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From GSG to Rocket Lasso with Chris Schmidt

By Adam Korenman

If you ever tried to learn about Cinema 4D, you must have come across Chris Schmidt

They say when you get to the top of the mountain, you should turn around and help the people behind you. We're fortunate in our industry that so many artists share their hard-earned knowledge with the next generation. Our guest today made a name for himself in the early days of Greyscalegorilla, but he took all his passion and talent and strapped it to a rocket... and now he's handing you a rope to lasso on.
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Chris Schmidt is a really good 3D artist. Like really good. As in, he's kind of a legend with Cinema 4D. Chris was one half of the wacky Greyscalegorilla team back in the early days of the site, and quickly gained a reputation for his MacGyver-like ability to rig things up in the most clever ways imaginable. Some of his tutorials were instant classics, and helped many artists learn their way around Cinema 4D.

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In this chat, Chris talks about how he ended up at Greyscalegorilla, how he approaches learning complex software, and what he’s doing now with his own company, Rocket Lasso. His philosophies on developing skills, developing a business, and cultivating a community are super useful to anyone in this field.
Strap in tight, because we are t-minus ten seconds to lift off. It's time to shoot for the moon with Chris Schmidt.

The Cinema 4D Adventures of the Legendary Chris Schmidt

Show Notes

LEARNING RESOURCES

ARTISTS

MEETUPS

TOOLS

STUDIOS

Transcript

Joey:
This is the School of Motion podcast. Come for the Mograph, stay for the puns.
Chris:
At that point, okay. I have now familiarized myself with the interface. I know what some of the buttons are. I have a context in my head for it. Now open up the help. Don't go straight to a tutorial. If you just watch a tutorial on something new, you don't have a context. You're just like, "Okay," you're watching their mouse and you try and keep up with what they're doing. But if you've already tinkered and you're like, "Okay, I already kind of figured out what that did. But this other setting, I'm not sure what that does." And then when the person in the video tutorial says what it does, you're like, "Oh, okay. That fills in this gap in my knowledge," instead of it just being this pile and stream of information.
Joey:
Greetings, fellow human. Today we've got a pretty amazing episode for you, featuring a guy that I've been a fan of for many, many years. If you're a Cinema 4D user, there's a really good chance that you have learned a thing or two or 10,000 from Chris Schmidt. Chris was one half of the wacky Greyscalegorilla team back in the very early days of the site and quickly gained a reputation for his MacGyver-like ability to rig things up in the most clever ways imaginable. Some of his tutorials were instant classics and helped me and many other artists learn our way around Cinema 4D before there were the million and one learning choices that you now have. In this chat, Chris talks about how he ended up at Greyscalegorilla, how he approaches learning complex software like Cinema 4D, and what he's doing now with his own company, Rocket Lasso. His philosophies on developing skills, developing a business and cultivating a community are super useful to anyone in this field. So buckle up, here comes Chris Schmidt right after we hear from one of our incredible alumni.
Speaker 1:
My name is Chris Gibson and I'm from Jacksonville, Florida. I never had any formal training in animation or even after effects. I've been doing freelance motion design for almost four years before I took any school of motion courses. I started with animation bootcamp and it was just insane how much my skill increased during that one course. These courses are for anybody who wishes to make a living in the motion graphics industry. School of Motion changed my career and put it down a path that I'd always hoped it would go. It's a life changer. My name is Chris Gibson and I'm a School of Motion graduate.
Joey:
Chris Schmidt. Dude, it's amazing to have you on the podcast. And we were talking really briefly before recording and I have to say every time I hear your voice, it just brings me back to before I actually had met you and knew you because I listened to hours of you teaching me Cinema 4D before I ever met you. So dude, thank you for coming on. It's awesome to have you.
Chris:
Oh, thank you so much. I'm very proud to be among the lineup of amazing people that you've had on this podcast.
Joey:
Amazing and not so amazing. I like to mix it up. I'm just kidding. Everyone who's been on is like questioning, "Am I one of the amazing ones or not?" So as I mentioned, I, like I'm pretty sure most people who learned Cinema 4D around the time I did, learned a lot of it from you and from Nick at Grayscale and I want to get into that. But one of the things that always struck me about you is you... And I'm going to pay you a huge compliment now. You to me were always the Andrew Kramer of Cinema 4D because you had this ability to take this really complex software with a million different parts to it and you would combine the parts in these really clever ways to make things possible that didn't seem possible before. And I'm always curious when I meet people like that who have an ability to connect things that are far apart in your brain and make something new out of it, where that comes from. So I thought I'd start by just asking you about your childhood, as cliche as that is. What was a young Chris Schmidt like?
Chris:
Oh man. Well, there's actually a couple of different phases. But growing up when other kids would get ninja turtle action figures, I would get Legos. When other kids got G.I. Joe, I got more Legos. It was just more Legos, more Legos, more Legos, and I still have that entire collection today. And I really do think that my brain got wired in a particular way because of the way that I played with Legos. So you never know the chicken and the egg type thing there where it was like, "Oh, did I like Legos because my brain was a certain way or is my brain a certain way because I was so exposed to Legos?" But my favorite color Lego brick is still my favorite color today. Or the way I like to learn and the way I work is very much the way that I had tinkered back in the day. I'm not a very visual person.
I combine things and then take them apart and combine them and take them apart and combine them and take them apart. So it's a very additive and subtractive process, which is always the way I built, and now it's the way I play and I learn. But actually, when I was really young, I was really kind of crazy outgoing and then my family moved and then I feel like I was a fairly normal average kid. And then we moved again, and once we moved again, I got very shy and I had just a handful of people I hung out with very closely and it actually took until around college to start breaking out of my shell again and want to not be so shy. But yeah, just a fairly normal childhood besides moving a couple of times. It was good.
Joey:
Yeah, interesting. So let's go back to the Legos for a minute because I have kids and my oldest daughter is obsessed with Legos. She's actually finishing up a 2000 piece Lego set right now. It's the Stranger Things upside down house. It's really cool.
Chris:
Oh yeah, that one's great.
Joey:
It's really cool. So she loves Legos, but she really loves following the instructions piece by piece and building up this elaborate thing. But then my son who's younger, he's almost six so he probably can't follow instructions on anything anyway, but he likes the opposite. He likes to just have a pile of stuff and just turn it into whatever's in his head. So which kind of Lego person were you?
Chris:
I guess it's going to constantly relate back to Cinema 4D and the way I work these days. But it definitely is a combination of both being the technical and the creative, where if I got a new set, it would get built. I would build every set and it might live on the shelf for a while. It might be, if there's a new spaceship and I was currently doing space games, then it would be heavily involved. Even if I was playing medieval Lego, maybe there were spaceships involved. But after a while, it's like, "Okay, that got destroyed in some action battle scene and now those pieces are available to build whatever I want." And at the end of the day, almost everything ended up as my own creation inside of what was built, but I would always build it.
Although as quick note on that with Lego, the instructions back when we were younger and what the instructions look like today are very different. Back when we would have to work from the instructions, every given page had so many steps that you had to do. And these days the books are 10 times thicker because each page is like, "Here's one or two things you do. Okay, did you get that? Now move on." Where before we had to do a where's Waldo of, "Wait, what changed? What do I have to add? I don't understand." So I feel like they took away a little bit of the challenge with that, which, I don't know, on one level is kind of sad.
Joey:
That's really funny. It's making me think about one of the... It's not really a criticism, but I think there's a certain element of the industry where it's almost a stereotype of the old timer, the curmudgeon that, "Ah, I used to have to get on Creative Cow-"
Chris:
"Back in the day." Yeah.
Joey:
Now I can just get on Rocket Lasso and watch a tutorial. That's really funny. So I want to talk about, you mentioned this, you said when you were really young, you felt like an extrovert. And then through moving, and obviously that can be really scary as a kid, you became more and more introverted. But I wanted to dive into that a little bit. My take on introvert, extrovert, it's a little different than most people. I see it as introvert doesn't mean you're shy. I'm an introvert, but I'm not shy. But when I'm around a lot of people, I get exhausted very quickly. Versus there are people I know who are very shy, but they love being around people. Even though they're kind of timid, they get energy from it. So introvert, extrovert has to do with energy. And then you have shy and outgoing, which are not necessarily correlated. And I'm curious how you see yourself, because I think a lot of artists, especially 3D artists, tend to see themselves as introverts, whether they are actually introverts or not. But you said you were an extrovert at first?
