Please read these guidelines before contacting me with your project concept.
I welcome new customers, value you highly, and always strive to have a friendly, informal relationship with you that stretches into the future. So understand that the following paragraphs are designed to make that process easier, based on my experience with past customers. - Thank you!
Why work with me?
The biggest advantage you have in working with me is that I handle it all personally. There are no "interns" or other 3rd party individuals involved, to slow the process or cause problems. I handle every email, request, modification, etc., myself, and respond to you personally, from beginning to end, to ensure that you get what you want. It also allows me to complete most jobs for less than you would pay a larger company.
Things to avoid, if possible:
I've been doing 3D modeling work for customers since about 1996, and it is my primary business. I know what my work is worth, comparing it to others with similar capabilities, and I always bid an honest, fair price. So please don't ask me for a "special deal". I can't offer that to you without offering it to everyone, and uniform rates mean that all projects receive the same attention to detail, whether it takes me six days or six months. Also, please be aware I can't give you a realistic bid for your project without the answers to most of the questions below
New customers are almost always in a hurry when they first contact me, and the top three questions are, "Can you do the job?", "How much will it cost?", and "How long will it take?" We then have some discussion, based on the items below, and at that point, a delay almost always occurs. It could be that the required documentation isn't in order, or you're "waiting for budget approval", or any number of other reasons. When this happens, the bid I've just given you is no longer any good, because my costs, just like yours, constantly increase. So, a price I give you today will not be valid next year. Amazingly, this pattern of excitement, followed by a delay, occurs with about 75 percent of the new customers that contact me, and it's why I've added these paragraphs.
Simply put... Please wait until you're ready, before you contact me.
Below, I've described what you and I need, in order to proceed with a project. Please have as much of that information in hand as you can, when you first contact me. If I have to research your drawings to find out if they're accurate for the job, create sample images, animations, test files to ensure file compatibility with your needs, and so on, that is work that will cost you money. For many years, I've tried to be "fair", and have done this at no charge, and in every case, it's been a costly mistake.
My terms are quite simple.
First, I'll send you an outline describing what I think the project will require at my hourly rate, based on my experience. If the goals of your project are very clear, I will often agree to do the job for a flat fee. We'll agree on exactly what I'll deliver to you, before I begin work. One half of our agreed cost is required in advance, as a deposit, before I begin work, with the balance being paid incrementally over the course of the project. This deposit is not refundable, if you should cancel the project. Finally, no intellectual property transfers to you until I've been completely paid. At that point, you own it. I have a PayPal account to make this easy, or you can send a check or money order. At each "phase" of your project, I will send you an invoice, describing that phase of your project, it's cost, and what remains, in clear detail.
With these business aspects understood, let's move on to the fun stuff...
What do you want as a final product?
There are generally two kinds of end products I can deliver. One would be "media", meaning images and/or animation. The other would be the 3D model file itself. Most people will want the media, because to use the 3D model file itself requires both (expensive) 3D software, and the expertise to use it.
Depending on your perspective, the kind of work you see here on my site may seem "photorealistic". In many ways, it is, meaning that it includes accurate shapes, materials, shadows, reflections, refraction, and so on. However, if you require a higher level of that photorealism, (i.e. shots created to be composited into your movie) then much more work is required, and it will naturally be more expensive. If you would like to have a web-size, 10-second, "fly-around" or "turntable" animation of the model I create for you, chances are high that I'd do that at no additional cost. On the other hand, true "Hollywood-style" versions of that, with higher resolution renders and more complex file formats, will cost approximately $100 per finished second of animation. (At this time, that roughly equates to a rate of $50 per hour of work for me, which is competitive today.)
With 3D models, there's a question of file formats, since all 3D software has it's own way of portraying these files. So, if the 3D model is what you want, it's important that I know what you want, before beginning. I can export files in most popular formats, so this won't typically be a problem.
If you're purchasing 3D models that I build for you from scratch, those models become your property, upon final payment. Unless your project is "secret" (i.e. military, or proprietary for manufacturing) I will expect to have your permission to publish some non-orthographic images of them on my site, to add to my publicly-viewable portfolio. If you're purchasing a "variant" of a model I already have, customized for your purposes, then I retain my rights to my original model, but will not redistribute any of the proprietary parts created for you.
