How I work to go faster

In this post I will describe my way of work for all my real-time work oriented. I find always interesting to see how people work, what are their tips for working safer, faster and easier. My goal is always to try to work faster : in this domain (real-time creation) making assets consume a LOT of time, and this time passed to create something is a time lost for learning something new.

WINDOWS

Since Windows Seven I have made some huge improvement in my workflow. The first which comes in mind for me in the new docking system of the windows which allow you to set the windows side by side for example. It’s a very simple feature, but it save a lot of time at the end. Since opening a folder/window under Windows is a common task, this feature will save you life. I have heard of people which don’t like this, but honestly it’s a huge time saver.

I use more than one monitor on my computer (pretty common in gaming development), I quickly needed a program which allow you to make a huge desktop wallpaper. Don’t kidding me, with this request in mind I finally found a program which allow me this and even more. It’s “Display Fusion“. I talk about this software, not because you can make huge wallpaper (which is cool anyway), but because this software add a very awesome feature to Windows : being able to jump a window from a monitor to one another.
That’s it, simply use the middle click of the mouse on the title bar of your windows and it will jump to the next monitor.
I can’t work without this feature now, because it save a lot of time to be able with one click to clear your current monitor. When your are like me and you program some stuffs, be able to found your compiler window/UDK window/Maya window is important. This feature also work with a keyboard hotkey by the way.

One another trick I use is to work using the windows basic theme and not Aero (which comes since Windows Vista). Why ? Firstly first, Aero can make some artifacts in some 3D applications (from what I remember, I got some problems with 3D-coat and Maya). Honestly I don’t get very often this problem, most of the time it works fine. My main interest in using this theme is because it reduce the global size of the user interface. Smaller buttons, smaller windows, etc. One of the main advantage I see by using this theme is to get smaller Icon space in the Windows task bar, by this way I’m able to set more programs and by the way to get a quicker access to the common programs I use.
Again, I save my time with being able to see more info/get access to more program at one time.

Most of the time, people are kidding me when I explain why I work like that, they think it’s very pointless. I don’t agree, because I work on computers since a long time now and I see how repetitive and boring tasks can spare your time.

I also use little batch command. For example I have made 2 little batch file for making a copy of my work in my UDK folder to my Dropbox. These copys are incremented with a folder given with a date and the current time. Since I’m working alone I don’t need to make this task to be automatic (I can easily to it by the way), but with a simple Icon in my taskbar (I converted my batch to an executable file) I can quickly launch the batch to save my last work. It’s also an easy way to update my second computer on my project.
Since I’m using a lot Dropbox for working, I have also made a batch file linked to a keyboard hotkey to call my Dropbox folder.
This is also why I always keep opened an explorer window of my current project to always easily copy/paste its path. When you work with Maya/Photoshop by example and you need to open a specific file, you save time by doing this.

Of course, never forget the ALT+TAB to quickly pass over your active windows. This and the common Windows shortcut (WINDOWS+E for the Explorer by example).

XnView


Well, XnView is an evolved windows explorer with some features for displaying your images as library. I use XnView mostly for seeing my images and because when you make a copy, the path of this image is added in your clipboard. XnView has also a good rename tool : when you select more than one file, a window is opened when you want to rename. You can by thys way specify a base name, the current filename, a number (which can increase) and so on. I also usi it for converting some textures to an other format, like bmp to tga, psd to tga, bmp to jpg, etc…

I mostly use XnView for this, I must admit that I never use the other features (like rotate/resize) since I feel a bit hard to access to these menus. I save time by simply launching Photoshop and work with it.

Photoshop

So, Photoshop. Well, I don’t have so much things to say about it. I use it since a long time now, but I almost never use script and other stuffs to save time. Mostly because I’m lazy and I don’t want to test them. :]
Anyway, i have quickly tested some scripts/plugins :

qSave : if you are like a real-time 3D artist (or almost), you work with tga files. qSave can be easily binded to a keyboard shortcut to quickly export you current file to a tga file a batched name. I just recently started to using it but its a very cool script. Download here : qSave on Polycount

nDo2 : not free but it’s the best normal map tool that I have ever used. Hard to describe it, the presets and the normal sculpt tool are awesome. Buy it here : http://quixel.se/

xNormals tools : when you install xNormal you can now also install some plugins for photoshop. In them I mostly use the pixel border expander which allow you to make pixel padding on your texture.

Atlas maker : as his name says, atlas maker is a quick plugin which load a bunch of texture make some atlas of them. You can specify the atlas textures sizes, a padding, etc. Very cool, easy, fast. Download here :

You can also check some other tools/scripts on the Polycount’s wiki : PhotoshopTools on Polycount

Conclusion

I don’t talk about zBrush and Maya this time because there is a lot of things to say. I will probably make a blog post in the future on my worklow.
Anyway, keep one thing in mind : take the time to save your time. Take the time to create your automatic process, at the end you will see by yourself how much you can work faster and easier.