Design

Today's #CyantistWeLove: 3D Artist And Asset Builder Christina Douk

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The movie and entertainment industry at large has been embracing digital design for some time, and increasingly 3D Printing, with 3D printed props and assets used in movies ranging from Black Panther to First Man. Behind the scene, 3D artists and asset builders such as today’s #CyantistWeLove Christina Douk create 3D modeling, geometry and 3D printing magic to make characters and set designs appear! A past #3DTalk speaker, Christina has recently worked on films including Thor: Rognarok and Captain Marvel. In addition, she has created her own robot toy line and more! We are so excited to feature her, how she works each day, her advice to young Cyantists interested in this field, and of course, her favorite thing to draw! :)

Cyant: It is exciting to see how 3D modeling and 3D printing are being used in movies and are creating new visual effects and experiences. Can you describe how they have been part of your work in recent movies you have worked on?

Christina: Most of the work I do in feature film uses 3d modeling, where we build many assets for films as well as work with client files to optimize them for our production. I work on the 3d visualization side which incorporates: “pitchvis", a production that we do to give the clients an idea of what the film can look like before it is greenlit; “previs", the production where we develop the look and storytelling through set designing and shot creation; “techvis", the process of preparing camera and set information to assist with filming; and “postvis", the process of combining filmed plates with our CG work to give an idea of what the film looks like before sending it to finals visual effects companies.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: French Hallway Environment made for Eve Skylar from her concept - 2014

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: French Hallway Environment made for Eve Skylar from her concept - 2014

I've been a part of all of the processes building assets and more. Although my 3d printing side isn't visible on the screen, I use the knowledge that I've learned with printing in my modeling for production. There are times where I have to clean up and prep models from a client that are very high resolution, 3d scanned actors or environments, or models that contain geometry errors. I use Zbrush a majority of the time to clean up models and prepare them for “retopology” in Maya, so that we can use them in our workflow.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: An environment for the animated short Break Free by Nicole Ridgewell - 2012

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: An environment for the animated short Break Free by Nicole Ridgewell - 2012

Cyant: What is a typical day and what are the creative and technical processes you follow? How do you work with the other team members on the project?

Christina: A majority of the projects we work on are collaborative, so we are constantly working together. Usually we start off with asset builders like me who create the characters, environments or props needed per sequence. This process involves us modeling, texturing, lighting, and rigging every asset. And when we get to a good point, then we introduce shot creation which is where animation comes in to use the assets we make and compose shots to tell the story. When an new asset is requested or something breaks there's usually one asset person on hand to get it done. Depending on what process of production I'm in, my workflow uses Maya or Zbrush for modeling and UVing, then I texture using Substance Painter and bring it all back to Maya to finish up the model and rig and light them if I need to.

 
Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First projects modeling and texturing for games - 2009 (Christina’s bedroom)

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First projects modeling and texturing for games - 2009 (Christina’s bedroom)

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: A vehicle from Thailand made using games modeling technique - 2009.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: A vehicle from Thailand made using games modeling technique - 2009.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Robot fun using Modo - 2010

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Robot fun using Modo - 2010

Cyant: What did you study and how do you think your studies prepared you? What did you have to learn?

Christina: I went to school for animation originally, but it never really clicked with me to be an animator. Within that process of studying though, I realized that I liked building sets and set dressing a lot more, so I geared my focus to that. I started taking classes that were more focused on game design and modeling and I felt a love for sculpting and building anything. Whenever I saw a beautiful concept I just wanted to build it in 3d because then I could see a design come to life. I kept on this path for many years, working in games first then commercials, toys, and now films all of which my knowledge has grown in each industry. I also take classes on 3d printing, clay sculpting, digital sculpting, drawing and pottery on the side to keep up with many skills and to expand creativity for myself. I never stop wanting to learn, and that continued growth has always fueled my want to keep making, designing and building.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: The Accountant designed by Doktor A and produced by Mold 3d, modeled by Christina.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: The Accountant designed by Doktor A and produced by Mold 3d, modeled by Christina.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Coal from A Dragon Named Coal by Rachel and Ash Blue

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Coal from A Dragon Named Coal by Rachel and Ash Blue

Cyant: You are also a creator of 3D printed toys! What inspired you to create these toys, and how is your work different, creatively and practically, from the work you do with movies? What has 3D printing enabled you to do? And what are some important lessons you've learned along the way?

