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DUNCAN BRINSMEAD interview

Principal Scientist at Autodesk




Ric Welcome to The Art of Making Marks. Just to open the interview could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Duncan I’m Duncan Brinsmead and I am the principal scientist at Autodesk. I am the primary developer of Maya Paint Effects, Maya Hair and Maya Toon. I worked a lot on Maya Fluids and nCloth more recently.

Ric So you’re the mad scientist that has made it all happen for Maya.

Duncan Yeah, I get called that.

Ric Fantastic. So how long have you worked with Wacom’s pressure sensitive technology in developing these tools?

Duncan Gosh, It would have been a long time ago when I first encountered Wacom tablets. The first time I really started using them in any real capacity was when I worked on Maya Paint Effects. We had pressure support with the and created all kinds of ways you can map the pressure channel to the brush to give it three different channels like the size of the brush, say for instance the size of a tree, a plant that’s generated as you’re stroking or it could be like the number of leaves on the tree or the number of branches so you’re actually controlling 3D shape aspects by how hard you press. so if you want a really big tree in the forest you just press hard and scribble. If you want little bushes and shrubs you just press more lightly and put your shrubs around the trees. So all the brushes in Maya have those attributes in them when you select from the presets. Although to be honest I think most people aren’t aware of that because they probably just use the mouse but really the mouse is like pressing full pressure on the brush so that’s like the upper limit and you don’t normally want it at full pressure. They work much better using pen pressure sensitivity.

Ric So you can have a lot of control over the brush.

Duncan Yes.

Ric And so does some that include using tilt information from the pen?

Duncan We were talking about that but never did include tilt. It could have been quite useful for Paint Effects because of just the range of 3D controls you could have used with it.

Ric Any thoughts of still implementing that at one day?

Duncan We might, yeah. It could be useful. To be honest I haven’t done a lot with pressure sensitive stuff on the tablet since the Paint Effects work because I’ve gone on to other things.

Ric I’ll have to send you lots of emails from our customers and get it put back on the radar!

Duncan We had a person who knew a lot about your technology.

Ric I’d be very happy to come in to your office and make sure you’re all set up. So have you seen  rotation working with our Artist Pen.

Duncan Like twirling it? That could be useful. I never thought of using that motion, so it captures that?

Ric Yes it does, it’s basically two sensors in the tip of the pen so that it’s capturing the swivel orientation. Both Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter have paint brushes that can give the user a more natural fluid motion when using the pen. ZBrush or in your case Mudbox would be interesting 3D tools for using this feature.

Duncan Well that would be nice. Something like that I would find a lot that can be done with the pen. For example it would be nice to have a two-handed input where you’ve got a pen in your right hand, if you’re right handed, and then you’re just using touch on the left hand so that you can grab things and manipulate them, move them around and then hit them and do even more precise things. Sort of like a hammer/nail scenario.

Ric We are now incorporating that kind of technology though still in the labs at present it will be coming in future products.

Duncan Oh really! Multi-touch would be great because I think there is many interesting uses for that.

Ric So if you could ask Wacom to create for you a special feature or some crazy new innovative product what might that be?

Duncan Well what I’d like to have is some sort of a surround screen that’s not touch sensitive but just for most of the upright viewing area. You generally don’t want to lift up your hand to the screen and touch it. What’s the point? But then combining it with a desktop surface that is a touch multi-touch screen device which you can use physical devices with to interact with for more precision. Also perhaps you’d be able to use just your fingers on the surface as well so that your keyboard could then be just a little plexiglass thing you have as a multitouch display. It would function like a regular keyboard but the display could shine through the plexiglass and put whatever you wanted in the keys for your keyboard. You could actually use the display to be your keys but yet same time have the physical keyboard so you get tactile feedback where you’re touching .

Ric Right, so it’s all sort of integrated as one constant surface with different areas that physical surface devices could sit over and interact to create more tactile interaction.

Duncan Yeah, one surface that’s your display with sensitivity, yeah, but then you have various devices you can bring in, stick on it for like different types of interaction.

Ric Maybe using something like Microsoft’s surface technology where there’s a relationship between the objects that you put down on the surface and it automatically works out what it is and how it should relate to the other objects sitting on the surface.

Duncan Yeah. Actually you do want some sense of touch so maybe even a surface that’s not a keyboard but it’s a surface where you’ve got an image on it but you also have some relief to it and various hot spots you can touch and the software’s designed to know where those hot spots are so you’d have a physical touch sense when you touch it. In general you’d have to look at where you’re touching or see the interaction points. It’s kind of nice to be able to work blind and just go by touch a lot of the time. Which a keyboard is great for which is one of the nice things about it, you usually rely a lot on the little dots to centre the keyboard to know where your fingers are positioned. Having something like that that can sit on a tablet might be kind of nice, for using it for like kind of hot keys and things like that so you don’t need to also have a keyboard.

Ric So in summary you would like tactile feedback on a multi-touch screen device with rap-around heads up screen display. Right so now I’ll just get that off to our engineers at Wacom.

Thank you Duncan for participating in The Art of Making Marks.