There isn’t much mention of it anywhere, but back in college I did a fair amount of multimedia and 3D design - a little detour in my education that served me well at the time where it regarded rounding out my skill set and earning some spare cash, and which I’ve been revisiting as part of my new job.

Turns out I realized I haven’t written about it much, so here goes, as a sort of break from more low-level pursuits.

Life beyond Adobe

One of the first things I got rolling when I took charge was to pay the Adobe tax and get as many of my design teams onto the Creative Suite 5 bandwagon as possible, but I’ve tried to steer clear of installing any Adobe software on my own machines - partly because I don’t need to use it daily, and partly because I hate their installers and bloat.

Since I’m not making a career out of design in and by itself, I can afford to buck the trend and use alternatives freely, both at work and at home (where I would never be able to justify the expense).

As such I’ve been happily chugging along with Pixelmator for nearly everything and a few odds and ends like VectorDesigner and Sketch for vector editing, which are, together with the Mac’s built-in support for previewing all sorts of media, more than enough for reviewing and tweaking.

But I’ve been needing to do a fair amount of 3D (mostly set scenes and mockups), so it bears mentioning that I eventually settled on a combination of SketchUp for modeling and Strata LE for rendering.

I haven’t given up on Blender (and still use Loki Render on occasion), but I used Strata‘s grandaddy in another era, so I took to its UI instantly1.

It may look somewhat antiquated, but the renderer is adequately speedy, materials management is quirky but sane, it has the ancient time-honored lighting “ball” control, and (most importantly of all) can import COLLADA files directly and without fuss, something that other low-end modeling software like Cheetah 3D can’t (yet) do.

A bot meeting slapped together in a hurry and rendered with an alpha channel.

So it took me all of 15 minutes to set up a scene and do a set of basic shots of the Codebits bots for a number of purposes, which was great, and I’ve been doing rather more complex stuff with it that is only hampered by rather long rendering times2.


Another thing I’ve been increasingly doing is video, and video comes with a plethora of contextual nuisances that you need to address when you plan on showing it to human beings, such as intros, captions, transitions, etc., etc.

Even though I have After Effects at work, I decided I’d get to grips with Motion - partly because I might someday decide to get Final Cut once Apple decides to stop annoying people with it, and partly because it’s now quite cheap.

Also, it’s quite usable on the relatively pokey hardware I have (both at home and at work), even though I’ve yet to do anything even moderately complex.

If I ever do, I’ll let you know. Well, maybe.

  1. Blender, despite continuous improvement, still seems to go out of its way to be unfriendly to people who know what they want to do but can’t figure out where in the UI they should go to achieve it, and, quite honestly, I just don’t have the time to figure it all out these days. Maybe in a couple of years. ↩︎

  2. Alas, laptops aren’t rendering powerhouses, and unlike with Blender, I can’t push out a job to other machines (I’ve done a few very promising experiments with a small cluster, but not being able to create scenes effectively in Blender makes it impossible for me to benefit from some of the massive computer power I have available online). ↩︎