Monday, May 12, 2008

Monsoon and Wabe: Burning Up the Vue!

Welcome to the first Vue News interview. Tonight to kick off this new experiment I've got Walther Beck and Mark Lawson better known as Wabe and Monsoon with me. You'll know Monsoon from his web site Monsoonsky and his hard work as a moderator on the 3D Commune's Vue forum. Wabe's a moderator over at Cornucopia 3D but did you know he did computer animation for the film Enemy Mine? So on with the interview...

Vue News: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Wabe: Stuttgart, South Germany. Now at the edge of the Black Forest, close to Stuttgart, South Germany

Monsoon: Graduated high school in Horseheads NY. Now Winchester, Virginia USA.

Vue News: So what do you guys do for a living?

Monsoon: Early childhood educator/Papa Smurf/Summer camp guy

Wabe: Running my own company together with two friends, working as a graphic designer in print and presentation. Clients are IT and Automotive companies.

Vue News: Other than Vue do you have any hobbies?

Monsoon: I'm a practicing musician…and then I practice some more lol…

Wabe: Table tennis (I play in a team), music, friends

Vue News: Which cartoon/comic character to do you most identify with?

Monsoon: Dr. Quest

Wabe: Donald Duck, definitely!

Vue News: Do you produce art or design in more traditional ways and if so what is your favourite none computer medium?

Wabe: Always made photos and still do. The first "plan", before 3D graphics did exist, was to become a professional photographer. You can see some of my photos in my Renderosity gallery.

Monsoon: On canvas, I like oils but my specialty was murals and painting huge. I say 'was' because I rarely do them anymore except for specialty clients or here at the museum where I work.

Vue News: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Atari, Abacus or what other computers are you most comfortable with?

Monsoon: I run a dual core Gateway with XP but have a few portable hard drives with Linux and Windows virtual machines.

Wabe: Difficult question because I worked with a lot already. Started on mainframe computers from DEC (Vax), then worked (through the Vax) on a Cray for a while. After that I used an early commercial 3D animation system from BTS (FGS 4400) and started, parallel to this, to develop a modeller on my home Atari ST. Then the first Mac appeared in my toolbox (1987) and stayed with that. But always had to work professionally with Windows boxes too so I am familiar with this side as well.

Vue News: So how long have you been doing 3D Art and is it work, pleasure or a bit of both?

Wabe: First things in this field I did in 1982 I think. First professional work in 1984.

Monsoon: I think 5 maybe 6 years since I first discovered the digital medium. Quite a pleasurable mix of both.

Wabe: Started as work, quickly became big pleasure too. Nowadays it is pleasure only, no real professional work anymore – lucky me.

Vue News: What 3D Applications can't you live without?

Monsoon: Vue, of course, and any number of 2d applications, Metasequoia and Curvy 3d.

Wabe: Vue I would say right now. Maybe Poser too. The rest is easily be exchangable.

Vue News: Postwork or no postwork on your renders?

Wabe: Beside a bit of "standard postwork" like color enhancement, unsharp masking etc definitely no postwork. I call myself a purist – I find it most interesting to achieve effects directly in Vue. A lot more interesting!

Monsoon: Prework, midwork and postwork. I'm a firm believer that while working and creating, 3d tools should be in one hand and 2d tools in the other.

Vue News: So let's talk a bit about you and Vue. What was the first version of Vue you used and how did you come to Vue?

Monsoon: Vue 2 I started out a Brycer and one day while cruising the web looking for trees to stick in there, I saw this palm tree in a render that was misty and moody and I was quite taken.

Wabe: Vue 4 – it was the first version available on Mac. I read articles in magazines about Vue already for quite a while. Tried a demo of Vue 2 and was not impressed. Then, when Vue 4 appeared on Mac I bought it and was hooked.

Vue News: Would you call yourself a Vue addict?

Wabe: Yes.

Monsoon: Absolutely without question and I have no interest in rehabilitation lol…

Vue News: What's your favourite thing about Vue?

Wabe: Easy interface that allows quick results. Especially because I do Vue only for pleasure I do not want to fiddle with complex things. I want the "Solitaire" feeling – a bit of Vueing as playing a relaxing computer game. This can be done here perfectly, without been limited by the software. You can reach all quality levels you want within an easy looking environment.

Monsoon: One of my favorite things is the great wide open 3d spaces to work in. Using C4D, Carrara, and others, I feel small and cramped, and it gets hard to breathe. It's always a relief to get back to Vue.

Vue News: What thing about Vue most annoys you?

Wabe: Maybe the fact that Vue seems to be VERY sensitive to specific system settings. So that what works on several machines does not work on others. This is very confusing to the whole community I think. And forces heavier discussions than it would be necessary.

Monsoon: It's fragility. It seems sometimes that when one thing gets fixed, another that was working fine no longer does. I await the version that is indestructible.

Vue News: Have you got a great tip to share on using Vue?

Monsoon: Don't give up on learning and using the function editor….you will reach that 'aha' point and then the whole application goes to another level.

