Posted In:Design Archives | Greyscalegorilla


The Best New Features in the Redshift Renderer Update

June 6, 2018 - By 

Discover the new lighting and animation features that make us excited about the latest version of Redshift.

Redshift has just released version 2.6.10, which you can download on their site. Rob Slater dropped a bunch of great news over in the Redshift forums, and Panos Zompolas followed up with more.

Here are the biggest new features we are excited about.

1. Specular Light Ray Bending through Refraction

Auto reflection in 2.6.10 via Rob Slater / Redshift.

One of the biggest new features is the way Redshift computes direct lighting. We are particularly excited about this feature as the look of glass has always seemed a bit off compared to other options. As Slater says,

Traditionally, light rays that are blocked by a refractive or rough object ‘shadow-caster’ do not bend, they simply continue in a straight line towards the light. This is great for getting fast and clean lighting using Multiple Importance Sampling, but not great for realism, especially when trying to model something like a lens. Usually, this omission is not that noticeable, but it can be really noticeable when using a Dome Light environment map to illuminate your scene.

Historically, the specular rays from dome light environment maps were not being refracted. In the image above, 2.6.10 now allows users to control light bending in area lights, which can dramatically affect the realism in certain situations (glass and refractive surfaces).

To avoid excessive noise, Redshift created three new modes:

  • Never – Light rays will not bend through refractive of rough shadow-caster objects. (Equivalent to versions leading up to 2.6)
  • Auto – If there is too much noise, the rays will not bend. If there is not much noise, they will bend. If it’s determined somewhat noisy, a blend of both results will be created.
  • Always – Light rays will bend regardless of noise.

Old scenes will default to Never, new scenes will default to Auto. For legacy scenes or non-arch-vis renders, there are also global overrides to disable this feature completely.

2. Area Light Directionality

With this latest update, users can now create a barn door effect, meaning they can control the spread of an area light.

Directional light parameters via Rob Slater / Redshift.

This new parameter controls the cone of light, where a spread of 1.0 gives 180-degrees of light (default), 0.5 offers 90-degrees, and a spread of 0.0 is a 0-degree directional light. This will be particularly useful for getting a more focused throw but has no effect on specular.

Redshift has noted that this initial release is not optimized for volumetric or single scattering light, so there may be more noise than anticipated. They are working on improvements for further updates.

3. Better Bump Mapping Fidelity

To get better results from bump mapping, there are two new techniques used to get better renders. A global mip-map bias to bump and normal maps, and a bug fix from bump-mappings.

As Slater shows in these examples,

To demonstrate, below is a simple example rendered in 2.5.72 of a bump-mapped surface extending to the horizon. The bump texture is a finely detailed brick map, heavily tiled so the lighting appears noisy. See how the lighting detail appears a little ‘soft’ and loses definition over distance?

Image via Rob Slater / Redshift.

Below shows the same scene using the default settings in 2.6.10. See how the bump appears sharper and lighting detail is better preserved overall:

Image via Rob Slater / Redshift.

4. New Proxy Animation Features

This latest update gives users the ability to set the number of animation loops that a proxy will run as well as giving artists control to offset the animation.

This is particularly useful for creating all sorts of effects where the cache needs to be offset to look more realistic, like trees blowing in the wind or a running horde of zombies.

5. Better Denoising

Redshift continually works to get better denoising with Optix and Altus. We found the denoiser to work better on still renders, rather than animations. But future updates will likely continue to improve.

For more on denoising, check out our Denoiser Battle Royale, where we looked at the best options we had available in our current workflow.

6. More to Come in 2.6 and 3.0

Redshift has also confirmed there will be more 2.6 features in the near future, including cryptomatte and multi-step deformation blur. Any other major features will be part of Redshift 3.0.

Zompolas teased the following in the forum,

We’re actively working on this and a good few things are done already: bloom, glare and lens flare. We’re also making the photographic exposure lens shader “realtime” so you can adjust tonemapping and other settings from the RV and without the renderer re-starting. But there’s a good amount of cleanup and determining details like camera selection, batch rendering, AOV, etc.

When the implementation of these remaining things gets a bit closer, we’ll commence the necessary teasing!

General Redshift Updates

There were also a series of general updates and fixes made to the build for Maya, Houdini, Katana, and Cinema 4D. Here are the changes that affect C4D users.

Cinema 4D 

  • Addressed an issue where the IPR would not detect modifications in the ShaderGraph editor, when the Cinema 4D viewport was hidden
  • Addressed an issue where the renderable setting of layers would produce different results for instances, when compared to the built-in renderers
  • Improved modification detection for particle emitters.
  • Addressed an issue where tessellation and displacement could not be overridden in proxies.
  • Addressed a crash related to the management of UserData.
    Improved the particle random object distribution algorithm so that it provides consistent results irrespective of the particle ordering. The older algorithm is still available under the “Random (Legacy)” option.
  • Added an Offset and Loop options to the animation tab of RSFile parameters.

