Seller Spotlight: Zach Shukan

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About

I’m a 3D animator and visual effects generalist. I run a tiny studio called Omega Darling. I’ve done work for a wide range of clients, focusing on everything from mostly live-action editing and color-correction all the way to fully CG with animated characters.

Honestly, it started when I realized I could sell some of the work I’d done for personal challenges. I’ve put more and more models on my store, but it’s still for the main purpose of pushing myself to improve. First it was about learning ZBrush, then recently it became about learning how to make all the kinds of PBR materials. The first models I put up were just albedo (color) textured, which made them less flexible for putting into live action or animated scenes, but now I’m trying to make models have all of the bells and whistles that make them versatile enough to work in any lighting.

Choosing Projects

When I’m not on a paid gig I take advantage of the “down time” to work on my own projects. Sometimes I get frozen by how many things I want to do, and I never feel like I finish everything I want to do.

Since I’m mostly selling 3D scans, first off, I try to pick objects that would be really hard to make from scratch, where 3D-scanning can really excel. That’s often things with complex organic forms or objects with a ton of intricate detail. But I also have to pick things that can scan, and the method I use for 3D scanning has a lot of technical limitations. Shiny and transparent (especially refractive) objects require special surface treatment (a homemade blend of talc, charcoal shavings, and 99% alcohol) and a lot of editing work in ZBrush and Photoshop. Objects that move around, like people, are another challenge that I’m still working on getting better at.

After I figure out what can be made, I look for niche areas where I think that people could really use assets, niches where either there aren’t many models out there or what’s available isn’t great.

Most recently, I scanned a lot of doughnuts because I got a bunch of free doughnuts from Doughnut Plant in Brooklyn. I offered to make some animations in exchange for some Instagram love and they said “okay”. So, that’s coming – animated donuts on my Instagram.

How my Assets are Used

This isn’t something I’ve followed up on enough. I’m open to hearing about how people have used my assets, but so far I’ve only heard from a few people who were still experimenting with how to best use what they bought. Actually, I’d be interested in reaching out to my customers and asking them if they did anything cool with my products. Outside of the stuff sold on the Sketchfab store, I have made custom scans a few times for commercial clients and those models ended up in ads.

Pricing

I’m still figuring this one out. At first I was starting low and then raising the price whenever anyone bought it because I figured that demand should drive the price. That was creating some really uneven pricing, though, so recently I’ve just tried to set the prices close to what other people are selling their work for. Probably the biggest challenge for setting my prices is that I want to set them low enough to encourage people to buy a few at a time, but there’s no way to dynamically adjust prices based on how much people buy.

Promotion

This blog post! But seriously, I suck at promoting myself. It’s kind of the history of my career. I focus almost entirely on making stuff and getting better at making stuff and also making clients happy. I’m always telling myself I’m going to get around to telling people about my skills, but between already being busy on paid projects and having a million things I’d rather make than promotional materials, I really drop the ball on marketing.

Workflow

It’s becoming a pretty efficient pipeline.

  • Step 1) Set up scanning studio (lights, camera, turntable, prep the object that’s getting scanned)
  • Step 2) Photography.
  • Step 3) Import photos and run them through Lightroom, then After Effects, then Metashape or Reality Capture (whichever works better) to get initial model.
  • Step 4) ZBrush retopology and cleanup of model and textures, including removal of any rig I used to prop the model in place.
  • Step 5) Make the rest of the PBR materials.
  • Step 6) Make everything small, zip, and post on Sketchfab.
  • Step 7) Do all the stuff with the Sketchfab 3D Editor that makes the model look its best.

Here’s a video of me doing a “single camera speedscan”:

Why Sketchfab?

I have stores on a couple of other places, but right now I have 10 times as many models on my Sketchfab store because it’s just easier to get things up and ready for sale. On the other sites I have to render out the demo images/turntables and make the asset work with a few different DCC programs, but on Sketchfab I just have to make the model and textures and the Sketchfab 3D Editor does the rest. Eventually I’ll get around to adding all the Maya, C4D, and 3ds Max versions of my models to my Sketchfab store, but that’ll be icing on the cake.

Next Steps

I’d like to team up with more bakeries and restaurants and scan their prepared food so that I can benefit from the artistry of a good cook, and they can make their menus interactive with AR. Speaking of artistry, I’d like to work with great painters and sculptors to digitize and then animate their work. Wouldn’t it be cool to see paintings fully-animated or the sculptures at the MET come alive in AR?

Zach’s Instagram / Zach’s Demo Reel

 

About the author

Zach Shukan

Starting out with nearly a decade in the video game industry, and another decade making TV ads, his current gig is heading up Omega Darling, a boutique design, animation, and visual effects company.


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