The bottom line, Demo Reel Advice

A lot of people talk a lot of advice on demo reels. Some good advice others not. I'm going to break it down really easy for you all. Every company in every industry has it, it's called the bottom line.

A company gets paid to DELIVER FINAL SHOTS. Thats what they do, thats how they make their money. They hire artist to do the work. They look for artist who can do as much of the work as possible, meaning do the most work with the least # of people (less overhead costs). Even if he/she is expensive if they can do more/faster work, better for the company. In other words, companies hire artists who they believe can FINAL SHOTS. Jr level demo reels are for artist who want to show they can final shots. If a reel doesn't show that, they don't get hired. A Jr guy who's 1/4-1/2 the price of a Sr guy needs to show they final 1/4-1/2 the number of shots a Sr guy can, simple as that. If your reel doesn't have one final looking shot, how can a company bet on you that you'll be able to final a shot later? Thats usually why Jr guys don't get hired. At LEAST ONE GOOD SHOT is a must. Forget about what software, think about what techniques you can do or show. Get one great shot. Finish that and still not have a job? Do another.

Some nice examples site (and yes most of them as 3dmax/fume guys) I have and am learning from their site design and am inspired by their fx shots. You don't need to do all this but get damn close if you can. Look at these for their tests and their shots. Don't worry about their tools. Think about what you know and what you can do, how can you show that? Bottom line :D

Lot of props to these guys for taking the time to get their work, show some of their process and getting it up online... that's a big pain in the ass, as most FX guys I know don't take the time to do that, me included.

The golden $1600 new computer ratio

I have this theory. The best home workstation should cost no more than $1600 to build, with or without keeping parts from your old box. I work on some of the most expensive computers that make business sense to purchase, and run around $4k-$6k. I get a new computer at work about every 12-18 months.

It breaks down like this, I can spend $1600 for a great mid level rig or $4,000 on high end one. The $1600 computer is designed to last me 18 months and then I get a new one. The $4,000 rig will have to last 3-4 years at least to be worth it money wise. The second $1600 computer will be as fast or faster than the high end workstation from 18 months before.
I can tell you that a hand built (by you @ newegg) will not be THAT much slower than a $4,000 computer to begin with. More importantly, what is slower is ok to be slower. If you're doing particle/fluid simulations, or 3d rendering, then the slowness will cost you in time, which is just inconvienient not costing you money or frags. Small freelance gigs will be manageable with the newish proc and won't be significantly slower.

The difference will be ram size and proc count, not ram or proc speed as much, esp if you get into even minor overclocking. The sad truth is hardware depreciates to "nothing" so fast whatever you spend on a computer is money being slowly thrown away. Keep it at midlevel and keep it fresh, and you'll be fast and always up to date with the most bang for your buck.

I'll end on this story. My friend got a $4,000 workstation at the same time I got my $1600 one. His was 8 core (2 quad @ $1500 each) His computer is fast and so is mine. One night his one proc burned out due to a cpu fan lock up. He didn't have a warentee and didn't buy a whole system from a company like Dell, totally his responsibility. He couldn't afford another $1500 proc and the other didn't work with just one. He had to buy 2 new procs at a lower speed in order to get back up and running. Another reason to buy a computer where any fail component is easily replaced.

EDIT/UPDATE: sponsors a build of the month ($1500) for CPU magazine. A great reference for what to get in the ever changing DIY Computer build.

fluid rendering: handware/software mix

Many Most people who've worked with fluids, have noticed that it looks better in openGL than the render... in some ways. I'm refering to smoke, not more shader based fx like fire. Smoke will have some details that seem to get lost in software render, but software render also has the benefit of smoothness of gradients and propor lighting. Those 2 key aspects keep up software rendering. My friend at work was talking about trying to hardware render his fluids and said it was almost good enough. I played around and came up with this.
hardware render for the added detail and blur/add it into comp over top of the software render. I haven't done this on production level stuff but on my initial tests the results are promising.
Here's one test frame, I'll try to get the render online.

Maya Fluid Software Hardware Mix from destruct007 on Vimeo.

Fracture alpha/beta Testing.

I'm alpha/beta testing
very cool shatter tool with an RBD solver akin to physX but working with it on 64bit linux maya2009. Some of you may know that there is no physX solver for that combination... which is probably the most common combination in the industry right now. Annnywhoo. See if you can get in on the alpha/beta it's cool.

Since BlastCode has been waiting for library files to be updated that don't seem like they are going to be, it's been dead in the water. Fracture is a differnt method of shattering, more like rayfire on 3dsMax. I'm currenltly working to build this into my destruction pipeline... so far so good.

The key to a good plug-in or even software is the motivation and passion of the developers. Work hard on it and push it to be great. Take mudbox for example. Was making leaps and bounds then got bought, and what? ZBrush blew it out of the water. Passion, drive, motivation, skillz... these are the things that make tools great and me want to use. I think fracture will make some waves, and I was skeptical about it for a long time.

Maya could do a great nRBDsolver and shatter tool but I don't see that happening in a timely way and like I said before, I think fracture will push harder and make greater strides for a number of reasons. Time will tell.

Motorola DROID: Stealth commercial

30 frames of fx, hah.

