Allspark.com Q&A with Renderform!

{mosimage} The Allspark.com recently had a chance to talk with Venksta, the creative mind behind the third party add-on company Renderform! We asked him about how he got started, how he designs his fantastic add-ons, what he was currently working on, as well as insight on how the third-party companies work (whether or not it's together).

So for answers to these and similar questions — and a product reveal or two!– read the following Q&A!

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 Allspark: Can you tell us more about yourself and Renderform? How did you get involved in 3rd party Transformers? What is Renderform's mission statement, as it were?

Venksta: Renderform is a label, which my customs are released under.  I thought “Venksta’s Customs” sounded silly, plus people misspell my name all the time, haha.  I basically treat my created items as something like prints, which artists would do for their works.  My customs are just an extension of my 3d models, which I was some what known for in the TF community for awhile.  So viewing them as limited prints, works for me.  I definitely do not consider, or want Renderform to be a “3rd party” group.  It has always been intended to be just a home made customs label for garage kits, and that’s it.  

Renderform’s mission statement is to make upgrades and accessories that compliment or enhance TF figures you already own in your collection, or give them a new life.  I’d like to go through each classics-style figure, and give them at least an updated G1 weapon, at some point.

I got involved with 3rd parties through my friend at Fansproject.  I knew him before he formed the group, and one day he showed me the City Commander prototype photos, as a project he was about to join in on.  He knew I was an artist, and we started talking about ideas and stuff, and I got to be there when that group basically took off.  You can find some of my CG renders on their website still, as I made some of the graphics and logos.

I have never considered myself as part of that group officially, just a helping hand.  Even after making the 3D City Commander video, which still gets tons of views after three years.  Anyways, after some people knew I helped FP out, I got connected to other groups, and have been working with various 3rd party groups since.

AS: What got you interested in Transformers? Have you been a long-time fan?  
 
V: I’ve been a fan of Transformers from ever since I could remember.  I’m pretty much old as the Transformers brand, which is cool, especially when Hasbro releases a special anniversary figure, as it’s an instant birthday present.   I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a fan of the franchise.

AS: You were involved or had close ties to at least one other third party group prior to starting your own business, can you talk a little about that?

V: Besides Fansproject, which I mentioned above, another group I’ve done commission work for is BTS.Toy, who I designed the box artwork for their Mobile Command Base trailer.  That was a fun project, with making all the graphics for the box from scratch, and keeping in the Classics box look.  There are about four other groups I’ve worked with or for.  If you look closely, you can tell what I did for some groups.  For others, it is a lot harder.  This coming Sunday, at the Cherry Bomb Toy’s show, people might figure out another group I’ve been working with for awhile now, after they see the exclusive Destroyer Axe’s packaging.  I've had the opportunity to design packaging, to concept designs, all the way to modeling the CAD model for full transforming figures, between the various 3rd party groups.  Its been quite fun and a huge learning experience.     

AS: You've mentioned in the past that a lot of the groups producing 3rd party items have a professional courtesy to not produce something too similar to what another 3rd party group is producing. Can you elaborate on this? Do said groups confer with each other?

V: In the beginning, a bunch of the groups knew each other well, or were somehow connected, and they did their best not to step on each others toes.  However, with so many new groups popping up, they're each less connected, and won’t know what the other is working on.  One of the reasons some groups will post comments, or rough designs to show what they're making, so others won’t attempt it.  I’m kind of guilty of this with the Goldbug kit.  I had posted two concept designs online for my kit’s head design, months before Renderform started to become known by fans on the various sites.  So it was not reported anywhere.  It was also my plan to release an upgrade for the Bumblebee molds, to make each release a different character.  So I didn’t want to back off of my plan after the other kit was announced, especially having a prototype that was just finished for showing at TFCon 2011.

 I know some groups will start working on projects, and while they're fine tuning details, another group will go ahead and announce something first, even if all they have to share to fans a quick statement, while the other group has a prototype almost ready.  People, who remember the Auto-scout cassette accessory, know there were two versions.  But they might not know is that a third group had already started work on it, before the ones that did get released, were even announced.

AS: What is the typical turnaround time from design to final production for most of Renderform's products?

V: Most of my designs are in the actual drawing stage from a couple days, to years.  Once I have a design down, I can go from CAD design to production in less than three days.  I’ve done this for the RF-007B shield and sword set.  I usually like to take my time in the CAD part to explore other design options before getting the prototype made.  With this short lead time on some projects, I’m hoping to just make the final product that actual first announcement when I’m ready, instead of posting a drawing to hype people up.

AS: What are your criteria when it comes to deciding which toys will be getting an upgrade? Are they basically just toys that you personally look at and decide need new heads/weapons or is there a bit of "market research" –where you take a peek at what the fans are saying about the existing molded parts– incorporated into it as well?

V: I basically want to “upgrade” all classics-verse figures, be it new parts, or updated G1 style weapons.  That is basically my mission with Renderform.  I do listen to what fans want too, as there are so many figures I want to get through, and can be hard to pick the next project sometimes.

AS: Have there been any kits you were looking to make but for some reason or another (the base figure was too old or too rare) that you didn't?

V: Yes, there are couple.  Mostly, head upgrades, where the heads are very hard to take apart, due to glue or pins from the bottom.  They basically make it impossible to release, due to the tools needed, and most people don’t have access to them.  So the upgrades become pointless for production.  One of them was Animated Ultra Magnus into a proper Roadbuster.  His head is pinned together.  I have come up with a solution of a Roadbuster mask, but its not as thrilling as a full new head design.

