Chris Tyler, 3D Illustrator and Animator
Chris Tyler is a Salt Lake City-based illustrator and animator, with a focus on lush, realistic lighting and modeling in the advertising industry. Chris has given back to the design community by writing training materials, such as the “Art & Science of Strata 3D CX”, teaching at the Red Rock Revival, and consistently helping out users on StrataCafe with animated tutorials and walkthroughs on new application features.
With such a demanding career, what drives you to be so prolific as a designer and a teacher in your spare time?
I enjoy it. I find 3D fascinating, especially the rendering technology side of it. It’s exciting now as computers are getting faster and more powerful. With this increase in processing prowess the things that can be rendered are continuing to allow for more and more interesting and realistic images.
The 3D lighting and rendering in your work has consistently improved over the years. How much of that is directly related to experience, and how much is due to improvements in the tools that you’re using?
Well the tools have definitely improved. They’ve allowed me to do better lighting. So it’s a combination of improvements in my understanding but also in the tools. For instance, understanding how light tends to behave on a given surface with regard to its roughness and reflectance properties helps create more realistic 3D renderings. Design 3D 7.5 has a sophisticated reflection mechanism that can be used to mimic these real world appearances.
You seem to be expanding into animation in a big way recently. Is that a client-driven need, or an area that you’ve consciously moved into as your skills and interests have evolved?
It has been totally client driven. They come and say we need to do x, y, or z. I panic for a few minutes and then sit down and try and figure out how to achieve it. For instance, I had to animate a pile of at least 150 tires (maybe more) and I had to have a couple tires roll into position, hit the other tires and react believably. It was a challenge to figure out how to make that happen.
What’s a typical day for Chris Tyler, workflow-wise? What are the day-to-day staples in your software closet?
I do a mixture of 3D and 2D work. Each day depends on what project is at hand. I use the standard suite of Adobe applications for both the 2D and 3D work. Design 3D interacts really nicely with the Adobe applications, specifically Illustrator and Photoshop.
Is Strata 3D CX the hub of your workflow?
Any time I do 3D modeling I use Design 3D 7.5. The subdivision surface technology within it is quite powerful. In fact I also do any UV mapping work in it. The UV mapping tools were greatly expanded in 7.5, incorporating the elegant UV unwrapping technology called LSCM (least square conformal mapping). It really makes applying a texture to a complex 3D surface so much easier than in the past.
As a modeler, you’ve really focused on pushing SDS in an industrial design direction normally reserved for more technical NURBs-based applications. Do you find the SDS tools you’re using particularly suited to that task?
I like working with polygons, although I’ve also done modeling work with NURBS. They’re simply two different disciplines for creating geometry. Subdivision surface modeling is popular for a reason. It has the flexibility to create characters, but to also produce very mechanical shapes, what are often called ‘hard body’ objects. I like the sculpting-like functionality of working with polygons and SDS. Subdivision surface modeling is a widely used technology and for good reason.
In your opinion, what’s the single biggest improvement to the poly modeling tools in Strata 3D CX 7.5?
The ability to move or rotate geometry relative to other geometry or grids is incredibly useful. I’m finding new applications for these updated abilities all the time.
What do you find is the most difficult concept for traditional designers to grasp?
Some people struggle to shift from 2D to 3D, the idea that you can shift around in a 3rd axis is something that can be hard to grasp. It just takes a bit of patience. But also teaching people to learn to look at surfaces and break them apart to figure out how to recreate that surface in 3D, by using 3D tools like Index of Refraction, surface roughness and Fresnel reflections can be a challenge. It just takes practice.
Thanks for taking this time out of your busy schedule, Chris. Any last bit of advice you think new 3D users would benefit from?