Join Kim Lee for an in-depth discussion in this video Learning, part of Kim Lee: Digital and Physical Production and Design.
- I started with Arduinos just because at the time that I got interested in electronics, that was the thing to start with. I mean there's so many other things out now, BeagleBones and Raspberry Pis and all this stuff, and they're all great, and I've played with some of them since learning originally, but I think for, I mean it depends on what level you want to come in at. I was a little fearless, so I didn't mind the Arduino, but there are even more entry-level boards out there, I think, to get started with.
I mean these guys from, I think, MIT, the MaKey MaKey board is a really great introduction to the concepts if you want to get your kids into it or if you want to play. I might actually buy one just because you can make bananas into buttons or anything that you clip onto it becomes a button. You can have your stairs become a piano and play music or you can do anything like that. It's crazy stuff. I would probably suggest, because when you say to someone you're learning electronics, a certain vision will pop up in their head of what that means.
And it's usually complicated. (laughs) It's very like, "Wooh, you got a scope, "and you're doing all this crazy "that's like way over my head." And it doesn't have to be that. I think if you start people with context, and this goes for everything for me. I'm very big on this whole context thing with learning and education. Electronics is scary if you just look at it that way, but if you say, "We're going to make light that does this.
"And we want to make that lamp be able to do this." And then you go through what you have to do to do that, and you're not trying to teach these principles first and then show, "Now that you know these principles, "we can do this." Don't, I don't have, most people don't have the patience to get to the "And we can do this." Put that "We can do this" up at the front (laughs) and then "This is how we can get there." You know, and break it down. I think it'd be much easier for people, and more people would be willing to be fearless and try it.
If you've got a goal, like anybody doing anything, once you've got that goal, and you realize "I can use this stuff to do it, "but I have to figure out how to do it," you'll figure out how to do it. And it's a lot less of a painful path, because you're like, "Well, it didn't do this, "and I've got to get this, "it's not making it bright enough, "or it's not turning on when I get close to the lamp. "And what did I do wrong?" And then you suddenly, it'll just kind of lead you through the learning to get to it.
So I think if you show, if you guide people with some well-thought-out examples that progress up, just like in teaching anything, teach simple to complex, but don't make it boring simple Make it like useful simple, like, "Oh, this is a useful thing, this is great. "I can actually do something with that." And then the next thing you learn is also useful. It would be even better if those two things, lesson one, lesson two, if you combine them and mix them in different ways, "Oh," and they can start making connections in their own heads, then you're really teaching.
You're not teaching button-pushing. Because we can teach monkeys to do what we do in VFX. All right, maybe we can't. Very smart monkeys. But you know, anybody can learn the software. It's learning how to really work with the software and express through it and have it do whatever you want without being limited by, "Whoa, I thought you could only "model this way." Well, why can't you use an animation tool for modeling tools? Not just pulling vertices, but what if we use this to generate this, and then we snapshot that? We just used an animation tool to model, you know? Things of that, thinking that way and making those connections and teaching people how to make those connections.
It's probably more important than like, "Oh, here's how to make a lens flare." Or "Here's how to track something." Well what can I do with tracking? I can use tracking not just to put a sign on a bus, I can use it for other things. And when you start doing that and making all those dots for them to let them connect them, then I think that's the best way to teach electronics, it's the best way to teach CG, anything. What am I learning right now? There's a bunch of different areas.
I'm one of those kind of scatterbrained guys who's interested in a lot of stuff, so I'm at various points in learning a bunch of things, one of which is I'm learning to be better at SynthEyes. Oh, that's another one, SynthEyes, use for tracking, love it. I'd like to get better at SynthEyes. I'd like to know the under-the-hood guts so that when I have problems, I'm not just kind of hopelessly clicking buttons, that I actually understand why things are failing. So knowing under-the-hood is important for me.
I'm in this constant learning process over the last three, four years about becoming more knowledgeable about car mechanisms so that I am not at the mercy of mechanics, because that is the quintessential example of why knowledge is power. (laughs) You know when your car breaks down, and he says, "That's $2,000," and you have to say, "Okay." (laughs) You know? I want to know, even if I can't do the work, like "That's not a $2,000 job, dude." Learning car mechanism stuff is kind of an ongoing thing.
I'm actually learning, (laughs) I'm planning on, very soon, sitting with DAZ and playing around with that a little bit more. The DAZ software, DAZ Studio. A friend of mine works at a company and kind of told me about it, and I was like, "Why? "That's a kids' tool." You know, like it's not really a professional tool. And it's changed a lot, so I'm looking at that a little for myself just to see what its capabilities are. It seems really cool, I just want to check that out a bit.
Learning Fusion for compositing. I hadn't used it much so I wanted to start playing around with the version that they have for download. I'm on beta for Mac so it's trying to keep up with the new stuff that the team is going crazy this year, there's so much good stuff coming out. I kind of can't keep up with it. (laughs) So learning what they're doing and trying to stay ahead of the curve with that. Learning more about adding things to machines like I want to add a fourth axis to my CNC machine.
I want to rebuild the 3D printers that we have. Getting into Delta printers, and actually I'm very interested in learning more about where we stand now and how quickly I can build an SLA printer. I know there's a few on the market now like the Form 1 I think it's called. That's great, but I'm kind of one of those guys like I want to build my own tool. I just want to know how it works so that if something breaks down, I can fix it, I don't have to go to support.
