Me: Eric Keller

Hi and welcome to my Blog. This is a hastily compiled record of my digital art and computer graphics experiments. I am a freelance CG artist living and working in Hollywood CA. I have written several books on Maya and ZBrush. Below my blog you'll find links to the books and tutorials I have authored and co-authored. I also occasionally teach at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. Soon I will get around to posting my demo reel and resume. I named my blog "Bloopatone" in honor of my first dog "Blue". She passed away a few years ago and I still miss her even though she was very grouchy and liked to bite me!

I'm proud to be an instructor at The Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood. Take a look at the work of our students and instructors on the Gnomon School Blog and the Gnomon Workshop Blog

Here is a link to my Demo Reel:

Niche: Experiments in Speculative Entomologial Animations from Eric Keller on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My new video lecture for the Gnomon Workshop is now live

Just completed a new lecture series on using Viewport 2.0 in Maya 2015.  Here is the official description:

In this lecture, Eric Keller explores the new features and functionality of Maya 2015's Viewport 2.0. Starting with advice on how to optimize your workstation in order to take advantage of the new features, Keller then goes into an in-depth discussion of the special Viewport 2.0 Shader FX and DirectX 11 materials. The described techniques allow you to view transparency, environment reflections, ambient occlusion and translucency, all in real-time, without the need for expensive renders. By taking advantage of the hidden power of Viewport 2.0 you can create better previews, stunning animatics, faster 3D illustrations, and higher quality game textures and assets. The lecture demonstrates techniques on a wide variety of example scenes including environments, props, and creatures. Keller then describes his own techniques for creating realtime render passes that can be composited in Nuke to create amazing results with minimal render time. You'll learn how to create and edit Shader FX networks, use multiple UV sets, create real-time animated textures, generate environment reflections and apply them to surfaces, use IBLs, create real-time displacements with the Direct X 11 shader, and tricks for generating glow and translucency effects that can be viewed within Viewport 2.0.

Here the trailer:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Seriously? more Fire Ants?

Yes! of course!

So I finally got around to taking the plunge on GPU based rendering. I got Octane on Saturday afternoon, never used it before in my life. I went through the manual and by Sunday evening I was able to convert my Solenopsis invicta model into an Octane-ready render. I'm so happy with the result! These images are straight out of Octane/Maya 2015 with almost no post process in Photoshop (just some levels tweaking and the logo/watermark). they rendered - with depth of field blurring and all - in a fraction of the time it takes me to render in mental ray, and they look better than my mental ray renders! Compare these images with my earlier mental ray renders from a few weeks ago. They are not as grainy, the shadows look wonderful and have some nice color bleed in them, The translucent quality (admittedly a little overdone in these images) is nice and juicy, and I was able to generate them in IPR so I could tweak the shaders and see them update in real time! I've always hated IPR in Maya because it crashes a lot and many features are not supported but now that I have Octane I can use IPR and see all my loooovely shaders emerge almost instantly and zero crashes so far!.

These renders were done using the Octane Maya plug-in  but  I love Octane stand-alone as well as it  has a great node based interface and feels very stable on my machine (I'm using an NVidia Geforce 780 Ti, Windows 8 Maya 2015). You can't actually get the Maya plug-in without also purchasing the Stand-alone version but the software is very affordable given the ease of use, the power, and the result.  I'm not sure I can go back to CPU rendering after this. I feel like Otoy has got it right as far as rendering goes. It is not as simple as rendering in Keyshot but if you understand the principals of physically based rendering then it is not too hard to pick up. The stand-alone node editor reminds me of Nuke (one of my very favorite programs). I don't feel like the Octane Maya plug-in is missing anything compared to Octane stand-alone and it feels rock solid - even more stable than mental ray. The main advantage of using the Octabe Maya plug-in over Octane stand alone is that I get instant feedback without having to export the scene as an OBJ or Alembic cache. However I did some tests exporting animated Alembic caches from Maya and bringing them into Octane stand-alone and its seems to work very well with a few small glitches which are most likely the result of me being a noob.