Christina: This was a fun little side thing I love to do. I slowly came to this point where I wanted to do more than what my day job was. Once I found 3d printing and printed my first model and I realized this was a whole new market of creativity for me. I could make anything I wanted and produce it in a physical form. These little robots came out of some simple sketches I was working on for fun and I just kept drawing and modeling them. I’ve always been a fan of robots and these little guys always make me smile when I see them.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First model made of the robots by Christina and a sketch over done by friend Tu Anh Nguyen to help figure out shapes and forms.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First model made of the robots by Christina and a sketch over done by friend Tu Anh Nguyen to help figure out shapes and forms.

Making designer toys is a little different because the process involves closing the model up and making it watertight in one solid piece or multiple solid pieces with keys. There is some more planning on how I pose pieces too because I want to try and duplicate them by molding and casting as well. I start off using Maya to get basic shapes in and put together the look, since I am faster in that program, then I use Zbrush to combine all meshes and seal the model and prep it for print. Once the print is done, I let the model cure then break supports, sand it to the right smoothness and either prime it with spray paint or move on to making duplicates.

There were many routes that I wanted to take the toys, like mass production, but instead I wanted to control my own product and so I learned how to mold and cast pieces on my own, allowing me to make however many copies and I get to tint them to whatever color I want. It's a lot of fun producing my own work and I love how they all come out.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First 3 robots created.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: First 3 robots created.

Cyant: On your Instagram feed, your tag line is: "Manipulating geometry one vertex at a time". As an artist, has working with 3D modeling and 3D printing changed how you use and view geometry and mathematics? How?

Christina: 3d modeling has changed the way I look at the world. I love geometric shapes maybe because of what I do, and I also have worked in this field for several years and noticed that sometimes how I look at the world is a little different. I break down items in our lives into simple geometric shapes and figure out how I can model them. My brain looks and sees repetition in buildings, cars, and products to see how can I optimize the amount of geometry to make that model. Sometimes if I work too much, I see the geometry and edge flow on the real life object, which can be weird, but is how my mind works these days and I find it interesting.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Casted models of the robot design.

Photo courtesy of Christina Douk: Casted models of the robot design.

Cyant: What advice would you have for young (and not so young) cyantists who want to work with 3D modeling and 3D printing in the entertainment or game industry?

Christina: Just hit play. I really believe that once I started printing my own work I became more and more motivated to keep creating. And I think it's because having the physical product in front of you can show you and influence you that you can make anything. When I first started 3d printing I would model and sculpt many different things in preparation to getting my first printer, but even when I got that, there were so many complications with the ones I had, and there was one printer which didn’t work for me at all, so I ended up waiting another year to get my own. Instead, I ended up sending my stuff to print through a bureau and through friends in the meantime and that's when I realized that I wanted to design and create more. I'm a plug and play type of person. I want to focus more on the art and design vs the process of printing, so once I began making more and more content, I bought a printer to fit that mentality. I own a Form 2 at the moment and literally whenever I have an idea now, I'll model it, send it to print, and share it.

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Cyant: And last but not least! What is your favorite drawing or thing to draw? :)

Christina: My favorite thing is drawing without a purpose. I don’t know what I will draw, but I doodle lines and see what comes out. It is like an icebreaker for myself, to break the need to draw something exact, I instead do whatever. My robots actually emerged from this method. Its freeing to kinda see where the lines go every time I do this.

Thanks so much for sharing your work and inspirations Christina! If you want to learn more about Christina, make sure to visit her website HERE and follow her Instagram account HERE!

New Ruler Tool In Cyant's Lab™!

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A ruler is part of an engineer’s, a school kid’s, a designer‘s and an artist ‘s toolkit, even a 3D one! So we’ve added a new ruler tool to our iPad app Cyant’s Lab to make it easier for Cyantists of all ages to 3D draw straight lines in the app digitally.

