WarLord's WarBlog

Lights Out!

by on Jul.10, 2013, under Uncategorized

Last night was a typical work night as I was putting together a character demo reel. I was very happy to be working on my own stuff when the lights went out. Literally. All over town.

My work office is windowless so it was past dark thirty in it but having been a boy scout ( a lousy one I admit) I was prepared as I had a flashlight on my desk just off to the right of my monitors. Why??? Because I’m incredibly prepared and foresee these things??? Because I can model one in 3D and make it work but I gotta have power! No… because its dark under my desk and I have so many usb items even with hubs I have to occasionally plug something into the front of one and the flashlight just makes it easy.

But… I found out one interesting thing about my battery backup configuration (which worked) and that was the simple fact my powered KVM switch was plugged into the cold side of the UPS instead of the battery side when power is out. It took me a minute to figure that out as my monitors were powered up but no signal… then I spied the dead KVM switch! AH HA! Springing to action I managed to plug that into the hot side of the UPS and all was well. I had attempted to shut down both pc’s with the power button and one pc did shut down. Probably had no apps open but my main unit was hung on the screen that asks me if I would like to shut down the eleven applications I had open at the time.

Being as both were on Windows 7 I wasn’t too worried but you never know with a power outage. My secondary pc was dark and quiet. Shut down with the power button while I switched over to my main unit and started shutting down apps then powered down.

With trusty flashlight in hand I made through the hallway into the main part of the building that was lit up by monitors and I could hear the UPS at each station beeping as they were in the process of auto shutdown using the software and usb connection that comes with each unit. NICE FEATURE! The office started getting darker and darker as each PC shut down and the light from its monitor was lost.

By this time I was at the main entrance to the building and locking up. Our local police force was already out… which is commendable as most had been on duty all day… and to my knowledge there were no problems as this town is a survival town. No real wealth in town and most households living paycheck to paycheck. You steal in this town… you certainly wouldn’t want to get caught by anyone BUT the police.  Hard working people value what they have… value their neighbors too and watch out for each other.

So… the night of the blackout is over and no problems on my end or anywhere in our office this morning. With modern operating systems like Win 7 and up it seems we don’t have to worry so much about abrupt shutdowns but any shutdown with open applications could cause problems so I’m glad for improvements in the operating system.

More importantly… I’m glad for the light the monitors cast in each area. It was strange watching them shut down one by one… almost surreal but my God the stars were BRIGHT that night when I stepped outside! Sometimes we forget how much man made lighting changes our environment until its gone.

Who would have thought a random blackout would be so inspiring but those stars were just awesome!

 

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New Adobe Premiere CS6 Book

by on May.30, 2013, under Uncategorized

I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Paul Ekert’s newest “How To” book,  Mastering Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 – HotShot, which is an amazing collection of learning projects that open up the sometimes mysterious workflow of the application to new users. The project based approach is a great learning experience with immediate real world applications.

This book cuts through the fog and clutter to get you up to speed on using this fantastic video editing application through practical, well thought out projects that demonstrate the possibilities of this editing program.

My review at Amazon was as follows:

If you have ever struggled with Premier or want to get on the fast track to learning the application then Paul Ekert’s newest book, Mastering Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 Hotshot, is the book for you. This is a project based learning experience with plenty of help from the author. I have always been a fan of project based instruction as there is little substitute for hands on experience. Paul is also an experienced author with several titles under his belt as well an advanced user of video editing applications.

Paul’s combined experience as an author and an editor is readily apparent as he guides you through the various projects to completion. Paul will lead you through the fog thereby greatly decreasing the learning curve and get you quickly into productive and satisfying territory.

This book can be valuable to experienced users as well as novices. The technical expertise and tips shared in post production alone are worth the purchase plus you will be exposed to some industry jargon and methods that will improve your workflow and final render.

An excellent resource by all accounts.

I came to know Paul as he was exploring writing this book with PACKT Publishing and was inquiring as to my experience with them.  Paul is not just a crackerjack editor and “How To” writer but is the complete package when it comes to practical use of an application like Premiere. Its always great to know how the pros do it.

