Tuesday, August 16, 2011

McPhat Studios : Interview with Terrence Klaverweide


How to run the McPhat studios ? What makes a good texture/painter artist ? What are the next projects ? Why this Airbus 320 curse ? How to improve by crossing different tasks ? For Airdailyx, an extensive interview of Terrence Klaverweide, founder of the well known studio. To read on Airdailyx only




August 16th 2011 / McPhat Studios :


an interview with Terrence Klaverweide







1) Airdailyx : McPhat Studios is now diversifying activities to aircrafts cockpit texturing and non-aircraft projects. There is the ATR for X-Plane and Espen's new DC-9. Between these activities, are you expecting fruitful exchanges of knowledge and techniques, including for livery texturing ?







Terrence : Interior texturing -and especially virtual cockpits as 'old' as some of the DC-9's are- is a whole different ballgame when you compare it to exteriors. Different materials mostly, make the Coolsky DC-9 'a challenge' to say the least. You got your different metals, different paint, cloth, leather and so forth. The fact that we use 4096*4096 maps makes it -at times- a tedious task.  Add bump and specular mapping and you got a whole lot of detail on a very high pixel per meter ratio, that has to not only look good, but also match across the entire range.


We do exchange knowledge as some of us are remarkably better at interior texturing than others, but in the end we run a company, so if it is faster to have (say) Sara tackle a problem I can't handle on the DC-9 VC or visa versa, our first instinct is to pass it along to whomever is fastest and most proficient at it, instead of exchanging techniques. This isn't something new though and related to us now diversifying, we've always operated this way. The wings on the Captain Sim 757, the PMDG MD-11, PMDG 747 and now the NGX are all made by the same person (Snorri), I always do the fuselage bump and specular mapping, the soul of our HD textures (rivets) on the past 3 projects comes from Frank's hand.


We all have our own tasks in our operation and by sticking to it, we get more proficient at it. For example, Dhierin only had to do the research for the PW4000 series once (for the MD11), the LDS767 and the 747X went remarkably faster. The same goes for the 3D modelers. They do talk on a regular basis, but the teams are very much split at the moment, with 2 guys working on the ATR and 2 on the DC-9. Nicolas heads the NGX texture project at the moment so is off 3D duty.


But yes, the Texture Artists get to work closely with the 3D developers so knowledge is exchanged there where needed. Just yesterday we decided to do a completely new UV mapping for the ATR to get it up to par with our other Texture projects and at the same time raise the bar considerably for X-Plane. If it was up to me, we'd exchange thoughts, ideas, knowledge and techniques on a more frequent basis, but 'time' is not in our corner, so although everybody sees the benefits of taking a step back once in a while, exchanging techniques we also have deadlines and milestones to reach....





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2) Is it a long process to contact an aircraft designer and ask "permission" to make your own liveries ? Any memory of a designer who refused in the past to let you repaint his aircraft ?







Terrence : Not really, for most of the developers we work for now, we're on our second or third joint project. We either get asked, or we pitch ourselves if it is developer we have not worked for/with in the past. The only developer who wished not to work with us was Airsimmer. They already had Samdim Design on their team, so it was a decision we could only respect. The other one who we did not contact, because they expressed on their forums that they did not wanted 3rd parties to " make money of their product " was Aerosoft. By the way, remarkably enough, again an Airbus A320. Either way, enough reason not to contact them.

The relationships we have with the developers we worked for ranges from close to " we only spoke once and that was when we got the green light to  start the project ", but our goal is to have a close relationship with them. If a certain developer does not want us onboard, we could technically still work a project, as we work of our own kits (down to the pixel), but it's a take it or leave it kinda scenario. If a developer doesn't want it, it ends right there.





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747X High definition liveries (rivets and markings visible)




3) Airdailyx : A lot of designers are looking for painters and 3D artists all the time but what kind of advantages (not to speak about wages) a good painter can expect ? Are McPhat painters work on a full time base ?