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Of course you can still use a physical ruler and an apple pencil too if you have one. :)

Digital or physical, you choose! What will you create? :)

Today's #CyantistWeLove: Alexis Walsh, Artist & Fashion Designer, And Creator Of The Apex Series

Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Fashion Weeks and Fashion Shows all around the world increasingly provide an opportunity to discover new designs and fabrication innovations involving 3D printing and digital design. This year, Alexis Walsh, an NYC based designer and artist, caught our attention. Her Apex Series, which we featured as one of our #TechTuesday picks, combines new technologies such as 3D printing with more traditional techniques, and 3D printed pieces (also called custom hardware) applied on fabric through a special design software she and her partner built. Due to the important and innovative aspects of her work, we decided to go a step further and feature Alexis as a #CyantistWeLove! Alexis kindly shared about the process behind her collection, her thoughts on sustainable fashion and fashion design, her advice for young Cyantists and more. A great inspiration for anyone interested in the intersection of 3D printing, design, sustainability and traditional craft!

Apex Coat - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Apex Coat - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

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Cyant: Can you please tell us about the Apex Series and what led you to this collection? What was the creative and design process behind it? 

Alexis: Apex Series initially began as a single piece - the Apex Coat. This was an idea that had been brainstormed with my design partner Justin Hattendorf. We were really excited about the idea of creating customized hardware [e.g. 3D printed decorative pieces that adorn a garment] that could have an engineered placement on a body. New expressions are possible through 3D printing that are either impossible or extremely difficult to attain in other mediums. With additive manufacturing, new ways of integrating different materials can be utilized, combining traditional handcraft and hardware elements with modern performative materials. After the creation of Apex Coat, the piece was so well received that we decided to expand the idea further into a continuing body of work. Apex Series is the first collection.

Apex Top = Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Apex Top = Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Cyant: Once designed, what was involved in making the collection come to life, in terms of materials, processes and technologies? And what problems were you able to solve?

Alexis: We created a custom software to develop our 3D models for this piece. The software took about 6 months of iterations before we were ready to start prototyping. From there, we tested a number of methods to apply the 3D printed hardware onto fabric. Rather than prototyping for a specific, isolated design problem, we decided to prototype a process for making an expansive collection of fashion products. This allows us to focus on each new garment in the collection with a sharp attention to detail, ensuring that our designs maintain a high quality of craftsmanship while giving us full creative freedom when we have an idea for a new hardware application. With 3D printing, small studios and independent designers are now empowered to work on new and disruptive design ideas with production on-demand. In the past, fashion hardware development required access to large scale manufacturing and would require extremely large minimum order quantities, which has often been unattainable for small businesses. Today we can use desktop 3D printers to prototype, and small fabrication companies to produce high quality hardware, allowing us to rethink old design standards and develop a new interpretation of fashion hardware. Using the custom software app that we built together, we mapped out the flattened pattern pieces and were able to engineer the exact placements of hardware to each specific pattern piece, before physically creating the garment. This efficient method allows us to rapidly test our designs until deciding on a final form, with absolutely no wastage of materials or labor. Though the designing of the software took six months, we were able to physically create all the pieces within Apex Series in about two months. Each piece was hand-sewn and the hardware was manually applied.

Bristle - Designed and fabricated at  Studio Bitonti  - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Bristle - Designed and fabricated at Studio Bitonti - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Cyant: Your work is at the intersection of fashion, technology and physics! How did your studies prepare you for your current work? Conversely, what else did you have to learn and what collaborations did you have to put in place?

Alexis: In 2015, I graduated from Parsons The New School for Design, with a focus in both fashion design and product design. My experiences with digital design, including computational design and 3D modeling, has been largely self taught. I was a student during the period where 3D printing was just becoming a mainstream concept. In order to learn more about 3D printing, I enrolled in industrial product design courses, and classes focused on fabrication materials and manufacturing processes. Through this, I was allowed access to the manufacturing buildings on the Parsons campus, which included an array of 3D printers, laser cutters, and metal fabrication machinery. I had an incredible four years of experimenting, and I definitely got lucky in having such encouraging professors who allowed me to explore. One particular instance was in a steel welding class, where I create a cage dress out of welded steel rods. I found a mannequin and would carry it up and down the stairs into the welding studio, welding directly onto the mannequin. Two crucial experiences to my current work were two 3D printing based internships. When I was a junior, I interned for the designer Bradley Rothenberg at his namesake company (now nTopology, a really cool software company!) This was at the height of 3D printing in fashion, and it was such a great learning experience. I was able to see how the studio collaborated with more traditional fashion design companies to work with technology. The next year, right after I graduated, I worked as the studio manager for Studio Bitonti, under the designer Francis Bitonti. Studio Bitonti worked with fabricating and designing projects focused on 3D modeling/3D printing, as well as teaching a workshop class about using 3D modeling for wearable designs. Without a doubt, the most important collaboration I have ever had is with my partner Justin Hattendorf. We work so well together, and our skill sets compliment each other. Justin has a background in architecture and industrial product design, and his knowledge of computational design is incredibly important to our process.

