www.markplatten.net

© Mark Platten 2006

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background   This website draws on my extant career, experiences, and interests for its source material.

cg   The cg examples here range from 1998 to current work in progress.

The material is a representative selection of my professional and personal work. It was originally created or subsequently adapted for, final output in print; on ordinary television displays; or larger scale monitors and projection systems in commercial venues.

Everything is exclusively my own work, except where annotated.

Certain projects are included not so much because they represent the kind of work I wish to pursue, but because they still demonstrate relevant aspects of my current technical abilities.

software   Of the software I have either experimented with or which I routinely use, the following core applications were instrumental in producing this work. There were, of course, various others: some applications have become obsolete, some have been supplanted or absorbed by their rivals, and other applications have become so indispensible to me that I take them for granted.

Adobe After Effects
Discreet 3D Studio Max
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Premiere (6.5 + Pro)
AutoCAD
AutoDesSys Form-Z
NewTek Lightwave
DVDLab Pro

hardware   Workstation: Tyan S2466N
Athlon MP 2600[x2]/2Gb/36Gb SCSI/320Gb IDE/Parhelia 256

Video Editing: Asus P4PE
P4 2.6/1Gb/2x100Gb IDE/Matrox RTX-100

These machines were self-built. A second Tyan dual-Athlon rendering server is currently taking shape, while I've recently acquired and restored a written-off hi-end Sony Vaio to full working order, for general media usage [& watching DVDs in bed, natch]. All the RAID 0's on my little network are mirrored on a respectable array of Maxtor Firewire drives. Other projects in the pipeline include experimenting with frameserving via networks and, maybe, wireless; and DIY hi-res home cinema using old-fashioned overhead transparency projectors modified to work in conjunction with LCD displays cannibalised from increasingly cheap TFT monitors.

That's just my own gear, for fun. In the workplace, I thrash a dual Xeon remorselessly to beat the deadlines. The emphasis here, of course, is on throughput and output, so realistically there's little scope for playing with hardware and besides, the video department proper own all the really interesting toys. But I do enjoy getting my hands dirty when I can...

yeah - so what?  

Well, I first became interested in digital graphics during the early 1990s, while completing a degree in industrial design and preparing to enter the UK employment market. In the high street, personal computers were becoming increasingly affordable and powerful, while impressive digital work had started to become commonplace in the cinema and on TV. This, I mused, might be an interesting field to work in.

Graphics workstations only became briefly available to me as a student just prior to my graduation, but the implications were plain, leaving me wanting to learn more. With no particular aspirations toward an indentureship with a factory or a similar career within Britain's relentlessly dwindling manufacturing base, I maintained a strong interest in computers and their graphics capabilities throughout a succession of non-related jobs.

Commercial 3D applications which interpose a functional user-interface between a creative designer-operator and the core graphics engine of a computer were beginning to emerge at this time but, pre-internet, I remained largely unaware of them. I contemplated a master's course in 3D graphics programming, and acquired the course materials to see if it suited me - but after my attempts trying to program in C++, I rightly concluded that I was simply too 'right-brain' for such endeavours.

In 1995, my 'breakthrough' came on a holiday in the Far East, when I discovered affordable copies of all the software - strictly legitimate, naturally - I could possibly want. A useful start: now I simply had to persuade any of them run on the only computer available to me - a Pentium 100, and I could start putting theory into practise. Nowadays I enjoy the use of fully-licensed software, but back then it meant excellent exposure without a speculative and potentially costly gamble.

While living in New Zealand, I learnt enough about AutoCAD to secure a drafting job in a factory producing a range of pressed-steel underfloor ducting. An inauspicious beginning, but I persevered with what was then an unpredictable art - translating CAD files into 3d; and began working with a new application, Form-Z - a hybrid solid and surface modelling program which has since built a reputation for itself in the architectural & industrial fields.

In 1998 I moved to Australia and found AutoCAD work in Sydney; detailing circuit board layouts by day, and experimenting with the first release of 3ds MAX by night. However, by all accounts the use of Newtek's Lightwave - a competitor to MAX with comparable specifications - was far more widespread in the Antipodes and the US: I started using Lightwave, devoting more serious time to 3D with it. This led to a short spell of work on a feature-film proposal being pitched in the US.

At the start of 2000 I moved back to the UK. After a short AutoCAD contract I found my first permanent full-time 3D job, in the corporate sector. For this role, I had to adopt 3ds MAX, which I'd all but ignored since adopting Lightwave. Animation has figured largely in this role, with the emphasis less on quality bespoke renderings than fast-turnover work at TV pixel resolutions.

In the four years since, I've become highly familiar with 3ds MAX and its capabilities; following its evolution from Release One into a multi-faceted application catering to a broad spectrum of users who, along with the marketplace, have shaped the the product in various ways according to their particular demands. My own skill-set has become relatively more sophisticated; widening to include compositing, real-time video editing and production, DVD encoding and authoring; along the way addressing their various fundamental issues - not to mention the underlying computer technology - the nuts and bolts which actually allow it all to happen - creating and delivering moving images on display devices.

Although my days of earning a living through CAD drafting lie behind me now, I still routinely use AutoCAD in my day-to-day work when I'm required to build 3D models from 2D plans/elevations. Thanks to various accidents of bureaucracy I'm still subscribed to relevant trade journals, which keep my bathroom library well-stocked with items of interest from the generic CAD field.

However, among my objectives for 2005, the 3D agenda is very simple: develop work of a more technically advanced nature than the remit of my current job permits: Surely there are only so many logos you can bring to screen before you lose the will to live..? I'm on borrowed time already.

While I try to reconcile the divergent demands of work with my own CG interests, plans are already taking shape for more complex, large-scale photorealistic 3D projects of my own devising, which will, in one instance, unite elements of traditional oriental religious architecture with modern hydroelectric and nuclear technology; influences from my recent adventures in Indochina.

These digital baptisms of fire - for I'm sure they will be - will mark my first serious foray into the practical use of MAX as a tool for photo-real-world visualisation. Fundamental issues such as scale have barely intruded on the majority of my work to date, but if I'm about to attempt physically accurate illumination, all that will change. The hardware's already in place, the software is on the bench, and I'm already getting nicely clued on the relevant techniques. Watch this space...

There are many areas of expertise worthy of closer scrutiny in a professional context, but in particular my big issues are: more sophisticated, larger-scale modelling; photorealistic lighting, rendering and high-quality visualisation using native and 3rd-party renderers. Ultimately, the motion graphics agenda remains the same: the pursuit of compelling realism.

To this end, I remain open to offers of work using motion graphics tools - perhaps within the architectural and/or technical fields; perhaps simply in an environment which provides the opportunity to transact on a higher level with fellow practitioners of the various crafts. This site should indicate whether my skills are of any interest - now, or potentially.

March 2005