Work, Play in Real-time

It’s pretty given that life consists of not only everyday, mundane tasks and goals that make our day-to-day living possible in terms of pure existence, but aspirations and ambitions of higher order as well. As cliché as it may sound, I believe it’s the latter form of endeavors that make us human, that our existence can rise upon mere survival and procreation, enabling our very being to connect into something universal, beautiful or some other entity that may be considered transcendental.

Sure, activities like self-expression or learning new things can be seen as some sort of survival of the mind, although only way we can die from lack of such is merely from the inside. So as long as our basic needs are met, we tend to require more sophisticated goals toward which to strive that cater to the creative and intellectual forms of our being.

One of the central goals of my earlier creative life was to learn the art of so-called 3D imaging that was gaining serious popularity in the early 90s. Seeing back then cool looking, but poorly produced by today’s standards, music videos using 3D animation as a visual element, such as Swamp Thing by The Grid, really pushed me to pursue 3D graphics and leave pixel-based animation aside. I just had to find the way to get into that place where I could create computer-generated images just like ones that were so fascinating to look at on TV.

It was somewhere in the latter part of the 90s when I finally cracked the invisible wall between me and 3D imaging by getting a hold of and learning 3D Studio 4 by Autodesk. 3D Studio 4 was rather user friendly a 3D software at the time relatively speaking, but looking at it now 15 years later, it’s striking how dull, limited, stiff and uninspiring the work environment that supposed to feed the creative process really was. Everything was divided into separate modes and sub-programs that made the user constantly to jump in between them. Furthermore, the hardware on which 3D Studio 4 was running on was so sluggish that it struggled to even keep up with the wireframe rendering, making it sometimes quite frustrating to carry out even a slight adjustment to the camera or to the geometry.

However, when 3D accelerated cards finally became everyday items, the whole 3D game, if one pardons the pun, changed in more ways than one. Now using a 3D application like 3ds Max that took advantage of 3D acceleration, was completely different an experience. The engineer-like work environment had turned into a sandbox that was a delight to merely play with, like spinning the camera around a cube in a 3D space at buttery smooth 60 frames per second only because one could, and because it looked so, so cool.

The creative process comes down to iterations, iterations and iterations. So when everything happens in real-time and at high frame-rate, the speed at which new iterations can be made is really limited only by the user. And every fraction of a second the user has to wait the machine to comply with the input, pulls him/her further away from the flow, which is why I generally like working in an environment like 3ds Max as much as possible over After Effects even in the simplest animation cases.

To me, playing around in 3ds Max is in a way purest real-time image experience. There’s no ludus controlling and limiting the play, only one’s imagination and creative skills. The act of 3D modeling, for instance, can be as immersive and captivating of an experience as playing a high-end video game, and Minecraft (2011) proves if anything that creativity and playfulness can be fused together quite successfully.