Long absence and Defiance

Well after too many months, and many episodes of Defiance, I’m posting an update.

I didn’t realize the level of commitment that was going to be required for the 3rd season of SyFy’s Defiance. Most of that has been of my own doing. No one really asked me to make that commitment. But I think it has been worth it.

In other news, I did finish the redo of one of my comics and I am kind of stunned at the results. It felt effortless and unending at the same time – a strange sounding combination. But I was – here’s that word again – committed to making it as good as the comic that followed it. Issue 5 was what set me on the path of redoing issue 4.

I explained this before but issue 4 of Trouble, Guts & Noir was a personal challenge years ago – could I finish an entire issue in one month – all aspects. Writing, layout, inks, etc. Everything. The answer was yes, but at a cost to quality.

I wanted to know if I could make a comic every month while holding a full time job – the answer was yes but it wasn’t nearly as clear, rendered or polished as I thought it should be.

I final result has been submitted and approved through Comixology and should be available soon, and I have already written the follow up.

But one of the negative sides of working in television is that the breaks between seasons can be downright unpredictable – but the upside is I can work on personal projects.

This year will be no exception.

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Special filament tests

Protopasta has released an interesting entry into the filament spectrum – magnetic iron filament.

There are some complaints about 4d printing filaments being a bit dull and not able to carry a sheen that more accurately simulates metal.

I chalk this mostly up to the paradox of many 3d printing enthusiasts not being more experience model builders and knowing more of the classic techniques to simulating metal.

But this material category actually does something movie magicians rarely or never accomplished with their tricks – giving magentic properties to plastic.

While this might not seem very interesting, think of it this way. How many object in your home have slime magnets embedded in them in order to make them function? Small cases, gadget slip cases, cabinets, drawers, even toys and recently some wearable tech have been including magnetic features.

Hellbug-Cura

So a material like Magnetic iron PLA fits into an industrial designers vocabulary very well indeed.

But for me the most interesting attribute is definitely its ability to weather like metal – rust. If you have ever seen Corten steel you know that one of its most interesting properties is that it is INTENTIONALLY formulated to rust. That layer of rust becomes a protective layer from additional weathering and although this feature was intended to have industrial applications, artists thought it had incredible aesthetic properties.

I love the look as well, and I am using one of my more recent sculpts to test the material for later MUCH larger projects.

I will eventually try some new cold casting methods which use similar concepts, but for the time being you can get this material from the folks at Protopasta right here:

 http://www.proto-pasta.com/shop/magnetic-iron-pla

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3d printing world shrinking?

I attended the annual 2015 3d Printing World show on my Saturday lunch break and instantly recognized two things. The show overall was smaller and less well attended than last year, and DLP had a much greater presence. But that might have just been me being grumpy about working on a Saturday.

Given my history with Makerbot, part of me wanted to take all mynfailed extruders to their table and stand there like and angry brown Ralph Nader warning people of their futures. But I have said before I WANT them to get it right. And to their credit they actually had working machines on the floor this time.

I feel like this should be called “the show that ZBrush built” because it seemed to be the only thing that gathered enough mass on the show floor. It was really the only exhibitor that has the resources and clout the show to command attention because of its roots in the process of 3d printing. That, and a loudspeaker and big projection screens.

image

I am actually surprised still how long it has taken for some people to realize that 3d printing has zero future without the ability to either synthesize or expertly manipulate shapes.

Software for building anything you want has come further in my lifetime than most apps I can remember and I would argue that vehemently. The earliest modellers I used could scarcely handle basic primitives let alone multi resolution million plus polygon modles WITH texturing.

That actually has as much to do with hardware really so to be fair being able to make anything digitally still doesn’t mean being able to print it. But oncw you get to the level where you understand 3d modeling deeply enough to target digital AND physical media, you’ve got a winning combo.

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Going “George Lucas” on my comics

Or at least one of them. Redoing an entire issue the way I want it to look. On the left is the redux, on the right the original.

Snippet_Page06-compare

I did Trouble, Guts & Noir issue 4 years ago on a personal dare – can I make an issue in less than a month? That was the challenge – everything from writing, art and marketing were factored in and while I completed the task I was never really happy with the result.

It was also one of the first comics where I used substantial CGI aids in order to leverage my skills in that arena.

