3D Chronicles – University, or Better Not?

General / 25 November 2016

Last time I introduced you to my CG heroes and described how I became part of the Czech 3D community. I was about 16-17 years old at that time and I was attending high school. Something called Grammar school in English speaking countries. That meant quite deep general education but no specialty at all. The time to decide about my future was quickly approaching.

Self teacher

As I mentioned in the first chapter of 3D Chronicles, my dad brought me to 3D. Since then I was spending my spare time learning. There were very limited resources mainly very slow internet connection and lack of tutorials in my native language. There were few books in Czech which helped a lot, but the most of my learning was trial and error or asking community. We had some computer classes at school, but they were mostly about computer theory and basic programming. To be honest guys at my age already knew  almost everything they tried to taught us. After a year or so I found that there is a 3D course at a technical high school in my home town. I was really happy to join in and finally meet people who are interested in the same subject. Another but, I was already ahead and I was able to do much more advanced stuff then they were starting to learn. So my only way was to stay self taught.

Behold my short film

Made for high school art leaving exam. Back online after 8 years.

Know it all

When you attend grammar school, you basically know everything and nothing. You’re not specialized or focused on any particular area. There comes a problem, you’re supposed to move to university to finally decide on your career. Breaking point came in the last year of my high school studies. What to do next? There was no university teaching 3D in the Czech Republic and to study abroad was impossible because of finances. I was already making some money doing freelance jobs at that time. Logos, posters, archviz, small models. Based on that I knew that I actually can make some money with 3D, that it can become my job. My parents were skeptical about it, especially my beloved mummy. It was really hard, I chose to apply for two universities and one vocational school. All of them art focused and very hard to get in. To be honest, I cannot draw and I was rejected by all of them. My parents were really desperate and it was a rough time for all my family. I was the only one from the class not going to university, but I decided to follow my dream and to prove my parents that I can make it on my own. It took me two years to finally convince them. More about it later.

Grown man

My high school studies came to an end. Few freelance jobs came over my last holiday and I started to look for a job. It was obvious that I have to leave my small home town and move to the capital. In the meantime I was working on few freelance jobs with my friend and enjoying summer. That was a that time when I briefly met another important lad, Tomas Kral. Just for few minutes, but we will meet again soon and work together for years. After few weeks I was lucky enough that my friend and one of giants Martin Vocet helped me to find a job in a small game studio where he was working. Jan is leaving to Prague, starting to do follow a path to his dream job.

To study or not to study

As I’m looking back, it was a destiny not to be accepted for those universities. I’m glad for it. From my point of view learning from experience and during actual jobs is far more valuable. On the other hand it can be a little bit painful sometimes. To study or not to study is really hard question, but I would not change my decision. I hope you will start to understand it from my future blog posts, which are going to be less nostalgic and more about opinions. Let’s talk about my few first years in the industry and finally touching VFX next time.

3D Chronicles – Meeting Giants

General / 12 September 2016

We have left young Jan alone with his first 3D plane and dreaming about possibilities, which he can achieve. But it is almost impossible to achieve something completely alone. You need support, help and inspiration. I’ll talk a little bit about how all of this came to me, how I found motivation and who helped me to in the beginning to evolve my passion for 3D.

Not alone

I started to gather as much information about 3D as possible. Early I was lucky enough to find Czech 3D community website called 3Dgrafik.cz. Yes, it’s the website’s screenshot at the end of the previous chapter. The most important person of that site recognized it after almost 12 years. I’ll talk about him later. The site opened another door for me. There were roughly 20 young people discussing 3D, showing their creations, tips and trick and sharing experiences. Few of them stand out, let’s call them giants. Guys who ruled the world of Czech 3D. The most important thing was that they were so opened to share their knowledge and thanks to them whole community grew. I was even scared to ask them or talk to them online. It’s called respect. Who would guess that after few years I’ll meet them all, or work with them or even have them as friend? Me not at that time.

Important ones

It was in the middle of my high school studies when I started to interact with Czech 3D community. It was very friendly environment because there were very few people doing 3D. There were no schools to learn computer graphics so everybody was self taught at that time. Everybody was sharing everything and we were learning from the more skilled ones. I want to introduce you the most important ones. At least important for me, they helped me a lot in the beginning, inspired me and kept me on my path. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to find their very old creations, so you can see what they were creating. It’s a little bit funny to look at it now, but it was incredible at those times. Let’s take a look what they did in their beginning and what they are doing now.

Founder of 3DGrafik.cz website now working as a lead game artist for iOS games. He took me into his editorial team and helped me a lot in the beginning. Including getting me into my first full time job, where I was lucky enough to work with him.

3Ds Max guru, now running his own studio and helping other studios to set up their pipeline. Lukas was doing tons of tutorials and had an answer to every technical question. We did a lot of jobs together later and he became my close friend.

Skilled 3D artist, running his own freelance business now. Richard was the first giant I’ve contacted with some question. I was so scared to do so, but he was really patient and answered everything and helped me a lot. We had really nice chats later during meetings.

Character artist since beginning, now world known ZBrush guru working on games like Doom. One of the few who did characters since the beginning and he’s now pushing ZBrush polygon limits everyday. He’s always source of inspiration. I was honored to have him as my character supervisor.

Master, world known environment artist, now running his own business and cooperating with companies like Blur studio. Almost everybody who is working in 3D knows his work, he always pushed boundaries and filled us with motivation. Happy to met and chat with him quite a lot of times.

