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Artist Diffuselight – Cris ‘Olblue’

Some call him "Laz"
Tutorial guru, all round nice chap, hard surface maester etc...

First person to create project based end to end tutorials

Probably the best person to start out Author Diffuselight (did you see the amusing gag there) articles with is Generallisimo Cris, hard suffering tutorial author, all round nice chap and also founder of 3d-palace.  Grab a warm scone (biscuit to you Americans) and let's find out more...

Cris 'olblue' Robson, inventor of the approach based tutorial for hard surface as well as the personal creator of thousands of hours of tutorials both free and commercially since 1999 when he first entered the training industry.  Cris has worked on the website 3d-palace since 2001 when it went live in October of that year - since then 3d-palace has had some 150,000 members, had one of the most active forums for 3d at the time (it is now retired) and has had numerous website hosts crash from overdownloading content from 3d-palace.  Enjoy this interview with Cris and get an idea of his mindset and some of the interesting problems 3d-palace has had in the past that he has had to deal with, as well as clients that have been very 'trying'.

C. Have an example of my tutorial work. It's only 15 minutes I think.

Q.  Why Laz?

C.  No one calls me Laz really - it is a reference to a book by Robert Rankin, possibly the Sprouts of Wrath where my nickname olblue came from - he mentions that Lazlo Woodbine the detective lost "His wife, money and a puppy named blue" - for some reason I always misremembered the line however always found it hilarious and thought it was a dog named old blue - on IRC OldBlue was taken (the initial home of 3d-palace) so I changed it to olblue and it stuck!

Q.  Is there any aspect of CG you wish you were better at?

C.  The aspect of making money definitely...  Ha.  More seriously, I would love to be able to have the time to learn Maya properly or Modo - every time I try, I just end up not having the time or something else happens.  As it stands I think I was fortunate to take the time to learn Unreal Engine 4 however I had so much fun that in the end I couldn't stop using it.  Problem is that I go back to Max and realise I forgot all the hotkeys.

Q.  A common symptom seen in newer artists is burnout and creative blocks, do you have any advice to them or any solutions that you have found to allow you to put yourself back on track?

C.  That is the million dollar question.  We all get burnout, block or whatever you want to call it and it is WAY harder for the freelance / solo artist whether you are a tutor like myself, a gamedevver, a vfx artist etc.  Take a break, watch a film, listen to music that inspires or go for a walk.  And use TRELLO a lot.   If you do not have an online management tool, trust me you really need one as it helps you organise yourself which is the main thing you need to do with motivating yourself as you can easily see your goals and your progress.

Q.  What is your best advice to someone just starting in the field?

C.  That's a hard one as things change so much on a monthly basis in the industry.  At the moment I would say that your prime focus is what the client sees first - that is your portfolio, your showreel and even your Facebook page.  Think carefully about what you are presenting to the world - you can carefully edit what you are trying to get clients to see (by clients I mean companies as well as freelance work) with a good portfolio and a reel, however all clients will do some research and if your Facebook or other social feeds are filled with profanity and political arguments then you may have a problem.

Always make yourself a separate Facebook page for your art and make sure you link it on your portfolio and update it REGULARLY with your best work.  Engage your users, it is important and be careful not to be controversial if you are new as you cannot afford to alienate companies.

Q.  If you could point out something specific to the audience in terms of helping them to do better, what would it be? (I mean like a certain website, forum, facebook group ect)

C.  Use Google Image Search a LOT (with safesearch if you are not an organic artist!)  Look at artists better than you ALL OF THE TIME.  I tell my daughters at university all of the time that you need someone better than you so you always have someone to aspire to be as good as.  They will not be resting on their laurels so the benchmark always climbs as you improve and you always have something to inspire you.

Q.  Within your professional work, what would you say you are most proud of?

C.  It is always my most recent project (well, almost always however good luck with finding the Tin Man tutorial set...) - recently I worked for a luxury car client on a particle system (I will not go into details) that I loved a LOT.  It was one of those gigs where you found yourself learning new techniques that really cut the amount of time and while there was a lot of development that fell by the wayside (it always does), the finished particle system when I saw it comped into the final was beautiful.

For non client work?  The APU was the first EVER end to end commercial tutorial set by anyone and is still on shelves all over the world!  It was a two dvd, 7 gig set with the whole of the building of the APU with its animation on disc one and the sentinel, pilot and environment on disc 2.  Zack Myers did the rigging and animation as I was still fairly green in 2006 at teaching that with Big Benis (lol) doing the pilot!  I had the massive plastic reference models lent to me, Jon Swindells did the editing of the disc menus and mastering and there are STILL easter eggs on the DVD that people have not found - myself included!

Q.  What motivated you the most to get to where you are?

C.  It was a mixture of things however the real focus for me was in 1999 when I saw The Mummy.  I had seen a lot of effects and CG before then however the two DVD set (DVDs were new then) contained a LOAD of ILM behind the scenes stuff that blew my mind on particles, modelling and animation and I knew I wanted to get into that.  At the time I knew some basic 3d having done some game development using the Fly3D engine, however now I really wanted to work with high polygon stuff.

It took me an age to get my first 3d software (it felt that way anyway) however my motivation was always that I wanted to make something that I myself thought was cool like the things I saw on the special edition DVD sets - I was already by that time in my late 20s and had a lot of responsibilities at home however so learning for me was MANUALS GALORE.  And Manuals were expensive... well we will come to that probably...

Q.  Is there any subject matter you particularly like or dislike?

C.  No not really.  My problem with organics is that I am not an expert in Physiology like Wayne Robson for example - I cannot understand the placement of muscles like I can with pistons and mechanical parts which in turn means that my organics will forever be not A++ however it doesn't stop me!  I just avoid making tutorials on it as frankly there are people way better than myself at it!

Also I used to avoid texturing and materials however with modern methodology now I really love being able to texture - I just have to get someone to check it due to my colour blindness!

June 25, 2016
  • olblue2

    Excellent interview!

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