Chris:
Well yeah, I guess the usage I was doing was splitting your definition, although I would completely agree with your definition. The way I tend to describe it to people is, "Where do I charge my batteries?" There's people who like to charge their batteries at home and there's people who charge the batteries by going out and doing things. And I am definitely a charge your batteries at home type of person. If I'm going to go do some sort of event, like in a past life, we used to do trade shows. And mentally it's like, "Okay, I'm going to a trade show. I'm going to be around people for a week. I'm very prepared for this." And if it's like, "Oh, there's a party in a month. Oh cool, I'm looking forward to that."
But if somebody would show up and say, "Hey, there's a party happening right now. Do you want to go?" No, I am not prepared for this. I thought it was going to be a quiet night and I need some setup time before I get there. So I completely agree with you along those lines. I think I've always been that way, recharging my batteries at home. And these days, it's rough for people everywhere and I'm super lucky as far as current conditions. I feel like I'm in a super privileged position where I already had my own space that I could work from and we've already got this isolated bubble and that's all been working really well. But I have been finding that it's really easy to be like, "Okay, I'm not going to be interacting with people," and really going into your shell a whole bunch.
Joey:
Yeah. And I should mention for everyone listening, we're recording this November 5th. And it's really interesting too, what a strange time to be doing what we do because you do it on a computer and it's one of the many things that once you figure out the dynamics of working remotely and using Zoom and Slack and things like that, your day to day actually, depending on your situation, if you have young kids at your house, that's a different story. But if you don't, your day-to-day doesn't actually change that much. And I think there's good things and bad things about that. I wanted to ask you about the recharging thing, because that's exactly how I feel about it. And for me, one of the big eye-openers that really helped me realize how I work was when I hosted the Blend conference several years ago. It was the first time I'd done anything like that.
And while I was up on stage, and I don't know, there's probably 300 or 400 people there, I'm a musician so I'm used to performing in front of people and I got so fired up and I loved it. And then I'd come off and you get swarmed with people. And I know you've had this experience too. And then five minutes later, I'm like, "I need a nap. I loved it. It was super fun, but God I'm tired now." So how is that experience for you? When you go to NAB for example, and you're presenting at the [inaudible 00:11:15] booth, everyone recognizes you because you've been teaching Cinema 4D online very visible for probably more than a decade now. So how does that affect your energy levels? How do you manage that?
Chris:
I don't know how to describe it overly well, but it is a fairly unique thing doing some of these trade shows like NAB, SIGGRAPH. And a year ago I got to do the 3D Motion Tour and I got to travel a bunch of cities in Europe. And that was almost a month on the road straight, which was super crazy and not something I'd ever experienced before. But because I'm in an environment there where everybody is a motion graphics nerd, everybody knows Cinema 4D, these are a lot of people I'm very familiar with, I'm friends with, I barely get to see, I actually do feel like it flips in my head.
For that week, for the week of NAB, I have almost unlimited energy, I'm one of the first people to be like, "Hey, let's go do something." I'm one of the last people to go back to my room. I will complete my presentation at the Maxon booth and just be ready to go. And for that week, I get to pretend to be extroverted. And I think it's just I get to be around a bunch of people I really love and it utterly flips the script for me, where I don't want to be back in my room.
Joey:
I really love the way you put that. You get to pretend to be an extrovert for a week. I feel similar, although at the end of the night, every single night of NAB, I always find myself back in my room, just my shoulders drop four inches and then I just collapse.
Chris:
Oh yeah, you sleep very, very well at NAB. But it even goes through going back, depending on how early of at night it was or having a little bit time in the morning, it's like, "Okay, I'm just going to lay in bed. I'm going to watch a YouTube video, just like be here." And it's like, "Okay, cool. Now let's go find people and head out again."
Joey:
Yeah, exactly. Oh, okay. You're making me crave NAB. Hopefully 2021 it comes back.
Chris:
I know, I'm so sad.
Joey:
It's going to happen. It's going to happen. I'm optimistic. All right. Let's jump into your career. So in the pre-interview questionnaire, you said something I thought was really interesting. You said that something you actually regretted about your early career was that you, and I think this is what you said, you never had the trial by fire that so many people experience at a larger studio with difficult productions. And I've heard you in other interviews talk about this. You basically jumped from working at a company as the 3D guy to Greyscalegorilla it seems like. So what did you mean by that quote, not having that experience of working at a studio? What do you think you missed out on?
Chris:
I think that there's a very formative time for everybody. Well, for a lot of people where they get the shit kicked out of them, they're getting kicked all over the place in the studio life where they're working insane hours and they're hitting insane deadlines and they have nightmare clients and it's never ending, nightmare bosses and they can't wait to get out of there. But they're also creating great work and you're young, you're at a time of your life where you've got all this energy and this is a place that can burn all of that energy at an equivalent amount. And I never got to do that. And I know a lot of people who have gone through that experience, I think it's very formative. It's kind of like when people are like, "Oh, they went away to college. It's super formative." In the life of a motion designer, I feel like this is another one of those things that defines the rest of your career.
And I had it very casual. And to be able to look back at a time where I was capable of this output. I was capable of working under fire in these situations, I think it helps define your limits. And you could always think back to that and be like, "I never want to do that again, but I know I'm capable of it." And in addition to that, just being in an environment of a lot of people working together, learning how other people work, especially because I was working in a very small art department in my first 3D job. Well, my first job was teaching Cinema 4D, which is funny. But after that, I was working at a very small studio.
There was two people who did drafting. There was one person who worked in Photoshop who created signage all day and I was doing the 3D renders for the company. So I didn't have other like-minded artists around me who were pushing me, where I seeing other points of view, other perspectives and just getting kicked around in an environment where it's like, "Oh wait, I have to live up to this person's expectation." Actually, that's another good addition to that is I think almost everybody does, but I really thrive in competitive areas. If I'm in a room and there's somebody else doing a better job than me, I'm going to work way harder. And instead, I went to a company where I had no competition and the person I had replaced, I was doing in a very short time what was taking them a long time.
So I actually had incredible amounts of free time. So it was the opposite environment. Luckily I was into Cinema 4D enough that I was spending most of my time just learning more and more and more Cinema 4D and that's where I got a lot of my technical background was I just kept on exploring. But I would've really loved to have been in an environment like back when I was at school where it's like, "Oh, these other students are creating these amazing things. I have to try even harder." And yeah, I wish I had that.
Joey:
Yeah, that's interesting. I think a lot of people, if they imagine going and working at a studio, probably the thing that they're imagining is their skills will improve and that that's the main reason to do something like that. And I think that's a side effect of being there, but the more important thing is what you hit on. It's your confidence improves. You get put in a situation where it's impossible and you're being given a design that you have no idea how the hell to animate this thing, but you have two days to do it and the client has big expectations and you pull it off. And that's way better and more important I think in the long run than just getting a little better, getting incrementally better at your craft.
Chris:
Yeah, it's this kind of thing you wouldn't want to do it, but you're glad you've done it.
Joey:
Yes.
Chris:
It's in the past behind you. It's like when people get really sick and it's like, "I wouldn't want to live through this again, but it changed my life and it changed my life for the better." So it's not something [crosstalk 00:17:33] wish for yourself, but yeah. But it's one of those things, I miss it or I feel left out a little bit when I think about it sometimes.
Joey:
Yeah, that's interesting. Well, it worked out in the end for you and you found yourself at the ground zero for the online Cinema 4D training revolution, I guess. And so that's how I heard about you was through Greyscalegorilla. So how did you end up meeting Nick and getting involved in the early days of Greyscale?
Chris:
This is going back quite a ways now, we're talking 15, 16 years ago, Cinema 4D was just starting to make a name for itself. And there were no user groups. There were no meetings. And there was an online forum that some people were like, "Hey, is anybody in Chicago?" And a couple people met up and everybody's like, "Hey, this is cool. We should do it regularly." So me and a friend Jack started having regular monthly meetups where we're going to go and we're going to sit down and we're going to talk about Cinema 4D. And at the time we had a friend at Columbia College here in Chicago and they would give us a classroom and we'd just meet up and we'd just get a handful of people, handful of people. And it was like five people, three people, six people.