All Applications

  • Lifting the 128 volume grids per ray limitation. Please see this for more info.
  • Added new option to RS area lights to allow for physically correct specular through refractions
  • Added new global ‘Additional Bump Bias’ option to increase bump and normal-map fidelity by default
  • Removed license checkout/checkin during renderer initialization
  • Fixed bug that could trigger a ‘gridSizeX’ limit assert when rendering many AOVs
  • Fixed bug that could prevent the correct uv channel from being used by proxy material overrides
  • Added new ‘exposure’ option to RS lights
  • Switched to using HSV internally for the ColorCorrection node to fix bug with HDR colors
  • Added support for enabling ‘Abort on License Failure’ by setting environment variable REDSHIFT_ABORTONLICENSEFAIL=1
  • Increased internal shader count limit to allow for more complex shader graphs
  • Raising the limit of irradiance point cloud and irradiance cache working memory to 4GB (from 1GB)
  • Fixed bug that would prevent point-based SSS from being correct behind transparencies
  • Fixed bug that could cause lighting artifacts when global volume scattering shaders are assigned
  • Added support for ‘Multiple Scattering’ ray contribution slider on all lights
  • Fixed bug that could cause a crash when rendering scenes with custom AOVs and toggling between IPR and bucket rendering
  • Fixing potential point-based SSS artifacts on fast-moving motion-blurred geometry
  • Fixed bug that would produce incorrect tri-planar projections for instanced objects, or when in IPR mode
  • Proxy ColorCorrection shader backwards compatibility
  • Added support for area light directionality ‘spread’
  • Enabled new improved bump mapping fidelity by default
  • Improved bi-cubic texture filtering to remove a hard band that could sometimes occur
  • Improved quality of light and shadow texture sampling by removing a sometimes over-aggressive mip-map choice that could lead to ‘light leaking’
  • Fixed rare SSS hierarchy crash that can occur with multiple GPUs when the render is interrupted
  • Fixed bug that could potentially cause a crash when rendering with custom AOV shader passes


Interview: A Skater Turned Designer for Nike, Vans, Marvel and More

June 5, 2018 - By 
Interview: A Skater Turned Designer for Nike, Vans, Marvel and More - Featured

How two surgeries sidelined this skateboarder and turned him into a top motion designer with his own creative powerhouse. This is the story of Already Been Chewed and Barton Damer.

Image via Barton Damer.

All great artists evolve. It comes with the territory. In this industry in particular, motion designers will constantly face pressure, second-guess their abilities, and continue to push themselves harder. That’s what it takes to make it in this industry, or really how to succeed in any type of creative position.

In this interview, you’ll certainly hear about many familiar stages of creative growth. Discovering your talent, honing your skills, facing your fears, getting lucky, taking risks, failing, and evolving. These struggles are not unique to Barton Damer, but his personal experiences are.

Barton Damer is the Founder and Creative Director of Already Been Chewed, or as many may know it as ABC. In our chance encounter, Barton and I learned that we live and work in the same area, a coincidence you’ll find repeating itself in this story. It’s funny how the internet has brought everyone together, but we tend to forget that many of us are just down the road from each other as well. That’s what led to me visiting Barton and his team at Already Been Chewed.

Here’s a glimpse at some of ABC’s most recent work.

I wanted to find out much more about ABC and Barton, and they were gracious enough to host me. Not only did I learn about his personal experiences, but we talked about motion design, rendering, tech, and growing your own business online. Here’s what I learned.

How it all began: the ABC’s of ABC

Michael Maher: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and how you ended up here in Texas?

Barton Damer: I am originally from the Washington DC area, moved to the Dallas area about 11 years ago. I moved here for a job. For about three years I worked there during the day, and I started freelancing as a motion designer nights and weekends.

Those days were tough. I’ve got a wife and three kids, so I would get home from the day job, hangout with them and get the kids to bed around 7:30. Then I would jump back on the computer and do the stuff I was really passionate about. I’d work till about 2 AM, go to bed, then get up for my 8 AM job. It was three whole years of doing that.

MM: That’s dedication. Had you always intended on becoming a motion designer?

BD: My background is actually in print design. I graduated college in 1998, and I was a graphic designer for 7 years before I even knew what motion graphics were. I was very bored with graphic design, and was looking into different careers. That was when I saw my first Shilo reel. I was immediately hooked, and it breathed new life into my design career.

MM: Tell me about those early days learning about motion design.

BD: I actually ended up learning animation through skateboarding. In fact, my whole career comes back to skateboarding.

When I was 18 and freshmen and college, I blew out my ACL and tore my meniscus. My life at the time was either playing basketball or skateboarding. With that injury, I couldn’t do either of those things.

