Is it REAL or is it VIRTUAL?

12/10/99- Now that I'm a few weeks deep into my "vacation" (from modeling), I thought I should take a short break and do a status update. Or something like that...

(1) Real familar Realworld image;
(2) A quickie Poser virtual image;
(3) Wireframe of boob-expansion;
(4) Bryce-rendered world;
(5) Paul Mason's Wonder Woman
from Renderosity.com. This is
one the coolest figures
I've downloaded, and looks
great even with a preview

Wonder Woman Walk
(Real Movie, 100k-- download &
run, since it's encoded for a LAN.
The MPEG version was 2 MB!)

It's easy to appear competent
using other people's work.
I didn't do anything except
install the figure and import
a motion file. Here's another
vidclip: Dance (238k)

My "vacation" so far has consisted of me spending most of my spare time fiddling with my computer-- even the Thanksgiving (peanut butter) holiday. Having a new computer gives you an opportunity and a reason to care about catching up with technology. So I've spent lotsa money too, updating my ooooold version 1 Metacreation's Poser to version 4, acquiring their Bryce 4 program, and dabbling in a few affordable 3D programs. And digital video editing. It's an expensive hobby, and even after hemmorhaging money, you still are only set up to do hobby-level stuff. The professional level stuff requires really BIIIIIIG bucks for the top notch equipment and tools. After all those hours, I'm proud to have achieved the rank of "sub-amateur-hobbyist-newbie". I've only scratched the surface, am straining under the information overload, and am facing a steep learning curve. It's exciting (in a perverse kinda way)!

Interest in virtual 3D is a natural progression for me. While it's gratifying to create real tangible stuff, there are problems... For me, the main problem is physical space. You can only acquire/build so much before your immediate viewing/appreciation area becomes overloaded, and stuff has to be boxed and stored or disposed of. It's hard to access or appreciate stuff in that condition.

It's not just a problem of having small digs either. If you've got a humongous room or live in a frickin' museum, you have to use binoculars or a golf cart to appreciate the stuff. It's just the nature of Reality: two things can't be in the same place at the same time. Reality is very democratic in this respect. The viewing/appreciation area of virtual objects is vastly different. For most people, it's limited to the size of their single monitor screen. However, access to stored objects within that area is fast. Storage is also fairly limitless. It's easy to replicate and recombine the objects and distribute them in a variety of media. The biggest plus has got to be the fact that digital objects never need to be dusted!

There are many things you can do in the virtual world that you can't do in the real world. For one thing, real world physics don't need to be respected. You can create huge buildings... and worlds. You can also animate figure and objects, change lighting, points of view and package it as a linear videotape, computer movie file, or an interactive presentation. You could do these things with real objects wedded to computer technology, but you don't have the flexibility to change things as easily.

Having said that though, there are clearly some advantages to working in the real world. Complex lighting effects in real time are fairly easy to achieve since they're part of the real world's behavior. Incidental detail of objects which make them look "real" is a byproduct, taken for granted. It's a moronic point but you could say that real stuff looks realistic because it is real... Virtual stuff has to work hard to recreate that.

The tactile-loving part of me is frustrated by the 2D interface of the virtual 3D world. I'm used to the direct feedback loop of my senses, and I wish someone produced an "affordable" (by my standards) 3D interface. It's mind-numbingly difficult work to create complex virtual 3D objects from scratch, and editing points & planes on a complex 2D representation of 3D is no picnic either. That's the realm of the true master digital magician.

I think a lot of hobbyist work looks very similar because it's created using the same tools which shield you from the complexity. Much of the base material is derived from canned models, made by someone else. This allows a rank beginner like me to produce an eye-pleasing 3D composition with a minimum of effort. This is somewhat analogous to "part swapping" figures in the real world. The challenge is to take it beyond that and produce something that we feel a little more personally connected to. And learn tons of stuff along the way. I respect those who have transcended "part-swapping" proficiency. It's damned hard work which requires talents stretching across many areas-- art, programming, 3D visualization. Like I said, modern day magicians... That's my lofty goal. But first we must take baby steps.

Soooooo, what does this mean for the web site? Sometime in the future, I see a makeover, with the scope of this site expanding to cover both the real and virtual. This may not appeal to many of the regular visitors, but sorry-- I've got to follow my interests. If you've been following this quest, then you're either probably already there, or predisposed to interest in the path as well.

If you're of the latter category, then some of the stuff which I'm thinking about may be of interest. Since I'm starting from scratch, I have the newbie's perspective. I'm trying to find answers to my own dumb questions (despite popular wisdom, some questions are dumb-- or at least indicative of a lack of initiative to find answers!). Sometimes though, it does help to have things restated from another perspective. I'll try not to post my lame newbie creations unless they're illustrative of a point: I'm keenly aware of the fact that the world isn't interested in everytime I take a dump. If you're a seasoned pro, then perhaps you can give me a virtual whack when I've dispensed erroneous or lame information. Or contribute your valuable expertise. Did I mention that I got my wife a separate account so I could park in her 300MB of web space? ;^) (Just try to browse that!) Anyway, once things get more manageable (time-wise), I'll look forward to receiving your contributions & input.

A final word-- Perceptive folks may have noticed that the underlying real focus of this web site is about learning. (The boobs are just incidental window-dressing.) It's not surprising that the experiences of tackling the learning curve in the real and virtual worlds are so similar. The "Jimbob-just-do-it"-nazi approach which I've yammered about in so many places is equally applicable in this new world. Despite all the manuals, tutorials, forums-- there's no substitute for rigorously experimenting with the tools to put their behaviors in a framework that you can understand and predict. Just like real-world modeling, there are tons of experiments, tests, and of course, failures which contribute to the learning process. And just like real-world modeling, it takes lots of time...

Thanks to Randall H. for the intriguing line of thought. See his stuff here, here, and here.