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 CG Guy

Archive for March, 2010

In New Age Printing ‘The Medium is the Message’

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

March 24, 2010 – Sitting bleary eyed at an early morning meeting about HP printers I sipped my third cup of coffee anticipating a dull overview of yet another large format printer presentation. A printer’s a printer I thought as I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat, ‘what could be interesting about this?’

Then they showed the video, and on the screen I watched a construction foreman outfitted with hardhat and heavy-duty boots slosh through the mud looking down at architectural plans and not looking where he was going. This was an accident waiting to happen I thought, and precisely at that moment he tripped and the plans went flying straight into a gaping mud filled puddle at his feet. To add insult to injury a super-sized earth mover edged into the scene, headed directly for the mud-encrusted plans and rolled its enormous deep treaded wheels over the already crumpled and stained paper turning it into an unreadable mess.

Then, the miracle happened. The foreman picked up the plans, hosed them down, shook them off and voila, no mud, no wrinkles, the plans were completely restored and usable. Now, my interest was piqued and I forgot about the coffee, I didn’t need it anymore, I was wide awake.

Of course it really wasn’t a ‘miracle,’ but science, engineering and manufacturing tasked to produce a ‘paper’ that prints out as waterproof and resilient coupled with a large format HP DesignJet printer that’s capable of processing this new media.

As the presentation moved forward I was shown more and more compelling ‘printing’ examples, all with a wow factor that made me rethink what was possible.


The examples ran the gamut from point of sale signs that retailers can printout immediately when they need them, to CG artwork on canvas, super-sized photo realistic posters, a hand-drawn one-of-a-kind lamp shade printed on heavy flexible plastic, and even a customized mail box decked out with a colorful laminate. It is indeed a brave new world of creative possibilities.

But, for me, the ability to print full-color on fabric was the most exciting part of the presentation. HP sponsors Project Runway, a popular reality fashion show that pits sixteen designers against each other in their quest to have their designs worn on the runway during Fashion Week in New York. In this season’s Episode-10: Hey, That’s My Fabric, HP provided each contestant with an HP TouchSmart desktop computer and challenged them to make an outfit by drawing and painting their unique fabric designs right on the computer’s screen.

The designers went into creative mode using paint brush and pencil (directly on the HP TouchSmart’s screen) and first printed proofs of their designs on paper. Once they were satisfied with their designs’ look the data was sent to an HP DesignJet printer that spewed out their finished fabric ready for stitching.


The contestants were ecstatic – designing and printing their own fabric and seeing it happen this fast amazed them, and the designs were beautiful, the colors were alive, and in one case ‘electric.’ (You have to watch this episode to see what I mean.)

What HP has done here is a true coupling of creativity and technology allowing just about anyone to realize their dreams in a material way. As with all the ‘printing’ examples I saw, the whole process is digital, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. In this case one contestant used a paint brush just as she would on paper while others drew their designs, but none of them were painting or drawing on paper, they’d all gone digital and the results were stunning and the process was fast.

My hat’s off to the creative people at HP and to the talented and creative Project Runway contestants, who went from design to fabric to finished dress in just twelve hours. HP technology plus creativity = stunning work, what a combo!

I’d like to do a more in-depth article about printing possibilities on new media so I can fill you in on the details – types of media available, printer recommendations and more detailed examples. But, this is a blog and I’m more than happy do this if I’ve got an audience that wants to learn more about it. So, please let me know and I’ll start researching and writing. I’m jazzed and want to learn more. I hope you do too! 🙂

DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon – an Artistic and Technological Tour de Force

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Breaking News:

  • HP 12-core computing closer than you think
  • DreamWorks Animation boosts output from 2 to 3 Features a Year

Wednesday March 24, 2010 – The DreamWorks Animation Studio campus in Glendale California is one of the top five places to work in the U.S. and I experienced why during my visit today. Roman architecture and landscaped grounds evoke a relaxed collegiate atmosphere perfect for creating the entertaining and artistic animated feature films that this studio is famous for. Talented artists, animators and computer whizzes brainstorm in this kick back environment and then get down to business molding an idea into a feature film that typically takes three years to produce.

Their latest production, How to Train your Dragon, has taken this collaborative effort to the highest level of cinematic art, with a rich story line, characters that evoke a visceral and emotional response, and nonstop forward moving action amplified by 3D that draws the viewer into a truly immersive experience.

Film is a visual medium, and once the script has been finalized the first production step is a hand drawn storyboard, much like a rough comic strip, that provides the flowchart (or specification) for the entire film. The story board is constantly reviewed and revised until it’s just right, and while this effort is progressing CG artists are hard at work fleshing out each and every character getting them ready for the animation team who’ll bring them to life.

