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Mac vs PC as a Motion Designer: The End of an Era

After more than a decade I am now the owner of a PC. Here are my reasons and then some specs for you nerds.

Mac-vs-PC

Why?

Our industry is at the mid to tail end of a big shift from Mac to PC. There are multiple reasons but the main one is three letters. GPU. I’m not a future teller. I just look at trends and keep my ear close to the ground while watching industry leaders. The word is that GPU rendering is not a fad but will be a big part of our collective future. If that’s the case, PC wins by a mile. The fact that you can’t really modify and add to the new Macs will lead to their demise. Get a PC and you can add 4+ graphics cards if you want. There are so many options to continue adding on to your machine which is great for future proofing. Add more cards, upgrade your cards, add more ram, buy more SSDs or internal drives. My new PC has 8 slots for hard drives!! On my Mac, you can’t add any internally. All of this is super easy with a PC, but with the new Mac Pro, it’s almost impossible.

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Third party render engines like Octane and Redshift are dominating our space and if you want to keep up, you need GPU power and lots of it. PC wins hands down. There are other reasons to switch. Price vs what you get is totally in PC’s favor. One final reason to consider is if you are a freelancer. If you work with various studios, you need to be able to jump in and work with what their designers and editors are using. Currently the company I’m doing a lot of work with has gone all in with Octane. This has caused some issues when collaborating. In order to stay viable career wise, you have to take a hard look at what the industry is using vs what you have. Make sure you’re keeping up, not just with your skills and knowledge, but also your hardware so you can work with companies seamlessly. Companies don’t hire freelancers who are a hassle. People hire you because you’re good at your job, but also because you are easy to work with and that’s on you.

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What?

I’m not a tech guy. I don’t like researching this stuff and I don’t understand most of it. So instead of building a PC myself I decided to go with Puget Systems. (I’m not being paid by them and don’t have any affiliate links, fyi). They were highly recommended to me by a friend who used them. I can 100% agree. The experience has been amazing with them. You pick out what you want, customize it, and then they go over the details and talk over the specs with you to make sure you’re getting the perfect fit. After you order they build it and ship it to you in about 2 weeks. Here’s what I ended up with:

Puget Systems Genesis 1

CPU: Intel Core i7 6900K 3.2GHz Eight Core 20MB 140W

Ram: 64 gig total. 4 x Samsung DDR4-2400 16GB ECC Reg.

Video Cards: 2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB

The rest of the specs are not a big deal, just the regular stuff like SSD hard drive etc. Even though GPU is important for rendering, your CPU will help navigate big files which is a requirement in C4D. 8 core seemed like the “sweet spot” between performance and cost. 64 gig of ram is not really excessive, but again shooting for that “sweet spot.” Same with the video cards. I could get Titans, which are faster, but I don’t want to blow out my bank account. I can easily add more cards or upgrade them later if I want to, and two 1080s will be plenty fast for now.

Mac-vs-PC-4

My goal is to always be just behind the curve. That might sounds strange, but it’s my philosophy on just about everything. I want to make sure the trend is solid, so I never early adopt. I also try to find the spot where you hit diminishing return on any purchase. So, 8 core instead of 10 seemed to be the point where the price hockey sticks in relation to what you get. I can get a better machine, but I think this one is about perfect for the cost.

In addition to the computer I also purchased a Dell Ultra HD 4K Monitor, 27-inch screen, for $585 to top of my new work station.

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The Result

The total price of the computer ended up being $5,250 which includes shipping. This price kind of blows me away. I bought my Mac Pro 3 years ago and it has similar CPU and Ram specs, but the graphics cards were WAY worse. And that cost me 8k. So, for a savings of $3,000 I can get a computer that is far superior, and not only that but has a ton of empty slots for RAM, hard drives, graphics cards etc. And get this, is has something ridiculous like 15 or 16 USB ports. My Mac has 4.

I will keep you up to date when I get my machine and start using it.

Good-bye Mac. I didn’t leave you. You left me. It’s the start of a new era.

3D Photo Scanning Overview Plus Freebies

I have an interesting post today for you about 3D Photo Scanning. I didn’t know much about it, but a guy named Daniel Morrison contacted me about his photo scanned 3D models and it opened up a rabbit hole that I kind of got stuck down! It’s a really fascinating practice and I wanted to put it on your radar, just because it’s so unique and interesting. Basically it’s creating 3D models and textures by taking hundreds of photos of a real object and piecing them together digitally.

