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Thread: TIPS : Cool stuff to do at LWUG meetings!

  1. #1
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Cool TIPS : Cool stuff to do at LWUG meetings!

    I thought this might be a cool thread for all LWUG organisers out there scratching their heads trying to work out what kinds of things they should organise for thier next meeting...

    Of course, if you happen to be a USA based group, and situated somewhere in the middle of all the entertainment industry, you can probably get access to a few celeb speakers, however, if you're not, what else can you do to 'spice up' those meetings?

    In New Zealand, meetings seem to be a one-way street - Everyone comes to see me present some tutorials, etc. However, pleasantly I've been getting some more users who are happy to share their work, show some stuff and participate more and more with the meetings, so its been improving!

    Anyway, Here's a few suggestions from moia, here in NZ!

    • Eye Candy! - Keep your eyes peeled on mailing lists, forums, etc for news on cool animations people have posted online. Download a handful each month and show them at meetings to keep everyone updated with what's happening in the world around us!
    • Hold small competitions - Last christmas, I asked people to create a christmas image - They did, and I gave someone a $40 gift voucher for a local store... Be prepared to spend a little, unless you luckily have contacts or sponsors... (I also gave away a new DVD a few years back as well!)
    • Get users to do tutorials the easy way! - Check out www.rendersoftware.com for Camstudio - A very cool FREE Desktop capture tool - And get your users to create their own Video LightWave tutorials and bring them in... I demo'd this software at our last meeting, and I'm expecting at least 2 people to attempt something... This way, nobody feels pressured to stand in front of a crowd, and you can create a cool LWUG CD rom later on!
    • Show and Tell - Encourage people to show their work and try to get people to ask questions, or get them to talk a little about how they prepared their project.
    • Demo cool stuff that's Free! - Find cool free plugins, try them out and create a practical example of how to use it (and see if you can create a few 'other things' that you can do with it) then demo it at the LWUG
    • Solve user problems with Tutorials - Ask your users 'Are there any LightWave problems you're having?' and use the answers as a basis to learn some new tools and create new tutorials from!
    • Learn Something New About LightWave - Pick an uncommonly used tool in LightWave and create a reason that its cool! Like plugins, show some cool things it can be used for!
    • Whats the gossip? - Read up the news from online sources and see if you can spur on some conversation.
    • Feedback sessions - Get people to bring in problems, or issues and answer them 'live' at meetings, and encourage any others with experience to share information.
    • Group animation project - Hmmm, to be honest, I am YET to see one of these things ever succeed. People all have their own ideas what they think they want to do, some find they would rather play Quake then waste their personal time making models or animations for other people, and in general they do tend to fall apart quickly.
    • Speakers - People from the industry - If you can ask them, see if you can get some in to talk about their experiences, or if you're lucky, share a little knowledge or tips.
    • Local news See if you can get people to announce anything locally happening, and get conversation happening that way. One meeting there was some discussion on the problems with local resellers.
    • Show videos, DVD's or any other cool stuff if you get really stuck!


    That's just a few simple ideas... I have more but my brain says its time to sleep!

    If anybody else feels they want to share some other cool things that they do at LWUG's that could work for others groups needing fresh material, please do so!

    BTW, do any LWUG's organise 'social' events at all? Just curious, and what kinds of things?

  2. #2
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Well, seems this thread was a popular idea... NOT!

    Anyway, here's some other things I've done. This coming meeting, I've put together some stuff in the 'tutorials' department:

    • Cover a common topic that many people find confusing or are new too, and do it in detail - In the next meeting, I'll be covering Rigging, from the very start of laying out Skelegons through to setting up IK - Tips from me on making this kind of thing successful are that you need to Explain all the steps, and make sure you have 'reasons' for doing things other then 'dunno, but the tutorial I learnt it from did it that way'.
    • Create creative ideas - For the next meeting, I've been playing with HV sprites, using actual sprite images to generate a variety of cool FX. In the past I've also shown a collection of different methods of making electrical effects using tools in LW, and more. Creative ideas can spark other people to come up with more, and if you're lucky they'll even share them with you!