Terrence : We have a very dedicated and talented team and even though none of them work on a full time base, you could almost say it is a fulltime job sometimes. I speak to most of them daily, 7 days a week, ranging from in the morning to sometimes 2hr, 3hr AM. I started McPhat Studios (officially as a company) 3,5 years ago. We have seen at least 20 or so team members ranging from painters to Texture Artists, but the guys that are with me now are still the same as 3 years ago.


We invest a lot of time in people, to reach a certain level of consistency. That is why one of the demands we have for new people is that they don't freelance what  most of the painters out there do, having multiple positions and roles within a variety of development groups.  I am not sure about the statement that " a lot of designers are looking for painters and 3D artists ". I make my 'developer rounds' at least once a week, and the teams are more or less set from what I see. A good thing if I you ask me, cause working with the same group of people project after project only adds to quality.





What kind of advantages does McPhat offer what others don't? I can't tell, as I can't peek in their kitchens, but I can tell you what we have and that is a group of very, very talented artists, something that has been proven three years ago, but still not too long ago when we received an AVSIM gold star award for our E-Jets (v2) textures. Next to being talented, I see a lot of dedication, not only to artwork, but also to the company itself. If I am knee-deep in work, I can always rely on at least one of my guys to be around to help me, whether or not it's Monday morning or Saturday evening. Last but not least, I see a lot of interest and know-how, not only for the Texture Artists in Photoshop or the 3D Artists in 3dsMax, but for a wide variety of programs, may it be Blender, may it be Vegas, may it be After Effects, may it be Illustrator. The fact that McPhat consists of creators in the widest sense of the word, and not 'just' Texture Artists or 3D artists, may very well be our best asset. 





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747X HDT livery : rivets of Korean airlines





4) About McPhat production of liveries for FS9/FSX, can we have a tip on futur projects ? Are you planning several PMDG 747X packages already and do you have some plans with... let's say... some Airbus designers ??




Terrence : -> Obviously we have the NGX lined up, something we've been looking forward to for a long time. The same four Texture Artists that worked on the 74, 76 and MD-11 are working on her and you can expect work in progress shots in the next couple of weeks. We postponed further releases of the 747X, mainly because the NGX kills any sales for our 747X World Airliners, so we're going to sit it out for a while, wait for the NGX dust to settle a bit before releasing the second installment of the 747X World Airliners.



-> If you go to the Wilco site, you'll find sneak peak announcement for their next two products. We're involved, but until the 'Guess and Win' contest has run its course, we can't tell you what they are. To be more precise, we can't tell you what these are until Wilco made the official announcement.



-> With the DC-9 for Flight1/Coolsky and the ATR for X-Plane we have our work cut out for us, so how things look at the moment, the texture-only projects mentioned will most probably be the last ones. I owe it not only to myself but also to the guys that have been with me for the past couple of years to make that next step and that is to move away from Texture-only projects and look for a wider range of possibilities (not persé limited to Flight Simulation).



You could say we worked with the 'big boys', we did all their flagship products. Talking about texture-only ; there is no higher goal -at the moment- than the NGX, so the time has come to broaden our horizon. With Nicolas, Jamal, Alfredo and Juan we have  -if I may say so- a lot of 3D power in-house, so the next logical step is to go from Texture only to offering a whole suite of graphics from interior and exterior 3D models to complementing interior and exterior textures. Whether or not this is going to be for other developers (like we do now for Coolsky) or solely in-house, that remains to be seen. I am very aware of our possibilities, but also of our limitations, which is why I have slowly started to 'talk' with befriended developers and publishers a couple of months ago to see what we can mean for them, and they for us. However, I would most definitely not say no to a Flightsimlab A320 or a PMDG Triple 7 in the future. Who knows?


Terrence





I specially thanks Terrence for this long interview while he is still very busy on many projects.


Dom Mason










More on the new 747X HDT livery pack :

http://airdailyx.blogspot.com/2011/08/mcphats-pmdg-747x-full-info-disclosed.html