Episode 012 / Interview with Jonathan Williamson

Yesterday, we talked with Jonathan Williamson, from cgcookie.com. We talked about his tutorial network and his work as trainer, and also had various chats about the future of Blender and next years plans and chances.

This is the last episode for this year, we will be back in January 2012.

Merry Christmas to everyone and thank you so much for all the support and help. Thanks for listening to the podcast!

– Thomas

Length: 1:10:02
Recorded: 22th of December 2011

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28 thoughts on “Episode 012 / Interview with Jonathan Williamson

  1. Great Podcast guys! Thanks for all the cool presentations during the whole year and looking forward to hearing you next year. Cheers. Bernard
    :-)

  2. Thanks for the great interview.
    I had a question for Jonathan I wish it was asked.
    What is the current state of Montage Studio? Is it working alongside other projects or is it suspended until further notice?

  3. Hi man

    Blenderartist used to put a random header like in Blendernation and some people (like me) really miss that :'( because it bring more spirit to the forum! showing the power skills inside the comunity jejeje

    Will that “feature” come back someday?

    Greetings

  4. Umm…While Jonathan Williamson is a great guy and I learned a lot from his tutorial.
    I found it destructive and annoying with well-known people like him throwing some bias(or wrong) information in the public. And I am talking about the render engine part in this podcast. I know this is not the place to debate this issue, just saying that this might cause some unwanted effect to the community.

    Other than that this is a nice episode and I will still go to Blender Cookie for their great tutorial. Thanks for the podcast and happy Xmas :)

      • OK. I actually prefer the term bias as I think some of those are personal opinion. Long story short. hack tricks in rendering is totally a good thing. The hardware today still won’t allow people to do whatever they want with raw power renderer.

        http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials/soft_shadows_3dmax/
        Here is a tutorial video that well explained why hack is good.

        And about style control. It’s far more than just edge rendering and you won’t get most of them in post. BI has like five to six algorithm for each diffuse model and specular model. even with a custom ramp control. The buffer shadow in BI is very good to achieve some fine control. And the node material in BI is just as powerful(if not more powerful) as in Cycles. Cycles is great for achieving realistic result. But pretty much any style that is not realistic including semi-realistic style like those ones in the open movie project will be easier to achieve with BI.

        And please notice that the default render in most mainstream commercial package is a scanline renderer with raytrace feature, just like BI. And there is a reason for that. I believe Brecht understand these(of course) so he said Cycles is still far from replacing BI.

        I used Blender for less than a year so I’m really not trying to defend some old legacy here. I love Cycles and I enjoy using it. Of course we still don’t know if Cycles will have more rendering algorithm in the future, but more function always mean more tweak. Right now Cycles use path tracing for the ease of use, and that’s one of the beauty of Cycles. But if the only built-in renderer in a 3D package is a path-tracer. This software will become quite unusable to me and I believe to many other studio that use Blender.

        I hope that explain to you what I mean.
        Sorry if this will bring some debate to this thread.
        And thanks again for your efforts in the podcast series.

        • Just to clarify, from what I understood, the idea is not to remove the Blender Internal, it’s to have it not be the render engine chosen by default. When Cycles will be ready, it will be in Blender’s interest to have a modern render engine chosen by default (The Blender Internal will still be available). The reason is that the Blender Internal is not really updated anymore.

          • I actually agreed with placing Cycles engine as the default option. And I didn’t say anythings against that in my comment. I only worried about the fact that some people don’t fully appreciate the difference between these two renderers and that they both have their strong field. I just don’t like people having the idea that Cycles will always produce a better render or that faking effect is always ugly.

          • Now I’m a little confused.
            While not mainly discussed in this podcast. There are many discussion about replacing BI with Cycles on the internet. But in all those discussions, what do they mean by “replacing”? Does it mean only changing the default engine to Cycles? Or does it also mean to remove BI?

        • (disclaimer, I’m not a render engine dev!)

          Yep, admittedly we were biased here, but since BI is not getting removed any time soon I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

          My sense is that some the problems with cycles will be resolved, and while it wont be able to do _everything_ BI can, some of these features aren’t so important (edge render, halos, stars).