    Its late, that's a couple more ideas for the suggestion barrel - Surely other user groups do stuff that makes meetings cool? Let us know - My brainwaves only travel a certain distance!

  3. #3
    Canada's #1 Newtek Dealer Videolink's Avatar
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    lwug ideas

    good thinkin man
    we need people like you running all the user group meetings
    Videolink Inc.

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  4. #4
    Registered User JVitale's Avatar
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    Or better yet!

    Forward this info to Keyframe mag. Lee used to have a page called User Group Central. Lee included my tips on running a Users Group. I wonder if Dan Ablan will continue with the page..

    We have tried some of the things you pointed out. Some with little success

    Keep on LightWavin' Kev. Hopefully someday you'll come and see us in LA
    Jessica Vitale
    President
    Los Angeles LightWave Users Group
    www.lalightwave.com

    "I don't want to draw something that looks realistic. I want something that's believable"---Chuck Jones

  5. #5
    Newbie Member ToonShady's Avatar
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    Great tips. I am actually becoming a bit more active in my LWUG meetings. It's more exciting when people are engaged rather than a plain old demo every meeting.

  6. #6
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Talking Why did I do it? Was I mad?

    Thanks folks!

    Yeh, I LOVE running the LWUG - Heck, when I started I hated the idea of 'being in charge' and 'talking in front of people' - Now I'm an addict!

    I started it to provide something unavailable in NZ - A source of support, help and training for all LightWave people, Commercial, student and home user! I was also madly addicted to LW and I wanted to 'hang out' with people who were also like me and wanted to talk about LW...

    BTW, LightWave support and promotion is also something I do (not always at meetings, though sometimes I have) . So, other things I've done at UG meetings include:
    • Demonstrate LightWave to new users. I've heard a LOT of badmouth stories about LightWave from people who've never really used, seen or experienced LightWave, but go on 'rumours' they've heard on the internet, or from a Max/Maya forum... Nobody pushes LightWave as a cool product - I felt that showing just WHAT it was and what LightWave was capable of was something important that I needed to do...
    • Show a lot of 'Lightwave Generated' animation. Taped shows from TV, showing commercial work done with LightWave is as important as showing what the software is... I was lucky to have gotten a copy of Foundations show reel a year or two ago, and that's always a great way to introduce people to what LW has been used to do! I'm amazed at how many people thought Roughnecks was done with Maya!

    And that started my brain going for a few short minutes - Heres some other ideas for things to do at User Group meetings:
    • Extend tutorials and Create 'workshops'. For example, I've worked on ideas (but haven't implemented them yet) for
      - 'Demo reel workshop' - Making your own demo reels
      - 'Model, texture, light and animate a simple project for newbies'
      To name two - You could do a single 'workshop' over an entire meeting, or spread it out over a couple of meetings...
    • Between presentations, take Breaks. Not just to rest your voice, but I've found it gets a lot of discussion flowing, people relax, have a drink, ask questions, create new ideas, and it really helps people get together in the meetings!
    • Talk to your local theatre when new CG-effects movies are due for release. Sometimes its possible to pre-book a theatre for a private viewing - Offer all your users the chance to do something social and see a movie before it is released for a small cost! You could also set up some drinks and nibbles and make an occasion out of it!
    • If lots of people have been making animations or have personal projects, break the usual meeting format and hold a 'LightWave Film Festival' for everyone to show their work! (Don't forget to supply popcorn!)

    While I'm on the topic of 'doing things' I thought perhaps a couple of simple rules I always stick too at meetings might be useful as well in this topic:
    • NEVER expect anyone to bring anything - Number one rule that's almost always been the case! Always prepare tutorials, demos, etc to fill in the evening 'just in case'.
    • Remembering that 'Public speaking' is one of human-kinds worst fears - NEVER force someone to stand up and present their work. Always offer them the chance to do so, however be prepared to show their work on their behalf, but also encourage discussion by asking the person about their work, and asking users if they wanted to make any comments.
    • ...and that's also why you should NEVER force someone to stand up and introduce themselves at a meeting. People tend to panic and walk out before its their turn... I always keep the first half-hour of the meeting as an 'ice-breaker' period and encourage people to help themselves to some refreshments. Keep the refreshments in one area - People usually tend to 'meet' each other as they hang around the watering hole! Also, breaks between presentations get people talking... I've met a few people in a break!

