Saturday, December 14, 2019

Polygon Home

Back in 1999, I initially intended Pollie Gone Home to be an exercise in teaching myself more about 3D modeling and animation. I had no intention of producing anything more than a flythrough of the japanese-style treehouse I modeled, itself a blend of my own interests calculated to sustain my attention throughout the uncertainties of the production.

Once the treehouse was done, though, it begged to be explored by more than a simple flythrough. So, Pollie was born, a little wooden bird as peculiar, in its way, as the elaborate treehouse seemed to be. The story that evolved between them took on a life of its own, in the process forcing me to learn much more than I had anticipated.

The project took three months to complete, start to finish, including a solid week of rendering. I used 3D Studio Max for every aspect of the modeling and animation, Photoshop for texture editing, and the Iomega Buz VideoWave system to edit the 26 scenes together and output to videotape. 

Just for the heck of it, and being a recent transplant to the San Francisco Bay area, I entered Pollie in the North Bay Multimedia Association's annual competition, and was very surprised to learn I won Best of Show. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Just for Fun

Once in a while, I find time to model and animate something purely for fun.  Years ago, I devised a mechanical Valentine for my son that I thought he'd appreciate.  I think he did. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

My Signature Image

On my website homepage I use a rendering of a Lego robotic rover as my signature image. 

The short version of this image’s story is that as part of my first big contract as a freelance animator, I modeled the rover for Lego Mindstorms in Novato, California.  Proof of my competence as an artist working for a bona fide client with name recognition. 

The long (but condensed) version of this story reveals a little bit more about what that rover means to me.  Way back in the late '90's I decided my career (such as it was) needed a major upgrade.  My work as a toy designer was confined to drawing and drafting on paper.  After a lot of research and some futile job counseling (they didn't know what to do with me), I saw a newspaper ad for an Autocad drafter that paid $25 an hour.  Big bucks back then.  I knew nothing about computers, but I knew a bit about drafting (I didn't realize how little I knew), so after I bought a PCs for Dummies book (really) I took a 2-week course in Autocad.  After that I actually succeeded in getting temp work as a drafter.  During that work I discovered Autocad was capable of 3D modeling, and so was I, after which I quickly grew bored with old 2D drafting.  Next, I got my hands on 3D Studio Max (3D modeling and animation software made by the Autocad people), practiced a few hundred hours, and found a 2-week course using that software.  After another few hundred hours, I produced a 2-and-a-half-minute animation, Pollie Gone Home, which won Best of Show in the annual North Bay Multimedia Association competition.  I wish I could say that made everything easier, but no.  Eventually, while doing forgettable contract work in San Francisco, I found a listing for a gig at Lego in Marin County through a temp agency.  Four months of persistence later, after two or three interviews and a few negotiations, I got the contract.  I tripled my hourly wage "overnight!" 

You might think that's that, but no.  Then I actually had to deliver.  My job was to reproduce and update all the graphics and animation files the Lego people had lost for their Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System.  They gave me a set (a $300 toy is a nice perk) so I could accurately reproduce the bricks and wheels and things needed for the animations.  There were hundreds of pieces and though I didn't have to model them all, it sure felt like I did.  To measure the pieces, I even bought digital calipers to accelerate the process.  Then I had to animate everything, a daunting challenge for a guy still pretty new to the field and working without a net. 

But everything worked.  I delivered, and the Lego people were happy. 

That's why, to me, the Lego rover symbolizes persistence and success against the odds.  Even more important, that job enabled me to pay off my debt, buy a ring, and take my girlfriend to Hawaii where I asked her to marry me. 

She said yes. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Forensic Graphics

Gus Revenaugh, who specializes in forensic graphics and animation at his company, Origin Point, first hired me in 2001 to assist in modeling a badly designed furnace. 

That went well, and over the years Gus taught me virtually everything I know about producing graphics for litigation, and a lot about 3D modeling and animation, and even more about video production.  We've worked on cases involving fires (a lot of fires), construction defects, industrial accidents, broken necks, faulty medical products, planes, trains, and automobile accidents, and even the DeepWater Horizon oil rig disaster.  After working on about 150 cases, I stopped counting. 

Eighteen years later, I'm still working for Origin Point.  Thanks a lot Gus! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

UCSF Animation

About a year ago, I was hired by UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) to take over an animation project whose development had stalled. 

Before my involvement, relatively little had been produced over a few months, and even less that was satisfactory, so as the deadline approached panic ensued.  I almost turned the project down when I heard I'd have three weeks to produce an animation pretty much from scratch.  However, after getting some assurances that the resources and incremental approvals I required would be prioritized, I signed on.  After all, while the content was yet another departure from my usual focus on product and forensic visualizations, the animation production process was essentially the same as always. 

Though I was initially worried about getting the cooperation necessary to pull it off, everyone was more than helpful, every meeting was succinct, the deadline was met, and everyone (I think) appreciated the final product. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Looking for Garbo

One of the more interesting projects I've ever worked on is developing supporting graphics for Jon James Miller's first novel, Looking for Garbo

Published on May 7, 2019 from Blank Slate Press, the book was years in the making, starting as an award-winning screenplay and originally titled Garbo's Last Stand.  I developed early book covers, website graphics, images for film festival programs, and even a video trailer. 

Check it out at

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Supersoaker Car Illustrations

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of my career as a freelance illustrator and animator, along with the 30th anniversary of my hire as a toy designer and illustrator, I'm posting images of my work both current and historical. 

Here are some designs I developed for the Supersoaker Turbo Racer.  The prototype worked really well, though (as I recall) it had a little trouble staying on the ground... 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Recent Illustrations

Over the summer, for a company devoted to nursing products, Lansinoh Laboratories, I developed a series of illustrations and an animation depicting optimal breastfeeding technique.  This job was not exactly typical of the kind of work I normally do, but they liked my work depicting their products, apparently, and gave me a chance to do something different. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Supersoaker Man

Then there's this weird Supersoaker...  An action figure that, by pumping his head, actually shoots water from his own Supersoaker.

I developed the design of this one, too...  

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Blast from the Past

In the beginning, Supersoakers were invented by Lonnie Johnson and developed by Bruce D'Andrade.  Back in 1992, working for Bruce at Professional Prototypes, I designed the look of the Supersoaker Bow (among many other models), using actual paper and pencils.  

When I first learned Autocad, I set myself the challenge of reproducing that design to practice my new skills...  

Though I once had my very own Supersoaker Bow a long time ago, it also long ago disappeared.  Only very recently did I find another on Ebay, after years of searching, for it's likely the rarest (and probably weirdest) of vintage, first-generation Supersoakers.  

This year, 2019, is the 30th anniversary of my getting hired by Bruce at Professional Prototypes.  Time flies like an arrow!  And fruit flies like a banana.