of dollars in classes at the time. The information that existed out on the web was fairly limited. As I joined forums, I would start asking questions of other artists whose work I admired – hoping that they would part with a morsel of their techniques so that I could learn from them.

More often than not, I was met with a flat-out refusal. Artists simply didn’t reply. A step up from that were the people who replied, but for one reason or another didn’t fully explain how or what they did to achieve an image. A good portion of their lack of explanation I blame on them not being able to clearly communicate to another person. These artists that I’d admire could go through the process, but in order to discuss their methods, I found that they often lacked the “socialization tools” to break an idea or technique down into simpler terms.

This brings me to my second Albert Einstein quote (which has often been misquoted and paraphrased):

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

In other words, try to keep things as simple as possible. The majority of people in this world struggle with breaking down complex ideas into their step-by-step components.

I’d like to add another point to some artists’ perceived “lack of assistance” in tutoring others. Some people are simply busy, or they might even be lazy. However, time  and experience has taught me that if someone’s work is really good, then there’s probably a good chance that they are simply very busy.

Another point worth mentioning is that other artists may not want to get involved with your problems. On many occasions, I’ve encountered situations in which you start helping someone out, and you’ll find yourself spending weeks trying to solve somebody else’s problem that wasn’t even your own to begin with. Could you blame someone for not wanting to help you out? I’m sure that most people have much better things to do with their free time.

Last but not least is competition. Some view competition as healthy, and others view it negatively. The fact is that most of us struggle in this world. Not everyone is out to become rich, or if they are – they’re often struggling to even get to that level in the first place. Greed aside, there are those of us whom simply want to put food on our tables and eventually retire some day. All that we ask for is that we try to enjoy our jobs, and that we try to live comfortably within our means.

If I told you that “I knew the secret to becoming rich overnight”, would you want to know? Of course you would.

If I said, “I know of a method to press a button and out pops a remarkable piece of art instantly”, would you want to know that too? Yes.

How about, “my restaurant has a signature dish that people come to try from all around the world.” Would you want to know that recipe? The better question is, “would I be willing to share my recipe to you?” If I give you the recipe, than others will be able to quickly reproduce that dish, and I will probably harm my own livelihood. I’m not trying to be a “greedy” by not sharing, but rather I’m trying to protect myself and business from falling apart. Everything I worked towards revolves around this one dish, and to give it away would be suicide.

There’s a concept that dates back to the time of early man, in which a person learns over a period of time the techniques used to get to a certain point of expertise. It’s called an apprenticeship. A person simply doesn’t pick up a hammer one day and declares themselves a blacksmith the next. Does a master blacksmith know some secret techniques to achieve certain results? Yes, a master probably does.

The same concept of apprenticeship applies to almost every creative field. A person starting out should probably learn the underlying techniques to get from Point A to Point B. This in turn gives them a better understanding of the entire process, and will help them appreciate the beauty and simplicity of these shortcuts later on. It also gives the apprentice the tools needed to help solve other issues instead of just relying on this “one trick pony.”

In today’s world, a lot of people think they are entitled to a handout. In part, I blame this on impatience and shorter attention spans. Some people simply don’t want to go through all of the hard work to get to the end result. However, I had to struggle all of these years through having to teach myself to get to where I’m currently at,  so why shouldn’t you? Isn’t that only fair?

There is no such thing as a complete “free flow of information.” As long as there are people in this world, this philosophical concept will never truly exist. The sharing of ideas and techniques are more representative of a faucet that has been intentionally left partially open to drain.

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

I’d like to announce that I’ve made some major updates to the LunarStudio Architectural Renderings website recently. While the overall layout of LunarStudio has remained the same, there are a lot of new images as well other things which changed  “underneath the hood.” Most importantly, I finally found the time to add close to 50 new images to the website and have applied some minor color tweaks and adjustments to most of the existing architectural renderings that were previously there. This whole process took several days to complete.

For existing clients, this should come as fantastic news. I don’t think most of them realize what this means. I often joke that I should create their renderings for free, and charge to post their images to my website. Due to the high amount of traffic that flows through the LunarStudio website, this is free advertising and also helps boost their own website rankings as well. In hiring LunarStudio, you’re essentially more than quadrupling your visibility to the rest of the world. I often laugh when clients haggle over several hundred dollars because that same expenditure may come back to them a hundred times over.

