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.