And it slowly started growing and eventually it got large enough where some people are showing up from studios. And then eventually we said, "Hey, would you like to host at your studio?" And as soon as we did that, everything changed. Suddenly it was like, "Oh, this is a real cool thing. People want to come out and visit a studio, that studio would give a presentation." And the very first studio presentation we went to do is the first one that Nick showed up. However, I didn't end up speaking with Nick at all that night. We were both there the entire time, but we just never crossed paths. And it was like, "Oh, that's that guy who started doing all of these tutorials online." And we didn't meet there. And then I think months went by and then another meetup happened that he happened to go to, and that one we actually spoke at it for a while.
And actually I can tell you very specifically, he went to a meetup we had. We couldn't find of proper venue so we actually had it at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which was pretty cool, in their meeting room. And that day, by sheer coincidence, cinema 4D R12 had come out, 12.5. And back in the day there, I was not in the beta, I didn't know Maxon terribly well. The version came out that morning. I was like, "Holy cow, we have a meetup tonight. I'm going to learn this new version of Cinema." And I presented all the new features that night. And that was the version where they added motors and axles and connectors. I did a presentation where I made this toy car and it jumped up a ramp and crashed through some boxes. And afterward Nick came up to me.
He goes, "Can you record exactly what you just did for my website?" And that was the beginning of him and I starting to do a little bit of work together. And that was my very first tutorial on Greyscalegorilla, which was really fun. And then we were tinkering along those lines and then we both got invited to NAB. And I'd been presenting and helping out Maxon for a couple of years, but we were both at NAB and that's where we really sat down and we were talking and he's talking about some projects he was thinking about, and he's talking about making this city generator and he's discussing the way he was thinking of doing it. I was like, "I got a way better way of doing that. Here's my idea. I could do this and do this and this." He's like, "Dude, we're making this." And that was the start of this being a real thing.
Joey:
That's incredible. And so in the beginning, I'm-
Chris:
[inaudible 00:21:01] a real thing.
Joey:
That's incredible. And so in the beginning, I'm imagining, and it's probably very similar to the way school motion started, where, even when you have a product, and I don't remember what the first Greyscalegorilla product was, the first one I remember was the Light Kit. And so maybe that was the first one. And actually, I know Nick had some iPhone apps he was selling before that. It's really funny, the things that you try and that fail. Actually School of Motion used to sell a Cinema 4D plugin. That was actually the first product that we had before we had a... And actually, it's funny that I get to tell you this on this podcast now. So the plugin, and if there's any OG School of Motion fans out there, you might remember this. So the plugin was called scenery.
It was basically this one-click thing. And it would add an object into your scene that would make a seamless floor and a sky, basically would generate a [inaudible 00:21:57]. But it was all sort of faked. It was like, a disc was the floor and it had an alpha texture on it so that the floor faded out. And then there was a sky object and it would add a gradient that would seamlessly feather the colors together. And there's all these features and you could add some texture to the floor or stuff like that. And I really wanted it to be a plugin. I wanted it to be in the plugin menu. I wanted it to have its own icon. And I didn't know how to do that. It was just an elaborate Xpresso rig. And I think I had some Python nodes in there trying to drive some things. And I didn't know how the hell to do it, but I knew that you guys did.
So I bought, I think, Transform, and I kind of reverse engineered how you did that. So that's how I figured out how to turn it into what appeared to be a plugin. But anyway, the original point I was making was in the early days, I don't know at what point Greyscale was actually generating enough revenue to support paying Nick a salary and never-mind paying someone else a salary. So what was sort of the pitch from Nick? Do you remember? Was he sort of like, "Hey, let's just try this." Or was it already kind of a real business where it was, "Hey, come on, and we're going to do this, and this will be how we split things." How did it end up working?
Chris:
Yeah. Nick had the... I think Greyscalegorilla was getting to be about a year old when I first started getting involved. And I ended up being there for a little bit more than nine years. So of the 10 years that Greyscalegorilla was around, I was there for nine of them, to the point where a lot of people thought I co-founded it, but it was like, "No, it was always Nick's company," but I got to sort of be a partner in it. I got there very early and I got to... Because Nick was a very visual person. I was very technical. So the skills complemented each other very well.
Joey:
That's a great combo, yeah.
Chris:
You are correct. The first tool that Nick released was Light Kit, and that lived in the content browser, and it was an Xpresso rig. It was a couple of Xpresso rigs.
Then I got involved and it was very similar. I made a City Kit and that also lived in the content browser and lots of Xpresso running that. I'm actually still really sad because I spent a lot of time making some very elaborate things for City Kit, and it just ended up calculating too slow and Xpresso couldn't handle what I was trying to ask it to do. So we ended up ripping tons of things out from it. I had all these building generators and you could generate an infinite number of variety of all the buildings. So that was a little bit sad. But anyway, we launched that tool and it did quite well, and I was kind of blown away. It was like, wow, this is pretty incredible. And I'm a very... How do I say this? When it comes to my career, I'm very methodical, very intentional.
So I sat on that for a while and I was thinking about it and thinking about what I wanted to do in the future. I'm also a very, I don't want to say frugal, but I can't think of a better word. I don't do a lot of frivolous spending, so I had some savings. It's like, "You know what? I think that this making products could work." And Nick and I had already been talking about it. And I told him that, "Yes, let's do it." I actually was with him at his bachelor party, and we were riding roller coasters. And I do not like heights. And I was doing terrible. We went on this crazy roller coaster, him, a bunch of his old college friends and whatnot. And I ended up getting a leg cramp and you're trapped in the machine, so I couldn't get out and my leg was killing me.
But after all of that, I don't know if it was just part of the adrenaline and whatnot, but when that day was over, I was like, "You know what? I think this is a good idea. I think that I can jump and try this new business thing." And the way City Kit was doing, we were like, "Hey, as long as we can keep on making that type of thing, we can make a living and we can keep on creating education." And yeah, that's when I made the decision to fully jump on board. I did not actually become an employee of the company for the better part of...
I want to say, five of the years I worked with Greyscalegorilla, I was an independent contractor. I was not part of the company. Him and I had worked out a deal where we each got a percentage of the tool. Every everything we sold was just split on the percentage that we came up with. And we just moved forward that way. When I eventually did officially become a part of the company, virtually nothing changed, but it's just funny that I didn't actually work for Greyscalegorilla for so many years.
Joey:
Yeah. Well, it was similar with School of Motion too in the beginning. I think for the first year and a half, two years that there were other people besides me working on it, everyone was paid as a contractor, mostly because I didn't know how to have employees, and especially because everyone's in other states with us. I wanted to just point something out that just popped into my brain. We were talking about these elaborate Xpresso rigs. And I don't know if you're a listener and you don't use Cinema 4D, or even if you do, but you're at the beginner level, you may not know what Xpresso is. And we've got tutorials at School of Motion. Chris has tutorials at Rocket Lasso. So there might still be some at Greyscale that you can go check out on their YouTube channel, but I'm sure there's a bunch on plus. But it's essentially a visual scripting language. You're using nodes and things like that.
And one of the craziest things I've ever seen, and I'm pretty sure, I think you made this, Chris, but I saw a video of you presenting, I think at Half Rez, a platform game that ran and you literally could play it. It was all built out of Xpresso. And you showed the Xpresso node tree and it's like that meme, the crazy guy with post-it notes all over his wall and yarn connecting everything. It literally looked like that. That was one of the silliest, most ingenious, pointless things I've ever seen.
Chris:
Yeah, it was amazing. It's been my goal for a long time at Half Rez. And for anyone who doesn't know, under normal conditions every year, we have a big conference in Chicago all about motion graphics that I've been running since the beginning. And this year would have been number nine. And it's my goal... I present almost every year. And even when I don't present, I try and use Cinema 4D and just do something completely absurd, completely impractical. So one year I made a flight simulator as a tutorial, as a presentation. I've turned it into a pinball machine where there's physical buttons that are driving the game. But this one, I think it was actually my favorite of the projects, that Joey's talking about is we wrote some code. We did write some code, there was two nodes. And what they did is they would accept the inputs from an Xbox controller.
