NPOWER Software - Advanced Modeling Plugins for 3DSMAX and RHINO

Designer, James Pierechod Head of 3D at Works

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nPower 3d artist interview

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early conceptual design work for the FIBA U19 Championship trophy
 
 
 
 
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  James Pierechod
   
Education:
  Industrial Product Design Engineering - Coventry University, UK
Job History:
  Morris Properties - 3D Artist
  Brass Ltd - 3D Artist
  Works ltd - Head of 3D
Software Used:
  3ds Studio Max
  Blender
  Vray
  Npower
  Adobe Suite
Personal Website:
  http://www.pierechod.co.uk/
Company Website:
  http://www.worksltd.co.uk/
Favorite Game:
  C&C generals zero hour - or any Call of duty game.
Favorite Movie or short:
  Octopus in Love - a great piece, developed and delivered perfectly!
  Hezarfen - great story, lovely cinematography
  Yankee Gal - bit old now, but still some fantastic work
Interesting fact about yourself:
  I love golf! And have a mild Diet Coke addiction!
 
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James, you recently worked on a project creating the trophies for the 2011 Basketball FIBA U19 World Championships. Can you tell us a little more about this project and how you incorporated our nPower Power SubD-NURBS translation tool in the process?

 
 

We have designed, developed and manufactured these trophies for the past 5 years now, working closely with FIBA to generate unique, intricate designs for each individual level of these championships. This year we were developing the U19 trophies for both Male and Female competitions.

We try to give the design team as much freedom as possible when developing the initial concepts for these trophies, as some of the best and most innovative results come from designers who have never designed trophies or engineered products before. The trophies need to be 'form first' rather than functional or designing to any preconceived style or format. The designers worked to a very open brief for these projects based around the central theme of the glass sphere, and allowed the character of their design to arrive from there.

Once the designs were developed and approved, they came through to the modelling department for construction. We poly model most projects here at The Works using a 3d Max centric pipeline. We generated 360 animations, animated passes, and print ready stills using these models for use in broadcast, web and printed media rollout campaigns.

We then converted these models using the Npower Power SubD-NURBS software to .iges format. Once complete, the files are sent across to the manufacturing team who generate the 3d printed trophies in resin format. These were then hand finished, chrome plated, and hand painted in the FIBA official brand colours, laser engraved, polished and delivered to Latvia for the tournament.

 
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What was your biggest challenge you faced with this particular project?

 
 

We are always looking at engineering challenges when realising our designs in to workable sculptures, due to the creative forms our designers tend to produce, however usually we rise to the challenge and try to generate a sound facsimile of their designs, that will be able to stand the "rough and tumble" of the winners parade, as well as stand the test of time for our clients.

The main challenge in this particular project was the conversion process, year on year we have used multiple methods of conversion, some more successfully than others, however we have always managed to attain a workable NURBS surface for the manufacturing team to work from. This year, we struggled with every work around, tweak and program conversion we tried. We could not get the file converted from a mesh poly structure to a NURBS surface with any degree of physical coherence to the original form. We were not helped by the unfortunate lack of knowledge of the manufacturing engineers in collecting and prepping the files for 3D print. It seems this is where the 3D printing process lacks adequate guidance. We have a good knowledge of 3D processes, animation and general engineering structural practices, and the manufacturing team were extremely efficient in the physical act of printing the digital model, finishing and painting the trophies. The confusion was in the transfer and sign off of the 3d model to a printed resin sculpture. The manufacturer did not have access to a poly modelling viewer or any knowledge on converting practices, and we did not have sufficient knowledge of the manufacturing equipment they were using to help them with their ability to view our files. This led to weeks of tweaking and saving hundreds of variations in the hope that the manufacturer would be able to access our designs. At this point, we came across the Power Sub-D NURBS conversion plugin for 3D studio Max. I had used some of the Npower tools before and thought we should give this a try. Dave and the team at Npower were extremely helpful, and even helped us test a couple of the files when the manufacturer said they were not accessible, the plugin was essential in the completion of this project and has become a staple part of our pipeline for 3d printing processes.

 
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the SubD-NURBS conversion process used for the creation of the Men's trophy
 
 
 
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The trophy is a work of art in itself. The sleek design and beautiful lines compliment both the movement of the sport and the victory of winning itself. Can you give our readers any background into what inspires your work or how you go from envisioning, to conceptualizing, to pitching, ultimately to creation itself?

 
 

Our design team have been working with various Sporting federations for many years now, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to shape and style many sporting events from the Basketball to Football and everything in-between. We tend to try and develop a feel for the movement of the particular sport, the fluidity of the players movement and the direct, intentional actions employed by the best ambassadors of their sport are where some of the true innovation and attenuation to that sport can be found. The game itself tends to be the best advocate for inspiration in developing a style for that particular campaign, everything from the Brand to the broadcast cut-wipe graphics need to reflect the pace, and emotion of the sport.

We work almost exclusively on Sporting campaigns, designing everything from tickets to trophies for all of our events! So we are always extremely busy throughout the year, often having the design teams working exclusively on a single event for months of the year, delivering everything in-house from offline to online and broadcast materials, start to finish inhouse. We are fortunate to have a experienced and talented pool of designers and developers to call upon here at the Works, coupled with organised and effective project pipelines to get the campaign from conception to completion in time for the event.

 
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See a clip of the trophy being won at the FIBA U19 Men's World Championships

 
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What are some advantages to using nPower Products in your workflow?

