This was where my first adventures into the world of 3D art, really began. Cyber Studio was an application for the Atari 1040ST, which I was using at time, for making music (my other great passion), using Cubase. I had been interested in 3D since Tron had appeared at the cinema, and wanted to know more about it.
Cyber Studio was an inexpensive package, so I decided to go for it, thinking if I couldn’t get to grips with it... well, so be it. It was difficult to use, as there was no GUI - if you wanted to put an object on the screen, it was a case of working out where each point should be placed, along the X,Y and Z axes, and entering the numeric values into the machine, as what could loosely be termed, as a line of programming code. It was a very time consuming process, but we knew no different at the time, and I love a challenge! Furthermore, it was enough to inspire me to continue with 3D art.
Surprisingly, the application did have preset objects. Three of them, to be exact. A cube, sphere and the star of the show: a torus! Each of these took varying amounts of time to render, the torus taking around five minutes, as I recall. There were no textures, but you could choose different colours for your objects.
Despite the limitations, the thing that really made Cyber Studio special, was it’s ability to animate. It could handle simple sequences, such as making a cube bounce, incorporating squash-and-stretch, to add a degree of realism. To get it to do a great deal more, would have been asking a lot, given the lack of CPU power and memory, back then. The 1040ST only had a 68000 processor, running at 8 megahertz and 1 megabyte of RAM, after all! However, it was possible to build more complex objects and scenes. It even had it’s own scripting language, called Cyber Control.
Looking back, this little application was a great piece of work in it’s day, and I’m sure, must have inspired a great many of today’s 3D exponents. I certainly owe it a debt of gratitude, as without using it, I may never gone on to acquire my next package.
Having made the transition from the Atari ST to Apple Mac, back in 1992, my next foray into 3D came in the form of Bryce 3D.
Being able to generate objects and of course, entire landscapes, with a click of a mouse was certainly a luxury, compared with my earlier efforts! I created a number of pieces with the application, but I was always drawn toward creating machinery, and esoteric buildings, as opposed to generating landscapes, which were pretty much incorporated because I could do so, rather than my having any real passion for them. They’re great, but they don’t do very much, do they?
That being the case, Bryce was very much a stepping stone for me, as I wanted something with more tools, which were geared toward general modelling, as opposed to working mainly with fractal landscapes. It was time to move to something more advanced, and I started looking at other products. There were a number available, but many were too expensive for my budget, and those I could afford, seemed to have pit falls, which made them unattractive to me.
The search continued...
By chance, I came across a review of a German package, called Maxon Cinema 4D, in Mac Format magazine. The criticism was favourable - highly favourable, in fact. I strongly believed it was the right application for me, and purchased a copy of SE5.
I loved it from the very start, and within half and hour, I had made a sphere fly around the screen, and been amazed by how easy it was to do. Texturing was intuitive, lighting adequate, though at this point, rendering was lacking somewhat, when it came to photo-realism (not that this really bothered me, that much).
A few months later, a review of C4DXL5 appeared in Mac Format, and I was impressed by it’s more powerful feature set, especially NURBS and Deformers. Time for a upgrade, then! This enabled me to make significant progress as a modeller, and I really began to discover what was possible with this, increasingly, great product.
However, there was still a lack of focus with regard to what I actually wanted to, ultimately, achieve as a 3D artist. I knew I liked creating off-the-wall contraptions, but animating them was a stumbling block, as key framing didn’t really work too well, and in any case, I found it tediously boring! It wasn’t until, with the advent of C4DR7, Arndt Von Koenigsmarck published his book, Maxon Cinema 4D 7, that I finally discovered what I had been looking for.
The book included a couple of chapters on the esoteric, C.O.F.F.E.E. programming language, featuring among others, a tutorial on how to create a piston assembly, for a car engine.
I went through all the tutorials with a fine tooth comb, and by the time I had finished them, my mind was buzzing with ideas for my own mechanical creations, which could be magically made to work, using this newly discovered, procedural animation.
I produced a number of wacky machines using C.O.F.F.E.E., but found it a little frustrating that further information about the language was virtually impossible to come by. However, when Xpresso arrived on the scene, I was able to take things to an even higher level, and at this point, I had something of a ‘eureka moment’, and began producing the pieces of work which can be viewed within this site, today.
So that’s about it. A brief introduction to the world of Expresso Mechanic. I hope you enjoy looking around my workshop, and most importantly, that you find your stay inspiring!