I did the ground explosion at :30 ubber quick, helped out with a few hours after my normal hours to help them finish (still at Asylum just not on my normal project)

The Game Plan

EDIT/UPDATE: Taking a term off from teaching and going to push hard on upping my skills. Of course in Maya effects, but also in other areas... here's the plan. Right now, 3dsmax, Fume, Krakatoa, Fracture, and Maya are my main focuses.

Nuke :: working knowledge - advanced
    currently : none
    plan : Gnomon Nuke DVD's or just have some guys at work show me the ropes.
General Compositing, going through "The Art and Science of Digital Compositing" <- great book

3dMax :: general good working knowlage
    currently : Got 3dsmax, doing some basic tutorials to learn the interface
    plan : Assortment of Gnomon DVD's (not sure yet which ones)
Fume :: advanced
    currently : got it, not working.
    plan : mess around with it, have my friend Ian Farnsworth  show me a thing or two
Krakatoa :: working
    currently : none
    plan : online tutorials

advanced lighting; rendering in Mental Ray
    currently : good
    plan : Gnomon DVD's and read "Introduction to Computer Graphics" by James D. Foley

Fracture (Maya Plug-in): advanced
    current : some tutorials
    plan : use it at work (got it) and get really good with it.

Houdini :: not actively 
    current : decent can get around and do what I need to, but I'm slower right now in H than Maya

The overall plan is to get 3dsmax, Fume, and Krakatoa into Asylum so I can use it everyday on shots that would benefit from it. Thats the best way to learn it, but have to start by showing some cool examples of what I can do with it first.

Comments enabled!

Finally figured out why comments weren't enabled.


It's not much (what I did) but in 2.5 days I made 2 of the alien ships explode with smoke trails. The easiest one to point out is the crash right before the fade to the future of that Marine or whatever master chief kind of guy he is. Anyhoo, cool trailer/short thingy!

Fire Part 1

Fire Part 1 from destruct007 on Vimeo.

Here we start with the basics of fluid fire in maya. We just get the ball rolling, but it should be enough to get people well on their way to making fire, play with this setup and get to know it, understand how and why it moves. Next time we'll be pushing it further but when you make your own you'll need to know why things are moving the way they are. 90% of making fire will be knowing how to tweek it per-shot and per instance of your fire. Fire is a tweek fest of the highest regard.

Please to enjoy!

Vimeo videos

Upload complete. All video's now on vimeo, and future ones will be there too. It's got the best playback and general viewing. Just watch it fulls screen (or not) but it should still have the resolution 'n all.

Please to enjoy.

AUDIO-VIDEO SYNC issue fixed!

Talk on Fluid Transparency in Maya

Fluid Transparency in Maya from destruct007 on Vimeo.

Not a tutorial so much as it is me explaining some things about how I understand fluid transparency. It's a confusing thing since there are so many places it can be edited, and it's unclear what effects each slider has on the final render. I try to get into where and why it's confusing but I don't really make it clear since it is confusing... but I make it clear-er.

Fluid Rendering Optimizations Maya/MR

Fluid Rendering Optimizations Maya/MR from destruct007 on Vimeo.

Speeding up fluids renders can be key to farm efficiency and iterations to a better effect. Using Mental Ray with low AA -3, -1 gives a fast good looking fluid render, so long as there are no hold out geometry objects. This is by no means the perfect tutorial, meaning you'll have to play with the settings to get the quality you need to the shot, but this is the way to get a big time savings.

We also cover, instanced destruction and voronoi shattering. But that's just a bonus side effect to get the main effect.


Just got a new computer and I spent more than I planned to. I wanted to spend $1350, spent $1600. Taxes, quiet fans, 2 HD instead of 1, best head sync instead of just OK, is what threw me over the top. But for my money I got a LOT so check it...

Leaving out the more boring parts, case, drives etc

Proc: Intel Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz (OC to 3.8GHz eventually)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB
RAM: 12 GB DDR3 of CORSAIR DOMINATOR 6GB (3 x 2GB) 1600 Triple Channel
Mother Board: EVGA E758-A1 3-Way SLI Intel X58
Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling S61EPS 610W Continuous @ 40°C

Best Air Cooler for Core i7:
Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme RT 1366 CPU Cooler

Email me if you want the links to these, or the whole list. Man this post is GEEEK!

Crap servers!

Just found out the reason for the video to stop loading or freezing is the servers they are hosted on are not streaming/not made for video. So... I'm looking to get better server to host them. Until then, crap apples, it's hit or miss if the whole thing will play.

EDIT: Just got new servers, will transfer the videos over tonight.
EDIT: Too expensive going to figure out vimeo

Emitted Softbody & Facing Ratio

Emitted SoftBody & Facing Ratio from destruct007 on Vimeo.

This is a tutorial I did, actually a while ago. It's a trick that comes into play every now and again. Emitting softbodies with a facing ratio shader, gives a stringy wispy look that can make for some cool fx.

Please to enjoy.

Overburn technique video tutorial

Overburn technique video tutorial from destruct007 on Vimeo.

From Peter Shipkov's Overburn technique (maybe not the first to do it but most well known) Basically it's Fluid Shaded Cloud particles. I made a video tutorial about how to make it from scratch and edit it into a meteor.

Sorry about the sound, it crackles at points and is annoying. Welp, this is free so please to enjoy.

click the image to see the render on youtube

Fast and the Furious 4 shots online!

Pretty cool, I worked on the fx, did dust, smoke, debris from the crashing BMW. Some live action elements in there and the smash off the bridge shot was done by Kevin Brown.

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