I was three weeks into my freshmen semester, and I didn’t know anybody except my high school sweetheart, who would later become my wife. While she was helping me limp around campus, I was studying to be a Public Relations major. Every PR major had to take an intro to drawing class, and since I was waiting to have surgery during Christmas break, I spent all my free time in my bedroom drawing for that class.

Up until that point, I didn’t really know I could draw. I knew I could paint photo-realistically, but I had never really drawn anything outside of Tony Hawk skulls and graffiti tags. I ended up switching my major to commercial art. That’s where I learned how to oil paint, acrylics, and all that stuff.

I also had some computer classes, but remember, this was 1998. I  had an early version Photoshop.

Photoshop 5.0 in 1998 via Adobe.

Fast forward to when I was 27, I was skateboarding and I blew out my other ACL and meniscus. I wanted to keep hanging out with my friends, so I started filming and editing skate videos. I found out very quickly that I didn’t enjoy sifting through footage, but I did enjoy making the titles for the videos.

I guess that was my initial introduction to motion graphics. I was working in iMovie, sliding layered JPEGs and PNGs to create different transitions. While I was working in iMovie, I was researching better ways to animate. That’s when I found out about After Effects.

I was looking for a job at the time, and I saw one that required a knowledge of After Effects. So I went out and bought a laptop and After Effects, learned it during the interview process so I could get the job. After I landed that job, I was so scared of losing it. I was so scared that I continued to learn. [laughs]

MM: Oh man, that hits too close to home. That has to be common among most creative jobs, I feel like we are all just trying to do the best we can as fast as we can, especially when we don’t know how. 

BD: For sure. So I got the job and pretty quickly, people thought I was pretty good at motion graphics. It wasn’t because I was good with After Effects. It was because I had eight or nine years of designing as a professional, plus the four years of school before that. So I spent all my time making sure that things looked good. The animation was just secondary to that. I started noticing that my work was flat, and it needed some dimension to it.

This was around the time I started seeing work by Shilo. When I started trying to get my work to look like theirs, I looked into 3ds Max, I looked into Maya, but as a graphic designer Cinema 4D seemed to be an easier transition. The other programs made it seem like I was completely changing my career path to be an animator for Pixar or something, and I didn’t really want that. I still wanted to do design, and I was excited about how 3D could enhance my designs.

So I chose Cinema 4D and loved the fact that I could use Photoshop files as textures. I did my very first C4D project for a magazine, where I did a 3D type illustration around the word collide. I just extruded 3D type and made the word collide come to life, like it was colliding. Used displacement on a sphere with metal texture, and it looked like I created this auto crash.

Image via Barton Damer.

That piece went viral. Twitter was still relatively new, and everyone was retweeting it. I even got requests to make tutorials. [Author’s Note: You can read that very tutorial on Go Media.] The piece was featured in Computer Arts and Advanced Photoshop.

After that, I worked on a tour poster for the band Wolfmother. That was another piece that was huge.

Image via Barton Damer.

I ended up winning Digital Artist of the Year in Computer Arts magazine for that poster. That was crazy. Not only was I in the magazine, but my work was featured in a gallery in London, and I was still working full-time. It was a bizarre thing, where I go to my day job and no cares about what I do. But then on nights and weekends, people started taking note of my work and I won an award.

MM: Bizarre indeed. So Collide was one of your first C4D projects ever? 

BD: Yeah. In fact, Paul Babb, the CEO of Maxon, contacted me after seeing the piece. I immediately thought I was in trouble. I thought maybe I didn’t have the right license or something, and I was really freaked out. He told me that he saw the piece and it was “absolutely stunning” and asked if I had any interest in showing off my work at speaking engagements.

At the time, I didn’t have any other work! That was the first thing I had ever done. So that was huge for me. It freaked me out and motivated me, and I knew that I had to learn this. This must have been 2009. That’s back when Nick [Campbell] was doing reel critiques. I, of course, was learning everything about C4D from Nick. I didn’t know how to do anything. He critiqued my reel, and I was petrified. He loved it, and it was a huge relief. I was like, this is great. I can do this.

Building Already Been Chewed

MM: Was this when you decided to become a motion designer full time?

BD: Not quite. I just started to become more picky about the type of freelance work I was doing. Rather than seeing if I could fill a freelance schedule, I was filling it with stuff I loved. I was freelancing with skateboard brands, shoe companies, and all kinds of stuff.

Soon after, it finally made sense to go freelance, since I was almost making as much as my salary, just working nights and weekends.

I will say this though. So many times in this industry, kids are two years out of college and think they need to launch their own studio. You want to pace yourself. The biggest thing that I hear is that they want to be Art Directors by the time they’re 25 years old. Are you going to want to change jobs when you’re 30? Because after Art Director or Creative Director, there is no where else to go.

Barton’s first day, in which he admitted he had nothing to do so he took a bunch of photos. Image via Barton Damer.