I think that was pretty much the only Python. So I would get those in as true or false, like, is up being hit? True or false. Is down being hit? True or false. That's all that it did. And then everything else was Xpresso. And we built a full-on Smash Brothers. It was called Half Rez Cinema Smash. And you played as two cubes and you would battle each other and try and knock each other off the level. And it was all dynamically driven and the level would fall apart and there was thinking particles going on. It was absolutely absurd. The game would automatically reset and there was power ups and you could transform it to a sphere so you could roll faster, but you hit harder as a cube. You could double jump and... It was utterly absurd and it was actually really fun to play.
Joey:
We're going to link to it in the show notes. You have to watch the video because, honestly, when I had said earlier, you're the Andrew Kramer of Cinema 40, it's stuff like that where, how do you even think that that's a possibility, that that's a thing that could be made? I don't know, man. I feel like that's a gift. I don't know what the name of that gift is or how useful that gift really is, but you have it, man. That's amazing. And speaking of Half Rez, everybody should definitely have that on the radar. I was supposed to speak at it this year, Chris. I'm really bummed. But next year, whether I get invited to speak or not, I'm going to come.
Chris:
No, you're already... Essentially, because it couldn't happen this year, all that went on pause. And as soon as it can open up again, we just continue from that point forward.
Joey:
I'm dying. I'm dying to get back to Chicago, because I got to go earlier, right before the thing happened. I got to go hang out at Sarofsky and be part of a panel there. I did not get deep dish pizza while I was there, so I need to fix that. Let's talk about Rocket Lasso, which is your company that you started and it seems like it's growing. I went to your YouTube channel this morning. You got a lot of videos. You got a lot of really good tutorials on there and a ton of followers. So can you just walk us through the decision to move on from Greyscalegorilla and to start your own thing from scratch? That's got to be scary. You're at this big thing and you're going to leave and start your own thing. That must have been a big decision.
Chris:
Yeah, it was super tricky. When I went to Greyscalegorilla, it was pretty amazing because we were making it up as we went and I was pretty much creating my own job description. I was getting to make the job I wanted to. And of course, there's lots of things you don't want to do on any given day where you have to do tons of customer support and be on a schedule to create tutorials and you just don't have an idea that week, or you want to be focused on this other project. So it's not like you get to do everything you want all the time. But I was getting to do education, which I love, and I was getting to create tools, which is my favorite thing, and play in Cinema 4D. So those are all amazing things. And we kept on moving forward and the company continued to grow.
We eventually hired one of my brothers, and then Greyscalegorilla hired Chad Ashley. We hired another one of my brothers. Both of them are full-time coders, C++ and Python, but the company was continuing to grow that way. And like I said, I was there for nine years. My brothers were actually employees longer than I was. And then, essentially, it got to a point where, and I'm not going to get too specific, but Nick had some new ideas for the company, some new directions he wanted to go. And I thought that these could be really successful ideas and it was just going in a direction I wasn't super interested in. And it's not a secret anymore now. Everybody knows about Greyscalegorilla Plus, but for a long time, it's was like, "Well, we'll let Nick do his thing."
I wasn't a big fan of the idea for myself. I was like, "Dude, this could be a really successful business idea. This might be just better on all levels." But I liked our chaotic freedom. And once you have a subscription, then you are very beholden to your audience, where it's like, "Here's a schedule. We're going to deliver these things." And I liked our kind of wild, crazy randomness of being able to come up with a crazy idea and pursue that on a whim. And I was really kind of sad about it because it was just, at that point, we talked about it a lot and it just ended up being a difference in philosophy. So it was really tricky. And I have to say, well, there's a certain point where I was thinking about it for a long time. As I said, I'm very methodical. I thought about it for a long time. I had a lot of savings, just because I don't spend anything. And my brothers were...
I spoke with my brothers a lot about it. And we were like, "Yeah, this is something that we think we can do. We are well-experienced. We have an audience of people." And essentially, I wanted to keep on doing more of what we were doing, keep on doing more. So it was really... I want to give Nick a lot of credit because I had contacted him and said, "Hey, can I come and visit?" And he lives in a different state. So I drove to his place. And I guess when one of your employees says, "Hey, can we talk?" And they're going to go drive more than four hours to come visit, it's like, "Okay, well, there's only a handful of things that that could be."
But Nick was super cool about everything, especially... It was in the context of like, "Listen, I want to keep on doing what we're doing. And I think I want to start my own business and continue making tools for cinema and keep making education and tutorials." But I love the open community and having a Slack channel where anybody can join as long as they're being cool. And that night, Nick and I hung out, we went to a couple of bars, we got dinner. I stayed the night at his place. We were reminiscing about the original tutorials, and he couldn't have been more gracious. So it's super props to Nick. And for anybody who doesn't know, Nick and I are still cool. We still talk, we talk on the phone. He's going to be a guest on one of my live streams when the new season begins. So I'm really looking forward to that. They're doing great stuff over there. And yeah, like I always thought that Plus could be a very successful thing, but I kind of like that controlled chaos.
Joey:
Yeah. So first of all, I just have to say, I'm probably saying this on behalf of everybody listening too, that it makes me so happy to hear that you and Nick are still good buddies. Because I remember finding out that you were leaving the company and everyone wonders like, "Oh my God, what happened?" It's like your favorite band breaking up or something. And in most cases it's that cliche of artistic differences. And it sounds like that's essentially what it was, and probably also a little bit of a lifestyle thing too. I think one thing I 100% agree with you on, and this is one of the reasons that I didn't...
I'll never say never, but School of Motion doesn't have a subscription model, and it was basically because I was afraid of turning on that treadmill that can now never be turned off. That was kind of the idea behind it. And I've seen... It's interesting. I was just talking to somebody about Patreon. And I think Rocket Lasso has a Patreon, so let me ask you about that. Because to me, Patreon is great in theory, but it's also a form of a treadmill that can't turn off. And I guess it depends on what you're promising at the different tiers and things like that. It sounds like you kind of like the sporadic nature of the non-subscription model. You don't have to have something every Tuesday, right. You could have five things one week and nothing the next week and that's okay. But with Patreon, aren't you kind of making some promises then?
Chris:
Yes. That's definitely a big variable there. I was very careful with how I set up the Patreon. And the Patreon isn't some crazy thing. Essentially, people ask how it does. And it's like, "Well, it's a side thing just to help us out." And right now, it pays for our health insurance is essentially what it does. So that's more of a breakeven tool. With Patreon, a lot of people who set up on those funding platforms over promise. And I knew the dangers of over promising. So this was more like, "Hey, you get early access to the videos. You get access to the scene files." I'm very open [inaudible 00:36:50]. There's no physical media. Never do physical media. At Greyscalegorilla, There was one point where we did t-shirts and the shirts got shipped to the office. And I was busy with a project, but other people had to make the boxes, put it in and get the labels, ship it to strange countries, just an insane process. I knew not to do that.
So as much as I could, the Patreon is set up, and it's the way I even present it in the videos, which like, "Hey, do you like these free tutorials? Do you like the free live streams? Do you want to get access to some bonus live streams? You want to get access to the scene files? If so, if you want support, then come find us on Patreon." But otherwise, I'm not making too much in the way of exclusive content on there. It's more a, "Hey, do you like what I'm presenting and you want to support it?" So it's kind of like, "Okay, do you want to support this chaotic schedule?"
Having said that, I do really enjoy the live streams. And that was another one of the big things that was going to be changing at Greyscalegorilla was that there was going to be less of a focus on any live streams. And I'd been doing, at the time, Ask GSG for years. And I always fought every year, like, no, I really love to do these live streams. It's one of my... At Greyscalegorilla, and even now, we're not in proper production. We don't have clients per se. We have artists who are going to be using our tools. So we have to be scheduled and continue making new things. But the live streams were my way of staying sharp, of having people present to me, as like, oh, somebody just made this amazing animation. And so I don't get to be at that studio creating that thing, but I get to see their results and be like, "Okay, well, let's see how they might've made it or let's reverse engineer it."
