CG Chatter Check-In

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As we near the end of 2016 and the first anniversary of CG Chatter with 26 podcast episodes to date, I thought it would be fun to reach out to past guests for an update on what’s happened since their interviews on the show. This is the “CG Chatter Check-In.”

In spite of it being a super busy time of year for everyone with the holidays around the corner and many year-end deadlines to meet, I was able to catch up with many of the guests and have shared their responses below. Most were not able to share new project images due to confidentiality/NDAs, but there are still some to check out. I’ve included a few notes here and there with my initials, EC, and also included some updates of my own at the end of the post.

I wanted to first call out that, of the guests I caught up with below, there have been three(!) babies born this year (with one more on the way!), two marriages (Sergio and myself), and three new jobs. Quite a lot of major life events amongst the group.

This is a long post due to the number of responses, so if you want to jump to a specific guest you can use one of handy links below:

And now, here’s what guests had to say…

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Senior Environment Artist Dana Loud

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

Well I’m still working as a Senior Environment Artist at Turbine. I’m working on the Game of Thrones mobile game and it’s going really really well (That’s about all I can say on that!). As for my personal life, well I’ve moved from Southern New Hampshire to Billerica, MA. My commute is MUCH shorter and it gives me much more time with the family which is awesome. My wife and I had our second child, a boy named Harrison. He’s about 7 months now and is the happiest little guy you’ll ever meet. [Congrats, Dana!! -EC]

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I’ve dug deep into the substance tools in recent months. They’re fantastic. Megascans from Quixel is also an amazing tool to have in the belt of an Environment Artist. I suggest folks check it out if they haven’t already.

Personal/professional goals?

I’ve had a personal project, my Nordic Winterland, that I’ve been kicking around for months. It’s challenging to find the time to work on it with two little ones running around but I can usually spend an hour here and there between lunch breaks and when the kids are in bed.

Recent projects you can show?

danaloud_nordicwinterlandwipI’ve attached a WIP image of my Nordic Environment. It’s being created in Unreal 4. As, a long time user of UDK, I felt I needed to create an environment in UE4 and get up to speed. I’m using it as an opportunity to branch out and learn a bunch of new tech I haven’t used before. Specifically, cloth simulation, particle FX, world machine and some of the landscape tools in Unreal. When It’s all said and done I’ll be sure to post a video flythrough on Youtube. There’s a lot of life in the scene and the screenshot doesn’t do it justice.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m still seriously enjoying the podcast Eric. Kudos to you for keeping it running and putting in all the hard work. I’d honestly love to hear more from you and your experiences. I know the format is more like an interview but as the host, I suspect listeners have an interest in you as well. [Thanks for the kind words, Dana 🙂 I’ll maybe drop more personal anecdotes during the interviews, and also have plans for additional solo episodes where I can dig into specific topics that arise from my own experiences. -EC]

Want to learn more about Dana? Check out my interview with him in Episode #4!

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Lead Animator Amanda Warner

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

I just finished up my second semester teaching at Mount Ida. This Semester was storyboarding and 2nd level animation.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

Discovered the mixer brush tool in Photoshop (never used it before) and suddenly it’s like a whole new world lol

Personal/professional goals?

This year was a lot of personal goals, 2017 I think will be a refocus on professional ones, like growing my freelancing, blogging setting up more passive income.

Recent projects you can show?

Commissioned Family Portrait by Amanda WarnerThis is a commission I just did for someone for a family portrait, it’s actually a continuation of a portrait I had done a few years back when the couple got engaged.

Anything else you’d like to share?

2016 was about “Start Somewhere”

2017 will be about “Just put one foot in front of the other”  (just keep going) should be no sweat with a new baby and a 5 year old. pffff easy peasy. [Congrats on the new baby, Amanda!! -EC]

Want to learn more about Amanda? Check out my interview with her in Episode #5!

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CG Generalist Sergio Villegas

CG Generalist Sergio Villegas

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

Since I had the CG Chatter interview I have been involved in a few movie projects such as The Magnificent Seven, True Memoirs of an International Assassin and Patriots Day. My favorite project so far is Patriots Day. It is a true story about the Boston Marathon bombing. I was really involved in this story since it happened in the same city where I live. I knew there was going to be a movie about it. At the time when the even happened I always thought how cool would be to work on a film of this nature. Thank God this dream came true. For this movie I was the tracking and matchmove supervisor for Zero VFX. It was the most challenging project I have worked on. I have learned a great deal from it and I am sure I’ll be using these new skills in the future.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

Among the new skills I have learn in the past few months I can say that I learned a great deal on how to track fast hand held cameras moves with zooms. This is a very difficult thing to do it right. To achieve an accurate track of this nature you need to know the software very well. Also, you need to understand how camera lenses work and what happens when there is focal length changes and how it is going to be interpreted in a camera track. This is definitely a tough skill to learn. New tools I have used for complex tracking shots is 3DEqualizer. Still have ways to go to master this software.     

