Nigel Allen interview
Ric - Thank you for joining us on Wacom’s Art of Making Marks. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Nigel - I look after Cinema 4D in Australia. It’s a 3D application for rendering, animation and general 3D production. I am an operator and I also a certain amount a technician so I can go out and help people. I teach, I produce a certain amount of content myself, and over the years I’ve held many different jobs in various aspects of the entertainment industry. I started out as a sound engineer. I first bought my Wacom tablet in, I think it was 1996. I became a trainer for the sound engineering company I worked for. I had to create content for them which was a computer-based training scheme, and part of that content was to go around and photograph all of their pieces of equipment and then go back and, in Photoshop, extract the backgrounds from the photographs and put them onto plain backgrounds. So in order to do that, without getting horrendous RSI, I decided to go out and buy myself a Wacom tablet, which back then was on a Macintosh using the ADB port, rather than USB as we are now. And from there on, I never really stopped using it once I got in to Photoshop. After that I actually left sound engineering and I became a freelance digital designer, if that’s what you’d call it I guess. I was working in 3D, I was teaching myself Cinema 4D at the time, and working with Photoshop and learning After Effects.
My next large project, I was very glad of my Wacom tablet once again, because I was doing a job for Toyota and we had to photograph five different cars on a turntable that were going to be rotated. They were eventually going to be used in a virtual reality booth at the motor show, where you walk up to the screen and touch it and choose whichever car you wanted. They also wanted to be able to rotate the car and change the colours on the car. They also wanted to be able to change accessories on the car, so we had a lot of photography to do at Toyota. We put the cars on turntables, had a fixed camera, and we’d rotate each car ten degrees, thirty-six shots per rotation. Then I went home with probably about four and a half thousand photographs and using an iMac at the time I spent three months working in Photoshop and Adobe After Effects deep etching the duco on each cars, creating transparency on all the windows and the overall shape of the car, so when the images came into Adobe After Effects I could use these parts to produce different coloured cars with different accessories on them, mix and match the accessories of the cars, and wheels and all sorts of things like that. It was only possible to endure sit in front of my computer drawing parts in Photoshop for three months because I was using a Wacom tablet.
Ric - What was the key benefit for you by using a Wacom tablet?
Nigel - I’d say that the main reason for using the tablet was merely because I couldn’t get the level of control with a mouse. I needed the tablet to be able to intuitively push points around whilst I’m playing with Bezier Curves (Paths) in Photoshop. And it was essentially to save my right hand, because sitting there clamped up on the mouse for three months, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to survive it. Just by holding a pen in your hand it’s certainly a lot more ergonomic and more comfortable.
Ric - So Nigel it’s obvious what the benefits are by using a Wacom tablet in 2D applications like Adobe Photoshop and After Effects but tell us some of the benefits for using one in a 3D application like Cinema 4D?
Nigel - A rather large part of Cinema 4D is actually an application called Body Paint, which gives you the ability to paint directly onto 3D models. Previously when you’re working in 3D, you’ve either had to just create a generic texture entirely separate to your 3D object, and not really have any control about the detail, or you had to go into Photoshop, create textures, map them onto your objects and hope that they fit. If they didn’t, you’d go back to Photoshop, edit your texture and remap and re do it until it worked. Now with the advent of applications like Body Paint, you’re actually able to just pick up a paintbrush, go to your object and just paint directly onto it in the 3D space as well as manipulate the 3D geometry.
Ric - That actually looks like a lot of fun, being able to manipulate the 3D object with the pen.
Nigel - There’s various applications that allow you to paint pixels but actually painting physical geometry onto an object is quite an interesting and different way to work.
Ric - Would you like to just tell us about some of your more recent?
Nigel - Sure. The majority of what I’ve worked on in the last four years has been animated. I don’t do an awful lot of still work any more. I’ve done some jobs for Gloria Jean’s Coffee. They had a convention last year in Hawaii, and they came to me on relatively short notice because they needed an opening video for their coffee convention in Hawaii. I was able to use the new Geographic landscape module in Cinema 4D which I hadn’t used previously to come up with something showing them where all their different Gloria Jean’s Coffee branches were around the planet and also a shot of earth in the universe and various other things like that. I’ve done lots of different shots for TV commercials and some things for feature films and then I produce lot’s of training videos for Cinema 4D showing how to do stuff like photorealistic rendering, etc.
Ric - Fantastic. So what new products of innovations would you like from Wacom?
Nigel - The number of times I find myself reaching for this tablet with my finger, because I’m used to using it with a laptop computer. So I’m sitting there working on my laptop computer and I’ve got my finger on the touch pad and then I’ll go “oh, I need to use the Pen” and I just move my finger over here and expect it to work. So if they could ever add touch capability as well that would be great.
Ric - So you are another graphics professional who would like touch and point capabilities from your Wacom tablet. Very interesting! Thanks Nigel for participating in the Art of Making Marks.