Updating LunarStudio has always been tricky. Since LunarStudio ranks highly for a couple of thousand search terms in all three major search engines, changing the slightest word or even adding content can push search rankings up and down drastically that could result in lost revenue. Something which seems fairly straight-forward such as adding a single image needs to be carefully examined prior to being uploaded, then the accompanying text needs to be massaged in order to “try” to achieve optimal results. Multiply this by several hundred images, and you have a big potential mess on your hands – especially if you screw up a single character. For this reason, I’ve forced myself to keep the overall design and layout of LunarStudio the same over the years. I’ve avoided adding additional text. As much as I am tempted to redesign the look and feel for something “fresher”, I often have to remind myself that I’m playing with dynamite. Besides, as much as LunarStudio has been imitated over the years (one of the first non-Flash websites to be perfectly centered on-screen), I still think it holds a lot of character.

For an example of the current sites out on the Internet copying LunarStudio, check out the following link: www.copyscape.com. Keep in mind, this changes every month (sometimes more) but there’s always someone out there…

I often think people take the “search engine” itself for granted. It’s often viewed as a seamless and organic process: type in what you’re looking for and out pops the results. However, I’ve read studies on search engine usage and the average person doesn’t look past the first 10 items that turn up on an average search. That means if you don’t place within the top 10 of any search engine result, there’s a good chance that your website will not be seen or even noticed. From a marketing perspective, that’s an absolute disaster. If you create a website, you should have every interest in wanting it to achieve high-rankings as that can help others as well as bring in additional revenue. If you don’t, then you will be stuck with the traditional method of “word-of-mouth” and having to resort to other campaigns to drive interest to your work.

There are a number of things which happen “behind the curtains” of search engine results. The engines vary slightly as the major companies have various patents and copyrights on their code and complex mathematical formulas. On top of the code differences, a company such as Google has been known to modify their search engine algorithm close to a thousand times in a single year! Each time they make these changes, your website can jump up and down the ranks. They often keep these methods secret because they don’t want people intentionally spamming their search results and providing irrelevant information. For the sake of this article, I will not go into the topic of search engines and optimization simply because I could probably write a whole book on the topic. It can be a fun game to play, but you have to have time as well as patience.

For those interested, here is a list of items that were changed as of 10/25/10:

  1. All thumbnails (several hundred) were manually changed from biege to full color.
  2. Thumbnail hovers were all brightened with an overlay of white set to 50% opacity. I could have used a JavaScript, but again this would probably have an impact on rankings.
  3. Canonical rules enforced versus head tags. Some pages were splitting rank by having trailing slashes and non-trailing slashes after their URLs. Depending on what happens over the course of the next week, I may keep this.
  4. Close to 50 new images and 100 thumbnails were added to various categories. This is most of my work over the course of the year, however there are still a number of items which cannot be posted per contractual obligations, quality (sometimes I’m given limited time and resources), and others which are still in progress.
  5. The majority of images were slightly readjusted concerning color balance, exposure, and saturation.
  6. Keywords and titles added to all of the new image sections.
  7. Copyrights were updated.
  8. Updated manual sitemap.
  9. Updated Google and Yahoo! sitemaps.

This is on my “to-do” list:

  1. I may implement MaxCDN (Content Delivery Network) to help boost search engine rankings and also speed up the delivery of images to the viewer.
  2. As a result of adding a CDN, that may impact the sitemaps mentioned above.
  3. As a result of adding a CDN, that may also create a bigger mess by turning up Page 404s – file not found errors which would all have to be manually redirected. When you’re talking several thousands of links, this can be a very tedious process.*
  4. Add additional images.

All of this being said, please let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding the updated website. In particular, I’m interested in comments regarding quality, speed, and usability. I’d really appreciate your feedback.

For more information, please visit: www.lunarstudio.com

*If anyone has any tips regarding implementing the CDN and avoiding the 404’s and redirects, please let me know!

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.