Back in 2004 when I was in college I got a hold of a student version of the 3D modeling and animation program of its day: Maya.
It was created by a company called Alias/Wavefront at the time. Although I do not recall how my younger self became interested in computer modeling, I suspect it could have been a mixture of ingredients in the stewing pot of self-actualization. Perhaps it was the video games I relentlessly played on my college-budgeted Dell mixed with my hopelessly inquiring mind. Add a dash of artistic inclination and my fascination with computer animation was born.
I had a rude awakening when I dove head first into this cutting edge software. I soon discovered there was a great chasm which divided the creative style of the artist with the rational mind of a software engineer. Maya, much like similar programs of its day, Rhino, 3D Studio Max and Softimage spoke a language that I could best describe as a cold and calculating guttural belch and unless you had a degree in physics, you would be up all night wondering what you got yourself into.
Non-Uniform Rational Bezier Splines or “NURBS” was a fancy term for curvy lines. Phongs, Blinns, Bump Maps, Inverse Kinematics, Indexes of Refraction, Fresnel Depth and so on were hearty courses in and of themselves. And good luck trying to learn Maya’s built-in programming language! Maya was a bloated maiden of unnecessary complexity.
YouTube did not exist in the days of the early 2000s. Unlike our modernly satiated minds where you can find a 28 minute video of a man in his basement ripping apart a Kenmore Special Edition washing machine to pinpoint where all your lost socks disappeared to, your lingo hurdle could only be overcome by a brute force approach of late night “Oooh, what does that do?” moments. Sometimes answers could be found deeply entrenched in the corners of the web by a few people well-versed in the terminology because they either developed the software or wrote a course book “for dummies” such as myself.
My world was all about to change when I discovered SketchUp in 2006. It was as if a burden was lifted from my shoulders. The 3D gods were smiling upon me as I breathed in the free air of simplicity. Drawing a rectangle was as easy as falling off a log. No longer did anyone need to EXTRUDE a polygon like a witless Cyborg, instead all I was required to remember was Push/Pull. My artistic mind can understand that! How about Offset? Move, Scale, Rotate,
Follow Me! Yes! I am willing to learn!
In the years following the release of my over-realized technical incarceration, I am seeing everything in a better light. The 3D industry has made great strides to accommodate for special individuals such as myself. While some still hold on to ancient terminology and haughty jargon, most are escaping the wilting grasp of unnecessity.
Trimble is not the #1 developer of their tools; the community is. The top four developers for SketchUp are created by people like you and me. SketchUp realizes there is room for improvement that can be delivered by revolutionary minded individuals who see nothing but potential. They are creative people whose goal is to make everybody’s lives easier by simplifying and streamlining. They have made my life easier by allowing me to do what I need to do, faster and better.
Sketchup today is what Maya should have been. Within an industry plastered in layers of complexity overdose, SketchUp continues to remain easy to learn while integrating ideas from the artistic individual; individuals who may have struggled as I did while an undergrad in the early years of the 2000’s, who understand that using creative software does not require a doctorate in Quantum Anti-Neutrino Probability States, no, 3D modeling CAN be fun.