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By Michael Schmeling 2002
article - Schmeling Consulting

Michael is the master of RS Freeware - Here's the inside in what makes him tick:

Michael Schmeling kindly allowed us to "interview" him on the 23rd December 2002. This is the full transcript from the conversation:

B: Michael, tell us a little about yourself:

M: I am born in 1955 and studied Eletrical Engineering and Mathematics - most of it long forgotten by now...
I am working as a self employed computer consultant and programmer, up to now outside of the graphics world.

B: How long have you been using Real Michael?

M: Actually, I have never used Real3D - the old version. I started with Realsoft3D V4 when it first shipped in September 2000.

B: You have been a busy man writing all manner of plugins for Realsoft 3D -much to the delight of all RS3D users - and releasing them as freeware! What drives you to write plugins ?

M: It all started with the brick shader. I needed one for my first RS3D picture and found that there was nothing available that suited my needs for making bricks and shingles. I began a brick shader in VSL, but it quickly got so horribly complex that I switched to the SDK and a 'real' programming language.
Most of the other plugins started out of the same reason: I needed some feature that was missing, and since I find graphical programming fun (much more interesting than my daily work in a bank...), I decided to add it myself.
By now I like RS3D and the possibilities that the SDK offers so much, that I am willing to write plugins even if I don't need them myself - just to support the incredible capable people at Realsoft a bit.
I thought a little about charging for my plugins, but discarded the idea for two reasons:

  1. The Realsoft community is still very small, and only few people would buy my plugins. It is probably not worth all the hassle to setup a payment system, doing the accounting and all that, just for a few Euros. I get more satisfaction out of the fact that people find my plugins useful than from making a tiny bit of money.
  2. Many of the features I have implemented are things that really should be part of any decent 3D package. People should not need to spend extra money on them.

B: Do you have any plans / time to do any further plugins for RS3D ?

M: Definitely! I have TONS of ideas for more plugins. As soon as my time allows I'll start doing more of them.

B: The plugins you have written best known to people are: the OBJ import/export, the Photoshop import/export, DEM import and the brick/scratches/cellular shaders. Have these been successful ?

M: I get occasional feedback from the maling list or private mails, and it seems people are liking them, probably most the OBJ and Photoshop plugins. I suspect the DEM plugin is the least favored one because large imported DEM meshes are rather difficult to handle in RS3D.

B: I know that many people love you for supporting OBJ - an invaluable export medium that opens up many 3D programs for RS users. But as there has been much disussion about textures and the ability to export textures with a scene - what sort of obstacles are faced with this ?

M: Hmm - I understand the hint... :-). I had planned to include a texture export in the first release. I wanted to 'bake' all textures and materials assigned to a material into one complete texture and export that. But at that time this was a rather complex issue (there are a number of different methods to assign a material to an object) and Realsoft advised me to wait
for better methods in V4.5. Later other things got in my way and prevented me from going back to it. But I promise to look at it again when I have time.

B: I also note that you have a link on your website for Violin Strings Library. Care to tell us what thats about ?

M: This is a simple Java library with some useful string manipulation functions I wrote some time ago, because the string class in Sun's Java SDK was very limited. I am happy that some other programmers around the world found it useful. It has nothing to do with graphics or Realsoft3D.

B: How do you think RS3D sits in the 3D world ? Has it been a good application for you to back / is it a package that you think will become popular ?

M: Sadly, it is still little known in the graphics community. Other packages get much more attention for features that seem by no means any better that Realsoft's. In part this is due to the fact that Realsoft's programmers are much better at mathematics and programming than at marketing :-). But we also need more users who can show excellent work to the public. For my own hobbyist work RS3D certainly offers everything I need - if not, I write a plugin :-).

B: Do you use any other 3D applications ?

M:I have used Animation Master, Truespace, Bryce and Lightwave in the past, but only for very simple pictures. I discarded them all when I started with RS3D, because I feel much more comfortable with it than with any of the other packages. And as a hobbyist I have little need to learn lots of other applications.

B: Has Realsoft ever approached you and asked to write anything specifically or are all these plugins your ideas ?

M: Most of them are my own ideas, with the exception of the Photoshop plugin. Günter Hagedorn from DID asked me if I could do such a plugin and I agreed.

B: How hard is it to develop plugins for Realsoft 3D ?

M: The SDK uses a rather unusual approach: It is a large object oriented class library, written in pure C. Personally, I would prefer a C++ implementation, and learning the way things are done in RS3D took me some time to fully understand. You definitely must be an experienced C programmer to be able to use it. Another obstacle is that for doing any work beyond the available samples you have to understand the way the RS3D classes are supposed to interact with each other, and there is little documentation available about that. Fortunately, Realsoft was always extremely helpful in providing support, even handing out pieces of their source code if neccessary.
And unlike most other SDKs I have seen the RS SDK really gives you the full power of RS3Ds internal capabilities - you can do EVERYTHING you want. Other companies often give you just a limited set of entry points to their application, preventing programmers to take advantage of all the possibilities of the software. This is quite different with RS3D, and one of the reasons I like to work with it.

B: What things would you like to see RS implement / develop with later versions ?

M: I would like to see more ways to render dynamically generated, procedural geometry efficiently - I see a number of very interesting possibilities there!
And I think VSL, as powerful and unique as it is, is too much programmer oriented. I'd like to see a more artist oriented shader system in addition.

B: And finally, is there anything you wish to say to the RS community ?

M: Please render more great pictures and show them to the world! And thank you for liking my plugins :-).

Michael, many thanks for taking the time out to complete these questions ! We all wish you the best of luck with your future plugins and look forward to more great releases from you !


other related articles - click HERE to goto Articles page. To dowload Michaels Great plugins - see his site HERE.

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