Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Some New Megastructure Images

The original Bernal Sphere (proposed by John Desmond Bernal in 1929) is a space colony that would serve as a residential area for a space manufacturing plant. The residents would be found within the spherical portion of the hollow orbiting space station. The outside of the shell would be dense enough to shield the people from cosmic rays and other sources of radiation. The inner sphere rotates to provide gravity via centrifugal force, with dwellings built on the inside surface. The poles of the sphere would have far less gravity than the equator, and hence would be the location of spaceship docking ports and zero gravity manufacturing. Recreational activities such as low-gravity swimming could also be held in this area. Farms could be placed in stacked rings on the outside of the sphere, or could be scattered in with the residential areas as part of a mixed-use development program. 

Updated an older piece of artwork for inclusion in my Megastructures book project. A Matrioshka Brain would be a type of Dyson Sphere whose purpose was to power an enormous supercomputer. The concept was invented by Robert Bradbury in the anthology Year Million: Science at the Far Edge of Knowledge. The name comes from the Matryoshka doll, a type of wooden nesting doll made in Russia. 

And another updated older piece of artwork. A gas giant refinery is a series of structures that would be suspended in the atmosphere of any gas giant such as Jupiter or Saturn, their purpose would be to harvest large amount of hydrogen / helium or other gases from the planet to prepare the raw elements for transportation elsewhere. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 29th 2021

When making 2d or 3d environments, or a figure in an environment, having a solid foreground, midground and background is key to leading the eye through the frame, and to the focal point of the piece. This tutorial discusses a little bit about the different ways to go about lighting these environments from a high level compositional perspective. Most lighting schemes can be broken down into a few different types, and choosing the right type can really change the feel of the image.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

RIP Soulburnscripts for 3dsmax: The Time Has Come

The day has finally come, and here is the final version of the SoulburnScripts, compatible with Max 2022. Get them here:

With this version of 3dsmax, maintenance is now gone, and the only way to get 3dsmax is rental only, a software scheme that I disagree with, see this article for a deeper explanation why:

Therefor, Max 2022 will be my last copy of max. I'll be using it for the foreseeable future, and may move to something else such as blender one day if my computer breaks down and I can no longer authorize this last copy of max on a new one. The Soulburnscripts will likely continue to be usable in future copies of max, at least until Autodesk changes something in the software that breaks compatibility. I'll be keeping them on my website frozen in time, but they will receive no more updates from myself.

This new reality has given me a chance to reflect on the scripts, and the max community in general. I first joined the 3dsdos community on Compuserve back in the mid 90s, the forum was filled with so many helpful people that gave me advice, critiques, and support as I learned the software. I remember fondly the day that there was mention of some custom plugins written by Blur Studios that would be given away for free, and Tim Miller, the head of Blur, offering me a sneak peak, as he was interested in potentially hiring me once I finished my schooling. Those plugins were written by Steve Blackmon and Scott Kirvan, makers of the Brazil Rendering System, and life long friends to this day.

I graduated and moved to California to work at Blur summer of 1999, and along with the plugins developed by Steve and Scott, I started writing maxscripts to help automate my process (and a bit later Brandon Davis joined in the fun). Following in the footsteps of blurbeta, we released these scripts for free on the net to help out other members of the community, and the BlurScripts were born!

3 years later, when I left Blur and moved to San Francisco to work at Pixar, I couldn't continue to work on the blurscripts, so I took the opportunity to take the scripts I used the most and rewrite them from scratch, adding features and producing much cleaner code, and the SoulburnScripts were first released May 8th 2005, once again free to the public. The first pack contained 11 scripts, and eventually grew to a total of 86. I was never a particularly good coder, but I prided myself on writing scripts that would save people valuable time, time best spent on the more artistic aspect of cg, instead of doing the same boring tasks over and over again. Along the way, I've received so many emails from people who've used the scripts to speed up their workflow, people asking for new features, even the odd donation for the time I spent writing and maintaining the scripts, and to each and every one of you who interacted with me in any way over the years I give you my eternal thanks.