And something that's been really fun is because more people have been getting into Houdini, Houdini obviously is a very deep and technical tool, but more questions have been coming in in the last year about Houdini. And it's incredible. It's like, "Okay, well, let's make in Cinema." And we almost always succeed. The point being is that's something I love that can keep me sharp and along those lines. [inaudible 00:38:55], okay. It's an obvious thing to do this every week. Well, not every week because we pause for three months during the wintertime. So it's on break right now. And then I decided I wanted to do some bonus streams. And the bonus streams essentially would be every week as well. Essentially, when the regular season is on, then there's also the bonus streams. And those were more of longer form projects, or it's like, "Hey, this really cool thing happened in the live stream, in the Rocket Lasso Live. So let's go and focus in on that."
When I'm live streaming, it's got to be a little bit more flashy, like, "Okay, let's keep moving forward. If we're not succeeding, we should move on. Let's not get stumped." But then in the bonus stream, it's like, "Well, that one was really cool. I think there's a lot of potential. Let's go spend another two hours and try and go deeper and deeper on it." And sometimes I get super into it and it turns into a four hour bonus livestream of just like, "Wait, that's not working, but let's try this. That didn't work. Let's try this." And just going deeper and deeper and deeper. And those explorations often turn into tutorials. And that's just like, okay, if I'm going to be... I will schedule this out because it's a really good mental tool for me to dive deeper onto whatever I find interesting. So that's how we set up Patreon is, "Hey, here's cool bonus things that were kind of going to happen anyway. I'll just turn on the camera."
Joey:
Got it. Got it. That makes sense. I wanted to ask you real quick before I forget. What does the name, Rocket Lasso, mean?
Chris:
Yeah. A lot of people are asking the inspiration and it was me and my brothers were talking about starting a business, and I woke up early and I'm staring at the ceiling. It's like, "We got to come up with a company name." And I just pulled out my phone and I was just laying, staring at the ceiling being like, "Well, here's a name. Here's a name. Here's a name." And I wrote down 15 ideas I didn't think were terrible. And then I showed my brothers. I was like, "Hey, here's some ideas I had." And they also liked the idea of Rocket Lasso. And the names were all over the place. But immediately, the idea of Rocket Lasso was... Well, first of all, I really love space stuff and science things. So I'm super into all the new rocket stuff that's happening around the world.
But the idea of capturing the rocket, the rocket is inspiration, the rocket is this crazy thing you're trying to achieve, so it's all about trying to lasso the rocket. So that was kind of the terminology, the theme to it that I loved. And it also opened up a fun opportunity where it's like, okay, if we're doing newsletters and branding and anything, we can use all the space terminology, but we can also use cowboy terminology. So my practically non-existent newsletter, because I don't like spamming people, but that's the idea there, is it's the Rocket Lasso Roundup. It was like, "Okay, cool. You do all these fun plays on words." But it was pretty random. It could have been easily something very different, but I just liked the sound of it.
Joey:
I really love the... And it almost sounds like you came up with the explanation for it after you came up with the name. But I really like that though, the idea of you're catching the rocket. And by the way, if you're into space stuff, you should come visit me in Florida. We'll go see a Falcon Heavy blast-
Joey:
We'll go see a Falcon Heavy blastoff.
Chris:
So when traveling is happening, I will so totally do that with the... They're going to do their first starship belly flop in possibly five days from now.
Joey:
I'm a huge fan. Yeah. We're getting off topic, but my family and I went last year and we saw... It was either last year or the year before, it was the first time they launched the Falcon Heavy and they had the car in it with Rocket Man in there and we went and saw the launch and it was one of the neatest things I've ever seen.
Chris:
We'll have to talk offline more about that, too.
Joey:
Yeah, exactly. I'll describe that. So let's talk about sort of Rocket Lasso's a business and you've got Patreon, but you said it's paying for health insurance. The only products I could find on your site is Recall which launched fairly recently. And when it came out, by the way, EJ was just singing its praises, "Oh, this thing's amazing!" So can you tell everybody what Recall is. It's your first plugin, but what does it do? And, I mean, how have you managed to not actually have a product to sell for this long? How are you keeping this business going while you built up the first plugin?
Chris:
Right. Well, yeah, not to get into too specific things, but we had a contract with Greyscalegorilla for a while to continue supporting the existing plugins until Nick was able to build up another team to support that. So that was kind of a, okay, we've got this window that we are taking in some money. We can survive while we're trying to make some tools. So that was great.
Joey:
Yep, sounds like a winner.
Chris:
And then, well, so we've been working really hard on a bunch of tools, but there's a lot of learning. I'm constantly learning. I'm constantly iterating. And we've spent a lot of time on some tools that they ended up getting too elaborate. So we've actually pulled back, and we're like, okay, we have to rethink this. We're adding enough stuff into this where it's becoming not artistically intuitive. So we've actually re-planned a bunch of that.
And we're working on a suite of tools right now and it's getting a lot closer to launch, but it's not quite there yet. But in the meantime, I was like, hey, I've got this little idea for this plugin that can bring your objects back. And I presented it to my brother and he's like, "Okay. Yeah, I see what you're going for." He ended up coding it in two hours, but at the time, it only could store a single object. So essentially-
Joey:
Why don't you describe what it is for everyone? I know it's kind of tricky over in the podcast format, but can you describe for any Cinema 4D users, what does Recall do? How does it work?
Chris:
Yes, yes. Well, what Recall actually does is, it's a tag and you drop the tag on an object, you double-click on the tag, and you've now stored the current state of that entire hierarchy. Everything about it. It's position, it's key frames, any tags that are applied, any animated tags, everything about the object, and then you can continue working on it, change it, modify it, make it editable. You could put this on a model of a character and then continue modeling on the character and at any given point, double-click on that tag and bring it back to the state it was at that time.
And it works with hierarchies. And like I said, it's super useful. It's a workflow tool, but it's amazing on cameras. You can store the state of a camera and then be free to move around and then pick your three different shots and then jump between them instantly, store one with animation. It's really deep. I've got hours of instruction video about it. So you should definitely check it out. I think it's a really fun tool. It's a workflow tool. I use it really often and it's replaced copying objects and hiding them in a little hidden null folder.
And I just feel a lot more free to make things editable because I'm obsessed with keeping things parametric. And now it's like, oh, I can always bring it back if I need to. But I presented the original idea. He made it in two hours and it's like, oh, okay. This is really cool. And instantly it's like, wait, wait, this needs to do a lot more. It works on one object. If you make a cube editable, it can come back to being a cube, but it can't do a hierarchy. There's so many things it couldn't handle.
So here's another one of the problems is like, oh, here's this really tiny concept. Maybe we can make a tool and maybe we could sell it for a really low price tag. And it was just something to get out in the world. We can kind of test out building a store. That was the idea. Then it was like we kept on adding to it and changing the concept and making it work with more and more and more things to the point where it ends up being more than 5,000 lines of code. Like hundreds of hours of testing and prototyping and changing and going back and making sure it's compatible all over the place and going as many versions back in Cinema that we could make it go. And it just it became a giant undertaking.
And, of course, it's like, oh, here's a quickie little project we can stick in between the other production, get out into the world. And, of course, it turns into a big giant thing by itself, which is always the way it goes. So I don't regret that, but I wanted to get something out there while we're working on this suite of tools. And I'm actually really proud of it. And it's an exciting tool, and I just love the double- click workflow and it's very visual how you work with it. .
Joey:
Yeah, it looks really cool. And, I mean, some days I get a little sad that I don't actually use Cinema 4D that often anymore. It's pretty rare these days because I'm doing other things. I mean, I barely open After Effects anymore, too. I mean, and hopefully, Chris, one day you'll have this experience if Rocket Lasso grows big enough where it's like, "Huh, I used to be a really good at this stuff. And I'm kind of forgetting how it all works because I have other people doing it."
So I want to talk about the community part of Rocket Lasso, because it was pretty clear from watching your YouTube videos and there's tons of live streams and you've got a Slack channel that anyone can join, that community is really a big core piece of the Rocket Lasso ecosystem. And so I'm wondering if you could just kind of talk a little bit about that.
How do you see... Because not every company does that and it can be a pain in the butt to sort of manage that and all of that. And so I'm curious why that's so important to you and sort of how you see that fitting into your vision.