If you are new to Premiere or an experienced user I believe this book will greatly benefit you and help your skills mature as an editor.

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Flooded with Email!

by on Apr.09, 2013, under Uncategorized

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that has contacted me by email that I am getting to it… I’m just inundated with questions right now. For sometime I have only been able to allow about an hour to an hour and a half a day to answer my iClone, Max, Vue and now zBrush questions. I’m certainly not an expert in zBrush and seem to be learning as much or more from these exchanges as the writers.

I do try to answer simple questions as they come in but it seems I’m getting more and more complex actions that require me to work through some steps before I answer and I don’t want to give anyone erroneous information.

I very much appreciate the email. Every contact is a new person to learn from as it seems I learn quite a bit myself about how people use iClone and that is a tremendous boost to my skill set.

Once again… thanks to everyone that writes me… I will write you back just please have patience. I don’t mind the email if you don’t mind waiting till I can get to it and I very much appreciate anyone that takes the time out of their day to email me.

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The Magic Camera

by on Mar.20, 2013, under Production

The “Magic Camera” is not a joke… it’s not a hope… it’s not a failure to work hard but instead it is a tool like any other when used properly eliminates the need to do those pesky everyday animations and motions that when done poorly kills the scene and loses focus.

Where is this application? Is it open source? Where do I get it? Well… if you are an animator then you already have it. The camera system that comes with your flavor of 3D software can and “WILL” be your magic camera and best friend. It will step you around minor and in some cases major animation obstacles with uncanny ease.  All it requires is a deft touch. Don’t let the “deft touch” thing scare you either… because all you have to do is not overuse it or abuse it and you find yourself completing scenes you used to loathe and possibly even enjoying it along the way.

More than anything what I’m talking about is something we all know about but tend to forget in the animation stage… camera cuts. That’s right… simple little camera cuts.

In my world some of the hardest animations to key frame (thank God for mocap in most cases) are everyday things… and in particular… setting down at a desk or table. Then there is picking up a pen and possibly a drinking motion or opening a door and walking through it. Some animators can do these in their sleep but I’m not one of them and poorly animated versions of these motions can lead to disaster in terms of viewer focus and quality of the production. I used to hate seeing these everyday motions in the scripts I would be get but everyday motions are what fleshes out an animation and makes it fuller unless you are a minimalist.

The Magic Camera has saved my butt more times than I can say and all it really takes is a common sense approach to the camera angle when setting up the cut shot.

Example:

  • A man gets up from the kitchen table…
  • grabs his keys and coat…
  • walks out the door…
  • gets in the car and drives off.

For some of us the inclination to show this entire sequence of events IN FULL is too strong to resist. Some of us don’t consider an alternative and by animating the entire action we actually pushed ourselves off an animation cliff. Some of you reading this are already thinking of animating the entire sequence, you aren’t alone until you get a little more time under your belt. Most of us fall prey to this tendency.

I’ll tell you how I’d break this sequence down and this is just my method… there are many ways to accomplish the same thing but in a nutshell we are going to turn our camera into a Magic Camera and let it do the heavy lifting with the implying of an action rather than actually animating the action.

Getting up from a table can be as problematic as sitting down. Its a difficult job to do it smoothly. Curves in the timeline help but the more key frames we add the more convoluted it can become if those key frames aren’t managed. Part of that management is when to key frame it and when to camera cut and imply the action instead of showing it.

Wide View:
Man at table

Closeup:
Usually from the waist up showing the man straightening up… a few seconds of him going from a slightly seated position to slightly standing with a tight frame for the shot. Linked to the camera for smoothness of movement. All I have to do now is animate a few seconds of a partial motion. Camera framing makes or breaks it. We are at the precipice of the cliff but haven’t stepped off.

Wide View or Medium:
Man walking toward door… in this case to exterior door so we don’t have to do any more interior shots if possible. We backed away further from that animation cliff and we can use this as an opportunity for an “establishing” shot showing our door, wall, table, key rack or whatever is called for.

