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PaulHellard
11-04-2011, 04:20 AM
Hey there,

It is with great pleasure I present this 'Meet the Artist' thread to accompany the Artist Profile of Neil Blevins. A long time coming too, as Neil has been in the industry, blowing viewers away with his modeling, lighting and texturing finesse for years, both at Blur Studio and then at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville. He has also been submitting to our books across at Ballistic since the original EXPOS….

Click the image to go to the artist profile and return with your questions.

Please make him welcome. He'll be online soon.

http://www.cgsociety.org/static/images/feature/blevins_fp.jpg (http://www.cgsociety.org/index.php/CGSFeatures/CGSFeatureSpecial/neil_blevins)

Pyke
11-04-2011, 06:14 AM
Hey Neil,

I have been a massive fan of your work for a really long time. In fact, it was finding your website that really pushed me into a career in 3D. I remember pouring over your 'LOIK' tutorial, and staring at that image of the toothy mushroom creature for hours!

When we take a look at your personal work, and compare it to the Pixar 'style', the 2 are VASTLY different. When moving, did you find it difficult to adopt their style, or do you just infuse your own style with Pixar?

Your scripts are fantastic, and are used in our office on a daily basis. Whenever we upgrade to a newer version of MAX, the Soulburn Scripts are the first thing we install. Do you have any new upcoming scripts to add to the arsenal?

bkravi
11-04-2011, 09:26 AM
Very Happy to see you in meet the Artist.
your tutorials always helped me.
Nice to meet you

MaryamNademi
11-04-2011, 03:42 PM
Thank you Neil! Your scripts are essential, Your art work is inspiring, you have been always an inspiration and I dig your style, sci-fi pieces are mysterious mind blowing and amazing. god knows how do you come up with those designs......

It would be awesome to see a video tutorial of your modeling methods in the future. you make it look so easy! I don't know scripting and my workflow doesn't need me to, i was wondering maybe managing all those details without scripting is not possible?

who inspires you for your sci-fi works?

many many many thanks!

joelgray
11-04-2011, 05:01 PM
Neil,

Your contributions to the CG community have been enormous and are certainly appreciated by those who have been to your website or had the chance to chat with you in person or in the forums. I've certainly learned a lot from your CG Education pages over the years and your scripts have made life much easier and saved countless hours. I used to look toward you for artistic inspiration and technical tips, but these days I'm actually more moved by the fact that you maintain energy and enthusiasm for your work and career, but also have the foresight to balance that with family, friends and raising your daughter. For all the tips you've shared over the years, keeping balance in your life has probably been the best one you've shared so far..

Sincerely,

Joel Gray

soulburn3d
11-04-2011, 05:49 PM
Hey everyone! First off, a big thanks to Paul for getting the interview up, I'm honored to be included in the meet the artist section.

I'll be dropping by a couple of times a day to answer people's questions, so feel free to ask away, ask followup questions, whatever you'd like, and I'll do my best to answer them promptly.

I have been a massive fan of your work for a really long time. In fact, it was finding your website that really pushed me into a career in 3D. I remember pouring over your 'LOIK' tutorial, and staring at that image of the toothy mushroom creature for hours!

Hey Pyke! Glad you've found my work inspiring! Man, I remember that character, so many years ago. Think I still have an image somewhere.

When we take a look at your personal work, and compare it to the Pixar 'style', the 2 are VASTLY different. When moving, did you find it difficult to adopt their style, or do you just infuse your own style with Pixar?

Well, when I joined Blur back in 1999, my very first project was working on some WBKids TV bumpers. So right there I was confronted with a very different style, and I had to come up with work that fit the style. It was a little difficult at first, I remember vividly a discussion I had with Tim Miller (head of Blur) one night where I said I was having difficulty making artistic choices in a style that was very different than my own. But I muddled through it, and got a lot better the more I did it. By the time I reached Pixar and started working on the Incredibles, it wasn't really an issue anymore. Plus, sometimes Pixar's work is a lot closer to my own style, like Walle's misty dirty environments was a great match for my personal artistic style. But to make it in this industry, you need to be flexible. And plus I've always loved a lot of different artistic styles, even if my absolute favorite is darker grittier stuff.

Your scripts are fantastic, and are used in our office on a daily basis. Whenever we upgrade to a newer version of MAX, the Soulburn Scripts are the first thing we install. Do you have any new upcoming scripts to add to the arsenal?

Glad you've found the scripts useful. Not much new beyond bug fixes in the near future unfortunately, my freetime has been seriously erroded and so don't have much time to work on new scripts.

It's a pretty standard life arc really. You start off a student, and have all the time in the world for personal projects (It didn't seem like that at the time). Then you get a job, and now you're doing artistic work all day long, so your personal work suffers. Then you get a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband and your time becomes even more limited. I'm lucky that I married another artist, so we'd still have "art nights" where the two of us would sit in the computer room and make our own artwork. But then, the final distraction comes, kids! And it becomes very difficult to juggle everything.

But I am going to make a strong effort starting next year to get back into doing some personal stuff, art, tools and tutorials. So we'll see how it goes. I'll do my best to get a few new tools worked on and released.

Very Happy to see you in meet the Artist.
your tutorials always helped me.
Nice to meet you

Thanks bkravi, glad you've found my tutorials useful!

- Neil

soulburn3d
11-04-2011, 06:18 PM
Thank you Neil! Your scripts are essential, Your art work is inspiring, you have been always an inspiration and I dig your style, sci-fi pieces are mysterious mind blowing and amazing. god knows how do you come up with those designs......

Thanks Maryam! I appreciate the compliments!

It would be awesome to see a video tutorial of your modeling methods in the future. you make it look so easy! I don't know scripting and my workflow doesn't need me to, i was wondering maybe managing all those details without scripting is not possible?

Ya, I've considered doing a modeling tutorial or DVD at some point. Although there are already a number of really good ones out there, like these guys here:

http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/product/752/CG-Survival-Kit%3A-Concept-to-Final-Image
http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/product/398/Vehicle-Modeling-for-Production
http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/product/544/Character-Design-and-Modeling-for-Next-Gen-Games
http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/store/product/363/The-Digital-Maquette%2C-Volume-One

I did a DVD on shading and texturing first because I felt there wasn't as much good material out there on the subject. But I'll try and get more modeling stuff out there at some point.

