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Vendor Spotlight: Ronald Verne Paludan

1) Please tell us a little something about yourself.

I'm originally from Huntsville, Alabama - a rather exciting place to grow up in the 1960s. I moved to Arizona about 30 years ago and rather liked the climate and scenery. As far as digital models are concerned, I'm self-taught.

2) What software or tools do you use?

Google SketchUp, PaintshopPro UV Mapper and Wings3D.

3) How did you get started making digital models?

In my early teens, I was very much a model railroad buff, so making realistic models has been as interest for a very long time.

I started developing computer games in the early 1980s and some of them were crude flight simulators that required simple 3-D models. At that time, I had to create my own tools for making them. Later, I became very intrigued with terrain modeling programs like VistaPro and Bryce and began to use the latter to create some railroad themed artwork - rekindling my childhood hobby. Also during this time, I created a Windows based railroad atlas and started a side business to sell it.

When Microsoft announced the development of "Microsoft Train Simulator", I jumped at the opportunity to become a 3rd party content developer. It seemed a perfect match - I had geographic data, programming skills, railroad modelling experience. But it did not work out well as a business, as Microsoft announced then cancelled version 2 of the game - TWICE! As sales of my train simulator models dropped off, I found a very active market for 3D content with brokers like Vanishing Point and Renderosity the business end was simplified. This market required far more detail than the simulator market could handle, but the skills and tools were similar.

4) What experiences influenced your models or products? Where do you get your ideas for your products? Did you do any market analysis or did you make something that you thought people would enjoy?

Model railroading obviously, with an emphasis on structures with "character". I keep a camera with me in my travels. If I see something that I think would make an interesting model or a useful texture, I photograph it from every angle I can. I don't do much market analysis, except to try and avoid duplication. I hope that if it's something I would like to see a model of, somebody will want to use it.

5) What kind of challenges have you faced in your career?

My eyesight is not what it used to be. I handle it with new glasses and a bigger monitor.

6) You've been involved in the digital artist community for a while now. Do you have any thoughts or opinions about how the community has changed?

I don't exactly have my ear to the ground for everything that happens - positive or negative - in the digital community. I can say that it has been the excellent free sharing of techniques, tools, tips and problem solving that kept me from giving up many times.

7) What advice do you have for new merchants who want to improve their artwork?

The late John Allen, a model railroader who 40 years after his death is still a legend, had a method that I think applies rather well. He advised taking a photograph of the real world object and of the model from the same angle and lighting, then compare the two. Any place where you could see the difference, there was room for improvement for the model.

8) Is there anything else you'd like to share with the readers? Do you have any thoughts or ideas about models or products or anything else in the digital world?

Keep an eye on the growing field of 3D printers. They are going to become a common household and business appliance and it's not too early to start asking: What will people want to "Print"?

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