As an example...
Years ago, I built a King Air B200 model, which was then later rebuilt and customized for a client's flight training projects. In that version, the cockpit was rebuilt, to be completely animatable, and several proprietary images and logos were used. So today, I still offer the B200 model in my 3D Catalog, but without all those proprietary items included. This allows both you and I to keep our competitive edge in our respective businesses, and you get a personalized project, rather than a generic one.
What documentation do you have?
Naturally, if you want an accurate model of something, then precision documentation is required, in the form of reference drawings and specifications. Photos are hugely helpful in that case, but in general, no one can build an accurate scale model without good references. On the other hand, if you want a conceptual model, which "looks right", but may not be accurate in the real-world sense, then I can certainly work from simple sketches or photos, in addition to any proposed specifications you may have.
Research takes time, especially when it comes to scale models, because often, incorrect information is published on the internet and elsewhere, and this has to be agreed upon between us, before I begin. So, if you already have your documentation in hand when you contact me, you save money, and the job goes faster. Obviously, higher resolution is better, when it comes to drawings. I never redistribute documentation, even if I'm the one who accumulated it. Any source materials that you send me during the project will remain private, for both your protection and mine.
What level of precision and/or detail do you need?
Often, a simple model, along with a conceptual rendering, is enough to illustrate the point you're trying to make. For example, if you're using what I create for you, to bid on a contract, you may want to show your client a proposed "general arrangement" design, before continuing on to the detailed model. Sometimes, these can be done in a single day, depending on the level of detail required. If on the other hand, you need a more accurate, detailed, or photorealistic model, then it's a deeper project.
How much time do you have?
If possible, contact me before your project becomes a "rush job". We'll both be happier if there's some time to refine the details, and allow for revisions that might be required.
Modeling for physical fabrication
There are different approaches to this…
If you're using the images I create as references (somewhat like a blueprint) for the fabrication, the process is relatively painless. Once the 3D model is created, I can produce orthographic renderings (3-views, 4-views, etc.) which you can print, and use to draw your parts over. I can also produce cross-sections at your desired locations, for an additional fee. I've done this for RC aircraft modelers, who have used the images to provide accurate scale outlines, from which they produced plans. If, on the other hand, you require files that are going to some sort of CNC process or stereolithography, then the requirements become very specific.
There's an ancient axiom in the 3D modeling business, which is that "you shouldn't build what you won't see." For example, the top part of a cylindrical landing gear strut wouldn't typically need to be "capped", because it would never show. In fact, it's considered good practice to think that way, as it reduces the polygon count, file size, and render times.
That's not true with machine-ready files. Every part has to be 'water tight". (no "holes", like I mentioned above) And, to avoid rough surfaces, the number of polygons (faces) has to be MUCH higher... say, 4 times higher, depending on the details. Finally, machinable file formats use triangles, while polygonal modelers can use triangles, 4-sided polygons, and "Ngons". (polygons with more than 4 sides.) I have to ensure that the model is all triangles, before export.
So... I would need to know in advance, if your model is to be built for any type of CNC machining. It's an entirely different process, and sample files would need to be tested with your particular machine. This will cost more than a "standard" polygonal model. I can produce IGES, SAT, STEP, STL and .DAE files for both standard machining and stereolithography. ("3D printing")
For your reference, some samples of past projects and their costs:
NOTE: To keep these times in perspective, realize that these were done while also producing other projects, so they weren't "full time".
These costs are for custom, one-of-a-kind models that you would own, upon completion.
(Click any of these thumbnails to see a larger version, which will open in a separate window.)
Time and Cost
This is a simple conceptual model, created as a preliminary study to verify general design constraints. It was done from sketches alone, and no detailed documentation.
This was completed in just a few hours, and cost under $200.
Another example of a simple conceptual model, (a kiosk) based on the client's render samples, to show one of their prospective clients.
This was also completed in just a few hours, and cost under $500.