Closeup:
Hand reaching for keys on wall or door side table or whatever. Do NOT animate picking up the keys… that’s over the edge of the cliff at terminal velocity for most of us even with a provided motion.

Closeup:
Hand/arm reaching for coat hanging on coat rack or laying on a table. We are now getting comfortably away from the cliff edge and are starting to enjoy the view. This ain’t so bad after all!

Wide or Medium:
Man walking through open door framed in a manner that hides the door opening side of the body and arm. Shield it from view and leave it alone. You have just ordered your favorite adult beverage and starting to relax. The cliff isn’t even in site anymore.

Closeup:
The car door opening. Notice I said nothing about the character opening the car door. Use camera angle even an interior view if necessary to shield the hand and that portion of the door. This way you only have to make a little arm movement to look like they are closing the door without attachment to the door and that is only if you can’t mask it entirely with the camera angle. We may have just looked up from our comfortable position and glimpsed a view of the cliff… but we didn’t advance towards it.

What do we have left to do? Leaving… kiss my butt we don’t even have to think about that… wide… medium… close…. a shot of the car leaving, backing out, going down the street… whatever your preference is and you are done!

The Magic Camera just saved our butt. Machinima tools still lack fluid animation and anything we can do to eliminate animating it at all will be one less problem to contend with. Keep it simple… real simple.

Now write or interpret that freaking script like you CAN instead of “OMG… how will I do this!.

 

 

 

 

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3DXchange 5.4 – Another Game Changer

by on Mar.11, 2013, under Uncategorized

Actually… to say this update is another game changer is a bit of an understatement as this update is close to giving us:

any character… anytime… with facial morphs and lip sync converted by anyone… not just 3D pros.

Now take a look at the statement again and tell me that isn’t a nice little breakthrough! The only reason I can’t say for sure that any character anytime can be imported is because I haven’t tried all the available characters but as a beta tester I can tell you I converted a lot of disparate characters with major differences between them to find that they functioned quite well in iClone. Even got to animate my old time favorite Poser characters Cheech (think monster of the Black Lagoon) and Klank the comical robot.

Creech – One of my Favorites now usable in iClone.

Like that Daz character? The conversion profile is included if it’s Genesis so no real conversion work on your part to get it into iClone. Like that old Poser character? Does it have jawbone or facial morphs? If so… you are good to go with a little trial and error.  Older characters with no phonemes available… get creative and make your own with the morphs and bones that are available.

Another old Poser character with unusual bone structure. It can walk too!

Full body morph as in human to werewolf? No problem. Do it on the fly as this flavor of 3DXchange also reads body morphs which can be controlled by the facial puppetry or face key dialogs. This might be an unintended consequence of development but it opens many possibilities.

Talking spheres and other props? Sure… why not? If it can be morphed it can probably be controlled in some form with this new update. We have not only bone driven meshes but now we have the ability to capture morphed meshes making both types of mesh manipulation available to users. It will be great to be able to use the morpher modifier in 3DS Max or the morph layers in zBrush knowing they will translate to iClone.

The four arms accessory for Genesis can be mapped as extra bones with a pop up controller dialog similar to the Non-Human controller.

This post is mainly about DAZ and Poser character conversion but I have successfully converted Dexsoft and other custom made characters too. There are standard profiles available for 3DS Max, DAZ Genesis and Maya skeletal rigging.

This is a huge breakthrough and in typical Reallusion fashion its more of a major release than a minor  upgrade but that is the way Reallusion does business.

I do have some tutorials online now and will be doing more the coming weeks plus Reallusion has really stepped up with lots of their own tutes once again.

My YouTube Page.

Legacy Poser Characters ready to rock and roll. The wings on the Dragon are mapped for animation.

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Managing Multiple Projects/Contracts

by on Feb.06, 2013, under Production

I’ve been asked several times how I manage multiple projects along with how many projects I was comfortable taking on at one time. This is relative to the project as some take longer than others but in my own case I usually have between 4 and 7 projects going on with various deadlines and I try never to have multiple deadlines scheduled for the same week if possible. One reason for not front loading deadlines in the same week is that revisions are a fact of life so there needs to be time for them as well. Even with your best work the direction can change requiring a revision and quite possibly a major revamp.

