Jonathan Boakes, One Man Fear Factory
Jonathan Boakes has been producing video games for 3 years, alongside film, radio and scripting appointments. Based on the rugged Cornish coast in England, Jonathan has developed and produced several critically acclaimed titles such as 2003’s ‘Dark Fall’, and 2004’s ‘Lights Out’. The New York Times announced that “Dark Fall outshines the rest” shortly after the game’s US release. Working with a team known as Darkling Room, Jonathan has worked with clients such as The Adventure Company, a global publisher of computer games, and Shadow Tor Studios to bring exciting adventure games to life.
How did you get started in the graphics industry?
I’ve been involved in the creative arts for most of my existence. My earliest memories are of building models, taking photographs and re-visualising the world around me. Later in life, I was able to follow my passions through University, and then out into the wider world through computer games, websites and interactive film.
What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?
I actually learned to use Strata at college, in London. It was the first 3D package I found comfortable to use, provided great results through a minimum of effort and offered a strong user community. Strata 3D CX continues to provide pretty much everything I need to accomplish the tasks at hand.
What other applications were part of your workflow, and how did Strata 3D work with those applications?
I use Corel Photopaint and Adobe Photoshop for postproduction work, and After Effects for video editing/finishing. My first two video games were compiled using Macromedia products, such as Director. The average scene in the video games would be a neat combination of Strata3D artwork, After Effects video dressing and Director’s solid scripting.
How did you learn Strata 3D, and would you recommend your method to new users?
My first experiences with Strata were part of a strict learning curve undertaken at College. We began with the absolute basics, 3D theory and minimal experimentation. It sounds a little dull, put like that, but it was a perfect springboard to greater things. I feel many new users jump straight in, and get bewildered very quickly. Any 3D package can be overwhelming, which is why Strata is quite comforting. A pleasant lack of interface clutter usually keeps a newbie from panic.
Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Yes, most definitely. Before moving into 3D I was attempting to re-capture the world through photographs, and struggled to translate imaginative ideas through such a fixed medium. It’s possible to dress up a photograph, but you can never achieve the imaginative vision which inspired the idea.
Have you tried other 3D applications? How did Strata 3D compare?
I use several other 3D apps, on and off, depending on the project. Right now I am constructing 3D characters for a video game screenplay. Currently, I use Strata for backdrops, publicity artwork and set props, with Character Studio and Milkshape handling the actors. To be honest, I always look forward to returning to Strata, as I find many of the alternatives overly complicated, or utterly opaque. Many hours are spent (even wasted in some situations) looking for tutorials, or trawling forums.
Do you use any other applications to complement Strata 3D?
Yes, Applications for 3D file conversions and lately applications for vertex welding and polygon optimization. And as I said before, Photoshop for textures, retouching and output.
How has your personal style and workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?
Productivity is the highest I’ve known. I can honestly say that I never visualised myself as a 3D artist until very recently. My perception of the creative 3D industry led me to believe it was an almost impossible world to break into, on a budget level, and with little experience. So, you can imagine my surprise when The New York Digital Salon exhibited a piece put together in Strata for a minor college project. That was a good strong beginning, and I haven’t looked back since. Last Summer, I introduced a colleague to Strata 3D, after he swore blind that he was happy with his current 2d software. Within an afternoon he had built a small interior, with natural lighting and a figure lounging on a very comfortable looking sofa. Since then that colleague has joined me in video game production, and will soon have a Strata illustrated title to his name.
Was there anything else regarding your experience with Strata 3D that our readers would find interesting or useful?
Yes, and it would concern reliability. The average video game, such as Dark Fall, requires around 1000 images to bring the narrative to life. To complete such a project requires a great deal of trust in the software, and the rendering capabilities. Strata has a very nifty set of render options, which suit most needs, enabling many options from quick fire draft examples to high resolution print quality artwork. Very occasionally, I may get a little carried away with a game scene, and add far too much complicated detail, and reflections. Thankfully, on those occasions I know what to switch off, when it comes to the render phase, and what needs to be tweaked. Without that freedom to change the model I am unsure whether my work would move at the same pace.