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Interview: David Ward

David is Blender Cookie’s newest certified instructor to bless the ranks and we are super jazzed to have him. David has much to offer and has quite the daily life from the day job, Military job and of course bringing fresh blender cookies here for all.

Who is David Ward and how did you come to be?

I’m just a starving artist (figuratively speaking) trying to make some sense of this crazy, crazy world. I was born in Claremore,Oklahoma (one of the many homes of Will Rogers, the early 20th century actor), but was raised in a little burg known as Tahlequah, Oklahoma (for you history nuts, “Tahlequah” is actually two words in the Cherokee language: Tahle Quah, which means “two is enough”. It’s named after an event in Cherokee history in which… well, look it up).

When I was a very young child (probably five or six years old), I was watching “Friday the 13th with my dad. When it got to the part where the guy gets an axe to the face, little me wanted to know if it hurt the guy. My dad explained that they turned off the camera, put on the makeup, and turned the camera back on. Now while this was a very rudimentary explanation of makeup special effects, it intrigued my young self, and made me quite curious as to how movie special effects were made. I loved watching the “making of” features of movies, and I tried to catch as many as I could so I could figure out how a certain effect was done.

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So as I grew, the desire to make movies grew stronger and stronger, and in high school, I wanted to make some movies with my friends (sequels to the Evil Dead series were always in high demand), but had problems getting my hands on a video camera that worked halfway decent. So I took a look at this little program in my Multimedia class called “Asymetrix 3DFX,” which was more-or-less a 3D clipart source for Powerpoint slides and such. I wanted to play with 3D (this was about the time “Toy Story” came out), as I could create all my actors right there on the computer, and didn’t need no stinkin’ camera. Anyway, I was able to manipulate Asymetrix enough to make some crappy little shorts, mostly Star Wars oriented (“00Solo” was one of the titles). I played with this software until I went to techschool for the Air Force National Guard (which, by the way, was for Video Production).

My roommate introduced me to 3D Studio Max (version r.2 if that says anything), and I began using that to do my little cartoons. I used 3DS Max up until sometime in mid 2007, when I decided to upgrade to something better, and when looking around, I was horrified to see the price tag on a new copy of 3DS Max, or Maya, or any of the mainstream 3D software packages. So I took a look at Blender. Seeing a few renders in galleries here and there, I figured that it was perhaps just as good as any of the others, but even better, since it was free. So I downloaded it and took some time (at work, shh!) to learn it. The interface was a little difficult at first, but I soon picked it up, and began recreating all my characters that I had made in 3DS Max (Alcoholic Frog, anyone?). Now, over two years later, I’m happy to say that I’m pretty well-versed with Blender, and I don’t give 3DS Max another glance, even though I have a brand new copy to play with at my National Guard base.

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With your background in graphic design, what pushed you towards the Blender world?

As I mentioned above, the desire to get something just as good as mainstream, but also within my very limited budget. I’m sure movie studios can afford the hefty ransom that 3DS Max and Maya demand, but a hobbyist like myself just can’t come up with that kind of dough.

When you are not working on the computers what are you doing to fill up your time?

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Heh, I don’t have much time left after working on computers. Sadly, I’m quite the computer nerd (although I do like to work out and stuff so I at least don’t look like a nerd) and they take up about 90% of my waking hours, but I do take some time here and there to catch a movie or play games on my X-Box. Just cracked open my new copy of “Batman: Arkham Asylum” last night, matter o’ fact.

Have you been able to get your hands on Call of Duty Modern Warfare?

Oh yeah. I’m assuming you meant to ask me if I’d gotten my hands on Modern Warfare 2, but “yes” either way. I’m a big COD guy. I’ve been playing the series since COD 1 (on PC of course, FPS is just not the same on console). My callsign on there is “G.I.Dave.” I can pwn l33t.

Are you able to integrate the 3D renders into any web projects you have been a part of?

Actually, we just started a new project at my work (Geek Rescue, AKA Brookside Studios, in Tulsa, Oklahoma) where I’ll be creating the backgrounds and characters for our new interactive web-page. Other than that, yeah, I’ve done some 3D text and logos, but nothing real substantial, aside from some pieces for my online portfolio.

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So your day job is a Front End Developer, Side job is Air Force National Guard, At night you have your hands into blender, how do you keep it all straight?

Very, very, carefully. Nah, it’s not too bad, really. I’m fairly used to it; high school is where I also learned HTML, so working with 3D and web design at the same time is pretty much the norm for me. Also, my National Guard job is Video Production, so they’re all related. Rather than being three separate jobs, it’s  almost like working on a painting with three types of paint. It’s all art in the end.

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Can you go over your Johnny Blender DVD series, what kept you motivated throughout?

The Johnny Blender series was an attempt to sort of rehash what I’ve learned over the past couple of years, and show others how I do it. I remember when I was first getting started, there were a lot of really good tutorials, but they were always scattered here and there. So I wanted to make a series that showed pretty much everything you’d need to know, right there in one place. I know there’s a lot of things that I didn’t cover (mostly the game engine, which I seem to get a lot of questions about), but for the most part, I think what I show you can help you on your way fairly well. What kept me motivated was the fact that I was getting a pretty good response from my Youtube watchers, after every episode, I got comments like “can’t wait for the next part!” or “this is helping me so much!”. So that kept me pretty excited.

View the Johnny Blender DVD Series

Do your Air Force buddies understand what you do for your day and night gigs?