Up until this issue, those paths didn’t cross and it was a personal choice – the challenge used to be more about getting AWAY from CGI. I got a little precious about the process and it was an interesting change.

This was also a beginning to a broader storyline – I wanted to play with one of the tropes of noir in my own way. Ever hear of the “dead girl” trope? I am sure you have if you are a fan of noir.

But the redux is going well – considering I finished the original issue’s art in two weeks (I wrote it and did layouts in less than a week). I am sure it will be finished in time to upload to Comixology. And then I can wait six months for them to wade up to it. Sheesh. It takes them longer to approve single comics than it takes to make WHOLE comics.

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Small, Medium and Large Ultimakers

If you follow the news about Ultimaker you will know that they have released a line of 3d printers based on the Ultimaker 2 formula.

If you know my background and my experience with Ultimaker, you will understand this is good news. And that it is bad news for Makerbot which hasn’t released anything but some new materials you can get jammed in your smart extruder.

Yes, that’s me being bitter.

I fully intend to replace my now completely consistently and annoyingly failing Makerbot Mini. I have had enough. I recently suggested that Makerbot re-conceive the materials and user policies used in building the smart extruder in their recent online survey.

Gulanee-outside-sml

I would be willing to pay for a premium smart extruder which allows everything I have consistently asked the company to do. Make it user serviceable, make it from better materials, and make it easier to manage settings and regulate it’s temperature better.

Makerbot did a great job defining goals and specs which made sense to consumers and almost none of the ones important to me were ready at release or were disappointing when seen in action. The built in camera is not very good or useful, the reliability is woeful, the build quality gets progressively worse until the extruder fails entirely, and customer service has either no interest or ability to respond with customer history at hand and instead goes through robotic standard replies and suggestions.

But back to Ultimaker – I saw that they are using the 2 ft tall Gulanee model at their booth at CES which makes me divinely happy she has found a good home. If you see this model, you should know that I was up and running, printing tests and getting work done in under an hour – and that’s me taking what I thought was a LONG time to get acquainted with the printer.

This is also close to the first full year I have been on this 3d printing adventure and want to congratulate Ultimaker for thinking, acting and delivering on the promises of 3d printing.

Conversely I want to encourage Makerbot to consider some of the things I suggested. I truly did enjoy the Makerbot experience when it first arrived and I finished my first model.

Visit  #72024 at CES if you get a chance and say hello!

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Digital vs Traditional process snobs

I want to do more digital painting next year. Actually, just more painting period.
Medea_PROCESS

Since taking up 3d printing, nothing I’ve been doing in other areas of art have been resonating with enough people to make it worthwhile – BUT – that’s if you follow the numbers and the metrics. Metrics can’t be the only way to make art. These days they help.

I’ve never really followed trends unless they did one or more of a few things

  • I learned something new
  • I made extra money
  • I helped someone
  • I grew as an artist or person

There’s a difference between that first item and the last one and usually it’s just a personal emotional thing and not an achievement unlocked thing.

But I have never really painted the way I really want to paint – something is always on the edge and almost there. And it’s just been a function of time and effort.

I use Gimp – an open source app – which a lot of people give me heat about. It’s not this, it doesn’t have that, only amateurs use it blah, blah blah. I get it – I use Adobe’s stuff too. At work. But the last time I checked I used Gimp on every single Emmy nomination I have ever had, and on the two VES awards I have so chew on that for a second.

I tweeted this earlier this week:

When I say you should stop caring about digital vs. traditional it means there is no longer a distinction between the two to the audience at a basic level. Digital artists often print their stuff on textured paper to make it “painterly” – traditional artists are digitizing their works to make prints for sale and sell them online – it’s more complicated than that but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Give me a break already. There are no more Rembrandt’s being made nor should there be.

If you want to argue an original painting in time MIGHT be worth millions someday, I’ll show you a digitally designed asset I make that’s worth something RIGHT NOW. Show me a digital painting with millions of colors and infinite resolution, and I’ll show you someone who can paint on GLASS in FILM NEGATIVE COLORS. NOTHING about the tools matter any more.

What matters is that connection to the people who see it. The people who care. Bitch about popularity all you want – I’ve already heard enough college kids for DECADES (I am 44 right now) spew about this – IT DOES NOT MATTER.

