Mike is a CG generalist, with working knowledge of 3D modeling, lighting, compositing, special effects, realtime graphics and programming.He works mainly in Blender, a fast-evolving, open-source 3D package.He also does amazing digital photography when he is not busy playing with computers.
1. Give us a brief bio of yourself and tell us where and when you discovered Blender.
I got into computer graphics about 8 years ago when I was still in high school. I can’t remember how I started with Blender, but I am happy I stuck with it. Since then, I used Blender on and off as a hobby, until a few years ago when I started working with it professionally. I consider myself to be a 3D generalist: I like to do a bit of everything. Right now, I am co-authoring a Blender Game Engine book with Dalai Felinto to be published this summer with the release Blender 2.6.
2. Who and or what inspires you?
When I started, the single piece of work that really inspired me is Andy Goralczyk’s Mindfields. Being a complete beginner to Blender, I was blown away by what this little program is capable of. Looking back at that video now, it’s unbelievable how far we have come in 8 years. Today, I get inspirations from many different sources and artists.
3. You are an iconic figure in the community, tell us what aspect of your work people gravitate towards most and why?
I enjoy tinkering with new technologies, a lot of my most popular work are actually just me testing out new features in Blender such as Cycles, fluids, OpenCL particles, array modifiers, etc. I think my work often give people a glimpse into the most cutting edge features in Blender, so any ‘wow’ I receive should really go to the Blender developers that made it possible.
4. Before starting a project, what are some preparations you make?
As with many other amateur artists, I sometimes struggle to keep myself focused on personal projects. It helps if I have a lot of enthusiasm and momentum when starting. Announcing the project openly to your friends and the Blender community can also help.
5. Blender has been through alot and has been found by many to be quite frustrating, what made you stick to Blender?
Interestingly, Since Blender is the first 3D program I learned, I got quite used to it. I was perfect happy with the Blender 2.4 interface (ignorance IS bliss after all) until I saw William Reynish’s user interface proposal for Blender 2.5. I think the 2.5 interface is a huge leap forward in usability. That said, Blender is just a tool like any other, and for a tool as advanced as Blender, it has to be complex. I think sometimes people come to Blender expecting that the software will magically make studio-quality artwork for them without them doing the work.
6. What was your biggest challenge when starting Blender?
I think my biggest challenge was, and is, finding good learning material and support. The forums tend to be slow, and there is a very alarming lack of documentation when it comes to the game engine.
7. Describe your workflow.
It really depends on the project. But during a project, I spent a lot of time managing datablocks. I always try to keep the scene as clean as possible. Naming all the objects, using shared datablocks if possible, keeping the layers organized, document your file might not seem like a big deal, but half a year later, you’ll be glad you did.
8. What bit of advice would you give to someone who wants to or is learning Blender?
Be active! get on forums, IRC, twitter, mailing lists and keep a blog; post your work; be receptive to critiques, but also be willing to help others. This isn’t 15th century Rome, you can’t work alone for 4 years behind closed doors to produce a masterpiece. Share and be seen.
9. Have you ever worked on a commercial project and or used commercial software?
I’ve worked professionally with Blender both for commercial as well as on academic research projects. Commercial software is sometimes used, but none of them had been a replacement for Blender.
10. What do you love most about Blender?
Even if Blender is not going to replace the big 3 (Maya, Max and XSI) anytime soon, Blender will always be a rich playground for coders and artists. The most attractive feature of Blender to me is definitely the speed at which the software is maturing, there are so many branches, experimental features, and cutting edge stuff that many people don’t even know about. The relationship between the developers and the users is also something that is quite unique in the industry. It feels amazing to be able to actually talk to someone who have worked on the software.