Chris:
It is super important to me. It's one of my primary drivers. It goes to everybody needs to make money to survive, but after that, what is your motivation for doing what you're doing? And because I've been doing education in the Cinema 4D space for so long, I've gotten to have these amazing experiences of going to a trade show and having people come up to you and tell you that you completely changed their career.
I mean, I know you're going to have this experience all the time, but people coming up and saying, not to use any names, but somebody comes up and they're like, "Oh, I'm from Argentina. And I watched your tutorials and I got a job in motion graphics. And then I got to move to the United States, and I'm still doing motion graphics. That's all because I was watching your tutorials." And that is so valuable to me that I would never want to lose that.
We're not curing cancer here, but the idea that I can be helping people and changing lives in some small way, it's a huge driving factor for me. So keeping it open, keeping close contact with the community, and keeping everything open is just something that is a major driving variable for me. It's always been a challenge, or it's something I've always fought for, is in the livestreams. It was like, no, I want to take the question live from the audience, randomly selected. I'm not taking a preference. If I see a new name, somebody who's never been there, that's the preferences. Okay. You asked the question last week, but you, this person, they are new. I want to see what they are asking.
I never wanted to have it be like submit a form and here's all the questions and we'll choose the ones we like. It's like, no, we don't know what's coming. And the pressure of doing a livestream and having no idea what the question is going to be is part of the fun for me. And that's the, okay, there's an audience. I have to perform. That's where I get the... It's kind of like a studio. It's kind of like there's pressure here. There's a client standing over your shoulder watching and you need to perform. And I love... That's a fun level of pressure. So, I enjoy that. And I would hate to pre-screen questions or anything like that.
But then something that's pretty cool is back when I was doing the Greyscale livestreams, a community organically started to grow up around that show. And it was self-moderating and they started advertising a little bit and growing. So when I started my own company, that became the official Slack channel of Rocket Lasso. And if anyone is interested, you can join it for free. It's rocketlassoslack.com. And you can find the invitation for Slack. Eventually it'll be on the main website, but that is still under construction. Man, it's a pain to get a website out.
Joey:
Yes, correct.
Chris:
It's getting there. I am in the process of processing all the tutorials and the livestreams so they're actually ready on the website. So it's getting there, and I'm excited about some of the functionality. We have really good search functionality. So the community, the Slack channel is amazing, interacting on the livestreams, seeing what other people are working on.
And the Slack channel, there's a bunch of... These are not top driven like the community drives it where there are weekly sketch challenges. There are group projects that happen. There are modeling challenges they can put together. There are group projects, and it's just really fun for those things to organically happen and just try to enable a community instead of... We're a really, really tiny company. Essentially, Rocket Lasso is me and then my two brothers are coding all day. So I do everything and then they code, is the business.
So I'm suddenly in the world where I'm not terribly comfortable, honestly. I am the marketing person and I am the most reluctant person in the world to do marketing. I prefer just like, "Hey, everybody, here's the thing I made. Check it out." Instead of like, "Hey, here's these..." I don't like being the salesman. So it's a tricky aspect, but also building websites and doing the technical write-ups on everything as well as being the person to learn and to be the face of the company. It's definitely challenging. Some of it's been really fun. Some of it's really frustrating. But the community is always what I'm going to come back to and one of the main things that is always going to drive me forward.
Joey:
Yeah. So you called out something that I can totally relate to, which is the feeling you get if you launch a product and it sells a bunch and money comes in, I mean, that's nice. But when you go to a conference and someone comes up, and they're waiting five minutes to say something to you, and they come up and they tell you that, "Hey, I just got my first job in this industry. And it was literally because of this class, or it was because of a tutorial." I mean, I can't even remember.
There was a project that I did back when I was running a studio in Boston and it required rigging characters in Cinema 4D. And I had no idea how to do it. And we needed to do a motion test to win the pitch. And you had a tutorial, Chris, where you built a robot arm and you used constraints in this really clever way to have the pistons drive and all this kind of stuff. And I did that. I did a motion test. We got the gig.
So that's a miniature version. I'm sure you've heard much crazier things than that. But, I mean, that feels so much better. It's a more sustainable driving force than money, I think, for most people. You know?
Chris:
Yeah.
Joey:
So it makes sense why community's such a baked in part. And I wanted to just say for everyone listening, I don't know if the ask GSG stuff is still available. I think it might be on Plus, but your livestreams, it's basically like try to stump Chris. It's like here's this crazy thing. I watched part of one. I think you turned it into a tutorial. But you basically built this insane rig that made almost a shader that was like ferrofluids. You could move this field through geometry and it would create these light, metallic points coming out of it, like magnetism. But you do it in real time.
And I always loved watching those because it was like watching how your brain dissects these things, and it was really useful. And so I wanted to ask you about that. When a new version of Cinema 4D comes out, and I think you just did a live stream with Rick from Maxon where you were sort of showing off this new node-based modeling stuff that they're starting to implement. How do you approach? Okay, here's a new feature. It's a big thing. I don't know what it can do. I don't know how it works. I don't even know what I should do with it. How do you sit down and absorb that and play with it? When no one's looking, when there's no camera?
Chris:
It goes back to at the beginning when we were talking about Legos. I just have this very additive and subtractive process where in Cinema, obviously, I'm very, very familiar with the software. So it's easy to find what is new. Back in the day, you didn't know it was new necessarily. You'd have to hunt around in the interface and be like, oh, they added this new shader. I found it. You would discover it.
These days at least you have a list of what is new. So when I'm behind a new version of Cinema that I've never seen, and often I'm going to be recording the what's new video in a very short amount of time, it's a lot of okay, open up... I have actually a very specific process. And I'm surprised at how consistent it's been. Opened up a new feature, like, okay, this is the new Pose Library. Conceptually, it's like, okay, it's a Pose Library. The main thing it's going to do is facial poses.
So open that up, try and get it to work. I get the concept, but let's open it up, tinker around, push it as far as I possibly can. And then once I start hitting a wall, it's okay, give up on that, keep on playing and maybe even jump to a completely different tool. Move over to motion transfer. Okay, here's another tool. See if I can figure it out. Okay, cool. I kind of get that.
And then the next step goes to reverse engineering or actually looking at education if I have to. So at that point, it's, okay, I have now familiarized myself with the interface. I know what some of the buttons are. I have a context in my head for it. Now open up the help. Don't go straight to a tutorial. If you just watch a tutorial on something new, you don't have a context. You're just like, okay, you're watching their mouse and you're trying to keep up with what they're doing.
But if you've already tinkered and you're like, okay, I already figured out what that did, but this other setting, I'm not sure what that does. And when the person in the video tutorial says what it does, you're like, "Oh, okay. That fills in this gap in my knowledge," instead of it just being this piled stream of information. So that's where I jump to there. And then also, depending on the version of Cinema, you can jump into the content browser.
And in R23, which very recently came out, the content browser has a lot of demo files for the new features, for the Motion Transfer, for the Pose Library, for the Magic Bullet looks being added in. So you can jump into that, open up the file, and just be like, okay, what did they do? Let me walk backwards, see what they did, open theirs up and modify theirs. Modify it and modify it and modify it until it breaks. And, okay, now I find the limit of that. And then it's just repeating that. Play around with it. Look up a little bit more specific information, play with it, look up some more specific information. And now when you look at the help document, you're not just reading everything about it. You are filling in very specific questions that you have.
Joey:
Oh, I love the way you described that. That's basically my teaching philosophy. And I don't know that I've ever heard it put so succinctly. It's like the problem... And this was sort of like when I started making classes for school of motion, this was kind of my theory. It's like if you learned Cinema 4D like I did, for example, through tutorials, if you rely too heavily on the tutorials, it's basically like learning by Swiss cheese approach. You get this little circle of knowledge and then this other circle of knowledge over here. And eventually, if you watch a hundred tutorials, some of those circles start to overlap and you start to get some general knowledge.
But that's a very inefficient way to learn it. If you just spend time with it and get this sort of fuzzy general lay of the land and then go watch a tutorial, the context, I mean, I think that's the word to use, it gives you context and it sticks in a way that it doesn't otherwise. That's really awesome, man. I like that.