          And the net gain of nodal materials + a shading language would well win out.

          It looks like AMD and NVidia are falling over each other to try and make the best performance OpenCL/CUDA cards, and while its still early days, the number of compute cores that are available in 1-3 years may be really incredible that any NON OpenCL/CUDA accelerated renderer are at an extreme disadvantage and become irrelevant.

          – This is speculation of course but not all that far fetched IMHO.

          Its also possible to modernize BI, though with the existing data structures its very hard to GPU accelerate BI according to Brecht.
          So any improvements would be fairly modest, with investing time here I think we’d risk fading into irrelevance – a bit like whats happening to ‘povray’ IMHO.

          @Joster, I see your concern with moving to a ray tracer, but by the time Cycles becomes production ready, the situation may well be different.
          If not, we can keep BI and no great loss.

          – Campbell

    • I could not agree more that hacks and such are a good thing! I strongly believe that the Internal Renderer should still be available for quite some time, it has many good uses. It’s more that I feel Cycles should become the default in order to give the best initial impression right off the bat, among other things.

      I love hacks and use them on a daily basis, including hacks in Cycles (like making shadeless materials which of course don’t exist in nature!)

      In the end, everything I said in the podcast is merely my opinion and I would not want someone to base their knowledge/ideas strictly on that alone. I’m not nearly educated enough for that :)

      -Jonathan

  5. Thomas and Campbell, you guys rock. Thanks so much for all the contributions this year. I’m a CG Cookie member and so this broadcast was especially fun for me. Happy holidays and see you next year.

  6. What about the GAME ENGINE! How WILL the Cycles Renderer work with the BGE? Cycles look boxy and strange, imagine this in your game.

  7. I love that they produce this podcast. It’s something that I can listen to and just relax and take it all in. I suppose this is the power of radio/podcasts…you can listen as you do other things.

    thanks Guys! Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to everyone in the community!

  8. Thanks guys! It’s very inspiring to hear what people are doing with blender, and also the occasional developer-insight stories are interesting. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  9. I would like to be very sentimental about BI and Cycles but for the sake of productivity and control, a rendering engine like Randerman is the proper way to go. A marriage of realism and fake-ism, or as some poster in BA.org said “Superunion of both”. Not because of style, the main reason is how fast you can get the 4k frame into view. A powerful machine can’t handle Cycles up to productivity standard that BI is now. In a real world production, time = money, it’s not about how much (time/money/energy) you can spend in a project but how much you can save. If Cycles is the standard to replace BI, render time per frame for any style should be addressed head on. But with Alembic merging into Blender, I would prefer other renderer to do a well done job at a speed I can manage. Plus GPU vs CPU rendering argument, CPU still wins, setup cost wise. My 2 cents from a real world production’s POV.

    • Hi Light, your point about needing a non raytracing render engine for production is reasonable.

      Though if you are suggesting blender should use renderman (as in aqsis or pixie or some commercial alternative), I’d have to disagree here.

      At least whenever I see talks on independent projects that use renderman they seem to need quite some knowledge of how to use shaders and mess with rendering internals – more so then BI even,
      in theory – its possible to make a great front end that happens to use renderman, but I’m not convinced we could do this well.

      Its probably not fair to compare Cycles performance with BI right now, rather compare BI with a mature GPU accelerated path tracer, since Cycles _should_ be able to match this (roughly at least).
      Otherwise agree, this should not be a step backwards.

      IMHO having a good render API is more likely to be useful than Alembic – since you probably want to have all sorts of material properties and setting integration, but this isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive – addons could add in all the application settings but still use Alembic to write the mesh (this has been done with OBJ and Collada though I don’t think the formats are well suited to the task).

      • Solid points there.

        Alembic is just a quick fix, for now. That I must admit.

        To be able to have a Renderman quality renderer means much shader hacking with steep learning curve even if the front end looks friendly. Thus I think your point on getting Blender’s render API stabilized and documented is the proper goal. To go all open source renderer (such as BI/Cycles) with a substantial saving on production pipeline is the target for most small/med emerging studios.