AS: What's your "process" when after you've made the decision on which upgrade sets to make?

V: I start by scouring the net for reference photos of the original G1 or earlier look, and incorporate them into my own updated look.  I try to go through a couple different concept designs before starting the CAD work.  The CAD model can take anywhere from an hour to a couple days, depending on my motivation.  Once I’m happy with the model, I get it sent to be prototyped, and then make a mold out of it, to see how a resin copy works.  After that, I either make adjustments, or can start production.

AS: Of all the products you have worked on, which was your favorite? Which was the most frustrating?

V: My favourite is the RF-007 kits because they're super easy to cast and prep.  The most frustrating kit is the RF-003 Universe Blaster upgrade.  I added way too many parts, before figuring out the costs, and I cut my hands a couple dozen times, due to the various small parts for the head.  As well as the RF-004 Red Alert kits.  The launchers where not fun to prep after casting, as 5 parts for it alone had to be cut and prepped, which took a long time to do.

 AS: Have you ever seen a third party product and thought, "I should have done that" or "I could have done that better"?

V: Yes, I have.  The Grand Patriot figure.  I originally wanted to get it when it was announced, but after reviews, I waited for a clearance or sale.  When I finally got one, I was still disappointed after paying a low amount for it.  I felt the designer didn’t even get close to capturing the spirit of Optimus Prime in that figure.  When you look at certain figures or TF related products, you can tell if the designers “got it” or not.  The patriot figure could have been made a lot better, especially after Don’s awesome concept drawing, which it was based on, but wasn’t close to at all.  Having designed some full figures, it wouldn’t be hard at all to capture the original design in toy form.

AS: Most of your upgrades have been Classics based, do you foresee yourself branching out into any of the other aesthetics such as Animated, Prime, or the Movie-verse?

V: If I find myself wanting an accessory for any figures from those lines, I can definitely see myself getting into making accessories for them.  I actually did want to make a shot gun for DOTM Megatron.  However, finding good reference images was hard, while the movie was in theaters.  I wanted to make it accurate to the movie’s design, so I put it on the back burner.  Maybe when I get a chance to watch it on Bluray, I’ll get the inspiration to work on it again.

AS: Often your kits have a 'lucky draw' item as it were, what was the decision process behind including these incentive items?

V: It’s just a second nature, of who I am.  I like giving people things, and the lucky draw is a good way for me to to extend that opportunity into my kits.

 AS: Your kits have a official feel, look and color to them, is there a lot of experimenting to get everything (the fit, the color, the look) just right?

V: I’m really picky with my work, so when designing, I make sure the style for the part being made, fits the base figures look.  The rest falls in to place, I believe.

AS: One of the biggest things fans seem to enjoy about your kits is the many color options you offer, do you feel this will continue to be a trend or do you plan on limiting your color choices to the more readily available version of a figure (if a variation exists)?

V: I knew United Bee was going to be expensive for most people, and seeing how I was originally going to make the Goldbug kit for Henkei Bumblebee, as people had requested it for that mold, I thought the different colors could work, and help those who have their own vision of the character.  As in the cartoon, he appeared almost black instead of navy blue.  And in the comics he was yellow/gold.  So this also  helped decide with the various color schemes.  For future kits, it would depend on this type of situation for the character being upgraded.

AS: We've seen three heads for Bumblebee, ones that look a bit like Goldbug, Hupcap, and Bumper. Has there been any thoughts as to a G1 Bumblebee-inspired head? Perhaps for Volks/Glyph/G2 Bumblebee?

V: Yes, I do plan to make a G1 toy inspired head for Classics Bumblebee.  I’m hoping to do a recolor or remold of it at the same time for BotCon Bugbite, so he has a meaner looking head.  If the classics Bumblebee mold gets repainted again in the future, I will definitely look into who that version can be upgraded into.

 AS: A new head for DotM Vortex was revealed not too long ago. What other projects do you have coming up?

V: Without revealing to much, I still plan to release classics weapons for Optimus and Megatron, based on the designs that started Renderform.  I’ve been putting them on the backburner, as I keep learning new things with each new project, and want those two particular sets to be the best I can create at the time, when they're ready to go. I also plan to make a Sideswipe upgrade kit, to give him a bit more G1 style head, along with a remold for Red Alert, based on this new sculpt.  Red Alert’s kit has been in demand since the red version sold out.  As I can’t make any more of the original kits, this is the best solution, plus I can make improvements based on what I learned from the first version.

AS: Do you have any concerns that there may be too much 3rd party product out there? Or that some are going to far (for example those directly copying Hasbro's work)?

V: Yes, I am a bit concerned about all the 3rd party groups and product popping up.  I even get people sending me messages asking how to get into the 3rd party market.  Most of them decide it’s not worth it, once I share my experience and what the reality is.  Especially when I tell them about risking $20,000 with a factory in China, who might walk away with it.

AS: Thanks again for this chance to find out more about your upgrades!

V: Thank you and the Allspark for the opportunity to share some behind the scenes Renderform and 3rd party information.

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If you'd like to meet with Venksta in person, or just just out all the latest third-party kits, check out Cherry Bomb Toy's toy show this Sunday, October 16th! To find out more about the toy show and who will be there click the link below:

Cherry Bomb Toys' toy show

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