Tuesday, 22 March 2016

How to Craft a Better Bio

Condense your life into just one paragraph. Four to five sentences of who you are and what you do. Writing a bio is an assignment many of us face when entering a new position, submitting our work for publication, or speaking at a conference. In my previous professional incarnations, I have asked countless people for their bios. In the process, I witnessed individuals who have won national honors, spent over two decades in their fields, or successfully built entire companies suddenly turn to ashen and blank-faced amnesiacs, incapable of recalling who they are or what they’ve done every day for the better part of their lives. 

Finding a way to efficiently wrap the complex, dynamic events and accomplishments of who you are into a brief paragraph is intimidating, but it isn’t impossible. A good first step is to sift through all those aforementioned events and accomplishments for the ones relevant to this bio. Just as you tailor your resume for different companies, you should tailor your bio just the same. The bio you give to The Knitting Guild Association to accompany your article on the history of worsted weight yarn is not going to be the same as the one you use for your administrative management position at Company Incorporated. While you are overflowing with skills and achievements, folks reading your bio only want the ones that prove you’re competent enough for them to listen to your opinions on the subject at hand. 

Now that you’ve narrowed down the subject matter arranging the information is the same as telling a story with you as the protagonist. Your opening sentence introduces who you are and your credentials. For example, let’s check with Sam, who is conveniently both a knitting expert and an administrative manager for Company Incorporated. For the sake of ambiguity, Sam will be referenced as the singular they:


Sam Smithey is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been knitting for over 20 years.


Sam Smithey earned their BA in Business Administration from the University of Michigan and has over ten years experience in business management.


The middle of your bio leads from the past to present, lining up your relevant achievements and what put you on this path in the first place. This space is your brag zone as well as a space to connect more of who you are without going on tangents. For instance, Sam mentions that they got into knitting from their high school knitting club, but doesn’t tell readers that they joined because their sophomore year the club covered the sculpture of their school’s mascot in a knit full body stocking. While Sam loves to tell this story to every knitter they meet, it has a time and place. When you have limited space, less detail is more:


They discovered their love of knitting when they joined their high school knitting club and since then they have won national competitions, been featured in Creative Knitting Magazine and published over 50 patterns on Ravelry. They also organize a local knitting circle which donates their work to local youth shelters.


For their professional bio, Sam leaves out the story about how their very first management project in third grade where they built and managed an entire gel pen black market on the playground for half a year before the teacher’s caught them. Instead they focus on their adulthood endeavors:


Sam had an interest and skill in business management from a young age. After graduating college, they worked for six years as an administrator with Small Co. In their time at Small Co., they grew to manage a six-person development team whose efforts were integral to the company’s growth from a startup to an established business.


Close out with the information that directly ties into what you’re doing with this work. In Sam’s case, it’s noting their history background and prior experience writing on knitting history:


A business administration major, Sam minored in contemporary art history and has published 15 articles on the history of knitting in the United States and how the craft has evolved and gained popularity with modern crafters.


Sam’s professional bio links their past with their present position at Company Incorporated:


In 2010, Sam brought their management experience to Company Incorporated, becoming Chief Organization Officer. In their time at Company Incorporated, they’ve overseen the marketing department as it’s grown into a ten person team.


Finally, once you have your bio drafted, have someone who knows your accomplishments in this field, a cohort, mentor, or friend, read your bio. You can do this. Thousands of anonymous strangers will glance at this paragraph, endure a moment of scrutiny from a knowledgeable source. Chances are, they will remember what you’ve forgotten to mention: the time you created an entire organizational system for your previous departments client files, or, as in Sam’s case, that you’ve created over 50 knitting patterns on Ravelry.


Putting it all together, this is what Sam’s two bios look like following this formula:


Sam Smithey is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has been knitting for over 20 years. They discovered their love of knitting when they joined their high school knitting club and since then they have won national competitions, been featured in Creative Knitting Magazine and published over 50 patterns on Ravelry. They also organize a local knitting circle which donates their work to local youth shelters. A business administration major, Sam minored in contemporary art history and has published 15 articles on the history of knitting in the United States and how the craft has evolved and gained popularity with modern crafters.


