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Graphics

Playing around with Computer Graphics have been an interest of mine for many, many years. My approach to Design is a lot different than that of "a real designer", but what I lack in the "artist department" I'll try to make up with a technical approach and understanding of the process (after all this is probably what you would expect of a software developer <G>). Over the years I've done a lot of photo retouching/restoration, and when I got my first dSLR camera I got very interested about this area as well. Also over the years I have done a lot of various logos and illustrations. My latest area of interest in the "graphics-department" is movie editing.


Learning more

I've never received any formal education in using these products, but being an interest of mine means I don't care spending a fair deal of my spare time learning new tricks and coming up to speed with new features and perhaps easier/better ways to solve various problems/tasks. Work wise its not part of my job to work with graphics, but because I got the skills/the interest I've done a lot of photo retouching and other graphical work as well, whenever the need has arisen. There are a lot of great sites on the net that are loaded with tutorials and info of using these products.

 

Software

Software wise I started out years ago with CorelDRAW and PSP (Paint Shop Pro), but then I've moved to full Adobe Creative Suite package (started out with CS3, and have since upgraded to CS4). No doubt my strong point is PhotoShop, but I have done work with Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and InDesign as well. No doubt Adobe got some really nice software - personally I think PhotoShop CS is by far the best bitmap/raster-graphics editor out there, and it is far beyond any of its competitors. However for an amateur like me, its hard to justify its pricet-ag, so after CS4 I decided to go Open Source in stead. In the beginning it was hard using these new Open Source programs, since I had worked with PhotoShop for so many years. In PhotoShop I knew all the functions by heart, and I knew what to do to accomplish the result I wanted. However I forced myself to stick with these Open Source programs, so I had to learn how to accomplish the same result in these programs. In the beginning it was a slow progress, but as I got more experience using these programs, I had to spend less time reaching the desired end-result. But to be fair, I have to admit sometimes you have to do more manual work - compared to working with PhotoShop, but I guess that is the "price to pay" to avoid having to pay :-)

My weapons of choice ended up being Gimp for bitmap/raster-graphics and InkScape for Vector-graphics (while writing a book I had to do a lot of illustrations and doing these in InkScape I got very proficient using InkScape). Even though I had switched to Gimp and InkScape, I kept using Adobe Bridge/CameraRaw to bring my digital (SLR) photos into the computer and performing my processing and archiving with this software. But committed to "free myself" of these expensive payware products (forcing me having to use a particular PC - since the software could only be installed on this computer) I again had to force myself to use other products. I had thought about switching to LightRoom or Bibble (now Corel: After-shot). These are both payware, but still a lot more affordable than paying for a full PhotoShop CS just to have Bridge/CameraRay. But in the end I decided to go for RawTherapee which is also open source. I did some work (but not a lot) in Adobe InDesign, but it is very seldom I need to do Desktop Publishing. However when I do, I now use Scribus in stead. Like the rest of the bunch it is also OpenSource, and like the other products it is both available for PC, Mac and Linux (plus a few extra operating systems).

 

3D (Blender)

I've always been into computer graphics, but for the most part its been 2D. My first look into the world of the 3D, was a Raytrace program for the Commodore Amiga - it feels like several generations ago, and the name of this software is long forgotten. Later (much later) I got into mapping with Valve Hammer (mostly for Swat4), and it was great fun making maps and playing with the 3D tool. Also I've done some 3D work and Scenery design for Microsoft Flight Simulator (beside re-painting planes). Later I did a little work with a trial versions of Maya and 3ds Max but I never really got anywhere with it, and the price-tag of these programs meant I knew they would never grow on me, as I would never dish out the money to purchase these, as long as my interest is only hobby-based. I do realize a lot of people are using Cracked-versions of Maya/3ds Max, however I only want to use software I can afford (willing to pay for) - either I pay what it cost, or I will find a cheaper/free alternative.

Then I noticed Blender (a "stupid name", but a great product). Blender is OpenSource and it is available for both PC, OSX and Linux. When I started using Blender it was with version 2.49, but I didn't use it much before version 2.50 was released, which was a good thing, since version 2.50 was more or less a re-write of the software with an entirely new user interface. In the first versions of the 2.50's a lot of the features from 2.49 were still missing (were still to be implemented). But the fact I had only done a little work with 2.49, I was not missing these features and I didn't have to un-learn/re-learn how to use various features. Over the years since 2.50 was released, most of those missing features have since been added, along side with a lot of new features like B-Mesh and the Cycles Render engine which I see as huge asserts in Blender (just to mention 2 of the "biggies" added to Blender in the years I have been using the product).

Blender is a complete 3D production system that more or less contains all you need to produce anything 3D, whether it will a rendered image, an animation (movie) or files you can bring into other 3D programs or use for 3D-printing (from Wikipedia, Blender lets you do: "3D modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging and skinning, fluid and smoke simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, sculpting, animating, match moving, camera tracking, rendering, video editing and compositing").

Asking me, the biggest downside to Blender is its user interface. There is (almost) nothing you can't do with this software, and for experienced users there are a lots of keyboard short-cuts, to give you easy access to the various features of the software. However for new users there is a very steep learning curve, and the default usage of the mouse (which buttons to use) is "backward" compared to "the standard" in Windows software. Over the years I have been using Blender, the Interface have been improved somewhat, and the way to do various things have become more "streamlined". I hope the developers will make this interface even more streamlined over the coming years, as it will make the software more appealing to more people whereby the Fan-base (number of users using the software) will grow, which in turn will generate more donations, which will flow into more features being added to Blender. But despite the (for new users) "less-appealing" interface, Blender is a great piece of software, and it is amazing what you can accomplish with this free software, once you learn how to control it - however you will have to commit to it, and be prepared to invest a lot of time into learning how to use the software (but then again, that is true for using most software).

Here below I have linked to various YouTube videos showcasing some of the things you can do with Blender (things made with Blender, or Tutorials showing you how to use the software):
27 Inspiring Blender Animations That Will Make Your Jaw Drop
Speed Modelling a Couch in Blender
[DLG] [ Blender 3D ] Speed Modelling of M4A1
Blender 3D soldier speed model
Architecture modeling in blender cycles
Create a interior scene in blender cycles
Blender Tutorial - Quick Rigid Body Fun
Blender Tutorial: Basics of Character Rigging
Blender & 3D Printing
Introduction to Camera Tracking in Blender
Editing Videos with Blender
Green Screen Removal & LightWrapp with Blender