For some time i have always been impressed with web sites that go above and beyond in terms of trying to help people learn certain software. One such site that does this is 3D-Palace. The sites main focus is based around 3d studio, and if you have ever looked at 3d studio you will soon understand why you need someone to teach you how to use it.

I have dabbled in 3d studio and when i was doing it i used the Video Tutorials from 3d-Palace. The first thing i was impressed with was the sheer amount of Video Tutorials that you can download. And the next thing that impressed me was the way Cris tackles certain topics and how he can easily explain how to use the basics of 3d Studio and some of the more complicated parts of 3d Studio as well.

Another site that does the same sort of thing as 3d-palace is 3dBuzz. This site to is loaded with free Video Tutorials you can download and see how to use popular modeling programs and other programs as well.

One thing both sites do is go out of their ways to make it easy for people willing to learn complicated software. I got much respect for both of these guys and the time they spend on there Video Tutorials.

So if your Interested in learning 3d-studio go give 3d-Palace a look over.

Below is a interview i had with Cris from 3d-palace and he gives some insight into himself and also what he is doing with I hope you enjoy this interview and like always if you have a few bucks kicking around and you like what Cris is doing with the Video Tutorials throw him a few bucks I'm sure he will make good use of it...

WolfManz611: Please tell the users of WolfManzBytes who you are , your age where your from and how long you have been into 3d modeling.

Cris: Sure, I'm 33 and from the North East of England. I got into 3d in 1986 after seeing the computer game Elite for the Commodore C64 - I really wanted to be able to create those amazing visuals using vector graphics - needless to say that as I was not a coder it was just hopeless and horrible. I took up 3d again however in about 1998 and my first model was a Tree I believe.

WolfManz611: How long has your web site been up for and how popular is it getting now?

Cris: The website was started in 2002 (I think - its been a long time) - initially just for a few friends for a forum and so on. I uploaded some video tutorials I had made and had originally been sharing in an IRC chat room. It was about that time I had seen the article in 3d World about what Jason was doing - I knew I couldn't send out the CDs like he did however I did want to make video tutorials so I opened palace on the somewhat (at the time) risky premise that it was Broadband Only ( or very patient 56k users). Till October 2002 we had about 60 members - then I changed the software and someone posted about the site and the tutorials on 3dbuzz, cgtalk and some other places. By December I had 1000 members and I had to close the site temporarily as I had exceeded my 50 gigs of bandwidth my host allowed by quite a lot. End of December I leased the 3d-palace server from my own funds.

WolfManz611: I noticed now your selling some DVD's from your site is that going good and are you selling lots of them?

Cris: They sell which is good - not in the quantities that movies or whatever do, however its enough to support the site and allow me to actually upgrade hardware. You have no idea how good it was using the funds from a tutorial I had made to actually be able to upgrade. The DVDs only came out about a year ago and until then palace had ran for 2 years on a breadline - I paid thousands to keep palace running and a DVD was a massive risk for me - I didn't want the end user to think I was selling out, however I wanted to take video tutorials to a level that no one had ever tried before and which would not be possible if I was allowing everyone to download a 7 gigabyte tutorials set for free.

WolfManz611: How long does it take you to put together a DVD vtm like the Ultimax DVD?

Cris: Ultimax was a 6 month project all told - I worked all day, usually about 9am to about 2am in refining the set and getting it ready up to 7 days a week. There is about 100 hours of tutorial on there, however a lot of work was on QA, preparation, sourcing the concept artwork and so forth as well.

WolfManz611: Right now your site seems focused on the 3d modeling stuff but do you ever see a day when you end up like 3dBuzz in that you will be doing VTM's of other things non modeling related?

Cris: We do animation and other stuff however we don't do games at the moment, that was Jason's thing for such a long time that I avoided it like the plague. Perhaps in the future I will do games based stuff - I have personally worked on a few games and I am working on one at the moment as a side project to 3d-palace, these things are fun however nothing to me compares to a massive modeling session making something fantastic and detailed.

Oh and its Video tutorials - not VTM's - Thats Jason's term for his Video Training Modules :)

WolfManz611: Do you find the users who download your free content often come back for the payed stuff? Or do they just grab all the free stuff they can and not buy any of your retail stuff?