Magic man, matchmove wizard, now layout lead at ILM. Not much giant, he’s pretty small. But we started almost in the same time and met in the beginning. We met a lot of times later, during work or in the pub. Amazing guy, amazing friend with amazing career. We pushed each other into work and into learning.

First encounter

Another milestone in the community came, when meetings started to be organized. I clearly remember my first one. I was travelling alone to the capital city Prague, being roughly 17 years old, to meet the giants. I was sitting in the corner of the pub, sipping Coke with other newbies and the other table was occupied by them. All of them. Unforgettable moment (especially Loocas with ponytail :D, he’s having 0.5 cm hair since then). It was strange feeling, but I guess that everybody knows it. Meeting your heroes, be scared to ask or even talk to them. I still have it, I still meet other of my heroes. But I’ll talk about them in later chapters.

Take a look in to the archives



Two sites had us all

Time went by and I wasn’t scared of them anymore. I was talking to them online on daily basis. I started to read and learn from English tutorials and engaged with the community more and more. Once upon a time Martin asked if I want to join website editors. I was so happy and honored. I was translating a lot of tutorials to Czech, publishing a lot of news from the 3D world everyday. It was the moment when I became true part of the community. People started to know who I am. Almost simultaneously  with 3Dgrafik.cz website another important one was established. Maxarea.com. Both of them attracted whole Czech community. Each of them had slightly different content, but the same people. Both played very important role in the evolution of Czech 3D. Sadly 3Dgrafik.cz wasn’t able to compete with Maxarea and was closed and few editors moved there, including me. Maxarea still lives, but community moved to Facebook, people started to attend worldwide sites more and it slowly loses its breath too. A little bit sad for us all, but it’s just technology evolution and us getting older and spending our time doing 3D for living and just dreaming and chatting about it.

Thank you

I want to thank you a lot giants. You showed me the path, you helped me, inspired me. I owe you a lot. Whole Czech community owes you a lot. And not just you, there were many others, I hope that they will forgive me that they are not mentioned here. This selection of people just stick to my mind. But we will talk about a lot of others later! Next chapter will be about earning first money with computer and fulfilling first dreams. Thanks for reading!

3D Chronicles – The Beginning

General / 11 July 2016

Do you know that feeling? Sitting in the cinema or in front of a TV screen, having goosebumps and starring on amazing frames of the film. I do and even after 8 years working in VFX, I still have it. I always loved films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park etc. But I’ve never thought that it can be my lifetime job. I want to share with you humble beginnings of young man with big dreams and prove you that anybody can do it. There’s just one thing you have to do. Work your ass off.

"This is 3Ds Max and they've made Jurassic Park with it."

- My Dad

One sentence to change it all

I can clearly remember that very moment. My dad came home from work and I was playing games (StarCraft probably) and he handed me over CD with 3Ds Max label on it. He simply said: “This is 3Ds Max and they’ve made Jurassic Park with it.”. It’s funny how one sentence can change your life. And yes, I know it wasn’t Max, but it doesn’t change influence of that quote. Since then I’ve spent countless hours staring on a screen and exploring everything what I’ve could possibly find about 3D. That world’s started to absorb me. Who would guess at that time that in 10 years I’ll be sitting behind the desk in the company which has Oscars displayed in the lobby and I’ll be working with the most skilled people in the world on that movies I’ve dreamed about.

(Pre) Historic times

It was a long and hard journey, still is and I hope that it’ll never end. One of the most satisfying parts of this industry is that you have to constantly learn new things. Technology is moving very fast and we have to keep pace with it. This task is completely different nowadays. Tutorials everywhere, immediate answer from artists on Facebook. Can you even imagine to have dial-up connection back? Or not knowing anyone else who knows 3D? I was thinking about it and remembering old times (yeah it sounds funny) and it feels a little bit nostalgic. That’s the main reason I’ve started to write this blog.

So it begins

Intel Celeron, 1024MB of RAM, CRT monitor and dial-up Internet, that was my setup. Launching 3Ds Max R2 for the first time was unforgettable moment. A lot of buttons, so many unknown English words and, what was the most disturbing, desktop visible through four big windows. Something was wrong. I gave it another try after few weeks when I was bored of playing games (StarCraft probably). Still desktop, OK let’s try the mighty Internet, it took usually about 3 minutes just to connect and there was that unforgettable sound. After few hours of searching (which was really expensive) I found that my graphic card wasn’t properly set up. Easily fixed and then viewport grids finally appeared and I created my first box. Nothing else, because the interface was so complicated and in English. After another expensive hour on the Internet I came across three tutorials in Czech, literally the only three tutorials written in Czech existed on the Internet. Modelling a plane from a box, modelling and rendering a wine glass and finally shattering sphere (no simulation at that time). I would like to thank a lot to person who wrote those, because after finishing them I was completely lost in the world of CG and I’m still there.

Opening Pandora’s box

Luckily enough I’m one of those who have pretty decent backup. At the beginning on CDs, DVDs, then mirrored HDD and now in unlimited cloud. Because of that I can share those creations with you. It was a strange and warming feeling to open those scenes after 13 years. First surprising thing was, that they actually opened in the last version of 3Ds max. Second one was that I clearly remember how I was making those models, following the tutorial by very exact numbers for vertex positions or color values.

To be continued

I guess that not a lot of people will recognize that screenshot on the right. But more about it next time I have lot of interesting stuff to share and hope you’ll enjoy reading it. Look forward for more archive stuff, breaking into the community and talking about meeting Czech CG gods. Thanks a lot for stopping by, but now back to work!