Gaea Mountains – LOTR Inspired Concept Painting

I’ve been watching Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and it got me wanting to create some mountains. I created this quick concept.

So, I opened up Gaea this weekend and did some quick mountains there. Gaea is great. Very intuitive and easy to use with it’s node based system.

Simple node setup

You basically keep adding nodes and moving sliders till you start getting something you like.

Gaea nodes

Once you get shapes then you can apply textures within it as well.

Gaea mountain with textures

You just export out your maps and geometry and bring it into your program of choice. I went into Maya to design my shot.

Maya layout

Here is a simple render using Arnold to test look mountain.

Maya render with Arnold

Once I got the placement of geometry (you can use height maps as another method) in Maya, I exported it all over to Clarisse. Here I added volumes of mist and clouds using VDBs.

Clarisse for final and adding volumes

Here is the final raw render.

Clarisse raw render

I then wanted to add some little character traversing the land, so I exported out a ranger archer character from Mixamo and placed in the scene.

Mixamo Character

Little bit of Photoshop retouching and painting for the final.

Final Quick Concept Painting

A quick little Lord of the Rings-ish Mountain concept painting, definitely not a finished painting but was fun to put together for a few hours.

2021 New3dge VFX Graduation Projects

I had the incredible honor again this year of being part of the 2021 VFX Graduation Projects for the Senior Projects at New3dge school.  This year again due to Covid we looked at the students work and met virtually. The school allowed us access to the students’ work, breakdowns, and face time with the groups.  The Senior Projects are a group of shorts that a small group of students (usually 5 to 6) work on as team replicating a mini pipeline as they execute a highly caliber of work. The students of VFX/Animation graduation projects for 2021 were just as impressive this year. They produced really outstanding quality all the while having to work remotely due to Covid. This is no small feat! So much great work and inspirational to see!

It was a great pleasure to interact with each team and talk about their projects and questions. New3dge school is doing a superb job teaching their students to be ready for professional careers in VFX, Animation and Games.

Unfortunately I can’t share the projects that the students worked on yet. The School has them submitted to various festivals. Once I am allowed I’ll share the works with links.

Just like last year, these shorts are worth checking out!

Clarisse 5

This is was released over a month ago, Clarisse 5!

There is a whole host of cool features the Isotropix has been working hard on.

Enhancements in layout set dressing, lookdev, lighting, rendering, and workflow.

I’m still going thru all the various upgrades, but so far they are great in speeding up your workflow and output.

Coming soon, I’ll do some short demos in Clarisse workflow.

For now James Miller’s tutorials on getting started are great.

Affinity Software

There is this relatively new software, Affinity that’s pretty good candidate as an Adobe substitute if you are looking for a non-subscription model. Their current applications are Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher. I’m currently most interested in Photo.

You can download them for a 90 trial.

The Affinity Photo has some nice features that Adobe Photoshop still hasn’t addressed over the years. Raw editing, true HDR workflow, and 32-bit workflow.

What’s nice is you can import/export PSD/PSB file formats and it supports ABR brushes, so you can have the best of both applications.

You can see the UI is very similar to Photoshop so working in it it’s hard at all.

The cost of the software is pretty affordable, just $50. You can purchase these apps at a 50% discount now. They are available for Mac, PC, and iPad. It is not a subscription model. It is a single one-off price. You have full capability whether on PC, Mac or Ipad.

Download for free and see what you think. For me the HDR and 32-bit capability alone is worth looking into.

Human Generator for Blender

New “Human Generator” addon for blender allows you to create and customize any character. It allows you to design your character’s gender, ethnicity, body shape, hair, age, clothes, and it’s fully rigged. Cost for the personal license is $68 and $128 for the commercial use. It’s created by Oliver J. Post and Alexander Lashko.

Simple clicks and adjustments to create
Various poses and clothing

Check our this teaser YouTube clip:

For even more information, check out their website:

Pretty easy to use and great for creating a variety of characters very quickly to suit your projects needs.

NFT Art…what is this?

There’s been big buzz on NFT Art over the past several months and now it’s really starting to explode.

So what’s NFT? Or should I say “Non-Fungible Tokens.” And what are NFT artworks?

NFT art is a record of who owns a digital piece of art using the blockchain technology. Any piece of digital content can be “minted” into a NFT that creates a file which lives on the “blockchain” which tracts the entire history of that piece. That NFT art can be sold and re-sold and a record exists of it’s ownership and price value. The payment for these artworks is cryptocurrrencies, usually Ethereum. Now, the head scratcher is after you’ve bought a NFT artwork, you don’t receive an actual piece of art with your purchase. You’ve bought the non-fungible token which is just a long series of letters and numbers that is dropped into your digital wallet. You don’t receive some physical file or print to hang on your wall.

An NFT is non-fungible because it is not interchangeable. Each NFT Art is distinct and has a unique ID assigned to it. It’s blockchain cannot be altered. It is a permanent record or ledge of this piece.

When you buy a piece of NFT artwork you retain ownership of the digital piece, but it still is available on the internet and various other digital means. Anyone can still download that piece from the internet, share it, etc. So what good is ownership? Well, the more a digital artwork is seen and shared it increases it’s visibility and potentially it’s “worth”.