Yeah, I’m sure they understand all too well. I’ve kept them all up to speed over the years (since January 8, 2000) about whatever 3D project I worked on. So yeah, they know about me and my multimedia. Heh, my supervisor is always calling me with Photoshop or Premiere questions, and sometimes I do a bit of OJT (on the job training) for a couple of the photographers, going over Photoshop techniques. Unfortunately, since all software has to be approved by they high-ups, Blender is not an option at the Guard base. 3DS Max, yeah. But Blender? Nope. Oh well. I have it at home, on a better PC anyway.

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Anything else you would like to add?

Oh I don’t know. Just maybe a nickel’s worth of free advice to any young aspiring Blenderheads. If 3D is your dream, don’t just sit there. Go check out all the Pixar/Disney movies, or Dreamworks, or whatever. That was our homework assignment in Techschool a lot of times: watch a movie and pay attention to how it was made. Not only do you learn different techniques, but it is also exciting and motivational material (at least it always is for me).

A huge thanks for David taking the time to do this interview and letting us borrow some tea. View more of Davids work here on Blender Cookie as a featured instructor or at his portfolio site here: http://davidallenward.com Or you may also view his Youtube channel.

Additional Links

gorilla: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb-u2MpBjbE
alien: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D9v2n6TGOk
bruno test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biDxjey_H_8
frog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2Us-bIRbKY
car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZqsRTabOlk
cows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2brRtKmPIM

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Discussion

15 Responses to “Interview: David Ward”
  1. Posts: 66
    Mr Tomado says:

    That article picture scared me to death and I laughed at the shear randomness of the COD question :) I love that drunk frog :)

  2. Posts: 98
    Tobey says:

    Thanks for the nice introduction and welcome to the Cookie!

    I find the car in desert animation especially funny :-D

  3. Posts: 95
    Solineoz says:

    As Tobey said, welcome to the BlenderCookie community David !!

    What will be your principal investment in the BlenderCookie’s world ? Animating, Character modeling, riggin, etc..??

    By the way, I hope that with your tight schedule you’ll be able to put nice stuff in here quickly :)

  4. Posts: 261
    David Ward says:

    Thanks guys :)

    @ solineoz: i’ll be covering the three basics, mostly: modeling, texturing, rigging. probably throw some animation on there at some point.

    • Posts: 66
      Mr Tomado says:

      Animation would be awesome! Texturing would also be cool. There are tons of modeling tutorials already on “the cookie” so… meh.

      • Posts: 261
        David Ward says:

        keep an eye out for my next tut, i believe it’s scheduled for release day after tomorrow (dec. 26). i go over texturing on that one.

  5. Posts: 22
    bettflasche says:

    I really would like to see rigging/skinning, especially how to prevent unnatural looking deformations when animating a model.

  6. Posts: 95
    Solineoz says:

    Thanks for the response David, that would be a nice birthday gift for me (26 dec.) :)

    @Potado – there is never will be too much modeling tuts, there is always something new to learn from them and most of it from a new artist… as new technics, tips and so on. :)

  7. Posts: 40
    corniger says:

    Cool interview! Shows I’ll have a long way ahead, but if I keep walking, I might actually “sit with the gods” some day :) Keep going, man! I saw lots of your stuff not knowing this was YOURS!

    Waht machine are you actually running?

  8. Posts: 4
    Lucifiend says:

    Welcome to the cookie! Nice to see I’m not the only AF video geek using blender.

  9. Posts: 261
    David Ward says:

    @corniger: i’m running an old dell xps 410 (about 2.5 years old), but i’ve upgraded to 4GB ram (3 usable), intel core2 quad q6700 (2.66ghz), windows 7 32bit, with a NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250. not a bad machine. could be better, but could be a lot worse too :D

    @lucifiend: a fellow airman, eh? where are you stationed? i’m here in tulsa, OK at the 138th Fighter Wing.

    • Posts: 4
      Lucifiend says:

      I’m out at Charleston at the 1st Com Cam. I’ve run across some of your animation around the Blender neighborhood before. Specifically your rusty blue car looks familiar. Good to see that you’re sharing your blender skills on the Cookie.

  10. Posts: 20

    Nice to have you here!
    I went to the tube and watched frog and cars films, love thoose. I really liked the car and how it was rendered. I really would like to learn how to set up materials and lightning from car sceans looking real to this more cartoon feeling set up.

    Best Regards

  11. Posts: 10
    ninjabuntu says:

    I like what you said about the Pixar and Dreamworks CG movies being homework and inspirational material. My friends all laugh at me when looking at my DVD collection, but when I show them my work, they Shut up and just ask me how I learned how to do all this. One big question that comes across is how much it all cost me to get the software.

    I tell them that while I did pay out a pretty penny for Maya, blender is every bit as good and in some areas a bit better then the commercial brands. with blender the only real cost is the Hardware for the rig running it.

    Recently I’ve been sending my friends over you the Johnny Blender to help them get up to speed. I help them with basic issues mostly but your video tutorials are really helping them a lot.

    Awesome stuff man, can’t wait to see more of your tutorials here at the Cookie Factory…

  12. Posts: 19
    Nolan Baker says:

    i dunno if youll read this comment or not…. but you are i suppose what i would call one of my heroes… im a 17 year old gaming computer nerd who is tired of watching movies and playing games where i dont know how its done… and even more tired of not being able to make them. this interview is really inspiring to me being the kid that i am, i look forward to more sleepless nights filled with your tutorials

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