From Clay to Zbrush: A Presentation by Cesar Dacol, Jr.
Article by Floyd Archie Buchanan
Cesar Dacol, sometimes called a Zbrush guru, came to Portland at the invitation of Cascade chapter of SIGGRAPH on August 24, 2012; for a lecture titled “From Clay to Zbrush.” When you Google Cesar ( pronounced “say-ZAR”) you find numerous entries about him and his work: his own blog, a Youtube channel, and references to him as instructor for Gnomon workshops, among others.
With a background in anatomy and traditional sculpting, he has worked as a Lead and Modeling Supervisor, contributing to feature films such as ”Journey to the center of the earth 3D”,” 300″, “Barnyard” and “Fantastic Four.” Cesar was born in Londrina, Parana, Brazil. Beginning at the age of thirteen, with thanks to “an interesting father who let me get away with way too much,” he started his career in the makeup effects industry. Cesar transitioned to computer effects in the mid 90’s. Cesar Dacol Jr. worked in the film industry for over 25 years. Currently he works as a Director of Character Development for the feature film industry, is a beta team member for Pixologic’s ZBrush, and is an instructor for CGSociety’s CGWorkshops.
The talk began with Cesar relating some of his personal history and a pivotal moment that lead him to where he is today. He told his audience that people working in the film industry don’t just go watch movies. They constantly analyze the movie; looking for the movie’s magic tricks used to produce the movie. When Jurassic Park came out he was prepared to sit through the movie and mentally tear it apart. Two things happened when he watched it; he was totally drawn into the movie for its entertainment and he had no idea how the effects were done. This happened at a time when he had his own studio and a crew of twelve producing special effects; creating a lot of commercial work.
For the next three years he found himself talking with directors and studio people who used terms like models and nurbs and he had no idea what they were talking about, but after each visit he researched. He eventually realized it was time to go back to school and began attending Sheridan College, one of two top colleges in the world at the forefront of the CG movement. He was totally ignorant of computers. At Sheridan he learned computers and the programming that was needed, to accomplish the tasks that he needed to perform. But, when he emerged from Sheraton, he had a new vision: games. Rather than return to the film industry, he entered the game industry. It was a culture shock. Instead of spending his days creating and working on his feet; he spent his days in a cubicle working on games. It was, in his words, about as far away from sculpting as he could possibly imagine. After two and a half years he realized he needed to return to films.
In the film industry there is no loyalty. It is not about the work you have accomplished in the past. It is about the work you can accomplish in the present. These statements were the introduction for Cesar’s main message for the evening. “Everything in life starts and ends with you.” If you find yourself sitting on the couch night after night, then you made a decision to do that, but don’t complain that life isn’t taking you where you want to go. If you want to travel a different path, then you have to make a plan for that path and carry it out. Nobody can prevent you from doing anything. We are our own worst enemies. We are the ones who look in the mirror and tell ourselves how much we suck. Stop that negativity. Start figuring out what you can do instead of what you can’t do. Then positive things can start happening. The way to begin achieving things is to make a plan, put it in action. Cesar repeated this phrase several times and had his audience repeat it with him. Make a plan; put it in action. This is the message Cesar tries to impart to all his classes. He stated that his classes are as much about reaching out to his students to get them to find the best in themselves as the classes are about the technical details.
Cesar began his “From Clay to Zbrush” with a description. He brought a block of clay and sculpting tools with him. He said that working with clay and sculpting on the computer is the same thing with one exception: absence of mass. The computer mimics all the creativity of art, but provides none of the tactile feedback that working with clay provides. The only tactile sensation comes from the mouse and keyboard; which is a tool in the creative process, but not the same as actually touching your creation. He described scientific studies and personal experience which point to the value of actually providing yourself with some actual mass to work with while creating on the computer. Keep a block of clay at your computer while you create.
Cesar discussed the differences between linear and dynamic workflow. With linear work-flow you start at one end and finish at the other. There is not much room for change once the process begins. Dynamic workflow allows for change as a project proceeds. From this distinction he moved to the meaning of Shape and Form. The armature of a real sculpture is the same as a skeleton in a human. It is the foundation which provides the form to the physical structure. The skeleton is the foundation. You have to get it right. The skeleton provides the form to a character. Everything that resides on the outside is the shape. It is the silhouette.
