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Stuttgart - Los Angeles the long way of an interview
or do it quick and clean with Frank Sinatra

From time to time we ask our customers about their experiences with infiniMap. At one point we ran into Christian Bloch, who is an artist with EdenFX.

We decided to do an interview via mail, but well because of tight schedules on both sides it took us some months.:-)
But finally we made it.


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Hello Christian,

wow, from Halle to Hollywood. You made it. You are now with EdenFX an Emmy award winning team, congratulations.

Thank you.

Can you tell us a little about EdenFX, its success, and the team?

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EdenFX is a cute little company, that has an enormous pool of talent under one roof. Even though its just about 20 people, every single one of them is ranking between master and legend in the Lightwave scene.

Starting with John Gross, the founder and co-president, John Teska, Pierre Drolet, Fred Pienkos, Eddie Robison, to name just a few artists. It's a dream team. And it's just a dream to be part of it, and learn from all these excellent people.

"Cute little company" is some kind of understatement... But have a look at the team yourself..

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To be honest, I love L.A. But what about you and do you miss Germany sometimes? 

LA is nice, and after living here for 3 years I feel pretty comfortable here. And since my girlfriend came with me, there is not much to miss. I mean, we go back home twice a year, to visit family and party with our friends. Most of them we know for more than ten years, and at this point it doesn't make any difference if we are abroad for some months. They also love to visit us for vacation, and this is always exciting for us.

Really, there is not much to miss right now.

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Hollywood vs. Germany

Why do you think it's so hard, to build an award winning studio in Germany. When you especially look at our successful schools, like Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg or your own in Leipzig. Why do the very best people like you, leave for e.g. LA?

Hollywood is like a brand name. And all the big studios are here. They have always been, this is where they started with a barn and now own huge studio lots, as big as a town. Universal, Paramount, 21st Century Fox, Disney, Dreamworks... . And if they have a job, that is most certainly more budget than RTL has to offer. And they also much rather give their jobs to a local companys preferably in a 30 minute drive distance. Where their supervisor can just show up in the morning, talk to the people that do the shots, request changes, and make it all personal.

The industry is just all set up here. Waiting for artists to drop in. And you can be sure your stuff will be shown all over the world. Also, there is the saying, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." ;)

I thought this one was dedicated to NY.;-) But you might be right about the personal thing, it's still easier to discuss jobs face to face, than in videoconferencing, chatting and so on.

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Every time I have to leave for Germany from the US, especially after visiting SIGGRAPH, for me it's like waking up in the morning, after a beautiful dream. Do you think it's a question of lifestyle?

Kind of. I don't know if I got the question right, but there is definitely a strange feeling when I come to Halle for vacation. Like, seeing a newsflash on German TV about a movie premier in the Mans Chinese Theatre. This is just 10 minutes from my house, and the Walk Of Fame is exactly on my way to work. Every morning I walk down to the subway station at Hollywood/Highland. And on my way back I usually carry my groceries along that way - except when they roll out the red carpet and send me over to the other sidewalk. Happens every week.

Being in LA, its just daily life, but looking back at it from Germany it feels like I live in a movie.

Fun and LightWave 3D

 How did that all work out for you?

I read, you started working in 3D animation in 1994.

As I remember at this time hardly anyone worked in 3D animation in Germany and if they did, it meant perhaps using Poweranimator and SGIs. So where did the impact come from? Friends, family?

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Well, what I did in 94 can hardly be called work. All I did was playing around with Cinema4D and LightWave, modelling a little dragon, or planning out a skatepark in 3D. It was a hobby for me and my parents were worried that I waste too much time playing with my Amiga. Just to calm them down I started to study Media Technology, so I can officially keep playing. "Yes mom, I have to do this for my school!" is what I kept saying.

And, in fact, there were some SGIs at my school. They were still in boxes, and my professor was happy to see me set them up and install all the software. In return, she ordered me Lightwave for SGI, and so I kept playing at school. Nobody was using them, so they were basically mine. Later we did have some Poweranimator classes there, but honestly, I was nothing but disappointed and rather kept doing Lightwave on my own.

You defenitely were a lucky guy and I guess you learned something about system administration.;-)

In 1995 you started working with LightWave 3D and it seems you still like it. Am I right? So I suppose you even worked with LightWave 3D on some of your award winning projects. And you are using infiniMap from db&w GbR for your daily work.

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Yes, I still do LightWave. Nothing else than I did all the time before, but now its called work, and people pay me to do it. Which is cool.

infiniMap

Lightwave is the tool that always gets the job done, quick and clean. Maybe that's because this is the tool I know best. I don't have to think about how to do something, I just do it.

And yes, I am a big infiniMap fan.

Lightwave is the tool that always gets the job done, quick and clean. 

What does infiniMap do for you? Do you do fly-overs? What kind of geodata (resolution) do you use with infiniMap?

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I use infiniMap for a certain Reality Show. Its very successful in the US, won last years Emmy Award for Best Reality Show. Its about people travelling around the world to perform tasks, and of course it is being faster than the other. This project is my companion for the last 3 years, ever since I started out at EdenFX as an intern. Every week I make them a new map.

The first season I did, was a nightmare. Sometimes they travel all across continents, sometimes they just take a bus to the neighbour city. You never know, and it happened a lot that the whole travel path would span across 20 pixels of my texture. Several times I had to find new map textures, tune the color to match the look of the others. And no matter what, the client still needs to see the map the very next day.

But then I switched over to infiniMap, and it served me so well over the last 2 seasons. The map I use is derived from NASA's Blue Marble satellite photo. This is a 20 GigaByte image, the whole world with a resolution of 1 km per pixel. No matter how far or how close I put the camera now, infiniMap always gives me a perfect image. And its incredibly fast, consistently 3 seconds a frame. With the old map, that had a 20 times lower resolution, I had 20 seconds a frame. Which makes a big difference with these tight deadlines.

So, thank you for infiniMap. It made my life a lot easier.

That's the only thing we want to do, making the life of artists easier...

The Future

Mike is working on a new professional version of infiniMap, do have some special wishes, after your experience with infniMap LE?

Actually, on top of my list was the support for different projection types. But, now I found a trick, how to make a spherical projection with infiniMap. Check this out: You can take an infiniMapped plane, make a MorphMap, and use Bend and Taper to tweak it into a sphere. Voila, you have a Spherical Projection, InfiniMap will still do a flawless job.

I think a lot of customers love to read this.:-)

But still, a little bit more versatility would be fine. I would love to have infiniMap in all other channels, not just Color. Bump, Specular, Diffuse. But I think Mike is on the right track there.

We are working on a complete redesign of infiniMap and you can be sure your wishes and some more will be fullfilled.

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Thank you Christian, for taking the time for us. We wish you all the best for the future and we hope you will use db&w products in the future, too.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk that much smack, and thank you a million times for infiniMap. You rock!

Oh thank you, we only try to be a cute little company. ;)

We would like to thank John Gross from EdenFX for allowing us to have this interview here, which is something we are really proud of and sure special thanks once more to Christian for spending time on this.

This interview has been conducted by Dagmar Bornemann.
(c) of the EdenFX Logo by EdenFX
(c) of all CG images and the self-protrait by Christian Bloch, www.blochi.com
All other images (c) 2005 by db&w GbR.