Personal/professional goals?

My personal and professional goals are to keep learning and sharpening up my skills in tracking and matchmove. This is an industry without limits and therefore my skills needs to grow along with the industry.

Want to learn more about Sergio? Check out my interview with him in Episode #6!

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Lead UX Recruiter Maureen Lawson

Lead UX Recruiter Maureen Lawson

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

I’ve moved on to a different company, a successful technology company in Boston called Acquia, and I’m really enjoying recruiting for them.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

At Acquia, the Engineers and Technical Architects, Developers, etc. use Drupal – which allows our clients of all types and sizes to manage their web deployments easily and to integrate their digital capabilities seamlessly, from their content to the customer relationship management and the commerce side of their business. Drupal is a flexible open-source platform and allows for customization and scalability, so we can grow and change with the business and provide the support services they need. Specifically in my Recruiting role, I always look for new (and free) tools, particularly for candidate searching.

Personal/professional goals?

I’m always looking to strengthen the quality of talent we bring in the door, particularly through building solid, trusting relationships with my hiring managers, and through positive encouragement for my Referrers.

Recent projects you can show?

Haha, well, I don’t know that you’d find Excel spreadsheets that exciting. But in terms of Visuals, I do use memes and gifs a lot to celebrate hires as they happen!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Acquia not only has great products and offerings, but the culture here is fantastic – the people are the best, and I feel fortunate to work among them. If there are openings that pique the interest of your audience members, they can apply directly and then reach out to me on LinkedIn to get the conversation going. Thanks!

Want to learn more about Moe? Check out my interview with her in Episode #11!

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Senior Graphic Artist & Art Department Manager Melsen Carlsburg

Senior Graphic Artist & Art Department Manager Melsen Carlsburg

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

I’ve been plugging away at my Melsenink WordPress site, and I’m hoping to launch before the end of the year. I have most of the content up, but I want to create a child theme with some custom CSS, so I have more control over the look of the site.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I’m really excited to explore InVision, a UX tool for interactive wireframing. As I go further down the road towards UX design work, this is going to come in really handy.

Also, I continue to learn more about color separations using Photoshop, and have been using a technique called interlocking halftones, where you use the same angle halftone dots for the whole design, but some colors interlock perfectly with others. You do this by inverting an image before converting to a halftone dot bitmap, then inverting again afterwards. It is very useful for creating ultra-smooth gradient blends.

Personal/professional goals?

I’m looking to move into a more versatile design role, and am planning on applying to a few UX-centered design programs over the next couple months. There are some really exciting opportunities out there!

Recent projects you can show?

melsencarlsburg_bobmarleyprocessThis shows a design I worked on for a gift t-shirt. My client wanted to reproduce her husband’s favorite t-shirt, so he could continue to wear it without looking so scruffy! I quickly determined that it would be next to impossible to get a good result just using the image on the existing shirt, so I searched online for the original photograph (or drawing – it was so faded, I couldn’t really tell!). Eventually I found the exact pose, and discovered that it had been published in a paperback book. I ordered the book, scanned in the photo, cut out the background, and extended the sides of the photo (because it had been cropped more than the t-shirt had!). I also made sure to order a shirt that was super-soft, to give that worn-in feel, and chose a printing process (digital direct-to-garment) where the ink didn’t have a texture, but just dyed the fabric of the shirt. The husband was thrilled!

melsencarlsburg_halftoneeffectThis demonstrates that interlocking halftone effect. The red screen is on the opposite grid as everything else, so it interlocks with the gold, and also with the brown in the football. We also printed the gold after the red before curing the red, with overlap between the two colors, so the blend becomes even more seamless.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks again for having me on the show! [It was an honor having you on, brother! 🙂 -EC]

Want to learn more about Melsen? Check out my interview with him in Episode #12!

