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Many of you will recognize Matt Ebb, he was a lead artist on Elephants Dream, has worked on many prominent Blender productions, including Lighthouse and Kajimba, and is the developer responsible for many of the Blender features we use everyday. But more recently he was brought on by the Blender Foundation (thanks to an anonymous sponsor) as a full-time developer for Blender 2.5. I managed to squirm a bit of time out of his busy schedule for a few questions:
Hello Matt! If you would, could you describe yourself in one sentence or less?
An optimistic, practically minded artist who somehow managed to convince himself that he could write code too.
It was recently announced that you’ve been brought on by the Blender Foundation as a full time Blender developer, can you tell us a bit about this?
I recently changed from working full time at Red Cartel to freelance, and it was shortly after this that Ton Roosendaal contacted me, letting me know of this great opportunity. Basically, an anonymous sponsor is interested in speeding up the progress of the Blender 2.5 project, and has been able to graciously donate enough to sustain a coder to work on full-time development for several months. This is good for Blender, because there are still a lot of small rough bits to fix up in order to have a polished, professional quality Blender 2.5. Brecht and Campbell at Blender Institute will be pressured coding features enabling the Durian team to do their job, but it helps to have someone doing the less interesting work of fixing bugs, coordinating with other devs, writing release notes and potentially finishing up parts of these features that weren’t critical for the BI guys to get their project done, but should be done for the sake of Blender users in general. So most of my work so far has been less glamourous grunt work so far, but perhaps later on when the current state of things is a bit cleaner and more stable I can work on fun new things as well!
You have worked with the Blender Foundation in the past on Elephants Dream and other projects, has it been a good experience?
Well, Elephants Dream was quite a while ago, and although being the first of the open projects it was tremendously stressful and taxing at the time, it was a great experience, one that I’d never regret. I think one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed working in Blender-related projects to date is that there’s a great culture of pragmatism in Ton and in the core of the Blender community, of going out and getting things done. There’s always a danger in these sorts of things to get bogged down in theory and discussions and perfectionism, but it’s great that people involved in such projects usually are interested in realistic production.
Is the Blender Institute as awesome as it looks in all of the pictures/videos or is it simply Roosendaal propaganda?
I’ve been there but never worked there – it’s a nice environment, and overall I think what Ton’s done organising the Blender Foundation and Blender Institute is really astounding, and has been a major factor in Blender’s continued success.
If all goes well with the your development position, do you have anything in particular you would like to add to Blender? Even if just for your own purposes?
Well there are plenty of things I’d like to see in Blender though a lot of that may not be related to my job description in this position :). In terms of what I’m being sponsored to work on in this job (UI-related things for 2.5), after things have stabilised a bit in the short term I’m interested in looking at things like custom radial menus, generic manipulators for any data property, drag and drop, node editor work. Overall my interests lie in rendering and compositing, so they’re the sorts of things I’ll keep poking away at in my spare time.
It is my understanding that you have spent a good bit of time while at Promotion Studio integrating Blender into a studio workflow that was originally focused around 3DS Max. How has this worked out? What were some of the obstacles your ran into?
It worked out very well indeed. There weren’t really any major obstacles, it was a gradual thing, just using Blender more and more for various things where it was useful until we were using it as a primary tool set. You could write a lot on this topic, but a lot of it’s been covered before in these interviews with James:
As a digital artist, surely your workspace is important to you. Aside from the obvious bits (computer chair, desk, etc) is there a particular item you like to have around you at all time in your workspace to make it our own?
I don’t really go for the action figures etc, probably the most important things for me here are sketchbook+markers, and an espresso cup.
You can find out more on Matt at his personal blog HERE.