You can do everything without scripts, but scripts just let you do these things faster. The ones I use the most (in the modeling process) are:

attachSelectedObjects, circleArrayMaker, findInstances, modifierUtilities, nameManager, objectDetacher, objectDropper, objectReplacer, parameterManager, transformRandomizer.

who inspires you for your sci-fi works?

Primarily Zdzislaw Beksinski, Giger, Ashley Wood, Dave McKean, Heidi Taillefer, John Harris, Nicolas Bouvier (sparth), and Nicolas Ferrand. I'm also inspired by a number of non scifi artists, like I love the work of JMW Turner and some of the Hudson River School founders.

Your contributions to the CG community have been enormous and are certainly appreciated by those who have been to your website or had the chance to chat with you in person or in the forums. I've certainly learned a lot from your CG Education pages over the years and your scripts have made life much easier and saved countless hours. I used to look toward you for artistic inspiration and technical tips, but these days I'm actually more moved by the fact that you maintain energy and enthusiasm for your work and career, but also have the foresight to balance that with family, friends and raising your daughter. For all the tips you've shared over the years, keeping balance in your life has probably been the best one you've shared so far..

Thanks Joel. Keeping that balance is a difficult thing, although thankfully Pixar is a very family friendly place, and they do a lot to promote a more balanced lifestyle. I can't tell you how awesome it is to have a baby girl. And how ridiculously difficult it is at the same time. :) Having kids isn't for everyone, but I always wanted to have the experience, and I'm lucky to have found not just a wonderful wife, but turns out a wonderful mother as well to share that experience with.

This industry is a tough one because so many companies rely on things like chronic overtime to make ends meet. And that just isn't sustainable, neither from a company perspective, an industry perspective, nor from a worker perspective. Working 80 hour weeks is fine at age 20, but far more difficult at age 40 when you have a family and children. Some people live and breath work, and that's cool, my love of cg artwork is a huge portion of who I am and what I love to do as well. But I have found that a lack of balance in my life leads to a lot of problems, from relationship problems to serious health problems. So I highly recommend to everyone to plan for the future. Love your work, love art and cg, but also love yourself and love the fact that you should give yourself the opportunity to explore a lot of different experiences. Stepping away from the computer is sometimes as important and sitting down at the computer to get your work done.

Anyways, thanks again, hope you find the balance that you need in your life as well!

- Neil

blipper
11-04-2011, 08:55 PM
Great going Neil. Always a pleasure to see your work and always appreciative of the resources and insights you give. So how about getting the ball rolling on a Pixar/Studio Ghibli collaboration? :D

Tehotet
11-04-2011, 09:31 PM
Hey Neil!

On top of the amazing artwork thanks so much again for all the resources and tutorials you've put out there!

soulburn3d
11-04-2011, 11:18 PM
Great going Neil. Always a pleasure to see your work and always appreciative of the resources and insights you give. So how about getting the ball rolling on a Pixar/Studio Ghibli collaboration? :D

Thanks Blipper. And yes, I'd love to see Pixar colaborate with Ghibli, I love Princess Mononoke and Naussica.

On top of the amazing artwork thanks so much again for all the resources and tutorials you've put out there!

Thanks Tehotet, glad you've found my tutorials useful to you. I have a few ideas for some new ones, hopefully I'll be able to get them out early 2012.

- Neil

PaulHellard
11-04-2011, 11:32 PM
Hey Neil, I've got one.

You mentioned, years ago, 'making images by programming the x and y coordinates of each pixel'. How do you feel your understanding of the code assisted you in your move towards a career with digital art, as an artist?

And does the 'tech' sometimes get in the way of the 'art'?

soulburn3d
11-05-2011, 02:04 AM
You mentioned, years ago, 'making images by programming the x and y coordinates of each pixel'. How do you feel your understanding of the code assisted you in your move towards a career with digital art, as an artist? And does the 'tech' sometimes get in the way of the 'art'?

I think understanding the 'code' always helps. In general, more indepth knowledge of any facet of your chosen tool can help you, but it's certainly not necessary. I know some fantastic painters who don't know anything about how photoshop works, but can produce work in it that kicks my butt. The only downside I'd say is that if you spend a lot of time learning about the tech, that takes time away from practicing the art, and practice time is super important to stay sharp. Personally though, my mind is a blend of the art and the tech, and I find both interesting, so I try and keep myself in both worlds as much as possible. I don't want to focus on only one.

I'll be back in tomorrow for more questions, thanks so far for plenty of good ones!

- Neil

eUKhost
11-05-2011, 06:40 AM
This is my first post in the CGSociety forum. I tried to find the Introduction section, but was unable to find it. Anyway, I was stumbling on the StumbleUpon and found the following image and wanted to comment on that post to appreciate the artist art work.
http://features.cgsociety.org/newgallerycrits/g32/352432/352432_1246003810_large.jpg

But, unfortunately the thread is closed. However, I still wanted to appreciate other artists on this forum. I visited few of the artists threads, and found them very impressive and encouraging. I do use photoshop a little, but not an addict as you people are. Really great artists. This is one of the best artists forums on Internet.

MaryamNademi
11-05-2011, 08:18 AM
Thank you for taking the time and giving us detailed answers.

Modeling: I specifically mean the style you use to do i.e. tech floors in your cg portfolio. I didn't find any other artists to do the similar and i have done quite a lot of research! I have read the articles in CG Education and specifically vertex paintings and tips to how to get more details from procedural maps, thanks to you.

Those tech floors are indeed a great source of inspiration and the reason i think they could help every 3d artist is that though technically complicated they are actually very abstract, and doing similar practices helps us to learn how to think! which is very important in design process. this is one of those practices in 3d as useful as conceptual and speed paintings in 2d. i found your art helping me to understand Zdzislaw Beksinski in a more practical way, and god knows how thankful i am to be able to ask you in person and a huge thanks to cgsociety.

more questions:

1) What movies are your favorites?
2) which short stories are your favorites?
3) do you write stories as well?
4) what music band is your favorite?
5) which movie directors are your favorite?
6) what do you not like to see in young designers?
7) if you were not having the experience working in Blur or pixar would you be the artist you are now?