Those revisions can pay well but what about the next job in line? Can you still deliver on time? You HAVE to deliver on time… that is not an option in this business.

I usually add a minimum cushion of 25% and in some cases as much as 50% but doubling the time is not practical on a lot of projects and will severely limit income potential. The minimum 25% cushion allows me to farm out what I can to competent and in some cases better freelancers than me while giving me time to jump into other projects on the deployment schedule.

But… I’ve NEVER done that before!

Yeah well… guess what… neither have I in a lot of cases. That is what freelancing is all about. You will constantly be tasked with projects you have never attempted before. Asked to create 3D models you never even thought about creating or help with script treatments and many other facets of a project. Replace the “Can I do it?” attitude with a “Got to do it” attitude and you may find the task easier.

If you constantly stress over deadlines then I’d have to guess that freelance is going to be tough on you or you aren’t scheduling it properly. I hate to turn down work and will burn the midnight oil to keep from doing so but the fact is you will have to turn down work eventually. You just have to be careful how you do it and over time you will learn which clients will tolerate it. Yes… you’ll probably lose a few clients along the way but you will lose them anyway if you blow deadlines and if you do it with high profile contracting studios then your reputation will suffer too.

When you first start managing multiple contracts you will usually have a little experience under your belt as to how long it takes you to do something. If you have no idea then its time to get out a stopwatch or clock that you can time some test projects with. Do a wide variety of test projects to get a good measurement. Try single and multiple task projects and throw in an “emergency request” or two to see how well you can work on two projects with close deadlines.

Mind you I’m not advocating scheduling deadlines that close but you may be given opportunities to earn way above the standard for an emergency project that needs to be rescued from a failed deadline or a change in direction with minimal time left. This will give you an opportunity to see if you can actually meet both deadlines on the same day or close to the same day when one project wasn’t even on the deployment schedule.

Don’t wuss out on these tests either. Make them a good test of your ability. If you don’t succeed only you will know and can take steps to do better. It’s also good to discover your limits because if you continually overstate your ability to accomplish a task then I seriously doubt you will be kept in the employment loop much longer.

Deployment Timeline is Critical

I have been very fortunate to serve as project, timeline or deployment manager on many projects in the past and this experience helps me to understand some of the difficulties encountered by other freelancers.

As a Project Manager I am very intolerant of missed deadlines. If you were sick then you better be very sick or turn it over to someone else on the team. If I have to be up till 5:00am to meet a deadline because the assigned freelancer couldn’t perform then you can imagine I’m not a happy camper. Who would be if they are supervising or paying someone to do a job and its not done?

You certainly have to be organized and I keep a flow board of timelines so I can see what is coming up and when. A quick glance at the flow board tells me who is doing what and at what point they should be at within that project including my own projects and pending deliveries or deployments. This flow board is nothing more than a timeline on a calendar. You can get them at your local office supply or use a whiteboard.

In our case we use computerized and manual methods to keep track. The flow board is for my benefit as a manager but it also helps when you are a cog in the machine as the machine needs to be running as your delivery time is very important for the next step in production. If you have a problem being a cog in the machine then again… freelancing will be very difficult for you.

Who’s Your Boss? Everyone!

As a freelancer I answer to everyone at the firm that employs me. This is not what is required in most cases but just how I handle myself. A freelancer needs to be informed and who will know the comings and goings that you are not privy to? The people in the trenches with you… that’s who! By treating everyone at your employer’s firm with respect you will find yourself given more information that is vital to keeping track of production and being on time.

If a problem is popping up in some department or two creative geniuses aren’t getting along then its nice to be alerted to the problem instead of stumbling into it or wondering why things are not going smoothly. Get along with everyone in the project and you will be included more than excluded which makes the job much easier.

More Skill… More Time Taken???

You would think that as your skill improves you would shave off time to accomplish things but in reality you will find yourself using those skills to further enhance the project which can actually take more time instead of less.

