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Interview: October 2001
Name: Neil Blevins
Date of birth: 17th January 1976, Canada
Current residence: California, USA
Current work: 3D artist at Blur Studio
Homepage: www.NeilBlevins.com
3DMaxer.dk: You have worked at Blur Studio for some time now - was it like a dream come true?
Neil Blevins: Well, it was basically the only place I really applied to. As far as the max community goes, Blur was at the top of the field, so it didn't take me long to say yes.

How did you get the job?
Tim Miller, the head dude, saw my work on the web and told me to give him a ring once I finished school. So I did.

Tell us about a normal day at work at Blur Studio.
No day of work is normal. :) Basically, I show up in the morning, go through email and some message boards, then work till 1-2, have lunch, then the studio plays quake for 45 min. Then more work until your daily task is done. I'm mainly a scene assembler, so I tend to do special effects, put scenes together, light them, and do some modeling and texturing.

Can you tell us about the project you are working on right now at Blur Studio?
Nope, can only speak of finished projects.

Do you have a preferred rendering system - which one? why/why not?
Well, the only renderer I use right now in production is the standard max scanline renderer, but I hope to move permanently over to Brazil in a month or so.

How involved are you in the development of Brazil? Have you joined the Splutterfish team or do you just test Brazil and help the team for fun?
I am not a member of splutterfish, but I'm a tester, and I sit very near to Steve and have similar interests so I'm bound to just be involved by association. One of the main reasons I'm involved is because I'm tired of using the current rendering technology and am looking for something that gives me a little more freedom.

Will it be possible to make realistic renderings in the future, so you cannot see the difference between real-life and renderings at all? What is needed to reach this?
Probably, what will be needed is a way to completely replicate all natural phenomenon down to the atomic level in realtime. That could take some time before we get to that point.

3D is on its way to the Internet because of the high speed connections. How do you see the future of 3D on the Internet (not only stills but also real-time 3D)?
I'm not really qualified to answer that. I am basically only interested in the high end stuff, which requires lots of textures, volumetrics, and other expensive calculations that take too long to work on the web. I suppose web stuff will always get faster but I'll always want more, so I probably won't be involved in web 3d for some time to come, except for placing stills on my website.

3ds max has been used in the movie Driven but besides that 3ds max is rarely used in movies - why is that? Do you think 3ds max is just as good as e.g. Maya to do effects in movies?
It's because of the way film effects are done. The big film effects houses have a certain way of working and manipulating data, and max does not satisfy many of those needs, like for example an open text based file format, or scriptable shaders. It's a good all around program, but most of the film effects studios use several pieces of software, using the advantages of each, and beyond volumetrics and a few other spots, max still has a ways to go.

What was the first 3D program you tried? And how was it to work with compared to 3D software today?
POV-Ray, and that was all script based. As for how it compairs, it depends, there's still a lot of script based rendering going on, even in high end (ala Renderman), but the all in one mouse driven interfaces are definately a lot better for things like character animation.

Where do you get ideas to new MAXScripts - is it requests from Blur Studio?
Usually. Or I'm working on a shot and I'm too lazy to do whatever dumb boring task I realize I need to do. So I write software to do it for me.

What do you like the better - modeling, texturing, animating, lighting etc.?
Texturing and rendering first, lighting and modeling next. I suck at character animation, I can do effects animation but I don't like it very much after doing it for 2 years.

What modeling method do you prefer - NURBS, patch, box etc.?
Poly Modeling and meshsmooth. Using Meshtools of course, those scripts are great. I wish sometimes I had a copy of Mirai since I've seen their polygonal tools as being the best out there.

What are your best skills?
See what I like to do the most.

What are your less good skills?
Definately animating.

What has been your most challenging project until now - and why?
Well, I won't name it, because of the reason it was the most challenging. We did a project where the client changed their mind about 2-3 times a day for several months. The project was challenging on many fronts, first, just trying to get it done on time and in budget, and second, trying to stay motivated when you're forced to change your work every two seconds.

What has been your most funny project until now - and why?
Funny? Not sure I've worked on any funny projects, other than the dark humor inherant in that project mentionned above ("they asked me to change what? Again?")>

What project has made you most proud until now - and why?
Probably the lord of the rings trailer we did for E3. I feel proud because I made about 90% of the environments and I think I proved to a few people who questionned my ability to produce good artwork that I can come through with the goods.

What artist has inspired you the most through time?
H.R. Giger, Heidi Taillefer, Luis Royo, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Dave McKean, Dale Keown, Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner.

Do you use other 3D software than 3ds max?
No, but I do have the desire to learn Houdini and maya one of these days. I have used BMRT on occasion.

If you could decide, what should be improved or included in the next version of 3ds max?
I have a pretty complete list, but the main areas I'm interested in right now are render layers, xrefs and a real schematic view.

Do you want to help making movies like Shrek, Dinosaurs, Final Fantasy etc. or do you prefer smaller projects?
I'd like to do stuff like that at some point in my career, yes.

What is your next goal/dream in life?
To be able to express my ideas in 3d with the same speed and flow that I can use a pencil or paints.

And finally an off topic question - Can you name just one thing from Denmark :)?
I remember a Dannish death metal compilation called "Fuck You We're From Denmark". I found the title to be refreshingly to the point. :)

- Neil


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