All the best.

maxspider3000
11-05-2011, 01:41 PM
wow man, it was a long time since I browse your site for the first time :)
you really look older than it back then :P

a big thank you for you Neil
me and a lot of my friends got a lot of help from your tips & tutorials
and your works were always a great inspiration for me

I just stopped by to say Hi
I will enjoy reading the interview and come back if I have some questions

again
really .... thank you :)

-Yusuf

soulburn3d
11-05-2011, 03:59 PM
Modeling: I specifically mean the style you use to do i.e. tech floors in your cg portfolio. I didn't find any other artists to do the similar and i have done quite a lot of research!

Well, that's only part 3d geometry, about half of what you see in those images are painted in photoshop. Here's an image for those who haven't seen them...

http://www.neilblevins.com/artgallery/..%5Cartgallery%5Cmedia%5Ctech_floor_6_rough.jpg

So the only part of that really that's 3d are the wires inside the trench. The rest is photoshop. Like for the large paneling, I make a new layer, fill it with grey, then I delete portions of it to make the pattern. Then I apply various layer styles, like the Bevel and Emboss to give it depth, dropshadow to give a directional shadow, and an outer glow set to the color black to give it ambient occlusion. I also used renders of procedural patterns generated in Filterforge and darktree and apply them to the various components.

All of this could be modeled, but it's time consuming, and these were more composition tests rather than something that had to be seen from multiple angles. Glad you enjoyed them, I certainly had fun making them and will probably make more in the future. When it comes to details like that, one of my inspirations is the artist Ansel Hsiao (fractalsponge), you can see some of his spectacular modeling work here:

http://fractalsponge.net/gallery/index.html


1) What movies are your favorites?
2) which short stories are your favorites?
3) do you write stories as well?
4) what music band is your favorite?
5) which movie directors are your favorite?
6) what do you not like to see in young designers?
7) if you were not having the experience working in Blur or pixar would you be the artist you are now?

1) From an art perspective: The Crow, Transformers The Movie (1985), The Matrix, Robocop, Starship Trooper, Predator, Aliens
2) I don't actually read much scifi, although I have read some of the classics like Dune, Ringworld, etc.
3) Nope, I've had ideas now and again for stories, but I tend to explore those through my art rather than the written word.
4) Music: Devin Townsend (solo work and Strapping Young Lad), Meshuggah, Fear Factory, Dream Theater, and death metal bands like Suffocation and Origin.
5) Darren Aronofski, Fincher, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and I really liked District 9, so while he hasn't done a lot of films, I expect great things from Neill Blomkamp in the future.
6) The thing I like the most is something original, something that has both the wow factor and something that's like nothing I've seen before. I'm the guy who likes the odd designs in the art of books, the designs that are so out there that they never make it to the final design process. So the thing I don't like is a design that just looks like everything I've seen before.
7) Well, I wouldn't be the exact artist I am now, but I'd still be an artist, probably with a similar style, since a lot of my inspiration came long before I worked in California.

Thanks for the extra questions!

wow man, it was a long time since I browse your site for the first time :) you really look older than it back then :P

Yup, I'm now an old fart in my mid 30s :)

a big thank you for you Neil
me and a lot of my friends got a lot of help from your tips & tutorials
and your works were always a great inspiration for me

Glad you've enjoyed my work, it means a lot to me. I'm always happy to help out the community that's helped me so much, glad you and your friends have found my stuff useful!

- Neil

Goul
11-05-2011, 11:06 PM
Hello Neil,

Like a lot of 3dsmax users, i first have to thanks you for your scripts and tutorials. I think i have your website link in my favorites for something like...well.. 10 years at least.

So i got a couple more questions for you :

- Your better and worst moment on a cg-production?
- Being an artist and working with short schedules? Possible? Did the time factor modify your process/workflow between personal work and professional work?

Inxa
11-06-2011, 12:51 PM
Brilliance and creative, few words that I can put forth.

I have been reading and learning a LOT since when I began 3d and your were working in blur (if am not wrong)

One of the spline renderings inspired a whole lot. Became a path former for me. Thanks for answering a couple of mails (I don't know how long ago that was)

Keep up the good work and keep inspiring !

Girish

soulburn3d
11-06-2011, 07:00 PM
Like a lot of 3dsmax users, i first have to thanks you for your scripts and tutorials. I think i have your website link in my favorites for something like...well.. 10 years at least.

Thanks Goul. glad you've found them useful.

- Your better and worst moment on a cg-production?

Hmm, have had plenty of both of those.

I suppose my worst moment was working on this one low budget feature where I had to hand track a synthetic face to an actresses face in the plate. I had no reference photos of the actress, no face scan, no idea what lens was used on the camera, where the camera was in the scene, no facial tracking marks, and no automated tracking software. So it was just me moving and rotating the face frame by frame for 150 frames, playing it, seeing it doesn't match up perfectly, thentweaking it for days on end. The final track in the film is OK, but I cringe everytime I see the shot because of how hard I worked on it and how I never managed to nail it.

Best moment would probably be when one of the directors really liked what I was doing. Like when Brad Bird gave me a compliment on the railyard sequence I was doing for the Incredibles. Getting a compliment from Brad Bird has to be about as good as it gets professionally :)

Being an artist and working with short schedules? Possible? Did the time factor modify your process/workflow between personal work and professional work?

Getting fast and efficient was something that I really learned at Blur, since schedules were always so tight. And there were a lot of really fast people there, so it definately modified my workflows to try and keep up with them. I still wouldn't say I'm the fastest guy out there, but I certainly progressed a lot between my first day at blur and my last.

And that affected my personal work too, since I have way too many ideas for the time I have, and so anything I can do to speed things up really helps me.

Personally I prefer a schedule though that's just somewhat aggressive, one where I still have time to do some research and such, but not so slow that there's no motivation to work hard to get it done.

And thanks Girish for the kind words. Glad my tutorials have helped you out, when I first got into the industry, there were a lot of really helpful people who have me tips and trick on how to do things (I remember one particularly strong critique where someone told me my texturing was too clean and needed more dirt and grunge, man has my style changed since back then <G>), so I'm glad to continue the trend, and hopefully the knowledge you get is something you can pass along as well.

- Neil

ftb
11-07-2011, 12:08 AM
Hey Neil!