It only matters if you grew, you learned, you connected or you got PAID. Pick something and run with it. I chose not to let the process dictate the goal. Ever.

Want to know something else? I’ve been a digital artist for 20 years. That’s long enough for a car, movie or song to be considered a classic. Know what that makes the first digital works of art? In a way it makes them … traditional.

That’s a stretch for some people – they’d argue it doesn’t make them traditional but commonplace. You aren’t taken very seriously unless you use this tool or that – just like the stone masons didn’t take you seriously unless you used certain tools. In case you were wondering, that’s called a creative tradition. “It’s the way things have always been done” and if you are one of those newly minted, millennial kids getting out of school, digital tools are the way thing shave been done YOUR WHOLE LIFE. It’s TRADITION.

Case closed, go paint something.

P.S. Now this all sounds very angry, but it’s book-ended by an interesting year. I spent a lot of time listening to people harp on digital artists for having no ability to use “traditional tools” again. And I also listened to others harp on the future of art and the fundamental requirement that artists adopt more digital techniques. It was ridiculous. So I spent a full two months doing almost nothing but working traditionally – even using coffee as ink at one point.

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Making the Steampunk XWing, Part 1

First of all, this project has some odd roots. I had never drawn anything remotely “steampunk” or much of anything very retro in style ever but noticed it’s rapidly growing popularity.

So the original concept for this was just an exercise in concept art. Beware, serious concept artist hopefuls – doing fan art like this is one of those things professionals tell you to stear clear of because you look like a fanboy.

Well screw that advice – I’m a 15 year working veteran in visual effects and I don’t think any of us would be here without Star Wars so “cut me some slack there ok bro?”

The original concept is still the most favorited thing I have ever posted online and judging by the number of people who have tumblr’d, re-grammed and otherwise copied and pasted it to various sites … you get the picture.

So the first part of this blog documenting the project is all about the concept.

XWing-12-13-11-SML

I did several Star Wars related steam/retro designs and the others were interesting as well in that I didn’t really know what I wanted out of these pieces other than to play with the retro and steampunk design tropes.

The T.I.E Fighter I did, actually, I preferred over the X-Wing because it seemed a little more flamboyant.

TIE Fighter 12-16-11 SML

But since the X-Wing resonated with so many more people, I think it was a clear choice for the build. Ordinarily, I tend to rail against fan art of any kind. Truth be told, I don’t really find doing fan art does much more than hinder your true artistic development but these days, it seems no one will take you the least bit seriously as an artist UNLESS you do it. Completely backwards, but I have had a really long career NOT doing fan art so I think an occasional piece is merited.

I didn’t design any of these things with 3d printing in mind – which I think is the takeaway from this project. Although it helps to have a vertical process in 3d printing – going from concept to final with the 3d pinted result in mind – it’s not a deal breaker.

Even though I never thought about even OWNING a 3d printer when I drew these images in 2011, I didn’t even consider making them in CGI back then. But the entire process can still be considered to be vertical in that I will be completing all areas of the production.

So in making your own 3d printed objects from old concepts keep this in mind – it’s very likely that you did not design something with 3d printing in mind. But you must consider the basic physics of the design WHEN you want to print something.

Both the retro designs had something in common in that they are still largely based on the basic designs of real world, kit bashed, old school visual effects models. The original design topologies of the two fighter craft are recognizable almost anywhere in the world and they make sense to world immediately in that they are mechanical, solid, and constructed from real materials.

Next time, I’ll go over the CGI design process.

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Gearing, working parts and 3d printing

I have only ever done a tiny bit of CAD. I had an old copy of TurboCAD for Windows which I barely used, but definitely should have kept using considering the project I have started this month.

I have as much experience calculating differentials as I do hang gliding, but it became absolutely necessary to at least configure the gearing mechanism required for the latest 3d printing project.

gearing

The first version of the mechanism showed me that I was thinking much to linearly and I eventually switched to something more complicated but definitely more elegant.

Essentially, the gearing mechanism rotates two planes away from each other – it operates a bit like a scissors.

gearing01
This is the first operational mechanism I have designed specifically for a 3d printing project and I am considering going to one or more of the open source CAD applications that are available. At least one of them however, is listed by Chrome as a piece of Malware – FreeCAD.