The work-flow process, in an artistic environment, usually begins with the production of thumbnails. Thumbnails provide the starting point for discussion between the artist and the client, who has an idea he wants created. Cesar demonstrated the powerful abilities of Zbrush for creating large numbers of thumbnails in a very short time. This enhances the work-flow process. The process works like this:
- Start with your initial shape; change its color to black so that you can better see the silhouette. This gets back to the distinction between shape and form.
- Add a layer in the layers panel. Modify your initial shape. Do not concern yourself with poly count or the “niceties” of proper modeling. This is rough work.
- Continue adding layers and making creative modifications to your shape.
When you have created about ten layers, you actually have created about 200 different shapes.
- The layers are interactive. As you turn on, or off, the visibility of each layer, it combines with the other visible layers to produce a new shape. A snapshot can be taken with Zbrush’s snapshot command. It is this process of trying various combinations of layers that produces large numbers of thumbnails rapidly. Cesar said he has done this with while clients watched him work.
- After a final shape has been chosen it can be colored with the red clay normally used for sculpting in Zbrush. This may reveal very distressed poly shapes from all your pushing and pulling of the shape without regard to modeling technique. Cesar finished his presentation by demonstrating a new Zbrush feature, the remesher. With the click of a mouse, Zbrush totally remeshes the entire model back to nice square polys.
The audience had questions and finally they applauded Cesar. They left knowing they had heard from an accomplished master of his craft. Overall, the night was a success and we appreciate Cesar coming and sharing his expertise with us.
Cascade 2011–2012 Year in Review
Article by Floyd Archie Buchanan
The season began with a Summer Social Networking Night in Old Town Portland Oregon. We met some new members and enjoyed a night at the Thirsty Lion.
In August, some of us went to the larger organization’s conference, SIGGRAPH 2011 in Vancouver, BC. We found that Hosteling International (www.hihostels.com) provides an inexpensive way to attend, which could prove useful for 2014’s conference there, again.
In September 2011, Cascade ACM SIGGRAPH recommended “Drunken Ninjas, Robot Police, and Zombie Pigeons at Best of the NW Animation Festival 2011.” ‘Best of the Fest’ showcased 28 short film animations from
around the world. This special one-night event presented films from two Oscar nominees, and many other award-winning artists. Attending filmmakers answered questions from the audience following each block of shorts. A feast for animation lovers, there were delights for every taste.
In October 2011, we showed Selected Features from the Computer
Animation Festival, from the conference in Vancouver, BC, SIGGRAPH 2011. This is an annual event (formerly known as the Electronic Theater). We always enjoy screening the very best animated shorts of the year from the juried competition.
On December 30, 2011, we held our annual Holiday Social, with a
chance to get together, network, and start the New Year together.
January 27–29, 2012, saw our entry in the Global Game Jam, in collaboration with Portland Indie Game Squad (PIGsquad). Local gamers came together for a forty-eight hour marathon of computer game creation. Forty-one people participated in the Jam and the Cascade SIGGRAPH chapter contributed to the event; supplying the participants with appetizers and beverages.
Our May event, “Games, Sound and Music on the Cusp,” held
in conjunction with Portland State University’s New Music Network, brought together game designers and musicians. The event fostered new relationships between these two disparate groups. Topics covered classic methods of music in games, having graphics respond to the music, ways for composers to get involved in the industry, and emerging trends in musical interactivity.
June brought us “MakeSpaceShip and LightTroupe” at Really Big Video. Interactive CG installations designed by Portland artists featured a special
hands-on preview of Make Space Ship, as well as special demonstrations
designed by LightTroupe. Multiple stations were available showcasing unique, interactive computer graphics ready to be played by all participants. LightTroupe demonstrated its latest web-cam fractal technology, interactive musical drawing and the LightPiano, as well as physics-based visual effects.
We look forward to the new season. In September we will have a program meeting where all members are welcome to attend and provide input for the upcoming year’s events. There are many great ideas in the works. Look for announcements about how you can contribute, volunteer, or serve on a committee.