Apex Dress - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Apex Dress - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Cyant: What other innovations do you see possible, that combine traditional craft and new technologies such as 3D printing? And what other materials do you hope to work with in the future?

Alexis: I’m really excited about the potential of fully 3D printed fabrics. As a textile, I don't think the technology is completely realized yet, but there is so much possibility around fully 3D printed garments. I would also love to work with more sustainable materials, such as lab grown leather or mycelium.

Cyant: How do you think your work can advance more sustainable design in fashion? And to facilitate that, what are techniques that exist, or you think would be possible, that you hope to use?

Alexis: 3D printing is surprisingly sustainable! PLA filament is plant-based, and your print can be biodegradable. There are several companies focusing on the "recycling" of 3D printed filaments, too. Another printing method, SLS, is completely zero waste by utilizing nylon powder. Any excess powder is continuously reused for the next prints. With 3D printing, the amount of wastage can be drastically reduced as compared to more traditional methods of clothing/accessory/hardware manufacturing.

Lysis Collection - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Lysis Collection - Photo courtesy of Alexis Walsh (www.alexiswalsh.com)

Cyant: What would be your advice for young (and older :)) cyantists interested in fashion, and looking to use 3D printing and related technologies?

Alexis: If you're interested in 3D printing, now is the time to explore it! There are so many resources available online right now, as well as intuitive guides to help first time 3D modelers learn the programs. Several colleges are also beginning to offer courses focused on 3D modeling for wearable items, like clothing, shoes, or hardware. It might seem intimidating at first, but it's so worth learning and it's also fun!

Cyant: Finally, what is your favorite thing to draw? :)

Alexis: I love drawing portraits! In my free time, I enjoy sketching with graphite or painting watercolor.

Thanks Alexis for sharing your insights and experience with us! If you want to learn more about Alexis, make sure to visit HERE!

Today's #CyantistWeLove: Alice Cabotse, founder and designer at Alice Etcaetera

Photo source:  Portrait "Alice Etcaetera"   ©  Claude Weber

Photo source: Portrait "Alice Etcaetera" ©  Claude Weber

3D printing is a precious tool to develop new virtuous - environmental, social & local - business models with no stock “made to order” and also “made to measure” concepts.

3D Printing has created and will continue to create new opportunities for designers all around the world. One very important opportunity is to be able to ingrain sustainability in the design and production processes, in addition to having access to new aesthetic and material options. So we are excited to feature french designer Alice Cabotse, who created Alice Etcaetera and who works everyday at the intersection of design and eco-consciousness as part of her mission. Alice has been harnessing the opportunities offered by 3D Printing for several of her collections. Nonetheless, her design approach still retains elements of traditional craftsmanship, and this blend of technology and time-tested methods is also an exciting innovation playground for designers. And while Alice is a designer now, she was actually a scientific major in high school, and she pursued her studies internationally! So we are all the more excited to discuss her study choices and her work with her!

Cyant: You finished high school with a scientific baccalaureate (French SATs), and then decided to study art and design. What compelled you to follow that route? Were you always interested in both or was there a specific moment that made you change direction?

Alice: I wanted to be a designer since the age of 12, when I discovered that you could earn a living drawing & creating ideas : it was called graphic design. By the age of 14 I knew it was possible to also "draw" everyday objects, furniture, cars, trains... it was called industrial design & sounded just amazing ! So knowing I wanted to be a "3 dimensional designer". I chose to do a scientific baccalaureate, as I didn't know if I will prefer to be in the engineer or artistic side of design. When I was 18, I moved to London to discover if I was good at itand followed a year of Foundation Studies in Art & Design at the London Metropolitan University. By the end of that year, I chose the more "artistic" side of design & started a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Product Design at the Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication. I have been loving every part of this new world, with endless possibilities, new horizons & freedom to create with the power of imagination !

Cyant: How did you start to use 3D Printing? What has it enabled you to do that was new in your design and production process?