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Lead Animator Ron Friedman

Lead Animator Ron Friedman

EC: I was able to quickly catch up with Ron on the phone. He is still working at Disney Interactive as Lead Animator on a Star Wars mobile title that will be released next year, which is still unannounced so unfortunately he’s not able to share any specifics. He did, however, say that they’ve been developing an animation system when multiple re-uses of a character are used which helps them to create variant character animations that make them feel unique and different. This system will help keep overall file sizes down and prevent adverse effects on memory, which is particularly important because of it being a mobile title. Can’t wait to learn more about the game once it’s announced!

Want to learn more about Ron? Check out my interview with him in Episode #13!

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Character TD Jason Breneman (formerly Lead Technical Artist)

EC: Jason let me know that he recently started a new job at Lucasfilm as a Character TD. Congrats, Jason!

Want to learn more about Jason? Check out my interview with him in Episode #14!

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3D Visual Lead John Gentile

3D Visual Lead John Gentile

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

In my personal life, my wife and I had our 2nd baby on August 5th.  His name is Matthew and he is doing great.  To prep for his arrival we did a house renovation.  [Congratulations, John!! -EC]

In my 3D life, I have been very busy in my role at Fusion Design Consultants.  Projects have been rolling in throughout the 4th quarter.  I am still primarily working on interior renderings for commercial spaces in and around Boston.  

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

We are really striving to implement virtual reality here.  We now have the Oculus Rift goggles in house and I’m ramping up on the Unreal Game Engine.  After diving into the game engine, it’s hard for me to believe I used to render virtual tours frame by frame.  It is so much faster creating a high quality animation within a game engine.  It’s a bit of a challenge learning to use the engine’s materials.  I’m very used to using VRay within 3Ds Max and those materials don’t transfer to Unreal.  You can still create great materials in the engine.  Especially with PBR (physically based rendering) materials and Substance Painter.  The lights were a much easier transition and were quite easy to use.  It’s a different workflow but a fun one.  I’m getting more and more comfortable with it and I take new tutorials whenever I get some free time. The end goal is to provide a fully interactive experience where the user can move freely about the space and switch out materials and furniture.

Personal/professional goals?

I have been taking online tutorials to improve light balance and optimize render settings to speed up render time.  I picked up some great tips from an online curriculum called 5SRW.  5 Step Render Workflow.  It teaches using VRay as a real life camera.  I have made tweaks to my workflow that have made a huge difference in my lighting tests, materials, and render times.  I expect to complete the certification in January.

Recent projects you can show?

These are 2 renderings I did for local clients.  They can also be viewed at my site johng3d.com.  

johngentile_citizensdisabilityCitizens Disability – This was an office space entrance/seating area that led into a conference room and hall to the open work area.  We added some glass and opened the space up a bit.  

johngentile_sullymacSully Mac – This was for an electrical company in Dorchester.  They were doing some minor cosmetic renovations to their reception area.  We provided the render to show what the final product looked like so they could sign off on the finishes and furniture they were purchasing with confidence.

My workflow for both – I initially received a Revit file.  I made adjustments to the model to ensure it was clean.  I picked up the furniture from 3dsky.org – A great site for quality 3D models.  There are a lot of free models, but even the models for sale are low cost.  From there I tested each light individually, and then all lights turned on, with one generic grey texture throughout to ensure proper light balance.  Once the light test passed, I applied VRay materials throughout.  I then, received confirmation from the architect/designers on the small resolution tests.  Finally, I applied final render settings with multiple render elements and completed post production.

Want to learn more about John? Check out my interview with him in Episode #15!

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3D World Artist Rogelio Delgado

Senior 3D Environment Artist Rogelio Delgado (formerly 3D World Artist)

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

Since the Interview, I have finished my contract stint at Monolith and began work for Microsoft as a Sr. 3D Environment Artist! Otherwise, just enjoying life, playing games, and studying up on 3D Art when I can.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I have been messing around with Marmoset Toolbag 3. As a renderer it is extremely powerful, but this new version has a model baker that is amazing! And of course as always diving deeper into Substance Painter and Designer.

Personal/professional goals?

I have a 3D Environment Art project I am currently working on as well as an indie game that I am developing with my best friend that is in it’s initial pre-production stages, Very excited for what is to come!

Recent projects you can show?

All I have are unfinished works in Progress at the moment, sorry!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Once I finish my 3D environment Art project there should be a Gumroad Video on the creation of it where I go behind the scenes and share some workflow and construction tips. Look out for it in the coming months!

Want to learn more about Rogelio? Check out my interview with him in Episode #17!