A detailed model of a vintage drum set, based on measurements and photos of the actual drum set parts. The nature of the instruments made them relatively easy to model, for a realistic set of display renders. It includes reasonably-accurate models of all the hardware, as well as the drum finish, drum and cymbal logos, etc..
This was completed in about two weeks, and a similar model would cost about $2000, depending on the details.
Here, I've portrayed a whimsical future "corporate transport", capable of atmospheric, undersea, and space operations. The design concepts are similar to modern corporate jets, except further into the future.
These visualizations can be posted on a private server for you to view, as they're built, so that design changes can be done on the fly. They can also be marked up, with text, arrows, etc., pointing out special features, as you see fit. This type of model is especially good for articles you may want to publish regarding future possibilities with advancing technology, and for illustrating your design concepts in general.
This was built as an example, from my own ideas, but similar projects, done from your sketches or drawings could be completed in a few weeks, at a cost of $3000 to $5000.
This model has a highly-detailed interior, functional interior and exterior doors, retractable landing gear, internal and external lighting system, opening/closing engine access, and even an animated "death ray" in the nose area.
Originally built as a moderately-detailed scale model, based on Boeing drawings, complete with basic cockpit, interior, doors, hatches, landing gear, interior and exterior lighting, etc..
As the model was update to be "movie-ready", all the features were made animatable, including all the flight controls, retractable landing gear, interior and exterior lighting system, functioning jet exhaust, and of course, the operating aft "air stairs" door.
Once the documentation (drawings and photos) was in hand, this model was completed in approximately six weeks. Cost for a similar model would be in the $4000 to $6000 range.
This model has now been updated to a "movie-ready" version of the aircraft used in the infamous "D. B. Cooper" hijacking incident.
See that article here.
A "museum scale" representation of the Cessna T-50, based on both Cessna engineering drawings, as well as photos of the actual aircraft being restored. It features all of the major structural elements, including a detailed cockpit and interior, landing gear, and even the cable-and-pulley control system. Although not shown here, the exterior skin was also modeled, including authentic markings, based on the actual aircraft.
The second thumbnail image shows another "museum scale" representation of the Cessna 310K, based on both Cessna engineering drawings, as well as photos of the actual aircraft being restored. It features all of the major structural elements, including a detailed cockpit and interior, animatable flight control surfaces, doors, and landing gear, as well as a fully-functional lighting system. Although not shown here, the exterior skin was also modeled, including authentic markings, based on the actual aircraft.
These are major modeling projects, taking approximately three to four months to complete, and a similar project would cost between $6000 and $8000.
Both of these examples are fully-rigged for animation. Flight controls move, wheels roll, landing gear retracts and extends, doors open and close, propellers turn, and they both have an interior and exterior lighting system.
An extremely-detailed model of the King Air B200, (and several variants) featuring a moderately-detailed exterior, a fully-detailed and animatable cockpit, landing gear, etc.. This was a massive project, done for a company that trains King Air pilots, as part of an FAA-certified training program. In this case, the model was only the beginning, encompassing many separate systems-oriented images and animations for the climate-control system, fire-extinguishing system, fuel flow system, and more. Building the model in such a way as to make it animatable was the biggest part of the work, then the animations were completely separate projects.
The initial phase of building the King Air B200 and several variants, along with setting up a variety of images and animations, took approximately six months, and the cost would be in the "corporate" range of $10000 to $15,000.
The F-22 "Raptor" was built for a military contract, and is in the same realm as the B200, featuring attention to scale detail, as well as a variety of animatable features. (See the movie to the right.) This particular one carries the markings of our local (Anchorage, Alaska) "Arctic Warriors" squadron.
Includes moving flight controls, retractable landing gear, various external opening and closing doors (air refuel, APU exhaust, weapons bays) vectoring thrust nozzles, opening/closing canopy, exterior lights and cockpit lighting.
This was an especially intense project, due to it's classified nature, and the resulting lack of public documentation. I relied heavily on Lockheed-Martin drawings, as well as hundreds of photos. See the article here. Cost is in the $10,000 range.