When I first started out in architecture, CAD was a thing, but when it came to drawings, manual draughting ruled. The first time I encountered CAD, was whilst working in Hong Kong, for a company called ArcPac. There, they had four workstations running AutoCAD 11. Recognising the potential, I quickly made myself useful on these machines and began to learn the dark art of computer aided drawing within a multinational team. We had a big group of Filipinos working in the office at the time, among them, one Jocelyn Sanchez (Jos). Jos, was brilliant; dedicated in her work, she never suffered fools, but was always patient and helpful toward those prepared to work hard, and give things a go. The CAD skills that I learned in Hong Kong, proved the foundation for the 3D skills I would later use in my TV work. To this day, I still repeat the mantra that I learned from Jos, namely that when using computers, “It’s easier to do it right, than it is to do it wrong”. We came to refer to this as Sanchez Law.
Jos was referring to the ability of a package like AutoCAD to produce drawings of previously unparalleled accuracy. If you wanted to draw a line exactly 1200mm long, then you drew a line 1200mm long. What used to wind Jos up, would be working on someone elses drawings, and finding lines that were 1200.3mm long, instead of 1200mm. Not only did that .3mm mess up the dimensions, but like the pea beneath the mattress in the fairy tale, it’s inaccuracy would infect every other part of the drawing. What made this worse, was that the inaccuracy would inevitably be the result of sloppiness. Indeed, it really was harder to make a line 1200.3mm long, than it was to make one 1200mm long.
I don’t use CAD much these days, but I do of course make plenty of use of 3D software, namely 3DS Max. I still work accurately, and to the mm as far as practically possible, but when you have the ability to input using parametric modelling, why wouldn’t you? If you need an object to be a specific size, then you create it at that specific size. Buildings and sets are, for the most part, pretty rectangular and ordered affairs. Curves might be a bit trickier, but it’s still easy enough to create them with sufficient precision. If a rectangular, or even a circular element is meant to be 1200mm across, create it 1200mm across…unless of course, you don’t know that it’s meant to be 1200mm across. Maybe that’s the problem? Are people producing inaccurate work, because they don’t fully understand what they are describing in their models and drawings?
I do sometimes get sent other people’s models, but have learnt to refuse to use them, except for reference. When you take care with your own work, it’s infuriating to find yourself within someone elses model, where the ground plane should be at zero, but is in fact at 104.128mm. Life (and work) is so much simpler if we do things properly, when we are provided the tools to do so. Because the ground plane is at 104.128, nothing else will be in the correct place, and every derivative part of the model will be equally inaccurate. I don’t understand how 0.00 ended up as 104.128, because my experience (and Sanchez Law) tells me that it would have been easier to do it right, than it was to do it wrong.
Jocelyn Sanchez, you were a genius, ahead of your time, and I’m glad that my 23 year old self listened to you back then!
Above is the wide shot from the Thursday Focus show, broadcast on Manchester United’s MUTV channel. This set, is one of a group of virtual set designs I have been preparing for the channel. The show is broadcast from a new greenscreen studio, and utilises the Newtek Tricaster system.
Time permitting, I’ll add more details for this project to the portfolio section in the coming weeks.
Screen grabs of one of my latests projects, a set of animated, and still backdrops for Sky Sports News HQ, which relaunched with a new set on August 12th. The scene is based on designs initially prepared by Jago Design (formerly BDA) and portrays a much more open architecture than my previous design from 2011.
The architectural details and lighting within the scene are a direct continuation of the designs for the physical studio and newsroom spaces.
I am currently working on the design and production of a batch of virtual sets for the Met Office. The Met Office, based in Exeter, have their own studio facilities equipped with the Newtek Tricaster. The pre-packaged sets that come with the Tricaster are poor and overly generic, so the Met Office approached Lightwell to deliver a superior quality, bespoke solution. The final versions of these sets are due to go live later this summer, but The Met Office were so pleased with some of the original concepts I produced, that they have already began using these in some of their online webcasts (see above).
The final versions of these virtual sets will feature a fully resolved design and be of higher resolution and finished to a greater level of accuracy and detail.