• Dr. Seuss, Toys, and a Mission
    Policarpo | Dec 2002

    An Interview with NewTek's LightWave Evangelist, William "Proton" Vaughan

    William Vaughan - LightWave 3D Evangelist, NewTek
    A recipient of several New Media Addy awards, William Vaughan brings broad-based experience to the position of LightWave Evangelist at NewTek, having done 3D work for print, web, multimedia, games and broadcast.

    Over the past ten years, Vaughan has established a strong reputation for his award-winning work for clients such as Compaq, New Line Cinema, and Halliburton. He has also worked in the LightWave® community as an instructor at North Harris Community College. Vaughan's other activities in LightWave® user education include training companies such as NASA, Fulbright & Jaworski, and KHOU Channel 11, the CBS affiliate in Houston to use LightWave®.

    I recently had the chance to pull William Vaughan, aka Proton, away from his busy work day to talk about the 3D industry, his role as NewTek’s LightWave Evangelist, and his love of Dr. Seuss.

    Image: William and his alter ego proton

    Policarpo Wood (PW)- Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    William Vaughan (WV)- Let's see…Where to start? I'll try and keep this simple and clean…this is a family site right :). I've had quite the “career roller coaster ride” over the last 10 years, and the ride keeps going. About ten years ago I decided to go to school to study design and illustration and break away from fine art a bit (the starving artist role wasn't cutting it and I was getting tired of Ramen 5 days a week :)). After a year of working in advertising, I discovered the world of New Media, and I was instantly hooked.

    You see, with New Media, it was all about absolutes. In the world of print, you never know what the final product is going to look like. You have to rely on too many other people. I always dreaded going to the printer to see if they got the colors right, or if they made sure the low-res images were swapped with the Hi-res images. With New Media, what you saw on the computer screen was pretty much what the end user would see. After 6 years of working on everything from Websites, Interactive CD's, Enhanced Cd's, Kiosks, 3D Children's books, and more, I got the gaming bug.

    A good friend of mine, Philip Nelson, suggested that I pick up a game (Serious Sam), and once I played with the editing tools that came with Serious Sam I was hooked. A few weeks later I moved to Indianapolis to work on a game using the Serious Engine.

    A year later I moved back to Texas to take on the role of LightWave Evangelist for NewTek.

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  • PW- On the forums people know you as Proton, where did that name come from?

    WV- It's kinda silly…..I've picked up many nicknames over the years like White Bread (ask me another time for that story), Big Bird, etc. I was given the nickname Proton when I was in school years back and it seems to follow me wherever I go. I'm a pretty laid back guy, but when it comes to work, and at that time school, I get very excited and full of energy, I can work for hours and hours with no break. I'm always trying to come up with new ideas and ways to market myself and others. I have an insatiable appetite to create opportunities. My classmates always said I was positively charged and from that the name Proton was born. It has sort of stuck ever since.

    PW- How long have you been using 3D as an element in your work?

    WV- I've been using 3D in my work for almost 8 years now. I started out using 3D as minor elements in my design work, and over time it became my primary tool of choice. It's very funny. What started out as a curiosity has turned into an obsession. I’m sure others would agree with me on this. You can't just do 3D. You really need to live it. It’s like tweaking the engines on a hot rod. You've always got to push it just a little bit more.

    PW- What attracted you about the position of LightWave Evangelist for NewTek?

    WV- I’ve always wanted to work for NewTek since my encounter with them in Topeka. I’ve had the opportunity to work with NewTek on various projects in the past. Over the years I have created logos, packaging, posters, interactive cd’s, and more and enjoyed working with the people at NewTek. I made good friends with people like Philip Nelson and Donetta Colboch, and always stayed in touch with them. When NewTek moved to San Antonio it made it very easy for me to swing by the office and visit with them. When I got the call with the offer of LightWave Evangelist it was a no-brainer for me. I took it without question, and have been happy with that decision ever since. The title was like icing on the cake :).

    PW- I’m going to stray a little off topic to keep this interesting. What’s the strangest obsession you know of that someone has? No names please….

    WV- Yikes…this could get bad. Probably the strangest thing I've heard of is a buddy of mine worked with a guy that was in to stuffed animals. When I say he was into them , I mean he's what they call a Plushaphile [sic]. I'd rather not go into detail on this one. But I think you get the idea. Yikes. I think this interview has just derailed.

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  • PW- How do you think your experience helps the LightWave and 3D community?

    WV- The 3D market has really opened up in the past few years to more then just TV and Film. Although I have worked on a few projects for Video, my primary background is print, multimedia and games. I think that I can help LightWave 3D grow in those areas as well as TV and Film. We're starting to see 3D shine in areas like print and I think it will continue to grow. I would like to do my part to make sure that these other industries have the tools that they need to allow more and more artists to add 3D to their toolkit. I feel like I'm in a good position at Newtek to really do some meaningful work for our community. I feel like this is a Hair Club for Men ad, cause I’m not only the LightWave Evangelist, but I am a user too.

    PW- Okay…sorry about that….I've had too many cups of coffee this morning. Seeing how you’re the LightWave Evangelist, what do you think separates LightWave from it's competitors?

    WV- I knew this one was coming, it's a question I get a lot. I think LightWave gives you the biggest bang for your buck. I love that it has everything I need to get the job done. It has the world’s best polygonal modeler, and one hell of a renderer. I could go on and on for hours on why I know it is the best, and if I had a laptop here I could show you why I think it is the best. But you know what, there's something non- product specific that really makes LightWave a great package. The one thing about LightWave that has always stood out to me though is the great community that has been the foundation of LightWave since I started using it. I've never seen a better community than this one. The closest I’ve seen would have to be the Flash community. You should have known I'd sneak Flash into this interview.

