Starting a large 3D illustration project can be a daunting prospect. Where to begin?
- We need to define precisely what we want to achieve.
- Jumping in and making an illustration is perhaps helpful to overcome the initial procrastination of “how do I start”.
- But… too often, you wind up wasting an enormous amount of time because “jumping in” can lead to unexpected directions and a lot of backtracking.
The problem is thatcreating a complex 3D model is a long road thath needs to be carefully planned. Too many projects wind up unfinished simply because the end goal has not been definite and clear.
We also must guard against “detail creep”. This happens when we spend too much time creating more and more details that will never be seen. The discipline here is to stick to: “Good enough for purpose” and not get lured by the siren call of “Let’s get it perfect”. It’s a sad fact that perfectionists seldom finish their creations.
- Once you have defined the objective, you need to calculate the time budget.
- If it’s a commercial project, both the time waypoints and exactly what is to be seen by the viewer must be documented in writing and signed by both artist and client.
- How long do we have to complete this? What is the hard deadline?
- If it doesn’t have a deadline, then create one. We always work better with some sort of boundary.
The next step is to try to define waypoints. By “waypoints”, I mean logical places where you can measure what has been done. We need to say: “Great – that sub-target has now been passed”. Particularly with very lengthy projects, we must have short-term goals with check-boxes to focus on. If the end goal is too far away, it’s human nature to get despondent and feel “I’m just not getting anywhere”. With a commercial project, these would be the markers for stage payments.
Professional project managers use expensive “project management software” to provide an overview of the project. This software also shows what stages have already been reached. Guess what? As 3D artists, we are also professional project managers. We can get away with two elementary tools – a mind-map and a spreadsheet.
Initially, you need to get your ideas and plans recorded and to be able to easily re-arrange them. That’s where mind mapping software comes in. There are many mind mapping tools available, both paid and free. I use Mindmeister.
Once the plan is recorded in the mind-map, first flesh it out until the map becomes cumbersome, that’s the time to formalise it. That’s best done by transferring and re-organizing your ideas into a spreadsheet. Google sheets is a free online spreadsheet, while Microsoft Excel (paid) and LibreOffice (free) are desktop-based spreadsheet programs.
- Define the objective explicitly
- Define the time
- Define the waypoints
- Software to install: Mind mapping and a Spreadsheet
Now you are ready to go on to the next step. Which is? Gathering of reference images!
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