The DreamWorks Animation team uses a plethora of commercial software from vendors such as Adobe and Autodesk to do much of the 3D modeling and preliminary work and then move to their own proprietary software to smoothly animate each 3D modeled character. This is a tedious and time consuming artistic endeavor where a movement line is first laid down and the animator carefully maneuvers a partially constructed 3D model down this path while manipulating more than 2000 rigging adjustment points to create realistically smooth motion. In this process the CG animator sets up the initial character configuration and its next position on the path and the computer helps out by filling in the blanks between (tweening) the two points and so on until the final result is life like and believable.

The entire production process is much more detailed and complex than I’ve just described and includes lighting, colorization, editing, post production and more — but that’s an entire dissertation in itself. To give you a visual idea of the process I’ve created a Flash slide show here that highlights most of the creative elements used to make ‘Dragons.’

Click Play to Watch

The DreamWorks Animation team, like most studios, uses the latest computing technology from HP to get the job done fast by taking advantage of workstations featuring multi-core threaded processing.  HP DreamColor displays deliver consistent color across hundreds of their workstations, and DreamWorks uses HP rack mounted blade computers for their humongous rendering jobs.

Creative and business collaboration is key to far flung multi-site operations like DreamWorks.  HP’s Halo video conference centers make it possible to hold virtual and engaging real-time meetings that Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation’s CEO said are indispensible as a major contributor to their ability to turn fast with coordinated strategies.

HP Workstations Soon to Deliver Higher Performance with 12-Core Computing

The HP people also told me that within a few weeks they’ll be boosting workstation performance from eight cores to twelve using the latest Intel processors, a computing first that’s sure to favorably impact animated film production and have major time and money saving implications across the CAD world and a host of other compute intensive applications.

All this technology and talent plus years of experience has now enabled DreamWorks to announce that they’ll be boosting their annual film production rate from two animated features a year to three  – an animated film industry first!

Jeffrey Rowe, editor of our web site was also with me on our trip to L.A. and is writing an in-depth account of all the new technological and creative developments that we saw during our three-day trip.   Watch for a link to Jeff’s work from this blog when it goes live.

What’s New on ShareCG & What’s on the Horizon

Friday, March 12th, 2010

We’re in the process of making a number of very important updates to ShareCG with the goal of facilitating  a true social network here where you can connect with your peers and share your thoughts and ideas with the growing ShareCG community.   We’re also going to be integrating an e-store on the site to enable you to sell your CG items.

Update 1: The BLOG

Yep, this blog is the first of the updates, and we’d  like to invite you to create your own CG blog right here on ShareCG.  The site currently reaches 170,000 unique visitors each month so you’ll have a large and targeted audience to talk to.  The latest blog entries are featured on ShareCG’s home page with your photo or avatar, and you’ll also be picked up on RSS feed and by all the web search engines to give you an even wider reach.

If you’d like your own ShareCG blog just send an email to and include or attach the following:

Subject line:  “ShareCG Blog Setup”

Attachment:  Your photo or avatar (a work of art or other representation)  Size this to a ratio of 7×9 (for example 700×900 pixels.)

Body: Include the below in the body of your email:

1. Your username

2. The name of your blog.  (The title of my blog is “CG Guy” for example)

3. The title of your first blog entry

4. The content of your first blog entry (This can be an overview of  the information or topic you’re blog will be focused on.  Or you could just jump in and submit your first full informational blog or whatever you’d like.)

We will set up your blog and send you and email that includes your username and a login password that you can change once you’ve logged in to your blog.

We’re looking forward to reading what you have to say, and so is the ShareCG community.  Happy blogging!


Update 2: Other recent site updates

1. A new way to view art and photos: Now when visitors want to view your super-sized art they can click on the artwork or photo and it appears in a neatly bounded floating window with your descriptive verbiage on the lower border.  And, we also retained the ability for users to see and download your full sized image.

2. Your photo or avatar now appears when you comment on the site.  This is the first baby step towards making the site more of a social network.

We’ve got lots more coming up, and I”ll be reporting on each enhancement as  soon as it’s completed so you can check it out and participate.  BTW — your feedback and comments are always welcome and really essential to the growth of this new community.


Future CG Guy blogs — In addition to keeping you updated on site enhancements and news I have been invited to report on a number of events and will post my reports here.  My next event takes place on March 22nd when I visit the  DreamWorks studio  in Burbank to check out the latest technology used at this studio and to preview their latest upcoming release.  You’ll be reading about this one as soon as I return.

In the meantime —– Enjoy the site — happy creating!


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