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Meet the Tutorial Maker: Curtis Holt

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Who I am

Hi everyone! My name is Curtis and I’m a mixed-media content creator from London, England. I spend most of my time running a YouTube channel where I create a mix of content including tutorials, add-ons and artistic shorts. I’m known for distributing large amounts of free content alongside my videos, ranging from simple 3D assets to complete add-ons.

How I got Started with Blender

The first time I opened Blender was roughly back in 2006-2007 (versions 2.4x). Back then, the user-interface was nothing short of alien technology to me. I had no idea how to navigate the features, let alone use the software to make anything other than a cube. Most days I would open the software, play around with the buttons and then close it again without making anything. Sometimes I would go months without touching it, but curiosity always brought me back. Back then, learning how to use software with the help of the internet was much more difficult. Google had acquired YouTube, but the platform hadn’t really ‘taken off’ yet and there was a limited selection of learning resources available.

As the years went on, I became more interested in building 3D worlds within the context of game development. Educators making higher-quality video content became more common and I began to invest more time into learning Blender.

How I Learnt to Make Things

Blender was not actually my first foray into the world of 3D. Back in 2004 when I was about eight years old, my dad had managed to get hold of ‘3ds Max 7’, and I spent many hours after school making random shapes and structures. I think my proudest model at that time was a spaceship made completely out of cubes and cylinders that had been transformed until they vaguely resembled something sci-fi. Unfortunately that model no longer exists.

I would love to be able to show my younger self my more recent attempts of modeling a spaceship:

Throughout most of my time at secondary (high) school, I was more interested in programming than artwork. I spent my free time learning how to make websites with friends, and then moved on to making text-based adventure games with C++.

Over time I became more interested in 3D game development and started experimenting with all kinds of game engines. That’s when I tried out the Unity3D engine, which I very quickly became attached to. It’s an easy engine to write scripts for using C#, which is such a powerful language. So much of the software is exposed for modification / extension and that has always excited me. It’s one of the reasons I love Blender so much—I can break it apart and build new features to suit my ideas.

Knowing how to write games was one thing, but I wanted to bring my artistic skills up to scratch to let me bring my imagination to life. Blender was free and I enjoyed its flexibility, so I went all-out with learning how to use it.

Zacharias Reinhardt, Andrew Price, Gleb Alexandrov and Aidy Burrows all produced high-quality content (free and paid) that was extremely beneficial to my learning during this time.

How I Started Making Tutorials

I love YouTube and was always interested in running a channel but a lack of confidence prevented me from putting my work out there at an earlier time.

There are key people that should be thanked for the existence of the channel—friends, family and other great artists, content creators and members of the Blender community.

I need to give a huge thanks to Bart Veldhuizen who was the first person to ever write an article about my work. It made me realise that there are actually people out there who will be interested in what I can make.

As well as this is Nicholas, a remarkably talented writer and supportive friend, who managed to keep my creativity flowing by constantly challenging me with random tasks and ideas.

The first tutorial I made for the channel was about modular environment design with a focus on building science-fiction corridors. I chose this as a subject because I had been asked for advice on the subject multiple times by a collection of friends, and making a video that they could refer back to seemed like a beneficial idea.

After the video got accepted for BlenderNation, I received a flood of viewership and supportive comments. Part 1 quickly surpassed one thousand views, which completely blew my mind. To add to that, only three days after the series was posted, Grant Abbitt featured it in his video: ‘Immerse Yourself in Creativity’. I was elated to see people enjoying the content.

The channel has far exceeded my expectations so far and it’s all thanks to a vibrant, wonderful and generous community. I’m constantly surprised and motivated by people sharing their work using techniques from my videos.

My Approach to Teaching

My approach is to keep it very deliberate and scripted. This is for a few reasons—people on the internet generally have short attention spans and I don’t want to waste their time. As well as this, scripted dialogue is easier to translate into other languages since it removes mumbling and pauses for thought. This is a different approach from some other tutorial makers who prefer to do live recordings for tutorials.

There’s certainly no right or wrong way to do it. Doing live and unscripted tutorials can convey much more personality if you can maintain rapport with the viewer. All that really matters is that you can get the information across without boring or annoying the viewer.

When I’m conveying educational information to members of my community (especially on our Discord server), I always maintain the belief that encouragement is essential for learning. I also tell people not to follow traditional ‘rules’ for art and design too closely. Respect and learn from them to guide your work, but also learn to break them where you feel it’s appropriate. Art is art, don’t let it be restricted by conventions.

How Topics are Chosen

Generally, I just make what I feel like making. This is why I love YouTube—I’m allowed to wake up and choose what to work on for that day. Creative freedom is always exciting for me. If I put out a video and don’t know what to make next, then I have a growing 7-page document of ideas that I can refer back to.

This certainly doesn’t mean I’m closed off from new ideas. I actively search social media looking for new and interesting developments, and my community are quick to send me interesting topics that appear in the CG community. Anyone can make requests and if I find the subject interesting and think it’s substantial enough for a video, then I’ll bring it to life.

How Tutorials are Made

If I know what I want to make, I’ll start by experimenting in Blender, keeping everything in a separate folder right from the beginning. My aim will be to create interesting resources that I can distribute alongside the upcoming video for people to play around with.

Demonstration file for ‘Smoke Simulation in EEVEE (Blender 2.8)’

Once the resources are created, I will start writing a script detailing the process and technique, usually explaining how to replicate or use the resources. Following that, I will record the vocal audio for the script with Adobe Audition.

The audio will then be put into an Adobe Premiere project where I have a pre-made template with my regular intro and outro already set up.

Premiere project file for ‘Displaying Characters in EEVEE (Blender 2.8)’

Now all that’s left is to get clips to match the scripted audio. I will put Premiere and OBS Studio on my left monitor and keep the front monitor clear for recording. Listening back to the audio, I follow along with the script and perform the necessary actions on the screen. Once all of the clips have been put into the project, I will proof-watch the entire video, make necessary changes, render it to file and then upload it to YouTube, where it will stay private until all of the resources have been uploaded to Gumroad and other download sites.

Examples of Work

Technique Focus

Add-on Demonstrations

Lighting and Style Design

Environment Design

Timelapses

Tools I Use

  • Blender
  • Adobe Premiere, for video editing.
  • Adobe Audition, for audio recording.
  • OBS Studio, for screen recording.
  • Unity3D, for level design, shorts and interactive projects.
  • Visual Studio Code, for scripting (such as with add-on development).

The Workplace

My workplace can get very messy since I’m working out of a small room. What you can see below is my desk in a tidy state. Every piece of note paper I write on is kept in a stack on my bookshelf since I never throw anything away. This is because I like to archive loose ideas in-case they might be useful to me in the future.

Where the magic happens.

Where I Find Inspiration

Art books, Pinterest, Twitter, movies, video games, music and YouTube. I love to consume all kinds of artistic media, although I especially love video games, movies and music videos. This might be partially due to my father being a Special Effects Supervisor—I’ve been lucky enough to spend many days growing up on film sets in different parts of the world. I’ve been raised in a household that celebrates creative achievement and entrepreneurship. Because of this, I’ve always been encouraged to learn as many skills as possible, surrounding myself with as much knowledge and inspiration as I can. I think creatives should take the time to turn their comfort zones into places that provide them with emotional stimulation. Pinterest especially has really enlightened me to the sheer volume of artwork available online and I can highly recommend it to people looking to build up a library of inspiration.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my work!

About the Author

Curtis Holt, 3D artist, software developer and content creator on YouTube.

 

 

 

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