You just learned a great new technique for adding greebles to break up flat surfaces and hard lines. You want to use this technique whenever possible but it will add more time to accomplish the task and you need to be aware of this and schedule for it. Don’t assume just because you’re getting better it’s going to get easier!  Oh no… in fact… every technique adds another layer of work so schedule for that contingency.

In Conclusion

I bet you thought I was never going to get here with this ramble but hang in there… it’s all relevant to the process.

  1. Keep a record of everything done with the creation and deployment of a project. Write it down somewhere and make a backup of what you keep online or on your pc.
  2. Use a calendar to assign people and teams to a task with a proper deadline.
  3. Add “wiggle room”. Pad your estimate as discussed earlier. If you think it will take 5 hours to accomplish a task then add 25% more time to it.
  4. Stay in touch with all managers, directors (especially unit directors as they have a lot of influence) and creative supervisors. Limiting surprises will limit your chances of failing to meet an objective.
  5. Be prepared for revisions. That 25% padding will look real good to you during this time.
  6. Time yourself to get a grip on what you can accomplish and how long it will take.
  7. Be firm but fair with any freelancer you farm out work to. Give them a firm deadline and outline the consequences of missing that deadline.
  8. Never schedule multiple deadlines on the same day or week if at all possible.

I was nervous the first time I started working with multiple deadlines and I think a lot of us are. We just have to focus, document, prepare and plan. Don’t cut corners. Consider it the ultimate evil to miss a deadline. Give yourself plenty of time… pad that estimate just make sure you don’t over charge your client. Padding the time doesn’t mean padding the bill!

 

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Case of the Giant Rat aka Losing Focus

by on Jan.16, 2013, under Production

You are in the midst of your premiere… family, friends and possibly a few not so friendly folks are in attendance. The  movie starts. Everything is going great then… Boom…there IT is.

Later you are watching another movie. Its great… nice story, great visuals then BOOM! There it is… that rat in the corner is the size of a fire hydrant (I’m not from New York City so maybe they do grow to that size). In another scene a car takes up 2 stories of windows on the passing buildings. Is it really that big or the buildings are built for a smaller version of humanity? The door behind the character is too small or way way too large and you can’t blame perspective because the character is standing directly in front of the improperly scaled door.

It GLARES out at you now and yes… it is mocking you and the fact that you just didn’t pay attention. Its generally a small thing… a simple thing that we are all aware of but its still there because we missed it.

I hate being a victim of improper scale. I find myself focusing on the scale problem instead of the story. Maybe this is because I’m oriented towards that but then a lot of machinimist are oriented the same way. We missed the fact that a human being can’t possibly fit into a car too small or see over the dash of a car too large.

This all leads to a loss of continuity… which is a term you really need to know if you don’t already. Losing continuity in a film means losing focus… at least that is my perception. The reason we make films… the reason scenes exist at all is to get a point across. When focus on that point is lost… even temporarily… then the mood is lost to some degree and in many cases to a degree that the scene passes without the viewer seeing the information that was intended for them.

Heaven forbid if the lost focus was during a time when plot holes were being filled or a setup for a future scene! Considering the short length of a lot of machinima productions… that lost focus even for a few seconds can add up to a disconnect for the viewer. Enough disconnect and we lose that viewer. Game over.

Its not just scale… that is an easy example and often overlooked. There are many opportunities to go wrong but at least we can track scale, timing, footage quality, audio levels and other factors if we use a checklist.

There is a lot to keep up with in production so make that checklist and follow it. No shortcuts! No easy button! Listen to Grandma. Do the job right or don’t do it at all. No one is in this field to lose viewers… in fact… I think the whole point is to gain as many viewers as possible.

So… no more giant rats.

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Machinima in Commercial Projects

by on Dec.27, 2012, under Uncategorized

This year was a high water mark in terms of using machinima in my commercial projects. It also marks the first year I have expanded the use of iClone by others on the freelance team and we did an unusual amount of pilot projects.