Of course these renders are far from perfect, still a little too glass-like and I'm sure my textures could be optimized further but this is after just a few hours of messing around and reading through the manual. The real test is rendering an animation which is my next goal, I hope it works because I'm so sick of being disappointed with mental ray crashes and ridiculous render times. There are a ton of features in Octane which I have not touched yet so I'm hoping things get even better from here

All this work is leading up to the first episode of Entomology Animated which I hope everyone enjoys, but honestly I don't care if people like it or not because I'm having fun! I'm sure many people wonder why I'm wasting time modeling, animating, and rendering ants when I could be doing aliens, orcs, Mechs, or fabulous babes with giant guns. I mean ants are boring right? they are ants! who cares about ants? To this I reply: you will never be able to design a creature as amazing as an ant, you're just not clever enough to compete with the brutal creative force of evolution, and if you don't believe me, its time to put down the comic books and start studying some actual science. Ants invented air conditioning, agriculture, animal husbandry, siege warfare, and social media, some 50 million years before Homo sapiens arrived on the scene!.... Yes I've had a few drinks....

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Megaselia kelleri

Very excited! A species of Phorid fly has been named in my honor becasue of my participation in the Los Angeles Natural History Museum's Bioscan project! Meet Megaselia kelleri! Huge honor for me and I'm very happy to be particpating in such an importnat project as a citizen scientist! Yes, I hop to model it soon!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More Fire Ant Fun

Very close to rigging my little baby here. Just completing a few tweaks/corrections to the clubs on the antennae, the gaster, hairs and the petiole to try and get her closer to S. invicta. I finished Stephen Welton Taber's Fire Ants and just started Walter R. Tschinkel's The Fire Ants. Both amazing books. Thanks again to Seth Burgess for his critiques of my model. Of course now I have to tackle the queen. the male, and the minims!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Coffin Fly WIP

Here are some mental ray renders of my coffin fly model. I'm sorting out some issues with the anatomy with the help of entomologists/fly experts so it's not 100% yet.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life on Earth preview

Digizyme, the company I proudly work for, has posted some nice videos showing off the interactive life science widgets we created for E O Wilson's Life on Earth iBook. One of my favorites was this interactive comparison of hominid skulls and faces. I got to experiment with animated vector displacement maps. Models created in ZBrush and then animated and rendered in Maya/mental ray. it was quite a rig! Check out the webpage for more demos:

I alos love the 3D planaria, I used some of the Keyshot VR tools to create this:

In the end there are around 500 images, interactives and animations in the book, what we've shown on the website is just a small sample. And its all free for both Apple iPad and Apple desktop editions of iBooks!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coming Soon... Entomology Animated!

Working on  a new personal project which I'm calling "Entomology Animated". Since Nature seems to be a few thousand times more interesting than anything I can dream up I am taking a break from fictionalized insects of my own design and instead I am exploring research on real live existing insects and arthropods and focusing my artistic endeavors on that. I give up nature... you win!

Entomology Animated will be a series of animations that explore the weird world of insect physiology and behavior (and I have some spiders, millipedes and other non-insect arthropods I'd like to include as well so I'm using the broad definition of "Entomology" and not the more specific definition which is restricted to insects... kind of like when a "Classical" music station plays Bach which is technically Baroque and not Classical... ok that was a tangent...).

I am striving towards accuracy (but I'm not a trained entomologist, I'm really an entomophile) in all that I present whether its on entomology or evolutionary biology. The videos will be online, free to watch for everyone. Its my hope that this series will help inject accurate science back into the internet and help spread the joy and love of all insects (except roaches, I will never get on board with them...)

But there is much work to be done. The first episode will be on Solenopsis invicta (AKA Red Imported Fire Ant, AKA Solenopsis wagneri for you old school types). I just revised the model that I had started a couple years ago.  I improved the geometry, textures, and shaders. I want to think Seth Burgess ( for his help and advice on improving the anatomy, my post petiole was a mess, its looking better now I think. Seth was even kind enough to take some amazing photos and send them to me which I used extensively for reference. Can't thank you enough Seth!

These are some test renders of the revised model (I apologize if they are grainy, these are not production render settings, just a test setting). Rendered in mental ray for Maya 2015, only photoshop work was a levels adjustment and the addition of the logos. Enjoy!

Now I have to rig this little lady...