Cris: Its what you expect - a lot of people get their 30 day max trial and are sure they are going to be the next big thing in 3d for games / movies. Then they realize that its actually work... They panic, come to 3d-palace, load themselves up on tutorials. What happens next is that they either cave under the learning in which case they don't come back, or they start at the beginning (we are happy to help new users and point them in the right direction - we cant obviously do mentoring sadly) and progress until they are good.

Then they go off to cgtalk and we never see them again ;) Actually, I'm kidding there... we have a great community of people that stayed on.

Problem with 3d-palace is that a LOT of it is geared towards the poor student. I throw more training at them from our free section than almost any pay per view site has in its entirety - Go check it for yourself - we have about 700 to 1000 hours of free video tutorials - if you can download help yourself. Compare that to a lot of pay per learn sites that are there to do little more than take the money from every poor gullible sap that passes their way - I have great respect for 3dbuzz, Gnomon and a few others however there are a lot of sites that are a honey trap.

What am I saying with this? Well, they are getting a LOT for free - I don't really expect a massive amount of people coming back for the tutorial DVDs, we get a fair few however. A lot also subscribe to the sponsor membership system - a £10 a month and you can download some of our really large projects - it also gives you the benefit after a month that you can purchase the DVD sets for £10 and also can download some of our massive commercial download sets.

WolfManz611: Last time i seen one of your VTM's you were using Camtasia do you still use that and what are your views on that software as in do you like it or do you think it needs improvement ect ect?

Cris: Without Camtasia there would be no tutorials. I love it.

WolfManz611: Do you think VTM's are the way of the future in terms of trying to show people how to do things on a computer?

Cris: Possibly (and its Video Tutorial). I'm working on some new concepts though for learning.

WolfManz611: How much traffic does your site see a month in terms of hits? I think a site likes yours or even 3dbuzz must get hammered do to the VTM's.

Cris: My God you have no idea... 3d-palace uses three dedicated servers - the most recently leased one is a dual xeon on a dual 100Mbit connection - these handle database, site and downloads. According to my statistics we can get anywhere upwards of 150,000 to 250,000 hits per month - a lot of people don't need the tutorials however they browse the forums and look round.

WolfManz611: Are your DVD's available in stores or only from your web site?

Cris: I considered stores however I prefer managing the stock via palace (and occasionally using Buy It Now on ebay.)

WolfManz611: Is it just you who runs your site and does the VTM's or do you have a team of people who handle such things?

Cris: I run the place however I am lucky in that I have a team of moderators and administrators who keep it working and a group of great artists to help me on the DVDs. Zack in the past did animation on the APU and Ultimax, Jon does the Menu applications, Airworks works on graphics, as does Tagger for menus and box artwork, Jeremy Love did the concept work for Ultimax and so on.

WolfManz611: A side from the DVD's people can buy do you have a pay member section to your site like that of 3dbuzz? If you don't have such a section do you ever plan on putting one in?

Cris: Sponsor Membership - £10 a month :)

WolfManz611: What platform do you do most of your modeling on and why? Is it windows or Linux or something else?

Cris: I work on Windows XP Pro using a Dual Xeon HT 3.26 with two gigs of corsair something or other ram and a FX1100.

WolfManz611: I think i remember in a few of your VTM's that you talked about TheGimp image editor and i was wondering if you use that what do you like about that program? Also why not use photoshop over the gimp?

Cris: That was probably Jon - I prefer Photoshop :)

WolfManz611: Is the cost of your site covered by the DVD's you sell? I would think your bandwidth charges alone must be rather huge..

Cris: Thankfully yes - I have a proper studio setup for producing everything in house - from a DVD mastering system to professional microphones and the APU is what helped me get it all setup.

WolfManz611: A side from 3dBuzz what other web sites would you recommend for new uses who are trying to use maya or max?

Cris: cgtalk - don't be scared however don't be foolish is my idiom. 3dtotal, discreet, alias, adobe, softimage ....etc. 3dcafe used to be good.

WolfManz611: What are your plans for the future and your web site? Do you plan on making any more DVD vtm's?

Cris: Got one about to release in a few days and I have another due in December.

WolfManz611: Is there anything you would like to add to this that i may have missed?

Cris: Yes - cmon over and see the place for yourself. If you are seriously into 3d then try the DVDs too, I haven't had any complaints.

I would like to thank Cris for taking the time to do this interview..