    Actually, if you've done things that HAVEN'T WORKED, please share them here as well, and the reasons if you know. This kind of information would be just as valuable as having ideas that DO work!

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    " I hear ya...I hear ya "

    How'dee...

    Ya'kno, I have to agree with you 150%... I don't know what it is, but I've gone out of my way to find one Usergroup after another because I rather enjoy hang'n out with fellow Lightwave'rs and exchanging tip, tricks, and basic ideas, ect, ect....

    But the one thing I've found with "Every" Usergroup that I've found, be it for Lightwave, or for 3D Studio Max... "I own both". Every time its the same thing... Nobody wants to show what they can or have done... so it ends up be social hour more than anything...


    Jim...

  8. #8
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Heres another cool idea for something to do - Posted in the UG forum here at Newtek (Online Speedy User Group from mastermesh), I thought this was too good to NOT include in this list!

    * Speedy workgroup
    Produce something to model, and get everyone to spend 5-15 minutes to attempt to model it. At the end, get everyones models together and compare them - Share techniques used to model, and learn from each others process!

    Cool - Anyone else got something to add here?

  9. #9
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    And guess who?

    * The next Dimension!
    Hey, here's something that could be great fun at a LWUG - If you happen to have a projector at your meetings where you can show videos on a big screen, spend some time and make some Anaglyphic 3D glasses (one side red, one side blue) with cardboard and cellophane.

    Then get people to use the Anaglyph image filter to render out their creations in Stereoscopic 3D! Have a 3D animation show - This time adding another dimension!

    The other option is Chromadepth glasses (There's a plugin in LW7.5 to produce these 3D images too!) Though I've never used them, I've recently been chatting with someone who has...

    For more info on getting 3D glasses of all kinds, check out http://www.3dglassesonline.com/

    I'm thinking this idea could be real fun!

  10. #10
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Aha! Just when you thought 'Thank god that Kevman character has left - He just keeps talking, and talking, and...' I'm back!

    Here's a few good pointers to think about when presenting a topic or tutorial:
    • Prepare and make sure you make notes in case you don't remember what you were supposed to discuss! One good way to make notes that work is not to write, but 'draw' them, and use colours as well... You'd be amazed how making notes 'creatively' will really improve your recall...
    • Improvise and Experiment with your topic or tutorial as you go. In fact, its even better when someone calls out a suggestion like 'does it work with the new surface thickness gradients?' - Instant 'Lets go and find out' - It gets people involved and it makes prepared presentations even more interesting to follow.
    • Do interesting examples to make your point. Take it from me, a few times I've tried just doing generic 'examples' of things, and I've ended up confusing people who really don't see the point of using an expression to make a cube rotate endlessly! Of course, if I'd instead repeated a demo of 'expression controlled gunfire' I'd done a year ago, I would have gotten more attention from people!

    Well, that's a very quick little group of tips from me for now. Hope all this stuff is actually of interest to people here?

  11. #11
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    So - Its been a while - But lets look at some other topics that are good ideas for things to do at a LWUG meeting...
    • Discuss projects and expand on interesting sections
      Last meeting I reviewed some TVC's I'd worked on. I also reviewed a few animation tests I was working on, and used them to expand out into areas such as different approaches to DOF I used with pros and cons along the way. Its essentially a 'post mortem' on a project, but its great educational material for a lot of people!
    • Get OTHER people to show and discuss their projects
      If you can, get other people to join this cool quest for knowledge and share!


    Heres a couple of things that I discovered DON'T work...
    • Don't demo in darkness
      Just a tip - A glaring monitor will actually make your eyes ache after a while if you do it in a dark room for too long. Plus if its too dark, people tend to start to unintentionally start to snore! Try and have at least a desk light, or the back of the room lit if you are using projectors or any kind of screen.
    • LScript - For dummies
      NEVER assume people are going to get the 'gist' of programming and start out doing this with a 'simple script'. I did one at a meeting last year - I figured it was soooo simple, everyone should be able to pick it up. As I went, I quickly discovered people were just getting confused over what the double slash for a comment was for, let alone how LScript works. While you can offer LScript tutes (I am definitely going to retry it this year, with a more basic 'intro' this time!) be wary that users don't always have a 'programming' mindset!