Thanks for the amazing 3D studio max scripts, its a shame things like these can't go between maya and max easily but that doesn't change how great they are!

They have helped me to no end,

do you have any old work? like from the programming the pixels era?

once again. you da man!


-lloyd


P.s I'm not saying this just coz you worked on it but The Incredibles is amazing, i love the art style. that 50's :O i hope pixar does more! not cars 3

MaryamNademi
11-07-2011, 07:46 AM
Ansel Hsiao's work is quite interesting! thank you so much for detailed answers.

It was a real pleasure to read your interview and asking the questions I have always wanted to know from my favorite artists. thanks for your time.

All the best to you and to your beloved family.

Pepster3D
11-07-2011, 02:29 PM
Hi Neil! :wavey: Long time, no see (or talk). Glad to see you're doing well and are happy!

I was curious if you specifically applied for the position of TD at Pixar, or did you just go in there as a CG artist, and end up in that role?

Also, was it really difficult for you to decide to leave Blur and move on? I know that sometimes a secure position is very difficult to leave, even if you feel it is time to move onto other things.

Hope to see you at Siggraph again this year!

Cheers,
Darlene Ollerenshaw

Sandpiper
11-07-2011, 03:58 PM
Hi Neil,

I just wanted to say thank you for being a huge inspiration and source of knowledge for me in my career. Your efforts to educate the community with all of those tasty tutorials is very much appreciated!

I also have children (3) and I do find it difficult to work on personal stuff without sacrificing family time or working really late hours and making myself too exhausted to be the best dad/hubby I can be. It's always nice to hear that other artists have to find that balance too - do you find it challenging to do that or is it getting easier as your kiddo gets older?

Thanks in advance!
Jesse Sandifer

soulburn3d
11-07-2011, 05:38 PM
Thanks for the amazing 3D studio max scripts, its a shame things like these can't go between maya and max easily but that doesn't change how great they are!

Thanks ftb, ya, I wish I had a magic button that would transfer all my Maxscripts to Melscripts as well, unfortunately the amount of time it would take to rewrite them all is pretty daunting, especially since it would have to be done in my spare time. That's why I've gotten used to moving files between max and maya using fbx, to try and take advantage of the tools in both packages.

do you have any old work? like from the programming the pixels era?

Haha! I'll get one tonight from home and post it just for fun :)

Ansel Hsiao's work is quite interesting! thank you so much for detailed answers.

Glad the extra detail helped. Thanks for dropping by!

- Neil

soulburn3d
11-07-2011, 06:00 PM
Hi Neil! :wavey: Long time, no see (or talk). Glad to see you're doing well and are happy!

Hey Darlene! Ya, we last spoke Siggraph 2008 was it?

I was curious if you specifically applied for the position of TD at Pixar, or did you just go in there as a CG artist, and end up in that role?

Well, at larger companies things tend to specialize more. And also various terms change their definition depending on which company you're at. Like at Blur, everyone was an "animator", even though I did modeling, texturing, FX and light/comp, and my character animation skills suck :) At Pixar, animators control the movement of the characters, other jobs fall into other categories. So a modeler at Pixar is considered a TD, a shader is a TD, an effects artist is a TD. So the things I'm best at are considered a TD position at Pixar, even if other companies would have different names for these jobs, such as the one you said, "CG Artist".

Also, was it really difficult for you to decide to leave Blur and move on? I know that sometimes a secure position is very difficult to leave, even if you feel it is time to move onto other things.

It's always a little scary moving from what you know to what you don't know. Some people are better than others, I know that I'm a little more sedentary and like to grow roots in a place while others are nomads who love traveling to every corner of the globe working on this or that film. I've found that personally, when I make a big decision in my life, I'll be worried about making the change, and then one day I'll just wake up and say "Yup, I'm ready for the change", and then I do it. This same thing has happened a number of times to me in my life, where something isn't working, and then one day I'll just know that it's time to move on. I still miss my Blur days, the quake games were great, I made so many lifelong friends there, despite me not liking LA very much, I do miss the beach and some of my favorite restaurants. But I enjoy my life now in a whole host of different ways, and don't want to give that up, until it's time to make a big change again. Considering I now have a baby, that's enough change for me right now :)

Hope to see you at Siggraph again this year!

I hope to make it down next summer, so hope to see you there as well!

I just wanted to say thank you for being a huge inspiration and source of knowledge for me in my career. Your efforts to educate the community with all of those tasty tutorials is very much appreciated!

Thanks Jesse, I'm a fan of your work as well, I love that turtle character, your mudbox skills are indeed strong! :)

I also have children (3) and I do find it difficult to work on personal stuff without sacrificing family time or working really late hours and making myself too exhausted to be the best dad/hubby I can be. It's always nice to hear that other artists have to find that balance too - do you find it challenging to do that or is it getting easier as your kiddo gets older?

Ya, I really don't want to shortchange my kid, she deserves an attentive dad, I don't want her to grow up and say "Ya, my daddy spent all his time on the computer, so we didn't play much." That said, I am an artist and need a personal outlet for that, so finding a good inbetween is vital. Funnily enough, I sort of found it easier to do my own art when she was smaller, because even though I was exhausted, she did tend to sleep a lot. Now she's all about super activity, running around, opening cabinets, finding every dangerous item in the house and trying to eat it. :) My plan is starting in the new year to try and do at least one speed painting a week, to get back into a personal art schedule, and of course throw some tutorials and script writing in there when appropriate. So we'll see.

Man, with 3 kids, you really do have your hands full. Are any of them artists? Because there's part of my that hopes my kid's into art as well, then mom, dad and baby call all do art projects together.

Anyways, best of luck with that kid/art balance, it's a subject I really don't see discussed a lot of forums, probably because the parents are too busy to participate :)

- Neil

redflag93
11-07-2011, 08:10 PM
Hey Neil,
I am a very very big fan of 3D Animation Work and itīs a pleasure to meet a very good 3D Artist :) What I everytime want to ask: How long was the most hardest application? So I mean the hardest object you have to create (including textures and so on)? Thanks for being here and answering our questions :)

Best greetings Oliver Freudrich

Beechdbum
11-07-2011, 11:06 PM
If there was a fire in your office and you could only save one toy, which one would it be?
- Ben

Are you mostly happy, sad, or angry?
-Freddie

drspam
11-08-2011, 12:05 AM
hiya neil,
how did you get that wicked sick drop shadow in your name in that header image? you know, the one with the two suns.

thanks in advance,
-francisco delatorre

:bounce:

soulburn3d
11-08-2011, 04:04 AM
do you have any old work? like from the programming the pixels era?