Sam Smithey earned their BA in Business Administration from the University of Michigan and has over ten years experience in business management. Sam had an interest and skill in business management from a young age. After graduating college, they worked for six years as an administrator with Small Co. In their time at Small Co., they grew to manage a six-person development team whose efforts were integral to the company’s growth from a startup to an established business. In 2010, Sam brought their management experience to Company Incorporated, becoming Chief Organization Officer. In their time at Company Incorporated, they’ve overseen the marketing department as it’s grown into a ten person team.

There it is, Sam’s 20 years of knitting experience and ten years of business administration work condensed into two soundbites. Now, what experiences and skills can you condense down into a single paragraph? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet @Swagger_Media! And if you're interested in a marketing copywriting project, our team is here to assist you. Give us a call at 832-831-7592!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Useful Techniques for Underwater Lighting in C4D

Having recently finished a Subsea animation for Swagger, I came across some lighting techniques I found useful to bring an underwater scene to life. Check out the clip:


My main goal for lighting an underwater scene in 3D is to give the viewer the impression that you are underwater without having to actually have water in your scene. This can be achieved in many different ways and like most things in 3D, there is not one right way to go about it. With that being said let’s dive into how I got this look!

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I started off with an Environment Object in Cinema 4D (C4D) to bring some fog into the scene. For this project, a majority of the action was on the seafloor. At that depth the water is dark and murky, most of the light doesn’t make it this far. An Environment Object helps give this murky look with the use of fog. This project had more of an artistic approach to it rather than a photo real look so I chose some blue shades. The strength and distance were dependent on how big my total environment was so I had to tweak these values until the edges of my scene were lost in the fog. This saves some time modeling but also left the impression that the seafloor was very far down.

Notice in the image below how this shot would look without fog (left) and how it does with the fog (right). The Environment Object also helped lessen the harshness of the shadows in my scene, which I found quite useful.

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The next step in my lighting process was to add some volumetric lights to the scene. A volumetric light casts beams of light that you can see, think of sunbeams shining through the trees or light shining into a dusty room. In C4D, there is a nifty option that applies this to any light you have under the Visible Light option. Rather than set up multiple light sources casting these beams and animating each one to move slightly different to get the underwater look I took advantage of some of the Mograph tools C4D has to offer.

Using Mograph cloners I set up an array of tubes that would be influenced by a Random Effector giving them a swaying motion. As the volumetric light passes through these the light gets split up, this gives multiple shadows/beams for just one light. This technique saved me quite a bit of time!

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With volumetric lighting and a nice fog environment, my next challenge was to get some caustics to show up on the seafloor. Caustics are light rays that are reflected or refracted by a curved surface. These can be easily seen in a swimming pool on a sunny day, they are the light glimmers on the bottom of the pool caused by the waves at the surface and how they bend the light. In the real world deep at the bottom of the sea, you likely wouldn’t see these as most of the light has dissipated, however, I wanted to add these to the scene to match my artistic approach. C4D has the option to add caustics to your lights but I took a different approach by creating a material and applying it to my light, causing it to act similarly to a projector!

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Utilizing the Transparency channel I animated a Cranal Noise that had its black and white values flipped. This noise would slowly move in the X and Z direction giving the impression of waves moving on the surface. This material was then applied to a blue spotlight and acted like an alpha; the light shining brightest through the areas of white in the noise and less so in the darker areas.

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In this image, you can see the difference between not having and having caustics in the scene. They add quite a bit more detail to the environment without being too complicated to set up. This shot would feel a whole lot different without their inclusion.

A final touch that I added to my scene was the addition of some negative lights. Surprisingly enough you can add lights to a scene that have a negative brightness value. What this does is add dark areas to your scene that you can easily control.

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Setting up a few of these negative lights in my scene gave me control on what areas I wanted darker with ease. I also found that they helped exaggerate some of the colors thrown out by my volumetric and caustic casting lights which was an overall perk.

In my scene, I only used three of these negative lights and you can see below the incredible difference between not having them and having them in the scene!

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What sort of useful lighting techniques have you used for projects deep in the ocean depths or above it? What lighting features do you find useful that you haven’t noticed before in your software? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet @Swagger_Media! And if you’re interested in a 3D animation project, our team is here to assist you. Give us a call at 832-831-7592!