Creating A Digital Art Studio With Pc Hardware Upgrades – Hello! And thanks for taking the time to check out my workspace (or should I say maker station?) and hear a little about what I do.
I work full time as a freelance Visual Effects Artist (VFX) and 3D Motion Graphics Designer (MGFX). I have been in the industry for about six years.
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For those of you who have no idea what that means. I am usually responsible for creating special effects for TV shows and advertisements and commercials.
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It can be a lot of work. One week I’m creating black holes and space nebula (I usually work about 6-7 months a year on a space documentary for the Science Channel/Discovery), and the next week I’m animating a diaper commercial (yeah, this one had it). it happened, but luckily only once!)
When not parked at his desk, James is an avid climber and boulderer, skier, hiker and occasional gamer.
I became interested in visual effects from a young age, especially watching behind-the-scenes extras on DVDs of my favorite films of the time (
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This eventually led me to create my own (in retrospect, very badly) but it got me hooked and I wanted to know more about how digital assets were created.
I studied VFX at the University of London. After graduation, I got my first job at a relatively small studio focused on television advertising.
After about three years of experience in the industry, I decided to start my own company and work as a freelancer.
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I will say a little more about how this happened. It’s related to the current coronavirus pandemic and has created my workstation/studio that you’re reading!
If you are interested, you can see the things I am working on in my studio on my website.
But as I’m busier and busier with work, it’s hard for me to sit more than at my desk
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Fortunately, I’ve been symptom-free for quite some time after developing healthy work habits that keep me moving, which also ties in with my work.
If I were to sum up my studio in a few words, I would choose efficient, optimized, focused, calm and relaxed.
I started using this room two years ago. I’m still constantly moving things around to get the setup right, but I think I’m finally happy with the current setup…
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3D shot of James’ living room. It’s a great way to see the space and change the design before buying furniture
One of the perks of being a 3D artist is that I can make a 3D plan of where I work. This helps to visualize how things will turn out.
This can sometimes help drag my sofa from one side of the room to the other at 2am when I have an epiphany about a “better” design.
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I’ve always thought it’s good to invest in the fastest GPU/CPU to get the best performance in whatever software or game you’re playing.
However, the way you interact with this content is through the screen. If it’s useless, the money you spent on flashy internal hardware is a waste.
James hates feeling cramped in a small space. “When using a mouse, graphic tablet, often a notebook a
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I also want to own a lot of office real estate. My table measures two meters wide (78.7”) and 70 cm (27”) deep.
There is also a lot of empty space in the middle of the room. This is also planned.
I wanted to have an open area that I could use to move around. For yoga, core stretches, or rocking out in VR.
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“I really like the industrial/rustic/bohemian look, which I think is best pushed by the sofa and table, as well as the patterned rug,” says James.
I think that finding things on eBay or any other second-hand market makes you think about items that you wouldn’t have, compared to buying everything directly from a catalog.
It’s helpful if you want to develop a somewhat eclectic look. Plus, finding a bargain is always fun!
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James considered buying Herman Miller’s Embody chair, but Saylo’s looked better. It was also cheaper than Sayl Embody
The chair I sit on is another important part of the workplace. I chose Sayl by Herman Miller.
In terms of comfort, as someone with back problems, I can’t fault it. The front chair I had was an IKEA Markus, which was a little poor ergonomically.
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Since my studio is on the 3rd floor of the house, it gets very hot here. Especially with computers running at 100% load when rendering or running simulations.
The Sayl armchair has an open mesh design. I don’t sweat with the Dyson Cool fan behind me.
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The closet behind the desk where I sit at the desk (this was my bedroom as a teenager!). I have since turned this into a mini “kitchen” and storage area for some old tech items.
This means that when I’m working on a deadline I can make a quick coffee to keep me going or grab a cold drink from the fridge.
It’s just as useful when I’m planning a game or movie night with friends, if not more: it keeps the beer cold and handy!
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The last change I made to the room is to rotate the desk 90 degrees so that it is under the shelves instead of under the TV.
James did this as he looked to his right so he could see the natural light and outside
A side effect of this desk move is that in the morning sunlight streams into my desk through the blinds. It seems very peaceful, although it blinds me a little.
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I made this with some MDF boards I had lying around. I also installed a carpet to keep the computer off the carpet and free of dust.
One sneaky thing I incorporated into this climb was to leave the back panel section open. I’ve included a 6-way extension cord here.
This allows for relatively easy cable management. Everything goes in and out of this lift box and is hidden.
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I also have a 6-way extension cord mounted under the desk above the computer that is daisy-chained to an extension cord on the lower riser.
Thinking about future workstation upgrades, now that I’ve moved the desk, I need to move the wall mounted TV. It’s something you’d see on the r/TVtooHigh subreddit right now.
After experiencing everything on an OLED HDR computer screen, all other screens just don’t seem right!
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These are mostly things I would consider “tools”, but I really like my GMMK Pro keyboard. This would be it if I were confined to my desktop… or maybe juicy.
James chose the GMMK Pro keyboard because he wanted a solid aluminum plate with built-in arrow keys (as well as a volume rocker). This album delivered
At the time, I was also considering the Leopold FC980M as an alternative, but the keyless GMMK Pro freed up a little more desk space.
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After going through the many bottles of bourbon and whiskey on the shelf (it would be pretty easy to pick these as favorite items, but that feels like a bit of a cheat), I’d have to say my favorite item is a fossilized echinoid. (sea urchin).
James found this fossil on a local beach. “It has a homely feel to it and it also represents something I’m passionate about”
My biggest interest outside of visual effects is archeology and ancient history, which I studied at university for two years before switching to VFX.
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I also have a collection of photo books on space photography of satellites and astronauts. As a space nerd, these are also pretty high.
The canvas is slightly darkened, but it’s actually a movie poster I designed for my graduation film
A total of ten posters are printed (including the home office). One is in James’ work studio, one is at his parents’ house, one is in the first studio he ever worked in and two more James gave to a friend and family member. “Today I have the other four saved”
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This movie is of course a few years old, but anyone interested can watch it.
I usually go to bed around 10pm and usually wake up around 7:30-8am. Staring at screens all day can disrupt your sleep.
I wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening. Even when I work on things that are color sensitive, these aren’t ideal. They turn everything a little yellow!
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I track my sleep on my Apple Watch. I can definitely see a difference in my deep sleep when I use the glasses.
In his paper a
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