As promised, some REALLY OLD WORK.

The first is a weapons inventory for an RPG game I was working on. This was fully programmed pixel by pixel, 16 colors only. The second is from a fighting game, very much inspired by Final Fight, Street Fighter, Double Dragon, etc. This is 256 colors, and I believe this was made with a mouse, but it would only paint a single pixel at a time in the paint software I was using. This is not professional work, it's just stuff I was tinkering with in my bedroom, ages 14-16.

Please be kind :)

- Neil

soulburn3d
11-08-2011, 04:11 AM
How long was the most hardest application? So I mean the hardest object you have to create (including textures and so on)?

That's a tough question, since I work in my sparetime, it's tough to keep accurate hours on things. It was probably this lizard:

http://www.neilblevins.com/artgallery/media/varanus_panoptes.jpg

The modeling didn't take too long, but the texturing took forever, since photoshop didn't allow you at the time to resize on the fly custom brushes. So I had to manually make multiple sizes of my scale brush, and then paint each scale separately. This took me maybe a month, but again, that's on and off.

If there was a fire in your office and you could only save one toy, which one would it be?

Probably my cavetroll. Or the Shadow Guard Armstrong.

Are you mostly happy, sad, or angry?

I am mostly happy, my music is mostly angry :)

how did you get that wicked sick drop shadow in your name in that header image? you know, the one with the two suns.

You'll have the ask the cgsociety people, they added the text to the image :)

- Neil

Noren
11-08-2011, 01:13 PM
No questions here, but I wanted to say thanks for everything, Neil! :)
I've learned a lot about materials and their interaction with light on your homepage and still recommend it to others, who want to learn about those things. (Actually, I see there has been a lot of new content added since I last visited myself.)
Also your scripts have come in handy through the years.
So without you, my learning experience and workdays would have been quite a bit harder.
Thanks again! :thumbsup:

soulburn3d
11-08-2011, 07:38 PM
Thanks Noren, glad you've found all those materials useful.

- Neil

Smartypants
11-08-2011, 07:45 PM
Hi Neil,
I was just wondering, could you mow the lawn this weekend?

soulburn3d
11-08-2011, 09:15 PM
Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that my wife has decided on joining the conversation :)

And the answer is I'll mow it this weekend if it's not raining. The housework never ends :D

- Neil

SciFibrow
11-08-2011, 11:48 PM
Hi Neil, those tech floors really are amazing! I'm a sucker for greebles... :)

It's encouraging to see a scifi fan getting a chance to flex their muscles at Pixar when the opportunity comes up, working on Wall-E must have been a real treat. Does being into it give you more chance of getting to work on those projects, do they put word out internally for expressions of interest? Are there any new projects coming up in the genre, if you're allowed to let slip such a morsel? ;)

Sandpiper
11-09-2011, 03:12 AM
Thanks Jesse, I'm a fan of your work as well, I love that turtle character, your mudbox skills are indeed strong! :)

Ya, I really don't want to shortchange my kid, she deserves an attentive dad, I don't want her to grow up and say "Ya, my daddy spent all his time on the computer, so we didn't play much." That said, I am an artist and need a personal outlet for that, so finding a good inbetween is vital. Funnily enough, I sort of found it easier to do my own art when she was smaller, because even though I was exhausted, she did tend to sleep a lot. Now she's all about super activity, running around, opening cabinets, finding every dangerous item in the house and trying to eat it. :) My plan is starting in the new year to try and do at least one speed painting a week, to get back into a personal art schedule, and of course throw some tutorials and script writing in there when appropriate. So we'll see.

Man, with 3 kids, you really do have your hands full. Are any of them artists? Because there's part of my that hopes my kid's into art as well, then mom, dad and baby call all do art projects together.

Anyways, best of luck with that kid/art balance, it's a subject I really don't see discussed a lot of forums, probably because the parents are too busy to participate :)

- Neil

Wow, I'm pumped you liked my turtle guy. He was a fun one!

Your description of your daughter's energy sounds exactly like my daughter's. She's 17 months and just a whirlwind of sugar/spice, spittle, and hair. And boy, when she sees me on my computer, a whole new level of excitement powers up, hops in my lap (whether I want her to or not), at which point she lets me know her latest hotkeys and pipeline enhancements with her own gibberished vernacular. So there's promise there. My nine-year old is REALLY into art so I'm definitely going to start doing some art dates with her. I've kinda neglected that lately....

And yes, I rarely have time to get on these forums and post more than my own work at times but I just had to hop on and mingle with ya!

Thanks again Neil - perhaps in the future, we'll have the pleasure of meeting. :D

Pyke
11-09-2011, 07:52 AM
Time to get deep!

I know that in your earlier work, music and dreams played a large part (the tapeworm images being inspired by night terrrors, etc).

As you have gotten older, presumably your music tastes, and dreams, have changed. How has this effected your personal work? Do you find your influences and inspiration still come from the 'inside'?

caracol
11-09-2011, 01:40 PM
Hi Neil!
It's amazing to be able to read from your experience.

Iím really new to this competitive media; I just graduated from fine arts and I have almost none knowledge in real lifeÖ so, do you have any tip for those days where you arenít feeling well, but you want to get things done?
Because when you catch a cold for example, it is really hard to focus. What do you do, given the situation?

Btw, I apologize for my crappy English.

LuisDiDonna
11-09-2011, 03:19 PM
For more than ten years the beautiful work of NB has been inspiring to me (back when his webpage was soulborn3d.com, and he was working for Blur Studios)
His tutorials were (are) priceless. And he is a real cool dude, and a very kind man. Thanks Neil.