SIGGRAPH Symposium to Debut this Year in Vancouver
Article by Patrick Coan
The SIGGRAPH Symposium provides an intriguing look at the global face of the business of computer graphics. Although only in its first year, a noteworthy lineup of presenters from across the spectrum of influence has already been announced.
The event, held over a single day, is divided into two sessions: the first focusing on the nuts and bolts of how the industry operates in a global landscape; the second, honing in on the culture of the business and how this culture affects the larger picture.
For the first session, the “business of the business,” the speakers and special guest participants were deliberately chosen for their ability to prompt and engage in open and thought-provoking dialogue on vital topics such as localization, culture driven content, global operations, finance, vision and strategy. For example, this segment of the Symposium will address operations in the global market.
As for the culture session, it provides a chance to ask and answer fundamental questions related to the culture of the business. Who are the magicians behind the curtain? How do they operate and what inspires their decisions? How does a company’s internal culture filter out into the rest of the world? Does the world shape the industry, or does the industry shape the world? How have we acclimated to meet the global demands of technically impressive visual entertainment that continues to inspire?
The SIGGRAPH Symposium is open to all registered attendees (register here) and provides a unique opportunity for open and honest conversation with others from all walks of life in the industry. In terms of format, a moderator will be present to keep the dialogue moving forward at the various sessions.
In order to gain a better understanding of the Symposium, I was fortunate to catch up with Jill Smolin, Chair of the event, long-time SIGGRAPH mover and shaker, and VFX educator. The visionary for the Symposium, she was kind enough to offer her insight into this year’s inaugural event.
Who does the Symposium concern, and what is the significance of this event?
SIGGRAPH is a community of creators. While our common thread is computer graphics, the manifestation of that thread is seen all over the world in almost every medium. So, really, the Symposium concerns everyone, and strives to involve those creators who have evolved into our leaders.
What was this event’s catalyst, what sparked it? Who said, “OK, we have a need for this”?
I was on the 2011 SIGGRAPH Committee and had a great conversation with the incredible Shannon Gans a business day idea. I had previously put together the Production Summit for the Visual Effects Society, so there was already precedent for such an event. So that’s where it started. Since then, it has evolved and developed into what it is today….which is still just the idea…we’ll see what it becomes on August 7!
Will the event give our audience a historical overview of where the industry has come from?
Not deliberately. It’s more about where we are now and where we’re going. Maybe someone will talk about where we’ve been, but I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see.
Will the event address both large and small-scale production companies?
We have all kinds of people represented. Everyone has a really interesting history. Some are currently running multinational companies; some are running smaller companies; all are involved in the global picture of computer graphics.
Regarding regional, cultural and language differences: who does the symposium represent, and will methods of international cooperation be addressed?
I think during the second session, the culture of business, we’ll see just how big an impact the international picture has on the culture of these businesses…both on local and global levels.
The event description mentions “Frank and honest conversation”, might there be philosophy and tradition discussed, old vs. new?
It’s more about giving these very busy executives, who are generously offering their time and insights, the forum in which they can express their views as part of a conversation, and not as a presentation or an argument. This will be a bit of a state of the union…where we are and where we’re going…
The ancient Greek’s symposium was a drinking party for debate, plotting, boasting and revelry; will any of these things be occurring at the SIGGRAPH Symposium – and will there be any Greeks involved?
This is hilarious, and I certainly would welcome drinking, debate and plenty of revelry….not sure we’ll have conference togas though.
Article by Demetra Gilmore Arnett
All members are welcome to run for office in our upcoming elections. Specifically, the treasurer and vice chair position will be open for the 2011-2012 Season, which begins July 1, 2011. Contact the chair for more information and to express interest in leadership.