Daniel has a great blog with multiple free C4D models that he has created through 3D photo scanning. He has boulders, planks, rock walls, trees, and even a dragon model that you can download and check out here: remnantstudios.com/out-livin-life

(This dragon is not scanned, fyi, but it’s a free download on Daniel’s site. The dragon is created by Adam Sacco)

Here’s what Daniel has to say about his process:

     I shoot on a Samsung NX300 so I can snap 20 MP.  I also chose the camera because it has an articulating screen and I found that when I photo scan I often find myself in tight places trying to position the camera out of direct sight of the screen so this helps me immensely.  It also has a pairing feature which allows me to see my camera view on my phone and initiate photos from my phone.  This is useful when I put the camera on a boom (such as a tripod) in order to get high angle shots. Anywhere from 40-340 photos might go into a single photo scan.  Ideally these will be taken under ambient lighting so overcast and cloudy days are my new best friends.  I’ll align these images in Agisoft PhotoScan which is rather inexpensive for the Standard Edition.  This is where I’ll create a dense point cloud and then generate a detailed mesh.  Before creating the texture map I’ll jump over into ZBrush. In ZBrush I’ll decimate the model, UV map it, reproject the high res geometry and then kick that model back to Agisoft.  Now I will generate my texture map using the new UV topology I just made. A quick trip through Photoshop to correctly orient my map and also generate a mask from a high pass filter and I’m ready to follow through in ZBrush.  I’ll use that high pass filter mask to paint in additional detail in my high resolution model so it looks even more detailed.  ZBrush will create the usual displacement and normal maps for me and if I’m all happy with it I GoZ into Cinema 4D.

Another great use of this technique is for scanning people to put into 3D scenes. Here’s an incredible project that has done this, and some screengrabs of the process:

(all of these images were created by James Busby at ten24)

Daniel also has a great overview of 3D human scanning here: remnantstudios.com/out-livin-life/the-bleeding-edge-of-3d-character-development

If you’re interested in learning more you can join a great Facebook group for 3D Scanning moderated by Jeffrey Ian Wilson. Jeffrey also has an incredibly in depth tutorial on the process which I will share below:

Anyway, I found this technique very intriguing and have enjoyed learning more about it. Hopefully this post will give you some resources to explore and learn on your own. Let me know what you think and if you decide to try it out yourself!

Advice from the Lab: How to Deal with Bad Clients

Advice-From-the-Lab-1-Bad-Clients

Big Announcement!

Hey everyone, things have been a bit slower at The Pixel Lab, you know why? I just became a dad! Introducing baby Kandel to the world.

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He was born on Monday and is healthy and happy and so is my wife. Lots of joy in our house, and lots more coffee. “Be at rest once more o my soul for the Lord has been good to you” is on our wall, and it has never been more true.

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Thank you for your support over the years, you all mean the world to me.

-The Kandel Family

baby

ThePixelLab

Rest

I recently watched a brutally honest video report by my friend Robert Leger. His video is generating some waves in our mograph community, for good reason. I’ll post it here, but can sum it up quickly. Robert found himself in the situation where he was commuting 2 hours a day, working days, nights, weekends and holidays trying to keep up with his deadlines. He missed many of his new babies “firsts” and was relegated to watching his child and wife via Skype. A pretty heartbreaking situation. His immune system literally shut down and he had to have surgery and was incredibly sick because of the stress and pressure.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. This seems to be more and more common, especially in our industry. We are being swept up in the pressures and speed of our world and are being gutted, cleaned out and washed up by our thirties. This is pretty disconcerting for all of us. So the question is, how are we supposed to make this career a long term game, not just a sprint to the burned out premature finish line where we are forced out because we simply can’t do it anymore.

For me my relief is nature. Camping, fishing, getting away, leaving the cell phone at home. I just got back from a week long canoeing adventure and feel much refreshed. I think it’s incredibly important for each of us to find the thing that recharges us and make sure we don’t forgo it because of the pressure of our job. Our longevity and career depend on it.

So I have some questions for you to answer in the comments:

1. Do you feel like you’re in the same boat as Robert?

2. How many hours do you usually work a week (I work about 50-60 a lot of the year).

3. What can you do to avoid a devastating, tail spinning burn out? Take a vacation? Find a new job? Ask to work from home to avoid commuting hours? (I turn off the computer/cell phone and go into nature).

Whatever it is, make it happen. Stand up for yourself and figure it out. Our work is important and it defines a lot of us, but there is more to life than our careers. I would love to hear your input!

“In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” –Tolstoy

99Frames Rich Nosworthy Inspiration C4D

99Frames Breakdown Inspiration

I just saw a video posted by Rich Nosworthy (http://www.generatormotion.com) for the 99Frames project and I was really impressed. The amount of detail put into a 3 second video is absolutely stunning. Check out the breakdown for some serious inspiration. It’s always refreshing for me to see the extra detail people put into their scene. It really is the small things that take your project from good to professional.