Luis

3DMadness
11-09-2011, 03:38 PM
Nice to see you around here Neil! I'm also a fan of your work and your education page from 10+ years, that is also one of the #1 references I show to my students, as you tend to first show how the materials work in real life before going to the 3D.
So, lets go for the questions:

1 - This is something I want to know for a long time: what do you actually do at Pixar as a TD? :D

2 - As I've been following your tutorials from a long time, I've seen you starting in Scanline, then doing things in Brazil and in the last tutorials you've been using mental ray. Have you considered updating some of your old tutorials to mental ray?

3 - Have you worked with vray? Also, do you still use scanline?

Thanks in advance!

Flavio

soulburn3d
11-09-2011, 05:50 PM
Hi Neil, those tech floors really are amazing! I'm a sucker for greebles... :)

Me too :)

It's encouraging to see a scifi fan getting a chance to flex their muscles at Pixar when the opportunity comes up, working on Wall-E must have been a real treat. Does being into it give you more chance of getting to work on those projects, do they put word out internally for expressions of interest?

Desire to work on a particular film certainly factors in, and I'd say this goes for any company, it's always important to communicate the desire to work on a particular project, after all, supervisors want their team to be excited about the work they're doing, and sups aren't mind readers, so let them know how you feel.

That said, as a professional, there will be times where you need to work on something that doesn't interest you as much, and you need to be able to do the job. Of course, if you find yourself ONLY doing work you don't like, then it's important to speak up or move on, but it's also important to spread the more dull work around so that no one person gets all the cool or all the boring work.

Are there any new projects coming up in the genre, if you're allowed to let slip such a morsel? ;)

Hehe, commenting on future projects is a nono, so no comment :)

Your description of your daughter's energy sounds exactly like my daughter's.

Yup, I think they're all sorta similar at this age, at least in terms of energy and curiosity.

Thanks again Neil - perhaps in the future, we'll have the pleasure of meeting. :D

That would be cool, maybe at a Siggraph one of these years.

- Neil

soulburn3d
11-09-2011, 06:00 PM
I know that in your earlier work, music and dreams played a large part (the tapeworm images being inspired by night terrrors, etc).

As you have gotten older, presumably your music tastes, and dreams, have changed.

Good question. The funny thing is, my dreams and music haven't changed much. Maybe that's a sign that I'm not growing as a person :) But regardless, while I don't have night terrors anymore, I still have pretty consistent nightmares, and I'm still heavily into death metal, and yes, I still do use them as inspiration for my artwork. Although in the past several years, I think my work has shifted a bit away from a "monster" oriented theme and become a little more "landscape" oriented. Maybe that's a sign of a somewhat calmer life.

For more than ten years the beautiful work of NB has been inspiring to me (back when his webpage was soulborn3d.com, and he was working for Blur Studios)
His tutorials were (are) priceless. And he is a real cool dude, and a very kind man.

Thanks Luis! Ya, I had to migrate away from the soulburn3d.com website shortly after joining Blur. I wanted to place my blur work and the blurscripts on my site, but as Miller pointed out, I didn't do that work at Soulburn Studios, I did it at Blur Studio. So changing my site to my name made more sense, since it could encompass all my projects, personal and otherwise. Although I still keep soulburn3d.com for my email, since it's a bit redundant being neil at neilblevins.com

But anyways, glad you've found my stuff useful for all these years, I actually remember some of your emails from way back when. I still have all of my email from back into the mid 90s.

- Neil

soulburn3d
11-09-2011, 06:11 PM
Nice to see you around here Neil! I'm also a fan of your work and your education page from 10+ years, that is also one of the #1 references I show to my students, as you tend to first show how the materials work in real life before going to the 3D.

Thanks Flavio!

This is something I want to know for a long time: what do you actually do at Pixar as a TD?

I've done lots of things, from Digimattes to FX to Sets. Mostly now I specialize in Sets, so modeling, shading and painting environments and props.

As I've been following your tutorials from a long time, I've seen you starting in Scanline, then doing things in Brazil and in the last tutorials you've been using mental ray. Have you considered updating some of your old tutorials to mental ray?

Well, I still use Brazil for a lot of my personal work, but I do use mentalray now and again if it has a feature that Brazil doesn't have (like pinching lens distortion). Plus I know more people use mentalray than Brazil, so I want the info on my site to be useful to the largest audience possible.

The other thing is that since I've now used a lot of renderers, including prman, I see just how similar all these render engines are. So my goal when writing new tutorials is to start with general info that's platform independent, and then give several examples using several different renderers. Like my Chrome Material tutorial:

http://www.neilblevins.com/cg_education/chrome/chrome.htm

has examples in Brazil and scanline and mentalray.

Anyways, if there's a specific tutorial you'd like to see with mentalray info, let me know through private email and I'll add it to the list.

Have you worked with vray? Also, do you still use scanline?

I've worked with vray a tiny bit, it has certainly come a long way since it's first release. And I still use scanline now and again, but it's definately now my #3 renderer for my personal work. It's still good for some stuff that doesn't need lots of bells and whistles, like it'll still render opacity mapped cards or particles way faster than a raytracer will.

- Neil

Bandolin
11-09-2011, 07:57 PM
My first exposure to Neil's work was a tut he did about SSS. I have since been following his exploits since then (online at least). I thought I read somewhere he was a Pointe-Claire resident at one point, which is where I'm from. It would be fun to know that a 3D celebrity once lived in my neighborhood.

xdugefs
11-09-2011, 10:22 PM
Just was thinking about Neil Blevins when entering cgtalk, and... he is on the front page! Thank you for all you did for cgtalk and cg-world. You are one of those people who inspire through years. If someone needs to expand his knowledge, just watch Neil's DVD or visit his website, that's how it is.

SciFibrow
11-09-2011, 10:34 PM
Desire to work on a particular film certainly factors in, and I'd say this goes for any company, it's always important to communicate the desire to work on a particular project, after all, supervisors want their team to be excited about the work they're doing, and sups aren't mind readers, so let them know how you feel.

That said, as a professional, there will be times where you need to work on something that doesn't interest you as much, and you need to be able to do the job. Of course, if you find yourself ONLY doing work you don't like, then it's important to speak up or move on, but it's also important to spread the more dull work around so that no one person gets all the cool or all the boring work.
- Neil

Thanks. It sounds like a good way to keep people stimulated. Even scifi fans can get burnt out from too many spaceships sometimes ;). The less interesting subject matter can be viewed as exercises in honing one's skills anyway. My mum only paints flowers but I managed to get her to draw scifi once. It was an Armoured Cyclone from Robotech... needless to say my jaw was on the floor for that one.

soulburn3d
11-09-2011, 11:52 PM
My first exposure to Neil's work was a tut he did about SSS. I have since been following his exploits since then (online at least). I thought I read somewhere he was a Pointe-Claire resident at one point, which is where I'm from. It would be fun to know that a 3D celebrity once lived in my neighborhood.