Here’s a list of the positions on our board, with areas of responsibility:
Officer positions are filled by election in June, by members of Cascade ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM SIGGRAPH and ACM, and they have responsibility to attend monthly board meetings and events. They may also initiate and run committees to accomplish tasks:
- Chair — entire chapter business and activities, annual report, communication with other SIGGRAPH and ACM chapters, ACM SIGGRAPH, ACM, and other professional associations; contact “chair at cascade siggraph dot org”
- Vice Chair — event planning, program committee, speakers, announcements, and assisting chair; contact “vice chair at cascade siggraph dot org”
- Secretary — membership, all member programs and campaigns, associate membership program with SIGGRAPH, registration, records or event and membership data, meeting minutes, posting minutes to web site, assisting chair; contact “secretary at cascade siggraph dot org”
- Treasurer — finance, banking, monies at registration, ticketing, accounts payable and receivable, assisting chair; contact “treasurer at cascade siggraph dot org”
Appointed positions are filled upon recommendation by the board, from chapter members and these board members do not have responsibility to attend all monthly board meetings and events — it is optional and encouraged. They may also contribute to chapter activities.
- Director of Public Relations — writing press releases, reviewing publications such as announcements and newsletter articles and publishing to media, email lists and e-zines; collaboration with chair;
- New Media Specialist — writing social media policy and content to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, exploring new technology, managing these membership and publishing through the web site; collaboration with chair;
- Promotions Specialist — generally promoting the chapter through entrepreneurial activities; collaboration with chair;
- Web Master — administering, maintaining and managing the web site and email lists; collaboration with chair;
- Member at Large — general collaboration with board.
See the Cascade ACM SIGGRAPH Bylaws for more information.
Why anyone interested in education should attend SIGGRAPH 2010
by Bev Standish
When I first heard of SIGGRAPH I pictured wonderful exhibits of software, graphics and animation.
I thought there would be wonderful opportunities to expand my skills in the digital arts and meet
fascinating people who were leaders in the industry.
The fact that SIGGRAPH showcases the best in computer animation, the latest in technology and
research, and hosts talks and panels presented by both up and coming and well established
academia and industry leaders is incredibly exciting. Any one of those elements would be
reason enough to attend SIGGRAPH 2010. But it turns out that’s not all SIGGRAPH has
to offer… especially for an educator. SIGGRAPH is a very special gathering of people from
all over the world: people who are outstanding researchers, artists, industry professionals,
representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation,
educators from every level of academia, and government officials, who can come together to
discuss the future of education.
The future of education looks a bit grim these days. A Time Magazine report highlights some
disturbing facts: one million American students drop out of school every year—that’s one every
SIGGRAPH 2010 offers some initiatives that can make a difference to education. This is not just a
conference for people who teach multimedia. It is a conference for those who use multimedia to
teach; who want to invent ways to use it to better education. SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on
Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) 2010 will undoubtedly be the most thrilling place for
an educator, such as myself, to be. The opportunities for collaboration are phenomenal.
The Disney Learning Challenge is offering an exciting initiative based at SIGGRAPH 2010 that takes
my breath away. The goal of this group is to harness the potential of digital technologies and children’s
creativity to advance learning. George Leonard’s book “Education and Ecstasy,” profoundly claims that
learning can and should be fun; the Disney Learning Challenge does likewise, pinpointing my exact interest!
The Challenge will showcase entertaining interactive technology that will impart “Active Knowledge of
Learning Concepts.” The group is engaged in using the digital arts to teach different subjects such as
the solar system, coordinate geometry, rhythmic music, vocabulary, fractional quantities, habitats and
ecosystems, geometric transformations, revealing the rock cycle, and the use of simple machines using
the visual arts. The word synnamation has recently been used to describe animations that communicate
complex scientific and technological concepts to a variety of audiences. It sounds similar to what the
Disney Learning Challenge is proposing for ages 7-11. Although this initiative is directed at capturing
the creative potential of all students, imagine the impact that using digital technologies will have on
students who might be hard to reach otherwise. If students were having more fun in the education
system, perhaps the dropout rate would decrease dramatically.
The buzz word in education today is “immersion.” Using the visual arts in a way that incorporates
academic themes is right on target. The 3D animator of today must learn artistic principles but must
also learn how to simulate a multitude of real world properties. In short, the world of 3D animation
involves a total immersion into storytelling, math, science, physics, art and music; educators who wish
to inspire their students will delight in these engaging learning concepts. I can’t wait to share ideas
If this isn’t enough to excite you there also are Birds of a Feather (BOF) events: informal presentations,
discussions, and demonstrations for people who share interests, goals, technologies, environments, or
backgrounds. Birds of a Feather events are made possible through the conference, but are actually proposed and organized by SIGGRAPH 2010 attendees.
