Please tell us a little bit about your self , what is your background?
Dan: I have been working as a 3D artist on video games for the past 10 years. About 8 years ago I met my fiance, Sonia, who is a qualified graphic designer and was working as a 2D texture artist for a video games company. We've been working together ever since and this past year we decided to start our own studio providing design and video game studios with high quality 3D designs and artwork.
3D for games has always been a passion of mine, but a couple of years ago I noticed the technology that enabled 3D graphics on the web was becoming more efficient and more popular. This was when I first tried Swift 3D and found the results really exciting. For the first time in years I was able to think in a much more creative way than I could as a 3D modeler at a large games studio. Before entering the games industry, Sonia's background was as a web designer but she later trained as a 3D artist. When she saw the results I could get using Swift3D she was very interested in how we could combine our 3D and design skills to help create exciting web graphics. It was this excitment that motivated us to start our own studio specialising in 3D for the web and since that point we're constantly coming up with new ways to fuse 3D and design.
Where do you draw your inspiration from ?
Dan: We have a scrapbook that we scribble down ideas in. We've been doing this for years now and I still get suprised by something I may have thought up 12 months ago and forgotten about. Our inspiration can come from anywhere, from something everyday like a strawberry, to something a little more bizarre like planetary gear trains. I never know where the next idea is going to come from but I always make a habit of getting it on paper before I forget about it. Even if it seems to be the silliest idea I still record it. Sometimes it's the silly idea that evolves into a great idea..
What elements of the site are made with Swift 3D?
Dan: First and foremost is the fully Swift 3D rendered flash intro to the website. Then for the actual site we were playing around with the idea of creating some old school pixel art in 3D, building pixel by pixel over time. For each section of our site we created an animation with this as the theme. On the 'About' page, for example, we created the growing tree animation. In 'Gallery' we animated a joystick and in 'Contact', the letterbox builds. We also rendered these models from the front elevation so they could be used as 2D icons in the navigation. In the Web section of our gallery you can see a few more of our Swift 3D creations including an example of a Flash intro entirely rendered with Swift 3D Max and also an example of a website utilising both Swift 3D and Papervision3D (www.extraartists.com/3D).
What features of Swift 3D did you use to create these design elements?
Dan: The fantastic thing for us is that we are already familiar with a 3D modeling package, so being able to use the Swift 3D plugin for that software means we can experiment with features such as physics and particle systems that we are familiar with and then render those with Swift 3D as a SWF file for use in Flash. The variations of the fill types in the Swift 3D render dialog help us create graphics that integrate easily into our designs. The fill types and outline options instantly give a designed look to whatever we render out. We are also very impressed with the option to save as a SWFT file which means we can separate the shadows into a separate layer in Flash. I'd have to say that the smart layer technology is probably the most useful feature for our work flow.
What was your biggest design challenge with the site ?
Dan: Our biggest challenge was that we were creating a showcase for our gallery and we wanted our work to stand out more than the actual site design. We still needed the site to have a wow factor, but at the same time we didn't want to use graphics that overpowered our individual gallery pieces. The end result was achieved using darker colours and themed 3D animations that complimented our work, rather than stealing the show.
What other software did you use for the site, and how did you integrate Swift 3D with these other tools?
The 3D modeling package that we use is 3DS Max. So we use the Swift 3D plugin for Max at the rendering stage. We then bring the files into Adobe Flash CS3 to add interactivity and/or additional design elements. We often use other programs in the CS3 design suite too (Photoshop, Illustrator etc.) to achieve our end results.
We also use Optimaze, which is another piece of fantastic software, to reduce file size. To be honest, I don't know what we would do with out it.
Where would you like to see Swift 3D go in the future?
Dan: I'd love to see more web designers utilising it. 3D for web has huge potential and I think 2D designers are just now beginning to understanding how versatile using 3D in their designs can be. Seeing this demand for 3D for web was what prompted us to offer our skills to those design studios wanting to create dynamic 3D content.
Personally I'd like to see Papervision3D support for Swift 3D Max. Swift 3D has a fantastic intuitive interface that helps maintain a steady creative workflow. Seeing as I'm not a coder, my attempts at acheiving realtime animation for our web designs (using something like Papervision3D) have proved very difficult. If it were implemented into Swift 3D Max it would allow us to focus more of our energy on being creative.
I think by making 3D for web more accessible to creative minds the way ERain have, we are beginning to see an exciting new wave of design emerge.
Do you have any Swift 3D projects in the works?
Almost all of our web projects use Swift 3D at some point, even if it is just to render a flat colour shape to use as an alpha mask in Flash. We're hoping to reach a point where all of our projects use Swift 3D, we certainly have enough ideas for it!