Hey Curtis, yup, I grew up in Pointe Claire alright, lived there for 23 years before moving to the states. Glad to see someone from my hometown here :)

Just was thinking about Neil Blevins when entering cgtalk, and... he is on the front page! Thank you for all you did for cgtalk and cg-world. You are one of those people who inspire through years.

Thanks Alexander, glad you've enjoyed my work over the years.

Thanks. It sounds like a good way to keep people stimulated. Even scifi fans can get burnt out from too many spaceships sometimes ;).

Hehe. Never too many spaceships. :) But it's good to sometimes explore an area that at first may not seem terribly interesting, because you could learn something you can then apply later on to your favorite theme. I did after school art classes growing up, and my teacher always made us paint a leaf/flower/mushroom as the first exercise of the year every fall. Not my favorite subject, but it gave me an appreciation for nature, which I can incorporate into my artwork. It's only a few brushstrokes to convert a mushroom into a strange plant monster :)

The less interesting subject matter can be viewed as exercises in honing one's skills anyway.

That's true. One time I had to quadrify a whole bunch of geometric letters so they'd subdivide smoothly. Boring job, but man I got good at the necessary keyboard shortcuts, which I still use today. Now if my job was always doing that, I'm not interested, but as a short term gig I learned some things, and was able to help the team out, and the team is important in a collaborative environment such as film production.

My mum only paints flowers but I managed to get her to draw scifi once. It was an Armoured Cyclone from Robotech... needless to say my jaw was on the floor for that one.

Haha! That's awesome. :)

- Neil

SciFibrow
11-10-2011, 03:46 AM
Haha! That's awesome. :)

- Neil

I repaid the favour by drawing "Flowerbrow" a rose. One of my rare lapses in scifi...

ScratchARTS
11-11-2011, 12:59 AM
Hey Neil,

First of all thx for taking the time to share your thoughts and advice with us!

On one of your posts in this thread you mentioned you are trying to balance your work between being artistic on the one hand and being technical on the other. That's a generalist's aproach in my eyes. But you also mentioned that in larger companies/studios, everything gets more and more split in different tasks and teams (= team of specialists).

So it seems to me that if you plan to work for such a bigger studio some time, you need to have some kind of profession in one of these mentioned areas. The problem I notice is: if you are a generalist (like me), you'll probably never reach the expected level expertise needed to work for such a company because your knowlege is vast and broad, but you are missing the "peak",..the one thing you absolutely dominate. My profession I guess is versatility. I'm trying to balance my artistic skills with my technical background (electronics and informatics/programming) to make use of both both worlds as good as possible rather than focusing on just the one or the other side.

So my questions are:
Is there still room for generalists in the highend industry/studios?
For which department/job is such a skillset most benificial?
Do you have any suggestion for me which way I could go with my broad skillset or for which task it is most suited for? I thought about learning Houdini going for FX lately because it is combining artistic and technical skills in a very creative way.

Thx for your advice in advance and keep up your cool and inspiring way of creating art!

best regards
Philipp Kratzer
---------------------------------------
Portfolio: www.scratch-arts.net

soulburn3d
11-11-2011, 04:21 AM
Hey Philipp,

So the Generalist vs Specialist issue is a complex one, mostly because the word Generalist means different things to different people. On top of that, every company is very different in terms of their pipeline and the type of people they want/need, and that also changes over time. So it's tough to answer a broad question like "Is there a place for generalists at large companies", because it depends on what a generalist is, and which company, and when you decide to apply.

For example, lets say you want to get into texturing. You can go to one company, and they'll say they are most interested in finding people who can paint traditionally, and then they can be taught the computer on the job. Then you go to another company, and they use almost all procedurals for their texturing, and their in-house software is all text based, so they're looking for more programmery type people who have a decent artistic eye. Then another company is also procedural based, but they use a GUI, so if you're used to texturing in something like maya's hypershade, then you're potentially qualified for the job. So that's the same job, but done in very different ways, and looking for very different types of people with very different sorts of skills.

So the best thing to do is be specific, ask people at any company you're interested in applying to specifics about the job, what sort of pipeline they have, what sort of people they look for, and then re-ask people every few years. And ask several people, because even multiple projects in the same company may use different approaches and so be looking for different sorts of people.

As far as specialist vs generalist, even someone who has skills in a lot of areas do tend to have their preferences. That old adage: "Jack Of All Trades, master of none", I disagree with that notion. Most generalists tend to be "Master of one, and decent at 2-3 others". Even people who chose to specialize may still have generalist skills, it's just their other skills may not be work related. So it's entirely possible to be a generalist and a specialist at the same time. Think of it like University, you get a major in something, and then also a minor.

As far as your situation goes, I'd recommend try lots of different things, find out what you like doing the most (even if that's 2 or 3 things), then concentrate on those while still keeping a close eye on a few things you also like but may be less passionate about. Then try and find a job that matches your skills and preferences. If you can't find a large company that matches your skills, then don't worry about it, not everyone needs to work for a large company, there are lots of smaller companies out there doing super cool work that you may prefer.

Anyways, not sure if that answers your questions, I may just be babbling. But hopefully something in there is helpful and applicable to your situation. First, do what you love, and then find a way to make a living at it, whether you're good at a single task, good at many, whether you're more artistic, more technical, or an even blend of both. There is a job out there for your skillset, all you have to do is find it.

- Neil

ScratchARTS
11-11-2011, 09:31 PM
Wow! Of course it is helpfull! Thanks alot for this detailed answer!!
I guess I'm just making up my mind to much at the moment.


There is a job out there for your skillset, all you have to do is find it.
You're right! I'm going to pick up your suggestion and start rightaway!