MM: That’s great advice. Something it also took me years to come to terms with myself. So, you’re now jumping into a freelance career. Did you have anything lined up?

BD: Nope. Up to that point, I hadn’t been using contracts or anything like that. When I made the move, and left a job that I really loved, I had no work lined up. That was a Friday. That Saturday I went to a skateboard competition where I met a Creative Director of an agency that was working with Scion, who was the main sponsor of the event. By Monday, I started doing work for Scion.

That is a really rare example. Outside of that job, most of my early gigs were internet based.

MM: Right place at the right time. Sometimes that’s all it takes. What were the early struggles of starting your own business?

BD: Oh man, I got to a point really quickly where I realized my days were spent just doing emails and phone calls. I started feeling guilty because this felt like an experiment. Each night, I would talk to my wife and tell her that I had been working all day long, but I had done no billable hours yet. So I’d still have to work nights up until 3 AM just to get 8 billable hours. I realized nothing was changing. I was still working all night, even though I had more free time.

I never liked the idea of being a freelancer. With my history in design, I knew I could launch a brand from scratch. I could design the logo, the business cards, catalogs, fully 3D animated TV spots, branded shows, graphic packages. I wanted to keep working directly with an agency or a client.

The first ABC office, a converted guest room in Barton’s home. Image via Barton Damer.

It always bothered me when people wanted to know my day rate or hourly, because I could do anything an agency could do. So I hired a friend of mine to come on board. He had just graduated with a Marketing degree and we worked out a deal. He couldn’t find a job without having experience, and you can’t get experience unless you have a job. I told him to come work with me, and worst case you are always on the phone working with the agencies I’m working with. You can always get a job there, and then you could get me more work. [laughs]

MM: So now you have a staff. What changes did you have to make to increase revenue so you could afford help?

BD: The moment he came on board I just started tripling my rates, because now I was a studio. We were able to do that for a while, and did it all out of a spare bedroom in my house.

Image via Barton Damer.

Work just kept coming in, and I trained him to be my project manager. I would be involved up front with all of the projects, like developing a look or a test animation. Then we started outsourcing to freelancers and growing the business that way. We didn’t want to say “no” to work. I was becoming a hands-on Creative Director. Once we got approval on the look or animation style, then we were just outsourcing. We’d get freelancers to finish projects so I could start on the next one.

We did that for about a year and a half, and then decided to move out of the house and into our first space.

MM: That’s another major milestone, which comes with a lot of new challenges. Tell me about that process.

BD: Moving out of the house is probably the biggest leap to make. You’re essentially doubling your expenses. I had a mortgage and a lease. Two electric bills, two internet bills, two air conditioning bills, you know. It’s a big step. I had to do some soul searching.

Do I want to make this a company, or remain a freelancer? There is a lot at stake when moving out of the house. Once you go that direction, you don’t really want to turn back. I definitely felt like ABC needed to be bigger than myself.

First ABC office. Image via Barton Damer.

It was still the two of us, plus some freelancers. I had been looking to bring on one more person full-time. We had the opportunity to land a large client, and we were competing with two agencies. We landed the client, brought on a third person, and continued to outsource projects.

We were now doing motion graphics, two separate catalogs, TV commercials, trade-show booths, animations, graphics, things like that for this one new client. We didn’t want to be consumed by them, so we continued to fulfill that contract while still saying yes to other things. I just knew it was not healthy to have one client make up so much of your revenue.

We were still small, and we were slammed, all while some big brands started to hit us up.

MM: That’s another fascinating part of this whole story. You continue to work with massive brands. Are they just finding you online?

BD: Yeah. It proves the state of the industry. We’re in a small town outside of Dallas, yet we work with Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Vans, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and more. I hope that’s inspiring to people. We aren’t in a major downtown, and we don’t need to be.

We have landed some clients locally. We met the Dude Perfect guys through friends at a skatepark.

We have landed more Dallas clients recently, but bizarrely they are hearing about us through the internet. One client in Dallas found out about us through their UK office, who were fans of our work. The UK office said they needed to work with ABC, but even they had no idea we were in the Dallas area. It just happened to work out that way.

MM: There’s this belief that you have to be in a major city near all the agencies. While that may be true for some creative jobs, it’s not the same for motion design. Is that something you’ve noticed?

BD: For sure. The nice thing is, we don’t have the overhead that New York and LA have to deal with. Plus clients don’t ever come into the office. 3D doesn’t work that way. No client is going to come in here and watch us render for six hours to see their update.

I opened up here because we were already planted in Texas. When I first went out on my own, I had offers to setup space within some agencies, but I couldn’t be back in a corporate environment. If I see any carpet or cubicles, I’m going to lose it. Getting the right space was really important to me.

Current ABC headquarters. Image via Barton Damer.

I also didn’t want to be on the road commuting all of the time. If I have to be on the road for 45 minutes of traffic, that’s two full billable hours a day that I lose.

