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Animator James Curran renders a 3D NFT collection using a conductor

James Curran is not afraid of the bleeding edge. As an animator, he has always been drawn to emerging software and new forms. As a teenager, he dabbled in Flash and learned to use Autodesk Maya and Adobe After Effects in college. He has worked in video games, orchestrated month-long GIFathons in foreign cities, and collaborated with major brands such as Samsung, T-Mobile, and Disney XD through his SlimJim Studios and Partizan/Making Pictures. His latest career move has brought him into the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which provides new opportunities for artists to share and monetize their work. Today, he creates NFTs as part of the Random Character Collective, an NFT talent incubator that includes animators Lucas Zanotto and Markus Magnusson, and has over 233,000 followers on Discord.

While Curran has primarily worked in 2D animation throughout his professional career to date, he started returning to 3D a few years ago, which required a new approach to rendering. To get scalable, on-demand computing power that he could access from his MacBook Pro on the go, he started looking for cloud-based solutions and found the Conductor cloud platform. “Some of my work was taking way too long to render locally, and Conductor was the first rendering solution that worked the way I wanted and expected. It really made things so much easier for me.

The conductor proved essential for Curran’s latest NFT collection, a 3D version of his out of print SlimHoods collection. Comprising 5,000 characters wearing randomly generated hoodies minted as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain, the SlimHood collection was created using a generative color block design that draws from 10,000 possible color combinations , as well as various accessories, hairstyles and facial feature options for millions of people. unique possibilities. After Curran designed and animated the base character in After Effects, he used logic coding to pull together the variations of animation elements. Each SlimHood was blind purchased through the dedicated website using cryptocurrency and a smart contract, then created from a unique combination of individual traits with literally billions of possible iterations.

“Ultimately I tried to create characters that would represent anybody and the hoodie is pretty ubiquitous,” Curran shared. “Coding for combination generation wasn’t as difficult as people might think; I found the hardest part was figuring out how to publish an NFT collection.

Curran enlisted developer Mikkel Malmberg to create the smart contracts to create the NFTs. When customers made a purchase, they received a link to the asset and all the important associated data. He also had a technical artist build the character’s initial rig. For the SlimHoods 3D NFT Collection, Curran rebuilt his designs in Maya and so far uses what he has learned in the NFT space to help other artists.

“After my SlimHoods collection sold out, I talked to Lucas and Markus about the possibility of forming a collective,” Curran explained. “I also wanted to help them sell their NFTs, and it made sense to combine our efforts and share everything via social media. We restructured our community on the Discord app, brought in additional moderators, and things really took off from there.

The Random Character Collective launched in November 2021, and its first NFT drops included Zanotto’s Mood Rollers, followed by Magnusson’s Invisible Friends. Having a scalable rendering solution like Conductor has helped the collective prepare to expand their capabilities and mentor artists who want to create for the NFT market. It also helps Curran keep his setup relatively simple. “I travel a lot, so I usually have the most capable MacBook available and use Conductor for the heavy lifting when I need it,” he explained. “The Conductor submission tools in Maya are easily accessible, and if I need to render Invisible Friends in Blender and SlimHoods in Maya, I can run it on one account and keep track of everything easier.”

Curran got into NFTs, both from a creative and buying perspective, because he happens to like them. “Beeple (aka Mike Winkelmann, a graphic designer from Charleston, SC) definitely started making the concept of NFTs more mainstream, which helped us all,” he noted. For young animators looking to get started in the world of NFTs, Curran’s advice is to take your time and just do what you love.

“People feel like they’re going to miss an opportunity, especially with something so new and of the moment. But if you don’t figure out the best way to approach your concept first, it won’t work. Don’t don’t rush anything,” Curran pointed out. “When I got into NFTs, I was still creating the same piece of art, not completely changing what I was doing. The NFT world is just a different way to release what all of us in the collective have already been doing and working on every day.

For the latest news on the SlimHood 3D NFT collection, follow or see The latest Random Character Collective updates can be found here:

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