:thumbsup:

caracol
11-12-2011, 12:04 AM
Hello Neil, Iím so new over here and I already had some of the greatest opportunities to learn from the best! And by reading through this forum, I couldnít miss the chance to ask something about your experience.
You mentioned that there is the chance a company might be interested in finding traditional artists and train them.. So... Do you think itís something usual?
It seems that Iím living something alike. I mean, Iím scared about not learning fast enough.. or that they change their mind to soon.
So, can you say something about the timings of such process?

Anyway, Iím already so happy because everyone is so nice in this media, and Iím having fun creating things that I never thought I could do!

PaulHellard
11-12-2011, 01:37 PM
Hey this has been great,

Everyone, Neil has been really great to jump online and be available over the past week.

While I am sure there are further questions out there, I'll draw a close to the official Meet the Artist session for this article. Thank you so much Neil for all your great answers and insights and thanks also to the people in at Pixar for the images and permissions.

:applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause: :applause:

soulburn3d
11-12-2011, 05:44 PM
Thanks Paul, and thanks everyone for participating, I had a great time! It's always so nice to see such a strong cg community, you guys all rock!

And while I've been a bit absent this past year, I look forward to being a little more active in the coming year in both art, script and tutorial.

Cheers!

- Neil

PS: Looks like this was my 4000th post to cgtalk. Guess this is an appropriate thread for the milestone. :)

MarkusB
11-17-2011, 01:46 PM
Thanks Neil, for all you did for the community. And a personal thank you, as your work and our contact on good old compuserve back in the 90s encourage me to start a career in the CG business. I was impressed what you can archive in CG...You work has always been inspiring and a pleasure to look at!

Keep doing what you do Neil!!!

XianPalintir
11-24-2011, 06:09 PM
Hi Neil!! A bit late, hope you can read this.

Some years ago your tutorials made a huge difference in the way I approach 3D and art in general. So it was like life-changing. I even found my first 3D job thanks to all I learned from you.

Thanks so much for being so open and share all your knowledge and even tools with all of us.

Cheers!!

Chris

PS: Your music taste is perfect, haha

MatheusMaia
11-28-2011, 03:05 PM
I'm a Beginner in CG and a little time ago I met you in your WebSite. I loved your tutorials and mainly your Art :).
I see here how important you are.:bowdown:
So, I have just one question:

- is it important an artist develop an own style? What do you think about it?
:thumbsup:

bmfukushima
12-15-2011, 12:32 PM
Although I still keep soulburn3d.com for my email, since it's a bit redundant being neil at neilblevins.com
Now that you can change ".com" to ".whatever you like" have you considered going for the incredibly redundant "NeilBlevins@NeilBlevins.NeilBlevins" :curious:

also apparently the curious face is considered suspicious :wavey:

soulburn3d
12-16-2011, 07:04 PM
Looks like a few last minute questions came through, sorry I missed them until now!

Thanks Neil, for all you did for the community. And a personal thank you, as your work and our contact on good old compuserve back in the 90s encourage me to start a career in the CG business. I was impressed what you can archive in CG...You work has always been inspiring and a pleasure to look at!

Keep doing what you do Neil!!!

Thanks Markus, I remember you from compuserve, seems like a lifetime ago.

Some years ago your tutorials made a huge difference in the way I approach 3D and art in general. So it was like life-changing. I even found my first 3D job thanks to all I learned from you.

Thanks so much for being so open and share all your knowledge and even tools with all of us.

Cheers!!

Chris

PS: Your music taste is perfect, haha

Glad my tutorials have helped you out! And glad you dig my musical taste :)

I'm a Beginner in CG and a little time ago I met you in your WebSite. I loved your tutorials and mainly your Art :).
I see here how important you are.:bowdown:
So, I have just one question:

- is it important an artist develop an own style? What do you think about it?
:thumbsup:

As an "artist", in the fine art sense of the word, I think having your own style is very important. Hell, I think it's important just in general to have your own style, so you can leave something unique to the world after you pass on. That doesn't mean of course that that style won't change, morph, improve, etc over time. Always good for your work to evolve.

As a production artist though, it's important to be able to make artistic calls using a number of styles, since working on projects that only line up with your personal style isn't a good way to put food on the table. Plus, working in other styles will teach you things that you can then fold into your own work, it will make your own unique style even stronger.

Now that you can change ".com" to ".whatever you like" have you considered going for the incredibly redundant "NeilBlevins@NeilBlevins.NeilBlevins" :curious:


Hehe. Actually, I already got hit with that problem long ago, I still send my email through my soulburn3d domain name, because I felt that sending mail to neil at neilblevins.com just seemed kinda silly :) So no, that email address just has way too much neil to it :)

- Neil

MatheusMaia
12-19-2011, 10:29 PM
thanks for anwser!
so, I have more one question
What the sensation when you see your job in movies? I think is surreal, right?

soulburn3d
12-20-2011, 04:06 AM
thanks for anwser!
so, I have more one question
What the sensation when you see your job in movies? I think is surreal, right?

It's always very jarring. Because you stare at a single shot or asset for so long, and it foes by so quickly in the film. The moment it shows up on screen you are completely removed from the movie, then when it's over (2 seconds later) you can get back to enjoying the film as a film. :)

Anyways, thanks for the extra questions, I think Paul wants us to close up shop here, please feel free to email me if you have more questions, just visit my site http://www.neilblevins.com. (http://www.neilblevins.com)

- Neil

Ajudy
12-24-2011, 08:59 AM
Hello neil
Very Happy to see you in meet the Artist.
your tutorials always helped me.

echun
01-13-2012, 02:15 AM
Hey there,

It is with great pleasure I present this 'Meet the Artist' thread to accompany the Artist Profile of Neil Blevins. A long time coming too, as Neil has been in the industry, blowing viewers away with his modeling, lighting and texturing finesse for years, both at Blur Studio and then at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville. He has also been submitting to our books across at Ballistic since the original EXPOS….

Click the image to go to the artist profile and return with your questions.

Please make him welcome. He'll be online soon.

http://www.cgsociety.org/static/images/feature/blevins_fp.jpg (http://www.cgsociety.org/index.php/CGSFeatures/CGSFeatureSpecial/neil_blevins)

your tutorials always helpful for me

jamesadam432
01-19-2012, 11:21 AM
thanks for the information and for your tutorials. these are really very helpful for all the people associated with it.

Thanks again

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