Wabe: Hard to say, there are so many. I don't think I have THE ultimate specific tip. Maybe something an old support engineer told me once – when i asked him an obviously stupid question about a software package. He said "95% of the problems sit in front of the monitor." Sounded a bit harsh on first sight but there is a lot of truth in it – think first before you believe something is a bug, it easily can be you misunderstanding something. Real bugs are hard to find!

Vue News: You both launched packs for creating fire in Vue recently. Tell us a little about them and what made you want to make your pack?

Wabe: One major intention of my package was to get better control over fire in Vue. Precise positioning, flexibility, the option to use it in ecosystems and be able to change the shape to my needs. All this is in a way given with Vue plants, so I started to experiment with those. It took a long time when I look at when I did my first tests - 2-3 years ago actually. The demands were quite different. From strong and intense fire balls, to weak little flames, all should been covered with the package. And finally is. You can do tiny little flames (on some pieces of wood for example) up to a full fire inferno via ecosystems.

Where fire is there must be smoke, so of course there are SolidGrowth smoke plants in as well to make the package complete.

It was a logical continuation of the things I did before. Weather effects like fog, rain, snow. As well done with SolidGrowth plants. Same reasons as mentioned above – to have something flexible, with a "defined" shape that is easy to use.

Monsoon: It's a package that contains objects and materials for making fire and explosions using different Vue techniques.

It originally started out as part of an 'Eve of Destruction' pack that included tornadoes, lightning, tidal waves, meteors etc. But that got too big so I decided to break it up and focus on fire and explosions which I figured folk could use more.

Vue News: Any tips on getting the best from your pack?

Monsoon: It is my hope that those new to Vue will take the items apart to see how they are made and thus learn…but for any and all, it is best to use a combination of the items…ie a fire sphere with an explosion sphere with an alpha fire and so on.

Wabe: Two tips: #1 use always several "fire plants" overlaying each other. SolidGrowth plants sometimes come with strange shapes (and have color variations as well) so it often is a good idea to break these shapes up a bit by overlaying several plants. #2 don't use too many, the fire effect easily can be too strong. Especially when using the plants in ecosystems it easily can end in a fire "catastrophe" – lol.

Vue News: I've read on the forums that you helped each other out as you created your fire packs how did that work?

Monsoon: Yes indeed. I beta test for Walther and he for me and together we try to derive the best solutions for Vuers.

Wabe: Result was that in a lot of images we used elements from the other package. And mentioned that in the image descriptions. Again, fairness and friendship. Especially after it was clear that we do not really cover the same areas with our products. But complement each other.

Vue News: Monsoon your pack is based on objects and textures while Wabe yours is an unusual application of Vue's Solid Growth plants. What would you say the advantages and disadvantages of your approaches were?

Monsoon: Between the two, we present the different ways to do a thing in Vue. Walther's plant advantage is ecosystems and eco painting. Mine, I think, is the ability to make quite passable explosions.

Wabe: The advantages of using SolidGrowth plants are defined but flexible 3D shape. They can be used in ecosystems and every created "plant" looks different to the others. A big advantage in my eyes. The use of non-volumetric materials keep the render times relatively low and is easier to handle when modifying the "plants" in a scene. One other big advantage I found more or less by accident was that the materials I created do not need a light source (hidden in them) to act as they shine. This was amazing to me but VERY useful.

The disadvantages? Well, as we all know, SolidGrowth plants can sometimes act a bit strange. Some plants have strange shapes, there are often unwanted color variations. So in my eyes overlaying 2-3 fire plants to get a good fire is a good thing. To cover these issues a bit. The other disadvantage is that the degree of realism can be a bit higher when using bitmaps of real fires for example. Or using volumetric materials under specific circumstances. But I think the flexibility I have is balancing this out.

Vue News: What products do you have in the works?

Wabe: I just released a rain expansion pack that seems to be very popular. I think about a smoke expansion as well to have more options there. Actually I work on something totally different. 3D cobblestones. Something I played with for a long time already, time to bring it together into a product.

Monsoon: Mostly product advances and second volumes. Earthenwear Procedural, CliffsnCaverns II, 2 Postcards from the Rim addon packs, Scrapyards of Antares and The Alien Vue. I'm also trying to compile a comprehensive tutorial on how to use my products.

Vue News: What product are you proudest of/happiest with/most pleased about?

Monsoon: I construct my products around my own needs as a Vue artist and thus, hopefully, fill the needs of others. I use Earthenwear and SeaVue an awful lot but I'm quite fond of Postcards from the Rim.

Wabe: #1 Splashes because it was the initialisation of all the following weather effects packages.

#2 Bad Weather because it was the breakthrough in terms of understanding how these things can be done.

#3 Last but not least Firebugs because almost everybody told me for a long time that it will not be possible what I try. Always a motivation to work harder!

Vue News: One last question... if you were writing your epitaph, what would you say?

Wabe: A famous one here in Germany – "Hier ruhen meine Gebeine, ich wollt es waeren deine". Translated: Here my bones are resting, I wish it would be yours"

Monsoon: Later...