Chris:
And that's the way I try and teach as well that you need to... It's actually a really tough thing. And for anyone out there, if you find an educator that you like, make sure you follow them and make sure you support them, because it is really tricky to find education where they know what they're talking about and tell you not what to do, but why to do it.
It'd be very easy to make a tutorial and be like, okay, create a cube, set it to 300 by 300, put this dynamics tag on, do this. It's like, no, no, no. That's not why you say it. You say we're subdividing it this many times because of these reasons. And now because of this and because of this. The because is the only thing that matters. The why is what matters. Not which buttons to click. Who cares? You can figure that out yourself.
But conceptually, why to do things, it's hard to find teachers on any topic that do that. So when I'm doing something like playing around in Unreal or in Unity, and I find somebody who's got videos and they actually are telling you why, it's like, oh, my goodness, just stick with this person. Support them.
Joey:
Yes, well, I was going to ask you who out there is impressing you? And it doesn't have to just be on the teaching side. It could also be in the art side. But I wanted to ask you, because I watched part of a video you recorded with Aaron Convrett who I saw speak at NAB last year. And, good Lord, he blew me away. I went up to him afterwards. I'm like, "Dude, you are so good at this." Not just the 3D part, which he's amazing at, but the teaching part. He's got just an intuition for it. And he's really young, too. I don't know where it comes from. He's just super talented.
And, by the way, we'll link to the video in these show notes. I think it was how to do photogrammetry. And there was this one-
Chris:
Oh, yeah, the very first tutorial.
Joey:
There was this one moment in there where he was basically showing how to transfer texture from this high-poly mess of a model with crappy UVs onto this low-poly mesh with good UVs. And it was one of the most ingenious things I've ever seen. I was like, oh my God. It's kind of mind blowing. I don't want to spoil the trick for anyone listening, but it's-
Chris:
We won't spoil it. But he had actually done that presentation for Maxon, and I was at that show and him and I were talking. I was like, "You jumped over this one part where you transferred a texture from one mesh to a completely different mesh. How did you do that?" And he's like, "Yeah, there's no time." I was like, "That's the only thing I care about. How did you do that?"
And that is why he was a guest on the very first tutorial for Rocket Lasso. And, man, it's a doozy of a tutorial. We're jumping between all these different pieces of software. But going back to Aaron, he's one of those guys who it's like, damn you, you are so good and so talented. And it seems to come very naturally. And he's got a great artistic eye. So I love the guy.
Joey:
That's awesome. Is there anyone else out there that you think sort of does the... It's what you're saying. It's not just click this thing, click this thing, click this, and look, you get the same result as me. It's here's why I'm doing this. And I always thought Kramer was amazing at that. Nick and you were both great at that, Tim Clapham. I mean, there's a lot of... But you're in that presenter world. Who's coming up that we should have our eyes on?
Chris:
What's funny is I'm actually not very qualified to answer this question. Because as a policy, I don't watch other people's tutorials in Cinema 4D. If I don't watch anyone else's tutorials, I can't accidentally copy them. If I have an idea of a tutorial in my head and I watch somebody else's, it's like, well, that's already out in the internet. I'm not going to make it. Even if I would have a very different take and we'd end at a different place, it would turn that category off for me.
So everything I do tends to be completely from scratch myself in the world of Cinema 4D. And one of the reasons why my knowledge in Cinema can be so deep is because I don't use too much other software. I can work my way around Photoshop. I know how to use Premiere.
Chris:
So other software, I can work my way around Photoshop. I know how to use Premiere. I can stumble my way through After Effects when I need to, but I have no expertise in that. And you won't see me talk about those things in a tutorial because I am stumbling through it. I would be saying, "Well, I did this and this and this, and it looked good, but I can't really tell you why," because I just don't have the full context to explain why. So I stay in my specialized lane because that's where I am confident.
When it comes to the education space, like I said, I just don't watch anybody else's material. And I spend so much time in Cinema that I don't get to be exposed to too much education for other pieces of software. I don't even know how much he's doing tutorials anymore, but in Unity, which is a video game engine, which is actually very similar to Cinema 4D in a lot of ways, very natural transition. But he did code for Unity. And I actually taught myself a lot of C-Sharp, which is very similar to C++, by watching this guy Quill18 on YouTube. And he creates lots of little indie games and he does a lot of let's plays.
But he's one of those people who's constantly explaining why he's doing what he's doing. He leaves the mistakes in and you can see his thought process as he goes. And that's just so valuable. I wish I had a lot more examples of educators I could recommend. But I spend way too much time on YouTube watching educational content, but it tends to be in fields that are not our field at all. Where it's like, oh, I'm watching stuff about the space engineering and normal engineering and whatnot. So tons of videos I could recommend there, but not in the art world.
Joey:
The way you're talking about it, it's really interesting to me. Because the way you're describing I don't look at other educators, or I don't look at other tutorial makers, that's what some super high level musicians will say. I don't listen to other music because I don't want to end up accidentally stealing it. I don't want to be influenced. It's really interesting because one of the things that, I'm a big Seth Godin fan, and one of the things that I think he's really spot on about is that the definition of art is much broader than most people think it is. And so art can be anything. It really can be anything. It's a change you're making in the world basically. And teaching is an art. And so it's kind of weird to think of teachers as artists, I guess. Normally we don't think that way. But I think that there is an art to teaching.
And so Chris, I want to ask you about I guess what's interesting to you now about Cinema 4D, and the new capabilities that are being added. We just did a live stream, actually with our friends at Hobbes. It's kind of like the alter ego of Gunner up in Detroit. And they did a Cinema 4D project where they built a 3D face and they used moves to get facial animation capture, transfer it on there. And then they took that animation and they somehow transferred it into 200 drones. And the drones performed the 3D animation up in the air 300 feet tall. And I was like, that's insane. That's a use case for motion design and Cinema 4D specifically I never would have thought of. And you are kind of the mad scientist of Cinema 4D. So are there any things you're playing around with, or new features you're excited about that you're tinkering with?
Chris:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I love that use case. And something I'm super curious about with their workflow. It could have been very obvious visually to them, but in Cinema they could have had two points that pass through each other, but you can't do that once it's exported because that'd be two drones crashing into each other. But as far as Cinema 4D, where it's at and what's coming out, the obvious answer to this for me is the scene nodes. That's sort of the future of Cinema 4D. It's the backbone. It's the new core that they've been talking about for forever, which is everything being broken down into its smallest parts.
So a cube is not the smallest unit in Cinema. Even a polygon is not the smallest unit. It's like a polygon is built up of points. So the idea that there's a node now where you feed in a list of points, and that gets fed into a polygon node, which now turns it into a polygon. And once you combine six of those, then now you have a cube. And then you start adding parameters. So it's the idea that you could build a cube, but it goes so much further than that.
I just did for the Maxon, Adobe MAX live stream that they did, I just did a presentation about making a very quick and dirty city generator inside of the scene nodes. And in a lot of ways, it's sort of the sequel to Espresso, but that is undercutting it by a long shot. Cinema 4D is about to be able to go so much deeper than it ever could before. And in scene nodes, one of the big things that they've added so far is a bunch of modeling commands. So you can parametrically do a lot of modeling things that we could never think of as procedural in Cinema. Where it's like, oh, I'm going to do an extrude procedurally, and then an inset, and then a subdivision, but only on some polygons. And then do a selection, all of these being parametric steps.
And I should note that scene nodes is so new that Maxon is even saying that this is not production ready. This is a technology preview, and it's going to change. I even have a worry, and that they've kind of confirmed that this is possible, that it's going to change so much that anything you make in it right now might break in the next version. Because it was like, hey, those were experimental nodes. We've now streamlined it. We've made them better. The idea though is imagine you're doing some complex cloner mograph rig, but then you could go and explode the cloner and go deeper inside of the cloner, and say, oh, I need this additional parameter. I need to change the way that this is fundamentally working and then save that out. And you've now made your own variants of a cloner.
And in the future, a lot of these are where we're going in the future, the idea that you could modify that, turn it into a very specialized tool, and then send it off to a coworker so that they can use it as well. And going deep when you have to. But I know for a fact, and I'll always be pushing them as much as I have any influence, we need it to be as simple as it currently is to play around.
