James Rothschild, Markers to Magic

James Rothschild is a UK-based Imagineer with a focus on Industrial Design and Architecture. During his 25 years of design experience James has worked with such high profile clients as Boots, HSE, Lloyds TSB, British Gas, GE Capitol, Games Workshop, AXA, and more.

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» How did you get started in the graphics industry?

My Great Auntie May (a retired school teacher) taught me to draw in perspective when I was 4 years old (she was 72 then). Ever since then I have been fascinated by creating buildings, ships, spaceships or anything that could not be bought (with 10c pocket money a week) and then imagine what they look like from different angles, in different environments. I progressed through technical college in New Zealand and moved to the UK in 1979 where I did an Art Foundation course at Barnet College, London. Before going on to University I had a gap year working as an Architectural Model Maker at Thorpe's in London and then went on to study Industrial Design at Leeds Polytechnic. My first job was in a Design Consultancy where I worked on Graphic, Interior and Product Design projects and I guess it was then (with the advent of the BBC Micro Computer) that I aspired to computer graphics, 3d and illustration (remember how much Magic Markers use to cost!).

» What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?

One of my later Jobs was working as Corporate Systems consult for the Apple Centre in Leeds. I was setting up the multimedia department at the Health and Safety Executive in Liverpool and they had this software package called StrataStudio Pro that they wanted to learn (they also had Strata Render Pro [network]) and from there the challenge grew, creating technical illustrations for their presentations. It wasn't long until I realised my traditional graphics, illustration and model-making days were over and I was about to save a fortune in artist materials. I had tried 3D apps before (Swift 3D, Macromedia 3D, Lightwave) but this was Macintosh, and it worked NOW!

» What other applications were part of your workflow, and how did Strata 3D work with those applications?

Macromedia Freehand is the most valuable tool in my workflow for getting precise CAD-like drawings into Strata for 3D transformation. Photoshop is important too for textures but really any paint program can do that these days.

» How did you learn Strata 3D, and would you recommend your method to new users?

I learned simply by trial and error, flicking through the manuals index for words that related to my problem or aspirations. Tutorials don't work for me because they are too task specific. I also tried to apply my practical architectural model-making work-flow to Strata3D, namely; transferring drawings to profiles, profiles to extrusions, assembling extrusions then colouring, lighting and finally rendering.

» Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn't have otherwise?

Yes, Strata3D has led me on to explore alternative forms of 3D data creation and data capture. Things like 3D Photometry, Motion Capture, Motion Tracking. With these aspirations I've been able to indulge in my love of technology, networking (rendering), multi-pass rendering and video.

Ultimately it's taken me back into education as Principal Lecturer in Digital Media where I can share these exciting discoveries.

» Have you tried other 3D applications? How did Strata 3D compare?

I've tried them all. Cinema4D, Studio Max, Rhino, ElectricImage, Maya but with my illustration background and my workflow (Freehand to Strata3D) I find the other programs were just too 'engineering' based. Strata3D is like illustrating in 3D and it handles large models far better than the rest (IMO). For me it's that simple.

» Do you use any other applications to compliment Strata 3D?

I use dozens of additional applications, but primarily Freehand and Photoshop, plus UVMapper for texture editing, Silo for organic modeling, Electric Image for fast network rendering of animations, Cinema4D and Amapi for file format conversion, After Effects for video editing and composition.

» How has your personal style and workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?

I design with client modifications in mind all the time. From using Strata3D I became more structured as far as geometry, textures and file linking. Working economically not just for speed in rendering but ease of data transfer (DXF) between applications for both 2D and 3D elements. Strata 3D's shapes, texture and linking to layered (bump, specular, transparency) Photoshop files is great. Ultimately I'd like Strata files to link to Strata files too!

» Was there anything else regarding your experience with Strata 3D that our readers would find interesting or useful?

Strata 3D is a 3D Adobe Illustrator or Freehand. I can sketch, model and paint just the way I would as a traditional model maker. The future is looking great, with Strata including a scripting language which, hopefully will generate a huge user-base of plug-ins and effects. Woo Hoo!