Change is inevitable. I know it's standard for old people to say "Things used to be better in the old days", but the truth is more nuanced. The max community has had many ups and downs, times when I felt the software was moving forward, and times when the software was going backwards. There were probably more good times towards the beginning, but at that time the computer graphics industry was new and anything was possible, so that excitement of course would lead to more good days. Just 5 years ago I feel max had another resurgence with the developers being given a chance to push forward, and really getting us some awesome tools. But the rental only thing that has been mandated from corporate has really put a dark cloud over the project, at least in my opinion. I know many of the current developers, and they are good people, talented people, creative people, and people who want to do what's right for the community. Creatives are supposed to be kept in check by the business side of things, but sometimes the business side gets too strong and instead of being a force of balance, they become an impediment. Wish it wasn't the case, but I've seen it time and again.

Being a part of the 3dsmax community has been one of my greatest joys, I've made so many amazing friends and had fantastic times at Siggraph and Autodesk University. It's all about the people. And it has been my privilege to offer all of you, the users of my scripts, what help I could to make your workflow a little cleaner and faster for the last 20 years.

I'll still be around of course, I'll be posting new artwork on artstation: I'll be posting new art lessons on composition theory and other art topics on my youtube:, and I have a book I hope to release later this year of scifi megastructures: So hopefully you'll still follow along. But it's finally time to say goodbye to my old friend. 

Rest In Peace Soulburnscripts!

This is Neil Blevins (Soulburn), signing off.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 22nd 2021

So for years now people have used photobashing techniques to add detail to their concept images. Why paint every leaf of a tree when you can take a photo of a tree and fit it into your painting? But while photobashing is a valuable tool for the modern artist, it can be used for evil instead of good. Case in point, if I am mixing multiple photos in the same painting, I need to make sure that the lighting direction is the same for all images I bring together. I mean, if you're just doing a super quick sketch that you plan on just showing a couple of people on your team to give them the general idea, this extra step is likely not necessary. But if you're going to include photobashed elements in your portfolio, or in a final painting for a client, consistent lighting direction is a must.

So in this tutorial I'm going to do a quick photobash, show you the problem, and then present a few different solutions to fix the problem. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Starship Doodle

 Little sketch for today.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 15th 2021

Layers of light and dark are a tremendously important technique in composition. They help you both lead the eye and to make sure individual objects can be seen separate from each other. This lesson discusses these techniques in broad terms, and gives a number of suggestions on how to use layers of light and dark to make your imagery stronger compositionally.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 9th 2021

In composition theory, a more pleasing composition is a composition that contains contrast. Now by contrast I don't mean only the contrast control in photoshop, although that can be used to give us the kind of contrast we're discussing.

I'm talking about the original definition of the word: "Contrast: The state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association."

So contrast is two opposing things. Like black and white is a contrast. Big and small is a contrast. Soft and hard is a contrast. Loud and quiet is a contrast. Thick and thin is a contrast. Textured and smooth is a contrast.

A very important topic in composition theory, and available for the first time as a youtube video, this tutorial will discuss the concept in detail, and it will lay the groundwork for a number of upcoming composition tutorials I have planned in the future.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Heart of The Giant Poster 2

 Since book 2 is in the can and in the publishing phases, maybe it's time to poke a bit on book 3?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Fan Art of my Dig Robot

Matthieu Fulcheri on instagram just posted a 3d model of one of my concept designs. Awesome work Matthieu!

 And here's the original concept that I made a few years ago:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Soulburn Art Lesson Page Updated Mar 2nd 2021

So you're doing previs for a project, but the environment and props haven't been designed yet by the concept team. This lesson makes the argument that while your first instinct might be to use detailed stock models from a digital asset library, a better path may be to use much simpler models, to avoid confusion of what's been designed and what's just a temporary asset.

If you've ever done previs for film or television, have done greyboxing for videogames, or are a concept artist who shows 3d scenes to your client before refining the design, this set of observations may save you some time and pain in the future.