Stay hungry, don’t compromise.

 

99Frames-Rich-NosworthyInspirationC4D

Pixel Lab Blog

New Website!

Check out the new digs everybody. It’s about time I updated my site with a cleaner and more coherent look. Hopefully the update will be faster and easier to navigate for you guys. Take a look around and if you find any bugs or bad links please let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. It’s a work in progress, I’m still going in and tweaking some of the older content but we’re getting there. Thanks for your patience! Hopefully we can get back to our regularly programmed schedule of freebies and training now. There’s lots of great stuff coming up for The Pixel Lab so stay tuned! Cheers! Joren

Pixel Lab Blog

Personal Announcement

I have a big announcement to make: Today is my first ever day of self-employment! It has been my dream for awhile to go full time freelance, if for no other reason than to see if I can do it. I’m not sure if I’m unique or if many of you have felt the same way, but there has always been a part of me that wants to be my own boss simply to see if it’s possible.

One of my heroes, Dave Ramsey, talks about the transition to self-employment like this:

“Make sure you pull the boat up next to the dock before jumping or you will get wet.”

About 1 year ago I began pulling my boat towards the dock by starting The Pixel Lab and by freelancing during every spare evening and weekend hour I could find. It has been a very exhausting year, but also very rewarding as I have developed friendships and working relationships with so many of you.

I finally decided that I couldn’t keep up the pace I’m living. There is nothing left to do but jump and hope for the best. Of course I’m scared out of my mind about this risk. Of course I’m nervous. If this weren’t so risky, everyone would do it. But I’m also thrilled to give it a shot!

So, what does this mean for you? Absolutely nothing! I will keep cranking out tuts and free stuff and making sure you’re aware of all the great resources I find for motion graphics. The Pixel Lab, and your support of it, is a huge reason I’m able to quit my full time job and I am extremely grateful. Please wish me luck, and of course if you have any need for a friendly freelancer, you know where to find me!

“Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain”

Pixel Lab Blog

Is Creativity a Formula?

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Fuel:

Creativity is one of those subjects wrapped in shrouds of mystery. How does one “get creative.” How do you go from staring at a blank canvas, a black and empty composition, and then end up with a masterpiece. Everyone has a different take on it, and most people try to boil creativity down into repeatable steps. I’ve heard many variations of 3, 4, 5 or 6 step plans to getting creative:

1. Preparation 2. Incubation 3. Illumination 4. Implementation

1. Observe 2. Reflect 3. Make

1. Inspiration 2. Clarification 3. Evaluation 4. Distillation 5. Incubation 6. Perspiration

I think creativity is quite a bit more ambiguous and mystical than a clever sounding 5 step plan and I also think it will be different for every person. Let me share what works for me:

FIND INSPIRATION

Finding inspiration before I start transforming a blank canvas is key. My process usually starts with cruising the internet, taking screen captures of design or photographs that spark something in me. It could be a color scheme, a font, a background texture etc. I compile all of these into a folder. All of these different inspirations start to focus my mind into a direction I want the piece to go.

SET BOUNDARIES

In my opinion, setting boundaries is the key to getting started. The hardest part for me is the first object/element I put onto the blank canvas. Setting boundaries helps you narrow down the infinite possibilities into something that can focus your mind on. Deadlines are one boundary that will force you to get started and do the work. I watched a video recently by Jack White of The White Stripes talking about boundaries. He said this:

“Deadlines and things make you creative, but opportunity and telling yourself “you’ve got all the time in the world, all the money in the world, you’ve all the colors in the palate you want, anything you want” — that just kills creativity.”

START WITH ONE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

I look at the client, their logo, a font they require, their color pattern, their vibe/mood. These things all set boundaries as well. If they have a certain color palate, then I have a boundary. If they require a font, then I have a boundary. These help me put something into my empty comp. They help me start the process. I find that once I get one element in place, then my mind clicks into the flow and everything else is simply getting lost in creating and filling in the pieces.

To read the rest of this article and see my specific workflow, go to:

fuelyourmotionography.com/is-creativity-a-formula

Pixel Lab Contest

C4D Art Shader Contest Winner:

I drew a name randomly and the winner of the C4D Art Shader contest is:

Coplin LeBleu!

Also, Jordan Montreuil, the creator of the C4D Art Shader Packs, is giving all of you guys a really special deal. Everyone in my Pixel Lab audience can receive 10% off the packs by simply entering this code during checkout: “pixellab-discount”

Thanks very much to Jordan for such a kind offer for us. Hope you guys had fun and keep your eyes open for more contests in the future!

Here’s the link again to the shader packs: www.jordanmontreuil.com/art-shaders

Cheers,

Joren

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