One of the most valuable things in cinema is that we can play. It's a bunch of Tinkertoys. These are Lego bricks we can play around with. And you can just start connecting things, and be like, oh, look, I accidentally made this cool thing. And once you get into the world of nodes, it's very difficult to accidentally make something. You can't play in nodes in the same way that you can play in Cinema, where you just clone a bunch of tubes and spheres and put a dynamics tag, and have a tracer put trails behind them. And you're like, whoa, I just made something cool.
The difference between Cinema as it lives now is that you can see the box on all of the pieces and be like, oh, I can see how those might be fun to put together. When it comes to nodes, it's like, you don't see the box of pieces. You have to imagine here's a thing I want to do. And I have to very intentionally and methodically step towards that thing. One of my favorite quotes about Cinema 4D is, and this is going back to a way older version, but it's like Cinema 4D doesn't do anything that other software packages don't have the ability to do it. But in Cinema 4D, you can do it so quickly and so fast that you'll actually make money. That you can actually produce these things quickly.
It's like, okay, yeah, you could do this thing in a different software package, but might take you two weeks. And in Cinema it's, oh... I've gotten to do this demo so many times when people would come up. I'd be presenting for Maxon. And someone comes up with a question afterward about, "Oh, I'm working in Bio," or in any other package, "and I'm trying to do this one thing." And who knows, but it's like, "Oh, it's a conveyor belt. And a bunch of nuts are getting put onto it. And they fall into this grinder." And I'm like, okay. And while he was standing over my shoulder in five or 10 minutes, we build it. And they're like, "I would have had to hire a coder to put that together and do this." And not this specific example, but different things where it's like, no, we can do it quickly. We can have fun. We can play. But now we're moving into a new era where we will be able to go deep when we want to and when we need to.
Joey:
So I have never once opened Houdini, but what you're describing sounds like what I imagine Houdini to be like. Is that accurate?
Chris:
I haven't spent much time in Houdini. And for anyone listening, I've had literally, not exaggerating, dozens and dozens and dozens of people be like, "Hey Chris, I think you would like Houdini. It seems to be the way you think." And I don't doubt it. I don't doubt that I wouldn't love Houdini. And I did spend one long weekend in it. I had long weekend. It's like, I'm just going to play. And I tinkered, and I got it doing a bunch of stuff. I was modeling. I had particles emitting. I was doing some dynamics and fracturing and whatnot.
I was like, it's fun. The problem is it's not the world I live in. It's very technical. The audience for that is very small. For people to go that deep is neat. But in the exact same way I'm talking about Cinema, in Cinema, you can have fun, you can play, and you can make something quickly. In Houdini, for the most part, you have to do things very intentionally. People can build up libraries of tools and you can get collections of tools that can do various things. But in Cinema you can open up the cloner, and be like, oh cool. I've got all these different things the cloner could do. You can see how you can do an array and align and the grid and whatever else you want to do very, very quickly.
But when it gets specific and you want to make something, and this is for Houdini, but for any node system, imagine building that from scratch. Imagine you wanted a line of clones. It turns into like, oh, create a straight line. Subdivide that line. Get to the information of individual points, and apply those to the copies of the object you want. Oh, you want rotation? Do that process again. So it becomes a very intentional methodical process. And you can just have more fun in Cinema, and you can experiment. And it's more fun to demo, it's more fun to do projects in.
And even if you can go deep, and I love to go nuts. Like we were talking about the Half Rez Cinema Smash, I love to go as deep as the software will allow. But most of the time you need to be practical. You need to get this out the door for the client, and make revisions, and not to be there all night. So I think Cinema's always going to be the best option as long as they kind of put that playfulness first. It's a weird word to use for a highly technical piece of software that people use in their careers. But it's a fun program.
Joey:
Yeah. That's well put, dude. Well, let's land the plane, man. The last question I have for you is just I want to hear a little bit about your vision for Rocket Lasso. You said right now the company is basically you and your brothers. So it's a Schmidt corporation. Schmidt Worldwide. And you've got one plugin, which is really, really cool. And we'll link to it in the show notes. Everyone, go check it out. If you use Cinema 4D, you will immediately see the usefulness of Recall. It's one of those no-brainer things. And I don't know how much you can say about future products, but just in general, what is the vision? Where do you hope Rocket Lasso gets to over the next few years?

Chris:
It's challenging to think about. When it comes to business, I like being very practical. And I think there's a very easy trap of projecting too far into the future where you start almost living the fantasy instead of the current reality. So I try and not think too far ahead, and in even points. Having said that of course, the most immediate thing, it's my primary project right now, is getting the website out. It's something I've wanted out for a while. We just got this temporary site up forever. And that's going to be good. There's a whole community section on it, as well as the blog and really great tutorial search.
In addition to that, the plans are to continue doing the live streams, continue getting a bunch of tutorials out there. I try to think of the tutorials a little bit differently. I do struggle where I'm constantly trying to one up myself. I think on some tutorials, I'm one-upping myself where it's like I've lost people now. It's like, okay, this is getting too specific or too detailed. Not too detailed, but too technical, honestly. It's just how many people need this incredibly specific thing. So I would like to go play around a little bit more with the basics and the fundamentals. So keep an eye out for that. I've got ideas for getting even some training series, potentially, of very specific things. I've been tinkering around with some different ideas. I don't want to do spoilers too much on that because you never know what ends up coming out. I don't want to promise anything that doesn't become real.
Joey:
Oh, I've made that mistake before.
Chris:
Yeah, it's one of the things that's super stuck in my head is how much do I talk about the tools that we're currently working on? Because everything takes longer than you think it will. And as soon as you kind of announce something the people are like, "Give it to me now. I need it now. I have a project right now that this would save my ass." And you're like, "But it's not done. I can't ship it if it's not ready. And we're going to release it when it is as good as we can make it for the final artists putting it together." So that gets really challenging. So teasing out a plugin can be really challenging.
I guess I've told various people, and it's going back a ways, but we are working on a suite of tools. And it's actually a suite of spline tools. But we're going a little bit deeper than some of the ones you might've found in the past. I don't want to get too specific on the individual functionality, but we've got generator splines, modifier splines that I think opened up a lot of really cool opportunities that you've never been able to do these types of things in Cinema, and make them as fast as we can, and as intuitive as we possibly can. So I'm really excited for those, but they will be ready when they are as good as we can make them. But my brothers are in the other room right now hard at work on them. And it's really fun to play with those. So looking forward to that in a big way.
As far as the company, it would be great to get, for future teams, if if the company does well and we're at the place where we can do our first hire, I would love getting somebody who's very artistic. Somebody who can be more on the design side. Because I do lean on the technical side. So getting somebody who can do the aesthetics would be the first thing I would be looking for. I want to keep doing more of the same, but constantly making it better and better is the main goal. See where the industry goes. It's just where I'm at is Cinema 4D. So you can expect a lot more Cinema 4D, of course. But with the world of scene notes coming out, you can expect a lot more information as those become more and more robust for Maxon. I'm very excited for the future of that.
And yeah, I'm just enjoying being able to produce all this educational stuff for people, interact with the community. Continue to have this amazing open community. It happens all the time because as introverted as I can be, as much as I like recharging my batteries at home, I started the Chicago User Group. I started a conference in Chicago. I have a big Slack channel that I like to have where people can interact and help each other. I really love community and openness and sharing, and everybody helping each other, and everyone growing together. And that's going to continue to be a major driving force behind everything that I do.
So if you like the kind of stuff that I do, and that Rocket Lasso is putting together, then support is always appreciated. But that's why the Patreon, I don't even advertise it too much. It's like, hey, if you want to support, that's a cool way of doing it. If a tutorial that I did solved that problem, and you got the client, and if it got you a job, then hey, it's a cool way to support what I'm doing so that other people can have that same experience. But my real goal is to make tools that are valuable by themselves. That people can use and it will improve how they work. And that's what I love to do. And I think it's the most value for everyone. So that is ultimately the goal, that and community.
Joey:
One of my favorite things about this podcast is that it gives me an excuse to hang out with people that I came up admiring in the early days of my career. Chris is definitely one of my C4D heroes, and I know I'm not alone. Check out rocketlasso.com for live streams, tutorials, and plugins from the team over there. I know they have a lot of really exciting things in the works. And thank you as always for listening. Smell you later.