Monday, 22 March 2010

Wheely Very Difficult

One of the interesting things about being a freelancer is that you are sort of up for anything. I can't say I've ever been asked to join a team of mercenaries to overthrow a foreign government, but I sometimes get jobs that are quite different to my usual style of work. Take Wheeliebugs. An old friend of mine contacted me after years of not seeing her to ask if I fancied designing some new "skins" for a line of toddlers push along toys (I'm not going explain any more, you can look at the picture!) I said "yes" because paid work's a little slow at the moment and they looked simple. ... which they are, but made the big mistake of saying I could do them in 3-D. I know Newtek Lightwave 3D pretty well, but I still struggle with UV mapping. (The process of taking a flat artwork and wrapping it around a 3-D object).

It's fine on my paper model kits because it's built into the process, you have to flatten everything out anyway when making the cut out pattern. Also, the paper kit has to me constructed of simple shapes to make it possible for the user to put together. Although the bean-shaped seat on the wheeliebug looks like a simple shape for the purposes of UV-mapping it's a foul group of compound curves that totally resist accurate wrapping of a 2-D image. Like trying to wrap an orange in a sheet of paper you are going get folds and creases and parts of the image disappearing.  All of his is made worse by having a number of straight lines that need to seamlessly cross the awkward curved areas.

So, the point of this post? It boils down to what I charged. I decided, for the first time ever, to charge per day mainly because the job was open ended. There was no definite end point in the design process because my client hadn't settled on a final number of designs. Of course I can't charge for the hours wasted faffing around with the UV mapping because that's a part of the technical expertise she could reasonably expect me to have already. When you take your car to the garage for a new tire you don't expect to be charged for the mechanic to learn how to change the tire. Or do you? I think yes, in the higher price you pay for a service. All jobs at a professional level require some bespoke design that even the professional has not had experience of and will need to learn on the job. Knowing how to gain the required new knowledge is what being professional is, then the pay off is having further jobs where that new learning from the previous job becomes experience.

You are probably wondering why professionalism could possibly be associated with those simple wheelybugs pictured above, you must be thinking, "What's he going on about? I could easily do that". If you are a 3-D design professional, yes, you probably could.

Wheelybugs are brilliant and you can buy them along with lots of other marvellous wooden toys from Little Fish Toys

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