MM: So here we are now in your current office. Tell me about the challenge of finding the right people to join the team.

BD: Everyone here is between 30 and 42 years old. So many people in this industry are burnt out by the time they’re 30, because they jump on board and pull all-nighters for the first 5 to 7 years of their career, and then they’re over it. So, we looked for really talented people ready for a change. Right now we don’t have any junior level staff in-house, and we continue to work with freelancers as well.

The Already Been Chewed staff.

It’s also very important that our core team is right here. As artists, this environment is very important to me. We are learning at rapid speed, because we are all talking about work. As fun as a slack channel is, just asking “Hey does anyone know how to do this?” in the room is incredibly beneficial.

You know, if I do something this way, it’ll take me six hours, but someone could just say, Don’t do it this way, do it that way. The speed at which we are learning is magnified. Even when I’m not on the box all day, I’m still learning because we’re always talking.

Image via Barton Damer.

These guys crave that type of environment. As freelancers working by yourself, you can end up pulling your hair out wondering why things aren’t working. There are times we get things back from a freelancer that we will have to send back, but had they of been in the office with us, I could have just walked over and said, “Don’t worry about that, focus on this” and it wouldn’t have been an issue.

Investing in the future

MM: It’s obvious with a quick glance around this office that you don’t shy away from building your machines. Tell me about the tech behind ABC.

BD: Thomas King is our technical director, so he will build most of these computers for us. I lean on him for his tech expertise, so if he’s recommending I buy an Ultra I will. Or if he says stick to Titan XP’s, then I stick with it.

MM: This is something I’ve quickly caught onto with the 3D community. The demands of 3D and motion design is one of the few industries were computers can’t meet your needs. You have to build something on your own. 

BD: This industry is so split right now. I was shocked at NAB when I saw how many people were still on Macs, or hacking their Macs. We switched to PCs two and a half years ago, and you can see a drastic change in our portfolio.

Yes, we have incredibly talented people, but we also have so much more power at our disposal now. When we switched to PCs, we got onto GPU rendering. Next thing you know, we’re essentially creating feature films that are 30-seconds long about watches. Stuff I didn’t even think was possible when we were on Macs.

We even get teased by the team at Lucasfilm saying we need to come work with them, it’s crazy.

We jumped into Octane, and now we primarily use Redshift. It’s been a whole new world. The GPUs are pretty cheap, so for the past two years we just put money back into computer equipment. If we get a project where I’m concerned we can’t render it, I’ll go order more GPUs.

I remember spending thousands on render farm costs, money I could have invested back into my own machines. While cloud rendering sound awesome, the reality is that it’s not free. You’re going to pay for it. When you upload your samples that has hardly any geo in it and it costs 25-cents a frame, that’s one thing. But when you have a big project, and it’s $2 a frame to render it, the cost adds up real fast. So we built a full server and GPU rack.

We have a client now, where we are making long-form spots. These are 60-second or 90-second commercials that we wouldn’t have been able to make if we weren’t investing back into our own tech. It’s still unbelievable that we can render something like this in house.

Every Monday we have a team meeting, and we’ll also do Monday inspiration. We’ll find stuff that we love, things to look at it, and we’ll break it down. It helps spark technical questions, and that helps us figure out ways we need to improve. You’ll also find out about plugins you didn’t know about, or even upgrades we can make to our tech.

Advice for Motion Designers

MM: I’d like to finish with some advice or tips that you can share with our readers. Can you first offer up any advice to aspiring motion designers?

BD: Focus on design first. If it doesn’t look good, it’s not going to start looking better because you make it move around. It has to look good first, and then animate second. Otherwise you’re just making ugly pictures move.

Even to this day, I don’t consider myself an advanced animator. I’m brute force. I keyframe, and if mograph effectors can do it, I can do it. That’s because I put all my effort into making it look right, and then the animation comes secondary. You can always throw a camera move on something, and have it turn out amazing.

I mean, look at the Westworld intro. There isn’t a ton of animation, but it’s just gorgeous with some cinematic camera moves.

MM: Any final things you’d like to share with readers trying to grow their business?

BD: Back when I was working from home by myself, Street League Skateboarding had just started on ESPN. They had put on Twitter that they were looking for interns. I knew I didn’t want to be an intern, but I knew they had to be checking emails since they just shared an email address. I emailed them and put together a proposal that essentially said,

“I can tell that Street League Skateboarding is being branded by non-skateboarders. I am a skateboarder and a professional motion designer that creates TV show graphics packages, so I need to start working with you. [laughs] I know the culture better, I understand professional television, and I can blend the two worlds to make it more legit.”

So I emailed the proposal off to them, and figured I should just start filling in a bunch of other email addresses to see if I could email Rob Dyrdek directly, the founder of Street League.

Less than 24 hours later, I got an email back that said, “Let’s do this.” That’s it.