That’s sad – it looked pretty impressive. But I am sure I will settle on a CAD solution, but since I have learned well how to model at scale with fairly high precision, I might not need CAD immediately.

I think the more important issue is how CAD just isn’t as important in consumer level 3d printing – that it’s practically a non issue to many users who are remixing other models, projects etc. Why learn CAD, there are so many free 3d models of reasonably high quality you should be able to kitbash anything you want, right?

You could probably never run out of free things to print online. But just like I remember people using the first dot matrix printers to print out ascii versions of pictures, I think were still very much in that stage of 3d printing. There are definitely the differences between those times and now – some people are truly pushing the envelope but that entry level FFM user is still trying to wrap their head around making these things work reliably at all.

But like I said before, just being a decent 3d modeler is a huge advantage to 3d printing users. It’s pretty much the skeleton key to synthesizing any shape and therefore anything you want to print.

I’ll post more as this project develops.

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Headed to the bank. Sort of.

I literally spent the last week looking around my desk – not even my whole apartment – for thing I needed that could 3d print.

I came up with two things – a pencil and brush holder and a piggy bank. Since so much of my work is digital I don’t do a terribly good job of organizing my pencils and brushes.

Printed VERY clean, will make the next one larger and maybe modular #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

I do an even worse job of organizing loose change.

I spent some time in a previous post talking about the idea that 3d printing has different (not always better) economies of scale when compared to just going out and shopping or re-using something around the house.

In fact, if I am guilty of anything in this most recent exercise, it’s of particularly conspicuous consumption. But I have spent a lifetime designing so many things for other people, I should get a chance to do them for myself.

The largest single object to date that I have 3d printed is this piggy bank. I had originally thought it should be smaller but considering it kind of looks like a hand grenade, I changed my mind. It might be a good idea to print some ears as it is still sort of menacing in a way.

Almost there, will print the screw cap tonight. #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

The next big project might be settled – moving parts. Sound effects – I am sure the nerd rage regarding its design will cause overload. Hopefully it will be done by Christmas.

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Printing your own useful stuff

People constantly talk about the future where you will print the things you need or want.

Before I bought my first 3d printer, I watched a video of a young man who printed replacement parts for various things in his kitchen and bathroom.

While I thought these were interesting uses, the economies of scale in time and convenience are still WAY off of being compelling to consumers.

For instance, the inkwell I made – the larger one took six hours to print. That’s nowhere near as economical as shopping for one at a local art store.

One could say that the hours taken to design it, to print it and clean it so that it is usable costs a consumer far more than it would to simply buy one at retail.

But does it?

Pencil_Holder

My new pencil holder for the desk – designed, modeled and printed in less than 10 hours total time.

Consider some of the most basic aspects of manufacturing an object as simple as the inkwell I designed.

For a manufacturer to produce a similar inkwell for retail, commonly they would have to:

  • Acquire design services
  • Solicit retail
  • Secure credit and financing
  • Purchase manufacturing capacity
  • Arrange shipping and customs agreements if made abroad
  • Marketing and advertising budgets including package design

For myself I needed:

  • A weekend to design the object
  • Design software
  • 3d printer and filament to cover prototypes and the final
  • a few days to print prototypes and the final versions

Obviously I am leaving out a LOT of detail. But at a glance what do you think really means more to users of the things 3d printing is actually capable of making right now?

I have some obvious advantages over everyday users. Even with the emergence of 3d ecosystems with thousands and even millions of objects available for printing, I can design and prototype my own objects without ever incurring anything but the time to design anything.

I also have some experience in computer aided design, drafting and product and packaging design – not to mention nearly 2 decades of computer modeling experience.

It’s really easy for me to fire up a modeling program and synthesize nearly anything I want.

The learning curve behind really making new things is still pretty steep. And I remember when people used to talk about how long it would take for 3d modeling software would take before it became commonplace – a household thing. It’s been almost 20 years since I remember people talking about that and there are only recently some useful 3d programs on mobile devices. That took an awfully long time.

Even I am still looking for that 3d printing “killer app” – that thing that will make 3d printing a real game changer for other people because I have to be honest.

I hate the thought of not having one in my house and being able to make nearly any object I want – especially after making a living for years making monsters.

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