    I'm sure there's more to add here - Keep your eyes peeled for more from moia!

    Kev.

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    Hi

    Keep up the good work Kev.

    Whens the Aussie tour happenning

    Thansk
    Anesthan

  13. #13
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    Tour? You want me to do a LWUG tour for the Aussies without a LWUG? lol!

    Actually, its probably not as crazy an idea as it sounds! I have had that idea in the past - A worldwide LWUG tutorials and demos tour - Get all that stuff that's been covered at LWUG's and use it to present techniques, plugin demos and more.

    I have a pile of stuff I could cover, usually I find the best thing that works, is easiest for me to present, and gets people the most inspired and interested is doing the whole 'postmortem' on a project or animation, and using the key points in the project to explain a variety of techniques, much like a handful of 'mini-tutorials'.

    Doing it that way makes tutorials easier and they usually have a lot more impact when they are related to an actual project rather then simple demos of using a tool or technique...

    There's something for people to note when trying to present something. Take a TVC, animation, image, or project you worked on and look at how you approached the key elements. Look at problems you had and how you got around them, effects you needed and how you created them, textures that worked well and how they are constructed to work so well...

    Usually this ends up in not only you giving info to the group, but group feedback that might give you inspiration to alternate methods you never considered! Its a two-way technique!

    Gee, that response turned out more 'insightful' then I expected!


  14. #14
    Krazy Kiwi kevman3d's Avatar
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    More info on running Competitions:
    Yes, I've already mentioned info on competitions as something to do, but heres a little more info about things to consider when doing these things at a LWUG. I hope these comments will come in useful somewhere...


    WHAT KIND OF ENTRY?
    The first thing that is always tricky is deciding exactly what kind of 'entry' you want in the competition... The most obvious is image/animation creation, but here's a few others...
    • modelling an object
    • surfacing an object
    • Give out a generic scene file *without* any camera or lighting setups, then judge on how a user 'told the story' through camera, lighting and composition?
    • If you were geeky enough, you could even create a Script programming competition!


    THE TOPIC?
    A little trickier then you might think. Pick a topic people will want to do - And try pick something that will make judging fairer on everyone.

    What do I mean by 'want to do'? Easy - Not everyone wants to model a spaceship! Try and look for more generic topics that could cover a variety of areas but still be revelant to the topic.

    What do I mean by 'fairer'? Simple - Don't pick a topic that is *too* broad or creates entries that are greatly varied in content and style. Entries that span a large range of things will obviously make judging a little trickier - Depending on how the judging is based (if its on quality of animation or imagery, that may be OK)

    Example
    One person recommended a topic be 'pick a joke from a list and do something with it'. Obviously funnier jokes may be more popular with judges then bad ones, no matter how cool the animation or character modelling was. So, to work with this theme, I recommended we base entries on ONE joke - 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'


    THE PRIZE!
    Its hard to get entries for 'fun' and people are not going to want to spend time for 'thin air' unless they happen to be into the whole 'artistic creation for fun' thing...

    Prizes are also hard - First suggestion is to approach resellers or dealers and ask them if they would be keen on any kind of 'sponsorship' or 'donation' of prizes to the local 3D community. Mention their name and put their details into your competition 'info' in exchange. The possibility of more customers (ie. money) is a good reason to help out.

    Alternatively, you may want to buy something cool to offer. For our XMas competition, I offered a gift voucher so the 'winner' could buy a DVD or a book for themselves. Though since it was XMas, people did do stuff for fun anyway!


    RULES!
    You should set some rules to help control entries, and also to make things fairer on entrants, and also yourself.