I thought for sure, someone was messing with me. They knew I was trying to guess his email, and they’re messing around with me. Plus what does this even mean? I just proposed a year’s worth of work, and all I got back was “Let’s do this.”

Sure enough, the General Manager of Street League followed up with, “Congratulations. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do guessing Rob’s email account, let alone having him care about who you are, and caring about your work. Rob is super stoked by your proposal and asked me to reach out to you.”

Eight years later, we still work with Street League Skateboarding, as well as Fantasy Factory, Ridiculousness, and several other MTV shows. And it was a Street League Skateboarding connection that led to us landing Nixon watches.

MM: Sometimes you just have to take a risk.

BD: Exactly.

Special thanks to Barton Damer and the ABC crew for hosting us and for this interview. If you’d like to learn more about them, check the links below.

SUGGESTED: Barton Damer’s Maxon presentation Simple Tools for Complex 3D Artwork and Animation.

Interested in more interviews? Check out these pieces:


PureRef is a Must-Use Reference Image Tool for All Creatives

April 24, 2018 - By 
PureRef is a Must-Use Reference Image Tool for All Creatives - Featured Image

Keep your reference images and project notes in your sight at all times with PureRef. No more tabbing between windows and programs.

Once in a while, a productivity tool comes along and changes the way I work. Now to be clear, I think of a good coffee cup as a productivity tool, so that should give a bit of insight into my obsession with honing in my toolset. When a tool can drastically improve your work or your life, I feel compelled to tell people about it. So this is me yelling from the rooftop about my latest obsession, PureRef.

PureRef is a straightforward utility app for Windows, Mac, and Linux with a very simple premise. Keep your reference images in view at all times. The app places your references in a window that stay on top of all your active programs and tools. 

All day I bounce back and forth between my DCC (digital content creation) apps to random reference bookmarks or folders on my machine. Sometimes even dragging images into the Cinema 4D picture viewer just to keep them in sight.

With PureRef, you can create a new canvas and drag as many images onto its infinite canvas as you’d like. The best part is that you can tell PureRef to stay on top of all your open applications and windows. While you’re working, you can dial in your look while having all your reference imagery sitting right next to your preview render (IPR).

The ability to save canvases means you can start keeping multiple PureRef projects to suit your current needs. It’s a huge time saver. I also love how you can quickly zoom, resize, and re-arrange your images anytime you’d like, saving the changes for the next time you need instant inspiration.

This tool improved the look of my work on first use. I was able to take 20 minutes assembling reference imagery, and during my look-dev process, I was able to hit the look I was after in minutes. You can even add notes to yourself within the PureRef canvas. 

Having reference imagery sitting an inch away from your IPR is something I will no longer be able to live without. You will see a lot of it in the future in my tutorials. So do yourself a favor, find an excellent sturdy coffee cup and go download PureRef right now.

About PureRef and Download

PureRef allows you to drag-and-drop files from your machine, or directly from browsers. You can also edit photos in your canvas to meet your needs, including rotation, scale, crop, opacity, and more. You can also customize the canvas and keyboard shortcuts to speed things up.

  • Compatibility
    • Windows 7+
    • Mac OS X 10.9+
    • Linux Ubuntu 14.04+
  • Supported Image Formats

PureRef is a name your own price download, and you can get it here. It’s well worth throwing them a few dollars if you can.


Guest Daily Render Artist: Rick Lundskow

February 2, 2017 - By 


Rick Lundskow aka @lundskow

We’d like to welcome Daily Render Guest Artist Rick Lundskow @lundskow to our ongoing series of awesomeness.

Follow the GSG Daily Render Series on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr

What is your name, position, and where do you currently work?

Rick Lundskow

Art Director

Cornerstone Church


How did you get into Cinema 4D?

I’m almost positive I saw a motion graphics video on vimeo back in 2010/2011. It was so impactful that I wanted to learn how to create art like it. I immediately downloaded the trial version and started watching Greyscalegorilla tutorials. After the trial expired I used the demo version. The demo wouldn’t let you save or render out projects, which was a slight bummer because some of the pieces were sweet. However, I could recreate them if I really wanted them.

Once I moved to Michigan to work at Cornerstone, I budgeted for Cinema 4d Studio. That’s when the real fun began.


When did you start your daily render practice?

I tried to start daily renders but they took too much time or I ran out of ideas too quickly. I got in my head too much… Each piece had to be amazing, but often times they were not great by any stretch of the imagination.

At Half Rez this past year I had a chance to talk to Beeple, the master of daily renders. He really encouraged me that it wasn’t as big of a deal as I was making it out to be. I just needed to make something happen. I don’t know what it was, but it clicked in my brain and I started the next day, September 15th.

What is the hardest part about doing a daily render?