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Lead VFX Artist Jamal Coleman

Lead VFX Artist Jamal Coleman

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

I’m still working on Wartide at Outact. We’ve been working on refining our character pipeline, so I’m more busy than ever. I have also taken on all of the VFX work and no longer rely on outsourcing, as it was costing too much time doing the cleanup and consolidation to make it worth the trouble. Taking on all the work myself, I’m able to design the VFX from the ground up to be performant and clean.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I’ve been really enjoying the VFX Forum for reference and discussion. It’s a great collection of people in the VFX field that discuss different tools, techniques, and references as well as monthly “sketch” challenges for all the members to participate in.

Personal/professional goals?

Recently I have been diving back into Unreal Engine 4 and brushing off my UE shader and particle skills, and playing around with blueprints. I have also been challenging myself to use Blender in my personal work with Unreal Engine, and that has been working out really well. I find the Blender interface pretty easy and fun to use once you get used to its layout. I’ve also been diving into fluid simulations, which I find pretty challenging, but incredibly rewarding once it’s done right.

Recent projects you can show?

Unfortunately I cannot show my recent work, as most of it is unreleased. I’ll be sharing some of my finished personal pieces at https://realtimevfx.com/ once they’re ready, so keep an eye out there for updates. It’s also a great resource for those interested in getting into real time vfx.

Want to learn more about Jamal? Check out my interview with him in Episode #18!

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Senior Animator Ed Hull

Senior Animator Ed Hull

Nothing too much have changed since our podcast. I’ve been continuing work on Game of Thrones mobile game. I’m also studying for Unity Developer Certification. Turbine offered it to a few select employees and I figured, why not. Just another feather to add to my cap. Also, in the Spring I will be teaching an advanced animation class at Mount Ida College. I’m looking forward to teaching a few aspiring animators some tips and tricks of the trade.

Other than that, not too much to report. Sorry I don’t have any images to share. Game of Thrones mobile game is still under tight wraps until they release more information to the public. Hopefully sometime soon! 😉

Want to learn more about Ed? Check out my interview with him in Episode #21!

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Senior UI Artist Meaghan Glynn

Senior UI Artist Meaghan Glynn

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

I have been through many job interviews and performed a few design tests for potential employers since our interview. I’ve had a few offers, but have yet to find the right fit. Thankfully, prospects are good and I’m hoping something should come through shortly after the new year! I also gave a talk at Harvard Extension School and Tufts on UX for games for a colleague who teaches there.

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I’ve done a ton of reading up on what’s happening in tech right now, and I’ve taught myself a lot about user experience design and research. It’s a little overwhelming at times, but I’ve learned so much just in the past month by doing these interviews and completing design tests, as well as speaking to network contacts about the nature of business in tech.

Personal/professional goals?

My goal at the moment is to find a company to work for where I can learn and grow. The game industry was an excellent place to cut my teeth on user experience design, but I am eager to flex my UX muscles on different types of products.

Recent projects you can show?

Sorry, almost everything I’ve worked on is confidential! I could show you but I’d have to kill you after. I can, however, share with you and your readers the talk I mentioned earlier. [This is an epic and thorough presentation. Thanks so much for providing it, Meaghan, and I’d encourage anyone interested in UX or design to check it out! I’ve also added it to the CG Chatter Resources page. -EC]

Anything else you’d like to share?

Several interviewers mentioned listening to my CG Chatter episode and had good things to say about it. Thanks so much for giving me a place to show off my knowledge of games and UX! [Thanks, Meaghan, it was great getting to chat with you! -EC]

Want to learn more about Meaghan? Check out my interview with her in Episode #22!

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Lead Concept Artist Sean Higgins

Lead Concept Artist Sean Higgins

What have you been up to since your CG Chatter interview?

Continuing to work for Outact on Wartide. Our game soft launched in several countries and I’m mentoring several artists. Also my wife and I just had our baby boy named Liam! [Yay, congrats Sean!! -EC]

Any particular tools, techniques, and/or resources you’re excited about right now?

I’ve been getting more and more excited about some of the VR painting programs coming out and have a feeling that the interface may become a really great platform for displaying and understanding spaces for concept artists.

Personal/professional goals?

Currently working in staying awake after a long night with the new baby haha. I’m also anxiously engaged with color theory studies and researching organic modeling programs.

Recent projects you can show?

Unfortunately I can’t send many of the assets I’ve been working on but our game will be released beginning of Feb on the US app store and everyone can see the art I’ve been doing! Just search Wartide.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m always teaching mentorship as I have the bandwidth and I’m always looking to network with others in the industry so feel free to reach out.

Want to learn more about Sean? Check out my interview with him in Episode #23!