For educators looking to reach out into their local communities, Stephen Jacobs who is involved with
SIGKids pointed out a few sessions of interest: “This year we are offering an all day workshop [on] Wednesday for the local Girl Scouts. They have a badge called ‘Games for Life’ and we developed a
one-day workshop at RIT [Rochester Institute of Technology] to let them meet most of the requirements
in a day. We’re also running an early Tuesday AM “Train the Trainers” workshop for SIGGRAPH Attendees
or Volunteers who might want to run one in their local communities.”
There is also a Birds of a Feather event “Meeting for Parents and Troop Leaders” as a part of SIGKids.
This session is a Q & A about careers and education in the game industry. As Mr. Jacobs explained to me,
his first involvement with SIGGRAPH was in 1994 where he was “part of SIGKids and had a booth that
demonstrated a program we’d run in Rochester for English as a Second Language students to write ‘Books
Without Words’ on their computers and use a hypermedia authoring package to make an interactive version
as well.” It will be interesting to see what this group is up to this year.
In addition to the above, another BOF event is being presented by California Educators. This session
is for public and private school educators pre kindergarten to post graduate. They will welcome
professionals who currently work with schools or are interested in doing so.
The 20XX.EDU: Grand Challenges in Education (Part 1) panel will focus on the future of education
and how digital technologies can serve it. The discussion topics and questions are:
- • How can educational institutions take advantage of the increasing
popularity and dissemination of these technologies?
• How can individuals/institutions benefit from the massive increase
in participatory and collaborative learning in our society?
• What are the major challenges in education today, in the sciences
and the humanities?
• What are the new educational trends and paradigms for the new,
• What kind of new learning contexts can be created outside of the
The panel that is asking these questions is made up of a diverse group of outstanding researchers
and artists, academy and industry professionals, educators, and government officials. This group
meets Wednesday July 28th from 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM. Fortunately, there is also the 20XX.EDU:
Grand Challenges in Education (Part 2) which meets from 10:30 to 12:15pm to continue this
Hopefully educators can come together with these exciting SIGGRAPH groups to explore the future
of education, share ideas and learn from different perspectives. Hope to see you there
Portland 3D Modeler presents “Escape of Middle C” Movie
by Bev Standish
On Sunday May 23rd Cascade ACM SIGGRAPH presented a movie created by Bev Standish called “The Escape Of Middle C.” This movie took eight years to make, with all animation and music done entirely by Standish. Eighty-eight people attended the event which began with an introduction by the Portland movie maker on her motivation and the process and the adventure of making a 3D animated/live action fantasy adventure-mystery movie. It was designed to motivate children to read music and to introduce basic music reading skills.
Standish described how the movie was made with Autodesk 3ds Max, how long it took to produce the 77-minute animated movie, and introduced members of the cast and crew who were in the audience. Also shown were opening animations, done by two of Standish’s students.
The storyline featured a child from another planet who could be healed only through music. The young alien’s father used his authority to ban music. Sheet music was burned and walking, talking instruments were hunted down and thrown in jail. The note Middle C escaped to earth with other criminals and the alien authorities followed. The notes had personalities that made them unforgettable, including their position on the music staff. They warned children on earth of impending danger by spelling words on the music staff using their letter name. The children in the movie and in the audience were compelled to decode the words (name the notes) in order to solve the clues and save the day.
Following the movie, there was a question and answer period and a reception with food and cake.
See link to Digital Elf Studios.
Board of Governing Officers:
- Chair – Demetra Gilmore Arnett
- Vice Chair – Kathleen O’Reilly
- Treasurer – Jerrol Eshleman
- Secretary – Bev Standish
Members At Large:
- Herc Silverstein
- Karla Domingez
- Serena Reidy
- Chair – Demetra Gilmore Arnett
- Vice Chair – Kathleen O’Reilly
- Treasurer – Andrew Dennis
- Secretary -
- Public Relations Officer -
- Herc Silverstein
- Michael Smith
- Rebekah Villion
- Fran Zandonella
Election bio’s are due