Time would probably be the most difficult part of a daily render for me. Some nights I don’t get home until 10pm-12am and I haven’t even started on my project. The worst is when I get home late and I don’t even have a concept. On those nights, I wanted to give up. And there were many of those nights. However I’m sure other people have had that same exact excuse but have continued anyway. So I told myself that I couldn’t have any excuses for missing a day.


What have you learned by making something every day?

Probably the most significant thing I’ve learned is lighting and reflections. Lighting can make or break your render, so I experimented with different techniques until I found something that works for me. Since I don’t have a fancy render (which might change very soon), I wanted to learn the most with the tools that I had on hand.

As far a basic life skills go, I learned that I can put too much pressure on the creativity. I want the design to be better than the day before it, or create a compelling piece that will sell to millions of people. The former is stressful and the latter hasn’t happened yet. Daily renders are more like experiments. No pressure on the outcome. You try an idea that doesn’t work, but you fix those mistakes the next day and publish your findings. It’s important for me to realize that when I fail, I just found another way of not doing something.

What Hardware and Software do you use to make your work?

I do most of my work on a 2012 MacBook Pro. Nothing too fancy about it but it gets the job done. If I stay late at work, or have some free time over lunch, I’ll create piece on my Mac Pro with 12GB of ram. Then render it out using Team Render across 3-4 of the other machines in the office.

Aside from using Cinema, I use Illustrator a lot to create splines. The shape builder inside Illustrator is incredibly powerful for making custom shapes for lathes, sweeps, and extrudes. I recently purchased ZBrush core. While Cinema’s sculpting tools are great, there were a few features about ZBrush that made it easier to sculpt heads.


What is your day to day like at work?

My work schedule changes on a daily basis. I tend to have a theme to each week day though. Mondays are meeting days. A nice easy transition into the work week. Tuesdays are typically my big project day. I can get the most done without a ton of distractions. Wednesdays are a big filming day. We do video announcements in our Sunday services and we record & edit them mid-week. Thursdays are the busiest days because we’re trying to finish the work week strong. So I’ll finish projects that I didn’t quite complete the other work days. Coffee is a requirement for Thursdays. The great thing about my job is that I don’t work Fridays. Actually, I don’t think I’ve had a job in the past 10 years that required me to work Fridays. It’s pretty amazing.

Anything advice to anyone out there just getting started?

Great art isn’t about having the best resources, it’s about using what you have. There’s something special about taking what little resources you do have to create something beautiful. It gives you an appreciation for the things around you. When you hit a roadblock, figure a way around it. Don’t let circumstances hold you back from accomplishing what you want to do.

Also, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Start with a 5 minute idea and work from there. Most of my projects come from a small element I see in my day to day world. Find something that inspires you and run with that idea.


Where can people learn more about you?

I’m currently rebuilding my website from scratch, so currently I don’t have more info available.



Interview with Loosekeys about the Half Rez 5 animations

October 13, 2016 - By 

Half Rez 5 was a blast and we couldn’t do it without the help of lots of talented people. This year LooseKeys created a new set of animations for us and knocked it out of the park!

We at Greyscalegorilla know the people over at LooseKeys well since we shared an office space with them for years. Now’s your chance to get to know them as well! We sent them some questions so you can get a taste for who they are and the work they do!

What is Loosekeys and how long have you been around?

Brad Chmielewski – LooseKeys is a design and animation studio in Chicago. We’ve been around for about 5 years now. A lot of the work we do involves character animation and storytelling.

What did you learn while making these animations?

Jake Williams – What was great about making the Half Rez animations was feeling like a newbie again with a new creative tool. While Cinema 4D was daunting at first, the amount of community resources available was integral and helping us learn on the fly. As we got more comfortable with the software, we were able to apply our style and animation principles with a totally new tool.

Ethan Barnowsky – This would be an appropriate place to thank Nick, Chris, and EJ because I spent a LOT of time in their tutorials learning techniques and tips for this project. It’s easy to take that resource for granted, but I would be miserable without their help! So, thanks!

How did you guys decide the content of each video?

BC – With most projects, we sit down and brainstorm concepts as a team. From there we’ll typically go and explore some concepts or at least pull some references for what the videos could be.

JW – We knew that we wanted to have a flow to the spots; that together they would tell a sort of story with the characters. We brainstormed a good number of ideas to get us started and then boiled it down to the 3-4 that we realistically thought we could accomplish before the show. The dance party, cheers, and drunky spots were the original 3 spots and the drone guy was added when we realized we could squeeze in one more.

Normally Loosekeys has a 2D workflow. What made you guys decide to try some 3D for these?

BC – Since HalfRez is an event centered around 3D animation we felt that we needed to make something that all the 3D animators in the room would enjoy while still staying true to our style. We could have easily done something in 2D but then we really wouldn’t have pushed ourselves to do something that challenged us.

JW – Echoing what Brad already mentioned, we wanted to push ourselves with this project. Really there was no better time to finally try to get our bearings in a 3D software package than this very project.