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Melanie & Eric Carlsen (that's me!), CG Artist & Motion Designer Photo by Rene Roy Photography

Melanie & Eric Carlsen (that’s me!), CG Artist & Motion Designer
Photo by Rene Roy Photography

I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to as well. As you may have heard in the podcast (or guessed from the picture above), I got married! That’s definitely been the highlight of the 2016 for me and my wife, Melanie 🙂 Also, after a long hiatus, I started organizing a new coworker jam group. We had a fun get-together earlier this month, playing music from groups including The Beatles, Zeppelin, and Dillon. Excited for more of those in the future.

In the work realm, I wrapped up work on a couple of 3D projects (see images and more info below), and am really excited about continuing with the CG Chatter Podcast and creating new site content in the new year.

I have been using a couple CG tools lately that I thought were worth sharing. First, I have to thank Jake Williams for the recommendation of VideoCopilot’s free After Effects plugin, FX Console. It’s streamlined my After Effects work in a big way. The main benefit I get from it is simply being able to apply effects without ever having to touch the mouse, which not only lets you stay focused on the layer you’re working on but also saves a lot of time in the long run.

Also, less than a week ago I picked up DUIK, an After Effects plugin that gives you lots of nice animation and rigging controls. And, like FX Console, it’s totally free. Love it. I’ve been working on a project that involves animating several animal illustrations by an amazing graphic novelist, and simply cutting up the pieces and using the standard AE puppet tool wasn’t giving me enough control. I considered getting RubberHose which was also recommended by Jake and I know is fantastic for character animation, but didn’t feel like bugging my producer for another purchase. So I grabbed this instead, and it’s been perfect for what I’m working on. I still look forward to getting RubberHose one of these days, but in the meantime am loving DUIK.

Again, both of those plugins are free, so I highly recommend getting them if you think they might be helpful for you!

Lastly, here are still frames from a couple animation projects I recently completed work on.

Birth of a Nation Boston Protest c. 1915 from the documentary"Birth of a Movement" by Northern Light Productions 3D Animation by Eric Carlsen, Produced by Northern Light ProductionsThis first one is from a feature-length documentary produced by Northern Light Productions, the company that I work for full-time. It’s called “Birth of a Movement” and centers on the response to the historic, groundbreaking, but also incredibly racist and controversial 1915 film, “Birth of a Nation.” For this I used Autodesk Maya to made a 3D re-creation of the Tremont Theatre on Boston Common, circa 1915ish, based on a handful of historic photos from different time periods. Northern Light filmed green screen footage of several actors, which I then keyed out and duplicated many times to populate the scene and make it feel like a massive crowd of protesters. I used a depth pass to allow for easy adding and tweaking of fog and slight camera lens blur in post, and ended up rendering several different camera moves around this scene for use in different parts of the film. “Birth of a Movement” premieres in Boston at the end of January 2017.

El Morro Castle in San Juan, Puerto Rico 3D Animation by Eric Carlsen, Produced by Northern Light ProductionsThis next one is for the San Juan Island National Historical Park, which is run by the U.S. National Park Service. Northern Light created a roughly 30-minute film to go in the museum, which was recently screened and then will be permanently installed at the museum starting next year. For the film, I created nearly three minutes of 3D animation depicting various forts and land masses of San Juan building up and changing over time, done in an abstract style loosely inspired by the Game of Thrones opening animation.

Because it was in 4k, had lots of potential for tweaks and revisions because of the need for historical accuracy, and I was creating it by myself, I had to come up with several ways to streamline the process. My approach included using very simple shapes for the modeling combined with Mental Ray’s “round corner” node so I didn’t have to actually bevel the edges; utilizing a depth pass for the fog; and, using 3D procedural textures for the structure pieces so they didn’t have to be UV mapped. It was a lot of fun to work on and I’m excited to share the full piece on my personal website in the near future.

Okay, that’s it for this one! I want to extend a huge thank you to the CG Chatter guests that were able to find time to send me their updates amidst everything going on. It’s a crazy time of year for any company and particularly for those in a deadline- and release-driven production environment, so it was no small feat for these folks to find time to get back to me.

If you enjoyed this CG Chatter Check-In, please consider sharing it with one of the buttons below so others can be exposed to this amazing group of artists and what they’ve been up to since their interviews. I also love hearing from readers/listeners so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or give me a shout out on Twitter @EricCarlsen.

Happy holidays and I can’t wait to bring you more computer graphics guests and other content in the new year!

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