    PW- Is there anything on the horizon you can share with us?

    WV- I just met my goal of having 100 tutorials on the LightWave site, but have no plans to stop there. We will continue to have monthly contests for the community, which I'm very excited about. Unlike most contests, the actual source files of the best entries are made available for everyone to study. This is one of the best resources I can think of.

    The user profiles seem to be a big hit as well, so I plan to keep those on the way as frequently as possible. I also have some learning material items in the works that should please the community. You can never have enough learning materials!

    PW- What project would totally set you off and fulfill all your dreams?

    WV- I've worked on many jobs that I've really enjoyed, and one of my dreams has already been fulfilled. I always wanted to create a children's book and a few years ago I had the opportunity to work on several 3d Children's books. My ultimate goal is to create a character that becomes a household name. Something like Dexter, or the Powerpuff girls, Sponge Bob, or Totoro. And of course it would have to be made into all kinds of toys, so that I could add them to my ever growing toy collection.

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  • PW- What type of work do you like doing the most in 3D?

    WV- This is an easy one. Everyone should know this one. I love modeling characters. I've easily modeled over 2000 characters in the past 8 years and still can't get enough of it. I prefer to create characters from my own designs, but have created hundreds of characters for clients and friends based on other peoples sketches, photo's and clay models.

    If there was one thing I would love to do all day every day, it would be to model characters.

    PW- I've seen your collection of toys and it's pretty impressive. I know that you and Philip Nelson have a little competition going as to who can collect the most. I think you could beat him if you had access to a 3D printer. Why do you think you are a fan of these toys? Is it a secret 3D yearning to get the digital creation into the analog world or what?

    WV- Philip is in the lead with the amount of toys, but even his son has told him that I have much cooler toys. My favorite toys at the moment are my 2 1959, Dr. Seuss toys. They Rock. I'm dying to get my hands on a 3D printer. I would be printing my 3D models day in and day out. Philip would have no chance of keeping up with my collection at that point.

    I have always liked toys and love to have them around my workstation for inspiration. It's great to have them around when modeling a character to have reference material that you can hold and spin around. Plus when I get bored I can always have the Muppets attack the gang of Bionicles.

    PW- When do you think 3D will be in as widespread use as say Photoshop and Quark?

    WV- I think we're seeing the beginning of this already. 3D is now used in just about everything from industrial design to even clip art. I'd say give it a few more years and we'll be there. I see a lot on the horizon involving Flash and 3D technologies. I think we’ll see a lot of innovation in the next few years.

    PW- Any words of wisdom you can offer to any up and coming 3D artists?

    WV- I could talk for hours about this :) but seeing as how my lunch hour is almost up I'll keep it short. I would have to tell them to keep at it. Take advantage of all the great resources that are out there and don't be afraid to ask questions. The forums are full of great users that have been down the same road as you and they are willing to share their valuable knowledge. There has never been a better time to get into 3D. I should probably tattoo that on my forehead, I seem to be saying that one a lot lately.

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  • PW- What's with the Dr. Seuss theme in your avatar?

    WV- Dr. Seuss rocks! I own every Dr. Seuss book and still read them on a weekly basis. It's really as far as my reading level goes :). I love the artwork and the way he is able to tell some pretty serious stories that are both entertaining for kids and adults. Plus Dr. Seuss created the first drawings of a Mech, long before anyone else. Check out the Crunk Car in "Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now" and you’ll see what I mean.

    He's been a big part of my life. An inspiration if you will. Then on my way to work one day I realized my name was straight from a Dr. Seuss story…William is "Will I Am", just like Sam I am from Green Eggs and Ham. Ok I'll take your silence as a let's move on. I admit I'm a geek. I can't help it!

    PW- Who inspired you to become the artist you are today?

    WV- Wow! That's a tough question. So many things and people have inspired me to become the artist I am today, and so many things continue to inspire me. If I had to limit it to just one it would have to be my High school art instructor, Von Kwallek. Mr. Kwallek seems to know everything, and he really got me to start thinking about the importance of good design early on. I still keep in touch with him and several other instructors that I've had the pleasure to learn from.

    I'm also inspired heavily by my peers. The 3D community has been a great resource of inspiration and continues to inspire me more and more everyday.

    Image: Dr. Seuss I presume?

    PW- I have to ask this one before time runs out…How many hours a night do you sleep? I only ask this because you’re prolific at modeling. That and I see you post on the forums all hours of the day and night.

    WV- Hehe.......I really don't sleep much at all. I get on average 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night. A good nights sleep for me would be 4 to 5 hours. I try and take advantage of this by staying busy up until I can't do anymore and have to lay down in bed. Of course I’m also a movie buff so I do vegg in front of the TV for many hours watching my favorites over and over again. If anyone needs a good list of movies that you probably haven't ever heard of shoot me an email. :)

    PW- Is there anything you’d like to ask of the LightWave and 3D community?

    WV- Share your knowledge in the forums and in tutorials. There is so much to learn in this industry and helping each other out takes a little bit of weight off everyone.

    PW- Thanks for taking the time to chat, we’ll see you on the forums.

    WV- I've enjoyed it. Thanks for lunch. Oh wow check out this cool toy this kid has! :).

    Discuss this interview on CG Talk - Digital Effects Professionals

    Policarpo website

    Images: William "proton" Vaughan

    Special thanks to Policarpo.

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