The Evolution of the 3D Industry

A panel looks at the future of the industry and how it is rapidly evolving.

First Things First

So you've gotten into 3D modeling a little bit. You're having fun making your favorite things, ranging from your car to a futuristic spaceship. Now you want to take it to the next level and start making some actual money out of models you've already created. Where to start? Well, let's start with some of the “rules of the game” so you can keep yourself out of trouble.

  • Check the legalities. That spaceship you created using your own imagination is probably okay since, technically, you own the copyright on it. To be sure of it, though, you might want to check and/or register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, or your nation's equivalent if you live elsewhere. The International Space Station is also okay since images and structures produced using government funds are usually not copyrighted. However, Paramount Studios will not be amused if you start selling models of the Starship Enterprise without making arrangements with their licensing department first. So be sure you at least check before selling models based on intellectual property that belongs to someone else.

  • Be careful about who you sell your models to. With some studios, the execs will try everything they can to skate around the legalities and the terms of your contract. So either have a good lawyer who knows the entertainment biz very well, become familiar with copyright law, or consider going into business for yourself and using your own models in your own applications.

  • Make friends. If you're a 3D modeler, you probably already know that there's a wide community of experienced pros who remember what it's like to be new to the business side of 3D art and might be willing to help a talented newcomer. So make as many connections as you can and they can help you get started.

Selling Your Art

He is talking about art in general, but some of these tips are good for 3D artists.

Put Yourself Out There

Once you've established yourself as someone who is interested in selling models, it's all a matter of where to turn to monetize your models. It's just a matter of how. Some things I like to see include:

  • Upload them for people to buy and download. You could create your own site to do this and spend a lot of money to market your models. Or you could choose an established site to sell them on. One I like is called TurboSquid. People who are heavily involved in 3D art come here when they want to save the time it takes to create complex models, and modelers like the exposure they get when somebody searches for and finds their particular model.

  • Create short movies. So you have a lot of models. You have the human figures, the animals, the props you need to create short animations. Can you imagine how much money you could make just from advertising if you upload shorts to Youtube and they go viral with advertising enabled, or you make a collection of them to sell on Amazon? (Yeah, we all dream. But, with a little budget-marketing savvy, it can be done.)

  • Freelance. Yes, there are really people who make money by creating 3D models for others. Check out jobs sites devoted to the field, such as Blender 3D Jobs. Need a full-time job? Take your pick of jobs ranging from teaching to creating 3D game engines for companies.

  • 3D printing. This is the obvious one, right? If you have a truly good desktop 3D printer or are lucky enough to be able to afford an industrial-level model, make your models a reality so that you can sell them. Is the printer not big enough? No big deal. You might remember assembling that model pirate's ship before there was such a thing as 3D printing. Just alter your model a little bit and print it off in parts that can be snapped together. You probably won't be competing with the big guys like Fisher-Price, but you can make some pretty good money for a one-person shop once you get off the ground.

Are there any other ways to make money that you can think of? Like making your 3D models, you do need to have a little imagination. You should also have a pretty good business savvy and an ability to market yourself on the cheap unless you can get pretty good funding (Kickstarter, anyone?). As everyone who is professionally involved in 3D art knows, just putting your talent out there can make the difference between landing a cosh job with Pixar and being the guy who does it strictly as a hobby while jockeying a boring day job.