So learning more about that and where we are, current state of the art for kind of building any of those light-based, resin-based printers is kind of interesting to me. I'm learning to be more patient, learning to be kinder. (laughs) I'm going to say learn what your limitations are. Learn, in anything, learn to, me learning that I'm not Superman.
There's points in one's career as a maker, especially if you're a commercial maker, and you're doing it for money, that you have this tendency, and this is probably coming more from the mentality of the freelancer, that, "Okay, I can't not turn down a job. "I got to do this, this, this, this, this. "And I can do this, and I can edit that in five minutes, "and then I can model this in ten, "and I'll be able to squeeze all this in." And knowing what you really can and can't do and when you should collaborate and bring other people in, stuff like that.
It's probably the most valuable thing I learned, because it's very painful when you're learning those lessons the hard way, and you overbook or maybe you're not as good at this as you should be, and you should've brought a friend in to do the compositing. (laughs) Or whatever, things like that. Learning to be okay, be at peace with your current limitations. Not failings, but there's things you're great at, things you're not so great at.
Be aware of that, and be okay with it, and use it as a strength, not as a weakness so you don't screw yourself up. (laughs) Oh, right, right. I mean I look at movies still. I go to SIGGRAPH sometimes for inspiration. (laughs) I mean the joke was that you would go to electronic theater, and you'd watch it, and everybody would be like, "Ohh, that was amazing, look what ILM did." And I'd be like, "Those bastards.
"Man, they make it hard for us. "They just raised the bar again, damn it." (laughs) You know? Jokingly, of course. I'm in awe of what they do. Inspired by that stuff. You go to the movies, and you see what the latest Avengers or whatever, and you're like, "Wow, it's great work." It does push you. But I'm inspired now by watching a lot, my scope of what inspires me has widened a bit to be less just CG and look at the great visual effects in a tv show or movie, but now also like I'll be looking at these mechanisms as we take the taxi from the airport to here, and I see these construction machines like, "What does that thing do?" Like, "Oh, my god, look at what they're doing," you know, as they're doing road work or anything like that.
Like there's such a wider world of like wow, it's all this cool stuff that I didn't really look at before. It was kind of like, "Yeah, there's a crane, whatever." "What's that crane doing?" Like, "Wow, how the hell are they balancing "on that building?" You know, those kind of things, which seems like, "Well, that's because you're doing the physical." Yeah, but that'll also inform my like if I have to do a CG shot with a crane crashing off a building, God forbid, (laughs) you know, as we sit on the 31st floor, you know, you'd want to have some knowledge about that, so I'm kind of like looking at everything as inspiration these days.
A perfect example, I'm looking at you guys shooting me here, and I'm looking at the camera heads you guys have, and I'm like, "You know, could that be improved? "How is that working? "How is that locking? "Oh, it's a lot of mass." You know, inspiration from everywhere is what I'm saying. Like, "Oh, I like that locking mechanism they use "for the tilt, because I could use that "on my CNC machine for this," you know? And taking from different fields, mixing and matching.
I'll give you a silly story. This is related to Panasonic. It's related to production. Live action people will appreciate it. So we had this Panasonic job, and we had to get a car for it. We had to acquire, in our budget, a car to be smashed by this boulder in the end of the Panasonic spot. So my brother sourced a car. He spent X dollars on it and had all the fluid drained from it, so if the rock hit and something happened to the motor, we didn't have oil everywhere to clean up.
So we had it brought to the warehouse and great, it performed well. We dropped it, we did the shoot, dented the engine, screwed up the car, and now we're cleaning up, and like, "Oh, we got to get rid of this thing." "Now we're gonna have to call a guy to come tow this thing, "sell it for scrap, maybe make some of the money back "that we spent on the car for the budget, "and oh, what are we going to do?" So we're cleaning up. The owner called us and said, "Hey, we have this producer who needs "to shoot a music video in two days "at the other location, not far from us.
"And he wants to know if you guys "can blow up a car." Like "Really? "Why don't you have him come down?" (laughs) So they brought him down. My brother met with the producers and the director, and they said, "Well, we happen to have this here. "Would this kind of car do?" And they looked at it like, "Yeah, that's fine, yeah, yeah." Well what do you guys want to do? "Well we want to set it on fire and do stuff." We're like, "Okay." So my brother sold the car to them for I think about the same price he bought it for.
They came and towed it to the new location, and then they hired us to blow it up. We hired a licensed pyrotechnics guy out of New Jersey to be supervising, and then we got hired, the same crew (laughs) two days later were hired to rig it with charges and do stuff, and we used the same fireball cannons that we had just built for Panasonic, we put them behind the car so it made this big fireball behind it, and then we shot a music video, a hip-hop music video with that car, and then it was now a burnt-out Hulk with a dented hood from the thing, and then it was like, "Okay, thank you, see ya," because it's your car now.
You have to get rid of this burnt thing. And we walked away, I'm like, "That should happen every time." (laughs) That was amazing! Like lightning struck. So anybody in live action will appreciate like "Oh, we didn't have to deal with anything, "it's done, see ya." And we got paid to walk away from it. I'm like (laughs) that was great. So that's my funny story.