New monitor

Since I first tweeted about our new monitors at BrandNewPixels, I received several questions about what exact model it is and why we chose it. 140 characters are a too few to elaborate on these questions, so I'm throwing out this short blog post.

The model is the LG 34UM95 and you can use the magic of Google to find out all about the technical details. Here is what mattered to me the most: the resolution is 3.440 x 1.440 which is the exact pixel height of the 27-inch iMac that I used before. It even has the same pixel density, in other words the actual screen height in cm is the same. The "only" difference is the 880 pixels added to the width - and this is a really really really good difference.

Working in Cinema 4D, for instance, is a totally different experience. You'll have a hard time trying to fill up the complete width of the UI with custom buttons. There's just so much space.

Currently I have the content browser / render settings and queue / help with its separate space in the layout.

After Effects is nice as well. Here's my current layout.

Some people asked "Why not use two monitors?" Well, I just don't like it. I tried it now and then, but having that gap between two monitors feels like you're drawing on two canvases at the same time. It's just not right for me.

The other question that I heard a few times: "Why don't get a 4K retina display?" Think about it: if you use a 4K screen in retina mode everything will look super crisp (given the software supports retina), but the UI size will actually be the same... or even less, depending on what screen you are working on right now. Sure, you can use that mode where every pixel is used like it is on a non-retina screen, thus giving you four times the space. But this would make the UI and the graphics so tiny that you'd have to get your nose real close to the monitor in order to work pixel-perfect.

If I was a video editor working on cinematic material I'd say "Okay, get a 4K screen." But for motion designers who mostly work for TV, it'll still be a very long time before 4K is broadcasted. TV stations just made the switch to HD and they'll stick to it for a while, I'm sure.

And let's not forget: On a 21:9 monitor every game feels epic :)

The only negative thing I can say about the monitor is, compared to the iMac, the screen is not that bright. At noon daylight in a room with lots of windows you might find yourself wanting to crank the brightness-slider above 100%. But, as said, this is compared to the iMac, which has one of the brightest and nicest screens that is currently on the market.

Lastely, if you happen to own a monitor with that resolution as well, here is a great forum thread with some nice nerdy wallpapers. Do you know more resources? Please share them in the comments!

"Metal Flowers" featured in Olympic Winter Games exhibition

It's with pride I can tell you that my animation "Metal Flowers" is part of the exhibition "A Season of Triumphs" organized by The Museum and Exhibition Association "Manege" in Moscow from February 7th until March 2nd.

Exhibition concept: Five zones by the number of five Olympic rings symbolize five energies of nature: earth, water, wood, fire and metal (according to a conception by Carl Gustav Jung).

In case you haven't seen the animation, you'll find it in the Lab section.

Here are some pictures from the opening that were kindly provided by the organizers of the exhibition:

Floating thing

Just some random thing I made for experimenting with other Octane materials. The fine tentacles were modeled from X-Particles trails that I baked and merged with the main corpus. Rendered at 2048 samples in about 10 minutes.

More Octane & X-Particles testing

Instead of making these eye-candy animations I should actually dig deeper into the options of the Octane render engine... but it's just so much fun to play with the textures and looks :)

This time I really wanted to crush my machine by making a scene with over a million polygons. This one has 1.570.206 to be precise and more lights than my first test render. And still, a frame of this animation took only about 2.5 min to render!

This golden sticks were done with X-Particles again. And no, I'll never get tired of my dramatic music library!

I was asked repeatedly how long a frame would render until the noise would be gone. So I re-rendered the first frame with 4048 samples (for the animation I used 512 samples). It took about 20 min. Considering the extreme DOF and specularity of that frame, I think this is a pretty good render time. Don't forget I'm only working on a single GPU. Here's the rendered frame. There's still a bit of noise, but this would barely be noticeable as animation I think.

First Octane test render

I recently purchased the Octane render engine by Otoy and the corresponding plugin for Cinema 4D. It still officially is in Beta status, but a release candidate has been made available for testing not long ago, so I decided to better get it now for the reduced price.

Here's a first test render. It is a bit grainy because I set the maximum samples very low... but, wow, doesn't it look great?! And for a HDRI-lit scene with 319.054 polygons, extreme depth of field and complex shadows, about 80 seconds per frame render time is really impressive, don't you think?

The trail geometry was created with X-Particles.

For those who asked, these are my iMac system specs:

  • 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2048 MB
  • 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3

Video Message June 8th 2013 - Follow Up

Many months have passed since I posted a video message about the stressful times I had when my son was born and I kept trying to handle work as if he hadn't been. If you haven't watched that video, please do so before you continue reading. Otherwise it all won't make sense.