Now, when that artwork is first sold, the site hosting the artwork retains a commission and the artist receives their payment. If the artwork is resold (and resold and resold) the original creator retains a “commission” on every resale (usually 10%). So as the work gains in value the original creator still receives “commissions” on the work.

This sounds awesome. How do I get into this new market?

Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. Not crazy hard but their are some hurdles to handle.

You need to have an account to buy Cryptocurrency, like Coinbase, Kraken, or many others. Now you need to buy some cryptocurrency (like I said usually Ethereum).

Once you have that you need to attach your coin to a digital wallet (usually MetaMask). Finally, you can link your digital wallet to the NFT Hosting site. You can now buy a NFT artwork.

But what if I wanna sell NFT Artwork? That’s another hurdle. Some of the top sites like Nifty Gateway or Super Rare are curated sites. Meaning you have to submit a portfolio and a video about yourself to gain access to sell on those sites. Other sites, you need to submit an application, and other sites you can just upload an NFT artwork and sell. Obviously the curated sites offer a larger audience and can command a larger selling price.

Okay, you are able to get onto a site to sell a NFT artwork, you need to convert your file to the blockchain. This will take “gas” to “mine” your artwork, which costs you a fractional fee of crypto currency. Now, the gas rate is variable. It depends on when you go to “mint” your artwork. Think of an utility company charging different rates for electricty, peak vs. off-peak time. This mining comes with an environmental impact since it takes a neural network of computers to process the data.

So is this a sustainable market? Is this all hype? Should I do this? Are all very good questions and honestly I don’t know. I do know people said the same thing when Crypto Currencies first cam on the scene. The technology of blockchain is very real and stable, but is this a fad? I guess only time will tell. There are good signs that maybe it will stay, Christie’s auction house is treating it as real. Artists such as Beeple, Ben Mauro, and many others have had tremendous success with it. To be honest I’m still learning about this interesting new art space for digital artwork. If anyone has any thoughts I look forward to hearing them.

An excellent talk about all things NFT is with Emmanuel Shiu and Jan Urschel on their Art Department Podcast. Listen to it, they go thru the whole rabbit hole of NFT art and should you do this or not. Also, check out their links page, it’s a great collection of information.

Well, it’s Groundhog Day….Again…

So, most of my friends will tell you, I love the movie Groundhog Day. I watch it every year on Groundhog Day.

What I do love about it is that it demonstrates how someone can change for the better. So, I always find a great way to check up on my recent New Year’s Resolutions from a month ago. Am I staying on track or have I already fallen off the band wagon.

This year I started using the App/Website Evernote again. It’s had some great updates to it. I made tons of lists and started pages for projects. All to make sure I stayed on track this year. The basic version is free which is great. It’s web based so you can check your lists anywhere.

Here my home page. You create pretty much any document. You have a little notepad to jot down notes for that moment. You can create “To Do Lists”. Once completed you check them off and it crosses it off the list (which always feels great).

TO DO List

You create Documents (Notes) for whatever you need. I began using it to create cliff notes for new applications/tutorials I go through. This one is from Artstation using Blender for Sculpting.

Blender Sculpting Tutorial

It really helps, I can type down the hot keys, mark up screen captures, etc. I use a Windows machine, so I found clicking the Print Screen button a little cumbersome. I have dual monitors, so I have to download the image, bring it into Photoshop to crop it, then save it. There are other ways to do this and I’ve tried them. I found LightShot a free application to be great. Once installed it takes over your “Prnt-Scr” button. I always you to quickly marquee your screen, make a note, and then paste it. It works on Mac and PC.

Light Shot

Having this note is so much easier than going back to the video, and you can paste weblinks to go back to the videos if needed.

There are templates you can use or create your own. I have found this very very useful to keep track of my projects, to do lists, and organize my day.

“Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ‘ cause it’s cooooold out there today.”

The Dawn of 2021

Well, we can all say we are very VERY happy to be rid of 2020. But for all of 2020’s misery and pain, it did show us how interconnected we all are still in this day and age. One person’s pains and hardships can have ramifications on so many other lives. It made me think back on one of my favorite Christmas movies (and actual all around movie), “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

It’s very appropriate now, it deals with hardship and mental health along with happiness and realization your life isn’t as bad as you think. A quote from it came to mind:

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

This has tremendous meaning in 2020, we’ve lost so many souls this year around the world. Many have suffered unimaginable heartache, mental, physical and financial loss and fatigue. But we have gotten through the year by leaning on friends, family and kindness of strangers.

As we embark into 2021, let us not forget that everyone around us is still reeling from an incredibly hard year and it will still take some effort to get 2021 going in a positive direction. We’ve learned that even the smallest gesture of gratitude can brighten someone’s day; from a clerk ringing up our groceries and risking their health to do it, to a first responder caring for our loved ones, our mail carriers delivering packages and to us trying to shelter in place and following safety protocols to keep others from harm.

Put good out in the world and let’s have some good come back. Figure out what you can do in 2021 to help others. There is no gesture to small.

As my favorite line from the end of the movie, we need to lean on those around us, to then have them lean on us when they need it as well. Be a friend to all. Happy New Year everyone!!