Sunday, April 3, 2011

Learning new things -- how I work

I was reminded of a nuke explosion I was doing in Maya a few months ago so, realizing I haven't worked on it since November, I cracked open the old file and started working on it.  I got a little excited when I realized I had no idea what the heck I was doing.  Great, I get to learn something new.  No, that isn't sarcasm.

I've been doing one thing for four years: character effects, specifically hair, cloth and fur simulation.  I love it and I like to think I have a decent grasp of it.  But being an artist, I'm always looking for something else to do, something else to get good at.

When I'm trying to learn something new, I don't start small and work my way up.  I cannonball into a stormy sea of insanity and struggle to keep my head above water.  I struggle for eons and then, when I can weather that storm, swimming in a pond is a piece of cake.  It's a backwards way of thinking but having worked from small to big I think big to small just works for me.

When I was learning how to simulate cloth my teacher told me "Here's nCloth, this is how to create a collision object.  Now, finish a shot in a week."  And of course I couldn't.  My first real shot took me six weeks and, of course, it was one of the hardest shots in our entire short.  I asked for help from classmates, I looked online, I prayed (seriously, this was step 1).  By the time this bear of a shot was approved I knew what I was doing.  I blasted the shot that I was handed next in less than ten minutes.

That one difficult shot taught me about every attribute I could tweak and every ghetto fix I could use and abuse.  I found lots of learning resources and I learned how to troubleshoot and spot problems and their solutions by eye.

That's how I've been learning MEL.  Tackling an advanced script someone else wrote and writing an advanced script of my own.  I'm, by no means, an expert or anything but I'm learning so much.

It's time for me to do that with fluid effects.  I love them, but I have no idea what's going on and, like cloth, there's very little documentation.  So, I'm going to attack a nuke.  Not just any nuke.  This bad boy:

I won't have a lot of time to work on this until after April 27 (last day of school, yay!), but I'll post what I have when I have it.


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