Over the years our work is never quite the same which is not unusual for digital freelancers but I do find myself coming back to using iClone for 30 to 60 second commercial ad previz. It seems to help sell the project to first time media advertisers. They see what they are buying. We have even worked on spec and we hardly ever do anything without a contract and down payment first but iClone reduces the budget so much that I can actually take a gamble that we are going to get the contract and payment based on the spec work. Spec work in this case means pure speculation that you will get the job and be paid. Something that is very risky when using high end tools like Studio Max, Vue or Maya due to the cost of production.

I can’t gamble with $10,000+ production costs but I can certainly take a gamble when the money invested is less than a few thousand dollars. iClone’s ease of use and ability to get a project completed quickly saves money in the budget making it possible to consider spec work. This opens yet another door for commercial opportunity.

When I first discovered iClone in 2006 I had to sneak in usage generally in still image storyboards which was a big part of the workload back then. In fact I was not able to use its output with some of my employers for many reasons but those have all been addressed over the years and the engine is being recognized for what it is. A mid-level (skill wise) animation tool that can work with high end productions. The render still needs to mature but with the lighting and effects in version 5 the render is usable in apps like After Effects and Hit Film which can composite the iClone render with high end footage. Also had good luck using iClone footage in Vegas with it’s various tools and effects.

My main uses for commercial machinima output this year were:

  • Still Image Renders for Advertising, Books and DVDs
  • Previz
  • Storyboarding
  • Shot/Camera Re-directing
  • Pilot Episodes and Movies
  • Training

Most of the iClone work is pre-viz of some sort meaning the general public never sees it but it pays just the same as taking longer to use higher end tools so… why use those expensive tools when you don’t have to? The other really big selling point on iClone is that the creative director, main unit director or principle photographer/videographer can take the project file and move things around to see the possibilities for themselves. The times I shared my project files have been real eye openers for these people. Does this mean they’ll learn the tool and cut us out? Hardly… using the tool with someone’s else file is different than creating that project file yourself and I found them to be very happy being able to move things around.  These project files were then sent back to me for corrections and polishing before being rendered in it’s final form.

I’m still a long way from making a large percentage of my freelance income with machinima but that amount keeps growing every year it seems. Also the opportunities iClone has presented such as my Beginners Guide that was published last year have made this such a busy year for us that projects had to be postponed into 2013 and one writing project will not be completed till early 2014. The upgrade of the guide to version 5 has been shelved many times because of the amazing progress and changes Reallusion has made to the iClone engine making any such attempt at quantifying obsolete before it hits the printer!

All in all it has been another wonderful year of freelance production even without the time to do a personal machinima project.  I can feel burn out coming from the workload which in turn means its time to do a private machinima project where I can do what I want to do instead of what I’m contracted to do.

Anecdotally (is that a word?) its seems machinima in general had a good year while distancing itself from the run and gun screen caps that used to define it. With studios like Chat Noir and machinimist like Underpants Man, Tom Jantol, AnimaTechnica and others it truly seems that machinima is taking a big step forward to wider acceptance as a skill and an artform.

Thanks to everyone for all the email. The load is still high but I eventually answer them all and I’m thankful for the correspondence as I learn quite a bit myself with the interaction.

Hope all of you have a happy and prosperous year in 2013!

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Gamesalad and iClone

by on Dec.16, 2012, under Uncategorized

Just added a new post over at iCloneRevolution about using Gamesalad and iClone for rapid game development. Now I’m not going to tell you that this is a great game because it was built as a testbed for a proof of concept demo to a client. It is a full game but as is explained in the article not much time was spent on gameplay but rather in learning the mechanics of Gamesalad and trying to remember how to logically structure a game.

More importantly it was used to test the graphics of iClone with the application since these types of games are dominated by simple, vector style graphics that load quickly and are easy to push to a smartphone or tablet. This game was developed with HTML5 standards and as long as one keeps in mind that the graphics need to be as slim and trim and possible then it appears to work just fine.

There are some things to remember when working in game engines and Gamesalad is no different.

  •  Images need to be divisible by 2 like 64X16, 128X128 and so forth. If your image is 66 X 128 then the game engine will kick it up to next level in terms of load and might possibly treat it as a 128X128.
  • Images need to be PNG or will be converted and photoshop does a better job of converting raster images like jpg than Gamesalad does.  The Gamesalad converted png is a bit bloated in file size.