EB – I asked myself that question a lot while I banged my head against the keyboard trying to learn more 3D but in the end I’m super happy I had this as an opportunity to learn and create something new in C4D. I’m really thankful. Turns out it’s super fun.

Any inspirations feed into the animations?

BC – I know one thing that came up early on was the “Dumb Ways To Die” video.

JW – We looked at a ton of reference centered around TV idents and bumpers. There’s such a great timing and pacing in the stories that are told in quick 10-15 second spots that we wanted to capture. One of my favorite early references were these Adult Swim Idents from Art&Graft.

EB – We also looked at the Half Rez logo and branding and previous years bumpers and wanted to play off of those elements a bit. Love cubes and bubbles.

How was the crowd reactions to the animations both online and at Half Rez?

BC – From what I could tell it seemed that most people really enjoyed them. It’s sometimes hard to tell since I personally know so many people in the community, you never know if they are just being nice. What I think worked for us was that we took our character animation skills and storytelling ability and applied them to 3D. The 3D was very simple and I’m sure many people out there would have no trouble recreating these spots. What’s sometimes troublesome about 3D animation is that the possibilities are endless. What we do well at LooseKeys is to take something that’s complicated and make it simple. I felt like the reaction was great, we did something a bit different for us at LooseKeys and although they were cubes, it was a bit outside the box.

JW – The live crowd seemed to enjoy the spots although I wish I had made the “dance party” spot a bit longer to see if people would have jumped out of their seats! From friends and acquaintances alike I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback and it’s incredibly humbling to get this sort of response from guys and gals whose opinion and work I respect so much.

Loosekeys and Greyscalegorilla used to share office space. How’s your new place and what has changed?

BC – We do miss the Greyscalegorilla guys. Having more energy in the office is always nice to keep your creative juices flowing. For us it was time to make a move in order to feel more like the studio we wanted to be. You don’t need your own space in order to be a studio. Still there is something about having your own space that feels comfortable and helps set the tone for your workday. Having your own studio makes you want to invite clients over and show off with parties. We have now been in the space for a year and there is plenty of room for us to grow and try new things.

EB – It’s quieter without the ping pong, pinball and excited chatter which is occasionally good but mainly I miss those aspects! It took a long time to adjust to the lack of lunchtime ping pong noises coming from the other room. Like Brad said, it’s nice to have a space to call our own where we can have parties and create without getting in anybody else’s way.

Best way to follow your work as a fan? Best way to contact you as a client?

BC – I try to keep all of our social media channels updated with what we are working on. Twitter is a great place to start if you want a catch all for everything we are doing.

And for any clients who are looking to get in touch, I would be the best person to talk to about new business

You guys are the most prolific podcasters I know. How many podcasts are the members of Loosekeys involved in these days?

BC – Thanks! I love the medium. At the moment I have 4 podcasts that I release new episodes for pretty regularly. There are a few that come on and off and some others that have ended but there are 4 that I focus my time and energy on. Shatter The Vain, a podcast with over 120 episodes about the mobile game Vainglory. This podcast is released every Monday. Released every Tuesday is Toon Talk Weekly, a podcast where Jake Williams and I talk about a new cartoon each and every week. Then there is Chicago Beer Pass with 160 episodes. Chicago Beer Pass is a weekly podcast about beer events in the Chicagoland area and Illinois. And then my video podcast is Hop Cast. This podcast isn’t recorded as often and doesn’t have a real schedule anymore but it is the longest running podcast. Ken Hunnemeder and I have been talking about beer for eight years and recorded over 285 episodes of this show.

I love the idea of podcasting, you’re able to take something you’re passionate about and share that love with the world. Each show I do has a different fan base but it doesn’t matter if one person is listening or thousands. Just the idea that someone cares about something as much as you do is enough. Podcasting is a form of storytelling and using the medium to help perfect that skill set is very important for me and the business.

JW – Special shoutout to Chris for being on Toon Talk Weekly Episode 86 to talk about his love for ReBoot!

Who are some artists / websites you admire?

JW – I’d be lying if I didn’t say I check Dribbble and Vimeo daily to see what talented folks are working on. I love simple, clean, and clever character design and animation and there is a ton of great work out there. A few favorites:
James Curran
Markus Magnusson
Seth Eckert
Cub Studio
Ice Cream Hater

EB – All of those artists Jake mentioned are amazing. I also tend to lean towards bold, simple, sometimes crude illustration styles and love artists like:
Keith Shore
Everyone in the Late Night Work Club
Alla Kinda
Rubber House
Joan Cornella

LooseKeys Show Reel 2016 from LooseKeys on Vimeo.

Follow the LooseKeys guys on twitter

Brad Chmielewski – @beerad
Jake Williams – @JacobWilliams
Ethan Barnowsky – @EthanBarnowsky