 
 

We have trialled and experimented with several conversion plugins over the past year, as well as using other 3D programs to convert the models into workable formats, however we found the Npower plugins to be simple, effective and well priced, with practically a "one click" solution to our conversion issue. We also quite like the credit format for the plugin, as this allowed us to use this tool for a project that could not support a heavy up front software contingent. Allowing us to better forecast future project expenditure in conversion and packaging for manufacture at an early stage, thus generating a more accurate 3d quoting system.

 
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the SubD-NURBS conversion process used for the creation of the Women's trophy
 
 
 
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What advice can you give to other designers out there who face time crunches, budget constraints, and technical challenges from manufacturers?

 
 

I can only really speak from a production or technical point of view, but I would say there are a few things you should prepare for whether you are taking a job on as a freelancer or as a full service agency:

Quote the project appropriately - from a production point of view, can you complete all aspects of the project on time and using the hardware and software you currently have available? If not, you need to look at alternatives or "work-arounds" before agreeing to the project.

Budget for rendering - Have you accurately budgeted for render and composition time? are you using a render farm, will it be available, what are their output and return practices? are you downloading thousands of files from an FTP or sending a hardware device?

Manage the clients expectations. This is not to say, dont push yourself! Do!!! but keep the client and project management team involved with the progress throughout the project. Don't reach the deadline and have to tell the client they is a problem, when this problem could have been solved months ago.

Talk to your peers and colleagues both in the office as well as online. Use the forums and message boards. We would not have got this project sorted if not for the help from other artists and engineers on forums like cgsociety.org, cgarena.com, evermotion.org. Read the industry publications 3D world.

Also, go to meet-ups talk to other artists, designers, and developers about their work, these contacts can be an extremely useful learning platform (I tried not to say 'networking').

 
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I was impressed at the wide range of videos and images while reviewing the work on your personal website ( http://www.pierechod.co.uk/ ). From architecture, to branding, to conceptual and character design, you have an eye catching ability to play with spacing and stylization no matter the subject matter (and you do so with such a unique emotion, attitude, and sophistication as well). Can you tell us a little more about yourself and what led you to be the particular designer you are today?

 
 

I would always class myself as a 3D generalist, I love all aspects of digital imagery and geekery. Ever since the early days of tearing computers apart with Dad on the kitchen table of our house, I have always wanted to ask questions and try to understand; how was that done? why does that work? What is the process that makes that? I think this inquisitive and scientific nature led me to my technical vocation. I enjoy a problem, especially a unique and original problem, I enjoy finding solutions from other areas and other industries.

If I were to attribute where I am now to anything, I would say it was LEARNING, EDUCATION, and TRAINING.

I don't just mean structured, college or university training, but any and all learning you can get your hands on. Use the multitude of resources available to you online, even if you think you know a style or technical, go through it again until you understand all the process behind it. In Motion and 3D there are always multiple ways of delivering a single result, its often better to know three or four ways to achieve the desired solution, you can then use this knowledge to perhaps develop your own, more efficient, master solution.

Ask questions???

Dont be afraid to ask questions, talk to your peers, colleagues, and teachers, both online and offline. These industry professionals will, more often than not be happy to answer any questions you have, or help you with any specific issues you come also. However, I would recommend doing your homework first, if you don't immediately understand something, don't give up - look at the problem again and see if you can approach the problem from another angle, don't ask questions that can be answer by using common sense or by pressing F1!

Answer questions!!!

Help others with their issues, you will find that this process will help you better understand the issue yourself! Its only when you really understand a problem or solution that you can start to develop and refine the process to achieve a better result.

 As for style! I would say it's important to have a good creative team around you, a workplace that inspires you, and focus on your individual skills, don't try and do everything - become good at what you enjoy and work won't feel much like work anymore!

Enjoy what you do, and where you do it, that's the real recipe for innovation.

 
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How do you feel about 3d modeling as an ultimate platform for communication and story telling? What changes and innovations do you think will drive the design world in the future?

 
 

I think everyone could look at digital imagery from a production and budgetary stand point and find reasons why the CGI industry has flourished in the past 10-15 years. However, I have always been fascinated with the platform as a communication tool. I would not by any means class myself as a teacher, however on occasion I have been known to help steer people towards this vocation or inspire people while they hover around our desks in the studio. It is always interesting to see the, 'marmite' way people start to react to 3d objects with any 3D environment. I find that they either love it, or they hate it, people tend to either understand the concept of depth and rotating around 3 axis's or they don't, and the way people manipulate the objects within a scene tends to generate instant feelings of fascination or fear!

As for future development and product integration, I would love to see how the tablet era (mobile platform capability) integrates itself with the current software, not as a working alternative platform, or even a potential addition to the desktop workstation, but, as a viewing, interactive experience for clients and Directors, or as a quick review, manipulation tool for 3d camera control on MOCAP scenes.

Some software developers are beginning to develop with this in mind (early solutions though at this stage) in iPad we have the sculpting tool Autodesk 123 Sculpt or the viewing tools from iRhino and Autodesk AUTOCAD WS.

I would also like to see further development and integration of other interesting hardware tools such as the Kinect as a home or low cost MOCAP starting point on facial, or static position realtime animation.

 
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If you had unlimited funds, time, resources, etc... what would be your ideal/dream project to work on and why?

 
 

Shorts, I think! story led pieces of art. The perfect mix of creativity and technical development.

 
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Some of our Past nPower Featured Artists:
 
 
 
 
Philip Michael Brown's Page
Julian Foster's Page
Thom Schillinger's Page
 
 
Mark Rademaker's Page
 
 
 
Rudolph Lagarrigue's page
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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