        As for Cycles vs BI now, it’s an IMBA fight. Cycles, when it is production ready will still have a steep learning curve (which reminds me of the first time I learned Maya’s Node shader setup about 10 years back). BI is checklist mindset, Cycles is flow list mindset and that’s why Cycles isn’t for beginners. But optimizing the already great BI (and production tested) would show much love to new Blender users and BI die-hard-fans.

        And I have this crazy idea of making a hacked renderer, much like how most game engine does it. Limited quality but compositor will aid to make it super realistic. Think lower version of CryEngine with a compositor. (Ahh… me and my crazy ideas… XD) To think of it further, this can make BGE a looker.

  10. Awesome podcast, as usual, Thomas and Campbell. Thanks for the brain feed and for the nice laugh. ;)

    I agree with Jonathan’s points on Cycles vs B.I., in that B.I.’s current state just doesn’t justify it being in for long, as opposed to Cycles modernization and style, in addition to being node-based, making it more flexible, thus deriving things we could probably do in B.I.

    However, I have to disagree on Jonathan’s points regarding (to sum it) ‘no story, all visual.’ At some point, that might be applicable, but personally, I believe that film-making is about telling stories, and you can, of course tell stories through visuals, but if there’s no story behind the visuals, I don’t see a point in it. But of course, it’s always a case to case basis. Afterall, ‘art,’ for one, is very subjective. Let’s be free! Yay.

    -Reyn

    • Hey Reynante!

      I probably was a bit too strong on the “no story” point, the point that I meant to make was that for me personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary for a film to have a deep story in order to be a good film. It needs to have a underlying story and meaning, but I don’t believe that story needs to be incredibly diverse, original, or deep in all cases. That’s not to say that a story isn’t important, but in some cases I find the visuals to be what I enjoy the most. For me, when the visuals themselves tell the story and are the catalyst that make you think more about the film and meaning, that’s when I enjoy the films the most.

      However, that’s not to say that a film that focuses on the story first, like many do, isn’t also potentially a great film! I know that I am absolutely in the minority on this issue, which I am completely okay with. I guess in short, I would just say that I am quite content with films that keep the story simple and meaningful (though not necessarily clear) while letting the visuals open the door for the viewer to decipher the story.

      Unless it’s an artistic experiment, I would never want a film to have no story whatsoever :)

  11. Thanks again for yet another lovely podcast! Seriously enjoyed it to bits. Its awesome that I can still learn new stuff about Blender and the power users while doing other stuff.

    I ‘d like to echo the previous question asked regarding the situation of Montage Studio as well, what’s happened to it? Shift of priorities?

    And Johathan, wow, you really don’t stress much on storylines? Heh, hard for me to think that way.

    • I like story lines and all, and feel that a basic story needs to be there, I just don’t feel that the story is always the most important aspect. In the end, though, the story line importance is always on a case by case basis. Some films the story is of utmost importance but other films the story is not necessary the key factor but more of a supplemental aspect. Granted, this is all personal bias :)

      As for Montage Studio, we have kind of let it fade out mostly because we’re all busy with other things. Frankly, most of what Montage Studio was hasn’t sort of merged into CG Cookie. So in essence, it is still vibrant and strong but just under the name of CG Cookie :)

  12. Thomas and Campbell, thanks for another interesting and enlightening podcast!

    Campbell, I have heard you stop yourself a few times when the conversation starts to get more deep into the programming side of Blender news, and I’d like to urge you to go deeper! I, for one, am very interested in all Blender development from Python scripting to rendering. I understand that shouldn’t be the focus of every episode (I love all the interviews you guys do, by the way), but maybe have a segment each month where you highlight something interesting about Blender programming. Just a thought!

    Keep up the good work, guys!

  13. Great show guys. Thanks for all you do at Blender Podcast & CG Cookie. Johnathan, you just got a new Citizen. I am one of those After Effects guys who decided to use Blender since AE has no good 3D solutions.

    I am now hooked. I am finding myself in Blender more than AE. The development in Blender is beyond impressive. Between the amazing new features and the brilliant add ons, I’d put it at or above a lot of the commercial programs… but I am still new and quite ignorant! ;-)

    Anyway, thanks for the great show and your English is quite good, so don’t sweat it!