The amount and the diversity of feedback was unexpected. Many people left comments or wrote emails with their very personal stories. The video triggered discussions on twitter and entries on other blogs. Apparently, I had hit a nerve. Many people came forward and talked about similar - sometimes worse - periods in their lives. That made me wonder why so few people talk about this obviously common problem. Is it unprofessional? Looking back, I would have welcomed someone telling me to take it easy and stop making my life miserable.

Anyways, there are three reasons why I write this follow up:

  • I want to clarify a few things things that I failed to get across.
  • I want say thank you and please stop worrying about me.
  • I want to tell you how I came out "wiser" on the other side.

Let's get started...

At the time I recorded the video I was in a very emotional state. I had finally come to a point in my life where I had to face the fact that I no longer could do all the things dear to me. Even after my first surgery I stubbornly ignored what had happened and fell back into my same old rut. When I barely escaped the second - more severe - surgery, only then did I realize that I had to change my way of balancing work and life fundamentally. I made long walks and thought about how to go on, what sacrifices to make and how to handle pressure in the future. It was during one of those walks when I spontaneously felt the urge to talk everything off my chest. So I recorded the video, not only to free my mind a bit, but also to reason my long absence from the motion design community. All of this is to say: Because of the spontaneous and emotional nature of that recording, I made an incomplete, thus probably mistakable statement. At least that's how I feel now, with a clear(er) head and half a year later. So, let me clarify:

I do not blame the business in general for being broken. Although one might argue it is, that should not be the main statement of my video. Also, I feel like I don't have the right to complain, because I've always been and still am in a lucky position to have a very forthcoming boss (High Five, Alex!) and super nice clients. I'm lucky and I don't take that for granted.

I do blame myself for putting so much pressure on myself. Of course, most jobs usually have tight deadlines and overtime is usually inevitable, but there was no one forcing me to go that extreme, especially at times when my family needed me more than ever. I love my job and wanted to do an awesome project. It was my own stupid decision to stress myself to the state of health issues. I tried to do everything 100% as long as I could: family, work, even hobbies. That is simply not possible and I had to learn that lesson the hard way, like many others before me. But I learned. Which leads me to the second item on my list.

I am happy and healthy now, so please stop worrying. To this day I still receive benevolent replies to my video from people wishing me a fast recovery. While I really appreciate the kindness, I would like everyone to know that I'm perfectly fine now. So thank you very much. Especially thanks for being honest by telling me your own stories. It helped me a lot to talk to people who had suffered similar situations and to learn how they managed to get out of them.

And that's the last item on my list. I want to tell you how I roll now and what I changed to get a better grip of my life again. I don't claim to have reached an ethereal peace of mind, I'm still working on the floating-inches-above-the-ground part, but I feel I'm going in the right direction. The following is all very obvious and you probably have heard it a thousand times, but it took me quite a while to accept its importance and even longer to put it in practice.

Work at work.

I've sold my home iMac. When Noah hadn't been born, the first thing I did when I got home was sit in front of my iMac and basically do the same stuff that I do at the office. Today, my only home computing device is an iPad. I might eventually get a laptop, but for now I don't miss a thing. Noah is into the iPad, as well.

Do less. Focus.

I used to do so many personal projects and couldn't let go off anything. I said "yes" to almost everyone asking me for a favor. Combine that with being a perfectionist and insanity is near. Today I try to focus on the things I really want to do. At the moment, that is being with my family, of course, next to my main job. Band activity with friends has been reduced a bit, but is still an important outlet for me. motioneers.net has been put on hold for while and c4dtools.net is primarily a maintenance job. I still keep up with everything that is going on in the mograph community via Twitter and I'm looking forward to becoming a more active contributor again.

Relax. It's just a job.

I'm not saying don't take your work seriously or with less motivation. Not at all. But, for me, I have learned that it is totally possible to not stress yourself out when a deadline is approaching, for instance. I still work intensely and more than eight hours a day, but I don't have headaches anymore, when I've had an unproductive day and I know there's still so much more to do. Have confidence in your skills and keep a cool head. Pressure can be turned into something good. After all, the best work often gets done when the time is running out.

Alright, let's leave it at that. I don't want to come across like a wise-guy or something, this is just what helped me in my specific situation. Anyways, I hereby consider this topic to be summed up and concluded. As said, lesson learned so let's move on!

Happy holidays and have a great start in 2014,

Robert