Alice: I started working with 3D printing technologies in 2010 when I created my own collection of silver jewellery made in France & named “Grigris”.
As I did not have the know-how to produce my own wax originals (classic jewellery making process), I decided to imagine a new production process mixing contemporary technology with classic craftsmanship. I designed and 3D printed my originals (in laser sintering polyamide powder) then gave them to my open-minded craftsman to transform them - with his traditional Silversmith skills - into beautiful solid silver unique rings (classic "lost wax" technique & hand-polished).
3D printing gave me a new freedom as a designer : it allowed me to materialize exactly the form I imagined and created with the modeling software into a solid object.

Photo source:  Photos "Grigris" © Alice Etcaetera

Photo source: Photos "Grigris" © Alice Etcaetera

Cyant: Which 3D Printing technologies have you been using throughout your work?

Alice: I used 3D printed laser sintering polyamide powder to generate the originals of the silver jewelry collection “Grigris”. I also utilized 3D printed ceramic by scupteo.com to create the tableware collection “Essentielle". Throughout my work, I use 3D modeling software (e.g. Rhinoceros) to design my creations.

Cyant: Did you have to work with experts in other fields to achieve what you wanted?

Alice: No, not so far, as one of the quality of a Designer is to be like a sponge : to analyze and understand production processes, in order to get a global view & create with the constraints.

Cyant: How are you using 3D Printing to make an environmental impact? Or put in a differently how is 3D Printing playing a part in your eco-consciousness mission/goals?

Alice: 3D printing is a precious tool to develop new virtuous - environmental, social & local - business models with no stock “made to order” and also “made to measure” concepts.This means, we can design infinitely but rapidly produce a limited stock based on customer demand, requests and interests. So, this fast technology allows to create a diversity of tailored & unique sustainable solutions.

Cyant: You marry traditional crafts with 3D Printing. Can you give examples of your work that showcase that aspect? Is it a difficult balancing act, or is there a natural blending between the two methods of design and production? Does it require a different thinking and design process, innovating on the technology side?

Alice: I am very much influenced by Japanese aesthetic, Scandinavian design and the Art Déco period : I love “warm minimalism”. I am very much inspired by a quotation of Charlotte Perriand, collaborator of Le Corbusier and major French woman designer from the XXth century. Her ambition was “the sincere and constant research around a way of life connected to its time”. So "Natural blending" would be answer, as simplicity & harmony are keywords in my work. Designing a new jewelry making method gave me the freedom to imagine a collection of 24 different rings "Grigris", also designing a unique experience: a series of small architectures for the body, pieces of solid silver, raw, smooth, ultra polished and golden shimmers, to be composed freely and made to measure. This let me offer variations of material and dimension which can be juxtaposed endlessly. I combined 3D printing and traditional silversmithing, and an innovative detail about the "Grigris"jewelry, was that I chose to show the printing stratums "mystery lines" in the final silver rings (raw silver versions) as a contemporary & minimalist way to create "naturally" decorative engraving.

Photo source:  Photos "Essentielle" Alice Etcaetera ©    Claude Weber

Photo source: Photos "Essentielle" Alice Etcaetera ©  Claude Weber

"Essentielle"  is a tableware set in 3D printed ceramic which was printed locally by the French 3D printing service company Sculpteo.com. This collection is composed of three universal functions to eat & drink: a plate, a bowl and a cup, that can be stacked up into a compact form, for everyday use.Following my sustainability goal, the ceramic set is made to order online in a choice of 8 colours, creating a new sustainable economic model with no stock.
Like the jewelry collection "Grigris", "Essentielle" tableware is the result of mixing high contemporary technology with classic craftsmanship. Designed and printed in 3D ceramic (laser sintering specific compound powder original), then glazed at more than 1 000°C (classic ceramic enamel technique). I love this dialogue between old & new... "roots & wings".

Cyant: What advice do you have for young Cyantists who would like to work on eco-conscious design projects?

Alice: To think "good loop" design - to source eco-labeled primary materials (biodegradable or recycled & recyclable or durable & repairable...) and to think about local productions "made to order" to be carbon neutral - referring to the Cradle to Cradle eco-systems and values.
Last but not least "design with Love" !

Thanks Alice for this great advice! We are also grateful for the photos Alice provided who are credited to photographer Claude Weber. And you can find out more about Alice’s work at: www.aliceetcaetera.com !