Meet the Masters: James Culley

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The Sketchfab Masters are a group of super passionate and active community members. They are helping us run community activities, write tutorials and help out community members with support and feedback.

Today, meet James Culley aka JCulley3D  – one of our leading 3D Modelers, especially beloved pop culture icons. 

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi I’m James Culley, I teach 3D design and virtual reality immersive learning at the London Design and Engineering University Technology College (LDE UTC).  Teaching this kind of tech is an awesome opportunity to inspire tomorrow’s designers and to play with the latest gadgets!  I’m also a freelance 3D artist and hobbyist droid builder, loving all things 3D!

My exploration into the larger world of 3D modeling started way back when I was known as Sith-J-Cull a modder for the Star Wars Jedi Academy PC game community.  Those were fun times, I enjoyed recreating many famous Star Wars locations.  It was rewarding to see so many players enjoying my maps, some of which clocked over 70k downloads on some of the modding sites back then!

Here is a youtube playlist of some of my very early 3D work for Jedi Academy PC Game:

The content featured here was created with the QIII engine (which used BSP brush based editing).  To create anything even remotely intricate with those engine limitations was actually kind of a challenge!

My love for various movie franchises and gaming in general motivated me to learn toolsets such as 3DS Max and the Unreal Engine.  As a freelance 3D artist I have had the opportunity to work on some really exciting 3D projects including a Virtual Reality recreation of the Back to the future DeLorean for UK TV presenter Jason Bradbury, who owns and events with a real life DeLorean replica!

As a hobbyist I have created some CGI short videos, one of the most popular videos is my Force Awakens teaser parody, a stylistic low poly animation replacing all characters with BB8 just for fun!  It’s proved quite popular!

I also worked on a mashup animation:

I display many models on Sketchfab including those I make just for fun, here are some that I enjoyed creating the most!

My third place runners up entry to the Sketchfab Star Wars competition, The Deliverance of Binks (Animated): 


DeLorean DMC-12: (Annotated scene and the initial stage of my as yet unreleased VR DeLorean project)


Big Hero Six Baymax 2.0 Scene (Baked lighting):

The Scavenger Diorama (Baked lighting):


VW Camper (PBR model):


Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (Animated):

What is your expertise?

I really enjoy animation and most of my commercial projects have involved animation of some kind however I wouldn’t necessarily say I specialise in anything in particular.  I like to think that I have a well rounded skill set, it’s advantageous being able to model, rig, texture and animate because you can see your own project right through to the final stages without external input if that makes sense.  I also compose musical compositions which is useful to enrich my videos.

How do you use Sketchfab?

I use Sketchfab in a number of ways:

1. Model Testing:

It’s a great tool!  I like to test my models and textures outside of my 3D editor (I use 3DMax).  You can quickly identify shading and wireframe issues and you can view an accurate representation of your model and materials prior to 3D engine implementation.  The addition of Depth of Field (DoF) also provides another ‘test bed’ function, as it works in realtime you can obtain beautiful screenshots and renders of DoF in seconds rather than waiting for renders to complete!  It saves time and improves work flow no end.  It’s an excellent educational tool for students to test and iterate their work prior to submission.

2. Portfolio

The  real-time render quality of Sketchfab is awesome so I use it to display completed works on my website and social media pages.  The embed support is excellent so you can be confident that your models are displaying correctly wherever they are viewed and with real-time post-processing effects, which is just cool!

3. Client demonstration

I used Sketchfab to demonstrate models and animations to clients, using the private and passworded upload feature, this is far better than providing screenshots as clients can orbit the model and ensure they are happy with all aspects of the design.  Here is an example of a ‘Nao the Robot’ I re-created for a distribution client recently:

The support for animation is also useful as a lot of my models require moving parts or visual storytelling of some sort.


4. Virtual Reality support!

I also use Sketchfab in my teaching and learning role, with student accessing different models in real-time VR, this is an excellent education tool and a brilliant way to inspire students to get into design and engineering.  The sheer amount of content uploaded to Sketchfab ensures that there is something for everyone to explore and be inspired by.

What will you be working on for the Sketchfab Masters?

As an active social media user I work towards improving the awareness of Sketchfab’s webvr support and use Sketchfab at various events to push the concept!  I am currently working on a number of new scenes that will eventually run in VR and I will be creating a number of video tutorials explaining different parts of this process.  As I am keen to highlight the importance on browser based 3D distribution and VR in education I will be writing a series of articles on how Sketchfab enriches the educational experience for my students at LDEUTC.

I look forward to working on more 3D scenes for Sketchfab and love looking through the other user content there are some very talented artists out there!




Thanks, James!

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!

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