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Interview: Jason van Gumster

As is pretty standard with interviews, would you care to introduce yourself?

I am Jason van Gumster of Hand Turkey Studios, author of Blender for Dummies and GIMP Bible, and a general goof ball.

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You have been a successful Blender artist for quite some time, can you give us a little insight into what you do on a day-to-day basis?

Well of course, every day is different. That is one benefit of being self-employed. One day I might be traveling across the state for a workshop, the next day I may be heading to New England for a film festival, then another day I may be stuck in the new office doing renovations. Oh and some time in there I try to find some time to get some work done, which may be anything from writing on my book projects to modeling to animation.

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As an artist, you surely get the standard questions of “where do you get your inspiration?”, “how long did you spend training?”, etc. But looking past that, what would you say your understanding is of what you do? What makes everything tick?

At my core, I am an animator. That moment you can see something come to life and move, gain a personality. That is the payoff. Everything that has to do with animation, teaching and recently book writing, is all very tedious and time consuming. But that second where you see your character come to life, that moment where the student finally grasps a tough concept and when someone comes to you and says how your book has helped them. It is a small payoff but those are the moments that make everything worth while. It is very gratifying.

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Like many of us, you have been using Blender for a long time, if you had to pick one (or two, three) of the most revolutionary feature upgrades during that time, what would it be?

The physics and fluid simulations have been huge. Not only is it super-cool, but it is also one of those things that lot of programs don’t normally ship with.

Next, the UV Unwrap is a huge one. When the LSCM unwrapping got implemented into Blender it was revolutionary. Before this system UV unwrapping was my most dreaded task, as was the case for most people. And while it is still not my favorite thing to do, at least now I can unwrap without wanting to throw my computer across the room.

The third feature would have to be Etch-a-ton. Etch-a-ton is a bone sketching system that allows you to basically sketch out your rig, locking the bones into the volume of your mesh. You are also able to use templates so you can quickly replicate parts of your rig like fingers. This method is particularly helpful for rigging organic creatures, like those with tentacles. With Etch-a-ton it can be done with some sense of sanity!

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Over the last two Summers you have taken part in the 48 Hour Richmond Film Festival by producing an animated short in just two days. That is a huge undertaking! Can you give us a little insight into the process involved?  Just how hectic was your make-shift apartment studio workspace?

Haha, well first off the second one was much more successful than the first. The first time around we were way too ambitious and had too high of expectations. A animation in this amount of time is very daunting, so needless to say things were very hectic.

Coming around the second year, things were a lot easier. I actually got a bit of sleep :) Due to our experiences of the previous year, we had a better idea of what we were getting into and a lot of the bottlenecks we were facing. Of course new bottlenecks always pop up, but with our previous experience we were able to get around them much easier. One of the major differences between the two years were the number of technical issues the second time around. They were much fewer! The first year we had a lot of issues with the render farms as they weren’t fully setup to handle what we were wanting to too and we had a lot of issues interfacing with the farm.  Oh and we lost internet in Richmond for a bit the first year around. All in all, the whole team – both in Richmond and in other locations around the globe – had a great time. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
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I understand you are in the midst of several new book projects, can you tell us anything about these?

Of course! I recently finished GIMP Bible, which should be out by the beginning of March. And then I am getting started on updating the Blender for Dummies book to its 2nd edition; covering features in Blender 2.5. Blender 2.5 isn’t quite “documentation ready” yet, so I’m in a bit of a holding pattern. In the meantime, though, I’m trying to do my part by dutifully submitting bug reports. Hopefully, if I can make the time, I’ll also find parts of the code that I can contribute to as well.

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Discussion

11 Responses to “Interview: Jason van Gumster”
  1. Posts: 95
    Solineoz says:

    Interesting interview, great to have the feedback of a participant to the 48 Hour Richmond Film Festival.
    Best wish for your future projects :)

  2. Posts: 1
    malefico says:

    You are AWESOME !!

  3. Posts: 2
    Brokenjack says:

    Great interview!
    Looking forward to this years 48 hour film project if you’ll have me again. I was just thinking about a new 2.5 dummies book the other day. I just started playing around 2.5 alpha 1, and I got a bit worried when I first launched it, but after getting into it, it seems to make too much sense. I’m getting all the same “this is freakin cool” feelings I got way back(in tech time) when I started with 2.45. I can’t wait for your 2.5 book as my current issue is wearing out. GIMP bible will be gracing my shelf as well. Keep up all the great work. You have been a great asset to me as well as the community at large.

    • Posts: 42

      Haha, I know what you mean by the “this is freakin cool” feeling, I just got it the other day playing around with 2.5 too.

  4. Posts: 43
    Corniger says:

    Cool interview! I’ll get the 2.5 book, too. And I like the very recognizable Belfield in the title screen :) You rock, man, Blender needs more guys like you.

  5. Posts: 2
    MSZ says:

    Nice interview. I will most probably get the 2.5 book also :). Keep up the good work!

  6. Posts: 5
    Benjamin Bailey (Banor) says:

    Excellent. Thank you for your work, Jason! I am curious, though, where you studied? What is your degree? How did you get into animation?

    • Posts: 2

      Heya Benjamin. I did my university work at Virginia Commonwealth University and I actually ended up with two degrees: one in computer engineering and the other in ‘kinetic imagery’ (VCU’s department for animation and video). I probably spent too much time in school, but I’m a nerd and a sucker for learning. :P As for how I got into animation, that’s simple: flipbooks. I’ve drawn for as long as I could old a pencil, but I saw my drawings come to life and move in simple flipbooks, it kind of sealed the deal for me. Also, I watched a *lot* of cartoons growing up, so I guess it kind of became ingrained.

      Thanks for the questions and for reading!

      Also… @malefico: No, YOU’RE awesome!

  7. Posts: 4
    pixnlove says:

    I want to know more about you.
    Have you got a website?

    You seems to be on of these people who is worth knowking…

    • Posts: 2

      Sure, my studio’s website is actually linked directly from my name in this post (in case it doesn’t work, you can check http://www.handturkeystudios.com). Granted, the site (and the show reel) are in *dire* need of an update, so please bear that in mind as you look through it.

  8. Posts: 1
    Mattzoid says:

    Any news on when 2nd Edition is out?

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