    You don't need a lot of rules, however ones I've been applying include:
    • Submissions
      Max file sizes and resolutions, so that all entries look close to the same. If you are receiving entries by email, you also want to control how large the filesizes are!
    • Who can enter
      If you're advertsiing your compo online, you don't want the entire world entering for a prize you are offering to your local users. If you have to host the entries or receive them by email, you don't want to be flooded with gigabytes of attachments neither!
    • What they can enter
      Prevent people from sending you 10 entries and re-entering over and over with 'improved' versions of their entry. You also want to make sure people keep the tone of the entry to a specific level of 'taste'. If you have an open LWUG like mine, then you really don't want some psycho-manga style X-rated render being entered and seen by people with delicate dispositions! (No matter how cool you think it looked! ), and if you plan on displaying the entries online, you should also be very careful what you show!
    • Stop Squabbles
      Make sure to mention that the decision of the judges is *final* and not open to debate.


    WHO WILL BE THE WINNER?
    You could judge the entries yourself. However a fairer approach is a public poll - Get all your users to vote on their favorite entry and do it that way...

    How? Online would be a great idea - Post all entries onto a page and let users post up votes (however you would need a good polling system to prevent fake and repeated voting from occuring)

    At meetings - Play all entries through, give everyone a slip of paper and ask them to jot down the entry they liked (after a couple of play throughs). Tally the votes, and then ask the winner to take their torch and leave the tribal... Ooops! Sorry, wrong show!

    Anyway, that's my take on competitions at LWUG's - If anybody has more feedback or ideas on this, please post them here!

    Kev.

  15. #15
    Member etobiason's Avatar
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    I just had an idea that I'm thinking of presenting to our Chicago user group. Several people in the group mentioned the idea of collaborating on an animation project in the future. Kevman, you mentioned that you've never seen this work and I had misgivings about it from the start. What could possibly motivate people to work on a project they don't feel committed to? I came up with a couple of options that I think would allow this collaboration thing a fighting chance.

    K.I.S.S.
    As many people know, this stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Rather than get together and vote to collaborate on one big project that maybe wins by a narrow margin and has disinterested people dropping off, the group starts by determining randomly who is in charge of a project. Everyone gets a turn to be at the helm. But the animation cannot be too long or involved, it must be an extremely short short. Everyone in the group will have a role in the project, everyone in the group will spend three days (or something like that) of their own time on the project in one month. It goes like this:

    Meeting1: decide order of projects, and rules (how many days in a month each member will spend per project, let's say three days for this example and the group has seven people). Do normal group business (tutorials, whatever).
    Meeting2: Whoever is project leader first is prepared to present his or her idea to the group, the project is broken down into 7 three-day chunks and split amongst the members. This will take the whole meeting, as people will want to go into detail about their parts, swap ideas on how to do things, and maybe switch pieces of their tasks with others.
    Meeting3: A month later, people are finished and meet with their different parts. Some discussion on how problems were solved or weren't. Pieces are handed over to the project leader to put it together into one coherent piece, whether the member actually finished or not. Two rules of etiquette: until you actually finish work on someone's project, your project can't take place, it's order is bumped down the list; and, if you slacked on A's project, A needs time to finish it so A will take a break during your project to finish theirs. It's only fair.
    Meeting4: Just like meeting two, but with the next project leader.

    I'm picturing short projects without synced sound, but it really depends on the skills and resources of the group. The idea is to get everyone involved in projects with short term benefits and prevent anyone from taking advantage. The group learns how to work together, and maybe bigger projects will follow.

    ----------------------------------------

    K.I.S.S. 2

    This time I made it up, it stands for Keep It Separate, uh... Stanley. Here we take the Timothy Albee approach. Without going to Alaska for six months. Everyone does their own project. As a group we motivate each other to make progress. At the meetings, we take turns discussing our separate projects, problems we're encountering and so on. We support each other however people feel comfortable: a tutorial one meeting to address Dave's problem with gimbal lock and maybe Obie says to Hiromi, "Hey, I have a house model already that would be perfect for that scene in your short." Credit the user group as a whole for the collaborative learning process and motivation, and credit individuals for specific help, textures or models used.

    ----------------------------------------

    Hmmm..... I was kind of working this whole thing out as I typed it, but I think either one might work...I'll talk to the group and maybe we'll implement one of these plans in the near future.

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