I used 8 Bit png when possible and 24 bit when I needed very clean transparency. I also downsized the palette to a minimum such as 16, 32 or  64 before saving. The background images (480X320) came out of iClone anywhere from 120K to 250K but Photoshop optimized this down to 30 to 50k if you played with the palette settings. You will notice some heavy dithering in the larger images that is to be expected with this type of optimization.

While this type of game development is rapid you will still need to have a basic understanding of game logic, working with attributes and generally what to do next as Gamesalad does not do this for you. Instead it offers a clean interface to drag and drop a limited number of commands/attributes that when used in a logical manner can formulate some very ingenious game levels. This particular testbed game offers several different types of arcade game interaction… more that you would normally see in a well developed game but again… this was to make sure I could do what the client was asking for.

Its a greenlight to start on the first game and I’m excited about it. This is what I love about digital freelancing… you never know what you’ll be doing next!

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Self Branding – Establishing a Digital Identity

by on Sep.11, 2012, under Uncategorized

I get asked quite often how I got started on the road to freelance. Was it hard work? Luck of the draw in getting a break? Well… yes and no as both apply to my case.  It was not only luck and hard work as much as it was branding or to put it another way… establishing a digital identity.

When I started I had very limited skills in graphics, had no idea what 3D was but knew I wanted to do this type of work. Like a lot of digital hobbyists (for lack of a better term) I was well versed in computers, knew my operating system and could build my own computers. Not earth shattering skills by any means but solid basic skills just the same. I have just described almost everyone in machinima at this point. Yes there are those that struggle with the computer but for the most part we all “get it” when it comes to learning new software and developing our skills.

One thing I had going for me was a background in old school Banking in which as a loan officer I was required to market our bank to potential loan and deposit customers. From this vocation came a better understanding of how image was everything to everyone. Didn’t matter what you may be hawking… skills or product… the image projected was far more important than the skills possessed or the product being sold.  I may not have had the skills of a digital journeyman but I did all I could to promote an image of professionalism while still being able to back it up… albeit a little weakly at the beginning… with letters of reference from previous clients. All were very glad to give me the letters even though my skill level was very low at the time.

I was also fortunate to learn marketing from some real pros in the business and these folks drove home that same simple fact. Its about the brand! Think in terms of what comes to mind when a person see’s your work, logo or name.

Ok… let’s say you have an online identity. Do you manage it or just let it roll naturally? If you are not managing it then I hope your “roll” is positive because it only takes a few petty words here and there, acting like a primadonna (we all know at least one) or abusing your position within a team or project to set back years of positive work and project an image that you might not be able to repair. After all… who wants to work with an overbearing ogre?

Freelancers are truly a dime a dozen so think carefully about how you interact with the public. If you have a tendency to not play well with others then you may find that you are losing that tendency and actually getting along because you are being proactive instead of reactive when you manage it.

I can’t say that my brand in Machinima is well known as I travel in small circles but my brand in my areas of freelance expertise are known well enough to keep me employed. I’d love to be a household name for my type of work but I’m happy staying busy and I stay busy working with people who make me look good and protect their brand as much as I protect mine.

I will admit that it  is easy for some of us to do this as our personalities allow it but we are almost all alphas in the freelance world or we wouldn’t be disciplined or driven enough to work as freelancers. Apply that discipline to your brand. Seize on a logo, a name and a screen name then stick with them. Continuity is very important to good films and just as important to your digital brand.

Skills alone are not enough. There are many gifted artists out there that could do my work in their sleep but they aren’t. I want to keep it that way so I manage my brand which involves being the guy that the Creative Director or Videographer wants to work with instead of the extremely gifted primadonna that ruins the project for everyone.

That’s all part of managing the brand in my world. So from my point of view I would say that establishing and managing your digital brand/identity is as vital as your skillset. Simply put… define yourself and manage what you are and what you do.

Its hard enough to get started in freelance so concentrate on your brand and work may FIND YOU!

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