Equipment & Capabilities
|PC and Mac
TechArt Media can work equally well with clients using PC's or Macs (or both). Here is how we do it.
Technical Illustration data is typically derived from CAD data. CAD data is traditionally generated using PC's. Although I started out many years ago using a Mac, I went to a PC for many years, as I was doing a lot of engineering work. AutoCAD, my CAD application of choice (and the de facto standard CAD application for many years) only ran on a PC.
For years, I looked for a feasible way to run AutoCAD on a Mac, but there was not really an adequate solution out there. In the meantime, I used Windows XP on a Dell PC and found it to be a very capable and efficient operating system. However, I suffered with inherent problems with the Windows XP platform. I also had a case of "Mac Envy" during those years.
The factor that ultimately facilitated and influenced my move back to Macs was the advent of the Intel-based Mac and the introduction of the Mac application VMWare Fusion, which has made it realistic to run Mac OS X and Windows operating systems simultaneously on a Mac.
Windows XP always did exactly what I needed, with the exception of email, which I found to be consistently unstable, and I was loosing email data regularly. I had heard from several sources that email on Macs was extremely stable.
I produce musical content, and I wanted to use a Mac for that, as I had developed an inherent distrust of the PC platform due to viruses, spyware, adware, unrecoverable system errors, etc.. I did not want to risk my musical data to potential loss similar to what I had experienced in the past.
With the appearance of virtual machines for Intel Macs, I had my solution. I purchased a four-core Mac Pro desktop computer. I now run Windows XP on a VMWare Fusion virtual machine on the Mac. With this solution, I get all of the advantages of a fast Mac and a fast PC, both running stable, efficient operating systems. I receive all emails and do virtually all web access on the Mac side.
I have found the Mac platform to be consistently stable and reliable. I have also found Windows XP running on a virtual machine in VMWare Fusion to be a stable and reliable setup. Between the two, I have a system that can handle any technical illustration challenges that I may encounter. This system is so flexible that I can modify my utilization of it to suit any requirement.
As a result of the equipment choices that I have made, I can serve Mac-based and PC-based clients with equal efficiency and I can move effortlessly between the two platforms. In addition to my Dual 2.66 Xeon Mac Pro with 8 GB of RAM and 1.25 TB of data storage, I use a HP 22" LCD Color Monitor, a Epson Perfection 4490 color scanner and a Agfa Horizon 11x17 color scanner with a transperency adapter. I also use HP Color LaserJet 2605dn printer.
TechArt Media has a dedicated 20 GB FTP Site which is used for file transfers to/from clients and to/from associate illustrators.
3D Solid Modeling and Technical Illustration
In the time between 2001 and 2004, my career came to a fork in the road. Since the process of producing Technical Illustrations was quickly becoming automated by 3D solid modeling CAD software, the general market for isometric exploded view illustrations generated from scratch by technical illustrators was decreasing dramatically. Applications like SolidWorks and ProEngineer could export technical illustrations at the touch of a button, which circumvented my chosen profession completely. Work that used to take me (and other Technical Illustrators) days, weeks and months to produce was now exported from 3D CAD in minutes.
For that reason, I had to decide if I was going to become a 3D modeling CAD operator or if I was going to steer away from that path and pursue illustration work that was outside the boundaries of what could be accomplished by exporting technical illustrations from 3D CAD.
After careful consideration, I made the conscious decision to pursue the later path. In my estimation, there were plenty of "young guns" to do the 3D modeling work out there. I felt that pursuing the path of 3D modeling CAD would box me in creatively and that I would spend the rest of my career doing modeling work exclusively. Instead, I have diversified my business by finding product support and product marketing work where technical illustrations, drawn by illustrators instead of by machines, are still required. I have also found ways to utilize, enhance and improve the 2D and 3D illustration data that clients export from 3D CAD.
I have recently developed skills with an application called Right Hemisphere Deep Exploration. This application is able to take large, cumbersome 3D CAD files and make them into smaller files that are easy to manipulate. I can take files that are created in SolidWorks, ProEngineer, CATIA, etc. and manipulate 3D components in order to develop sophisticated exploded views and other technical illustrations..
Limitations of Technical Illustrations exported from 3D CAD
One of the down sides to technical illustrations exported from 3D modeling CAD programs is that, although technically accurate, they typically include a lot of seam lines at the intersections of solid model construction components. These lines can be removed by some programs but that option is rarely used. Furthermore, illustrated parts are rarely spaced apart properly, due to the fact that they are typically exported by an engineer who is being taken away (usually begrudgingly) from his standard engineering duties to do so. The engineer therefore does not typically take the time to manually "tweak" the spacing between objects and simply accepts whatever standard spacing is assigned by the software (which is usually inadequate). This results in a myriad of illustration deficiencies including overlapping of parts, ambiguous callouts, etc.
To add insult to injury, companies often accept these inferior illustrations as-is because they do not have to pay a Technical Illustrator to generate them and they feel an obligation to maximize the productivity of the 3D modeling hardware and software that their company has purchased.
For very reasonable prices, TechArt Media can take these exported illustrations from 3D modeling CAD programs and clean them up to bring these automatically generated illustrations up to the quality of the "old school" technical illustrations that were developed with care by professional illustrators for many years prior to illustrations being exported from 3D CAD.
The Right Tool for the Job - 2D, 3D or Both?
With 3D modeling moving to the forefront of engineering, art, video gaming, etc., it has become all the rage, and for good reason. However, 3D modeling can be overkill for many projects, and the customer pays for that overkill. TechArt Media believes that each project should be accomplished with the right tools for that particular job.
For instance, if you want to see a product from all possible angles, or if you want to produce an animation that revolves around a product, then 3D modeling is a no-brainer. If you want a rendering with photo-realistic shading, 3D modeling is certainly the typical way to go. TechArt Media has capabilities and great resources in this discipline.
However, if you know the view of the product that you want, then you can have that view illustrated using 2D techniques, then 3D-style photo-realistic shading can be applied to it. This choice saves the time-consuming process of modeling an entire object in 3D to see only one view of it, saving the customer money in the process.
The Goggles and Solar Panel renderings in my art samples are good examples of renderings developed in 2D (Adobe Illustrator), then exported to Adobe PhotoShop and having photo-realistic shading styles applied. The Dishwasher rendering is an example of a basic rendering being exported from ProEngineer and then the internal details are illustrated from scratch, using 2D software (Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop), to produce art with a photo-realistic appearance.
On the other side of the coin, sometimes 3D is the way to go. The Washsink rendering in the art samples was produced using Strata Studio Pro to render the basic washsink, faucets, spray arms, etc. in 3D. Then Illustrator and PhotoShop were used to add water flow details. I regularly develop CAD-accurate illustration layouts using 3D wireframe and solids tools in AutoCAD. These rudimentary 3D components are positioned and exported in 2D to Illustrator for completion of the artwork.
Multi-Media before Multimedia was Cool
I am a firm believer in using the right media for the job. I studied under an "old school" Technical Illustrator who also developed fantasy art. His fantasy art techniques were what he called multi-media (before the term was later driven into the ground). He combined felt pens, paints, colored pencils, chalk, whatever gave him the effect that he wanted. It wasn't about the media, it was about the effect of the finished product. I try to incorporate this principle into my work today. I choose which software (or combinations of software) provides me with the most efficient path to the end product that my client requires.