Favorite Quote: Just let it tumble out, like circus freaks man.
Favorite Movie: LOTR: The Return of The King
Favorite Book: Lone Wolf #28: The Hunger of Sejanoz
Favorite Bands: The Eagles, James Taylor
Favorite Songs: Fire & Rain, More Than Words
Favorite Photoshop Tool: Liquify (If Used Properly)
How did you get your PSC nickname?
When I originally came to PSC, I was looking for places to promote my website: http://www.billtvshow.com, so I used the name billtvshow. However, PSC quickly got the better of me, with it's highly addicting nature and I have been here ever since and am now a moderator on the site. This also happens to be the first site where I chose the username billtvshow, which is now my identity throughout the web.
What is your real name and age?
Stephen Fox, 29 as of early 2012
Where are you from and what do you like best about being there?
I am from the foothills of North Carolina and the climate is very nice. We get a good variation of weather (hot, cold, snow, rain, etc), but rarely any very bad weather / disasters (tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, barbarian hordes, etc).
What do you do to keep the bills paid?
I am a GIS Analyst. The best way I've found to describe what I do with GIS is: Imagine Google Earth, but specifically focused on a single town and with infinitely more detailed data. I'm the guy who makes that data, analyzes it, and makes maps out of it.
What do you do in your spare time?
Singing, Golf, Making Youtube Videos, Video Games (Specifically Rock Band & Tiger Woods), Disc Golf, Basketball, & Geocaching are the core 7 right now. I also have phases where I spend a lot of time with Graphic Design / PSC, Web Design, Android, Baseball / Softball, Football, Playing Trombone, and Tinselslappers (You and a friend see who can knock each other unconscious first by slapping each other with single strands of Christmas Tinsel; the games usually last much longer than even the longest cricket matches).
How did you find PSC, and what do you like most about the site?
I saw photoshop contests on FARK and decided to do a search on photoshop contests and PSC came up first. What I like most about PSC is the adrenaline rush you get when you are in a heated race for the top spot in a contest. It's both stressful and fun to watch. I also really enjoy seeing everyone step their game up for the special events on the site (H2H & Reunion).
If you could change one thing at PSC, what would it be and why?
I get to help change things all the time as a mod, so there's not much I can say here. A ton of the stuff I've suggested has been implemented, though there will be more to come.
Is there any other information about you would like to pass on?
My biggest claim to fame is being the best vocalist in the world on the video game Rock Band. I have (if only briefly) held the #1 rank on every core release of the game and am still ranked #1 on the original game. During the height of the Rock Band craze, I made a lot of Rock Band related videos on Youtube and gained a pretty hefty following (over 22,000 subscribers). My friends and I resurrected our old comedy series called "This Is Bill" and also began posting those style of videos to the channel. Today we still make both Rock Band and This Is Bill videos on a regular basis and they can all be seen at http://www.youtube.com/billtvshow
How many hours per week do you spend on PSC?
As a moderator, I spend around 1-3 hours a week on the site doing mod stuff, voting, etc. When I actually participate or help run a contest or event, I am around significantly more.
What other sites, not Photoshop related, do you like to surf?
Youtube, Digg, Stumbleupon, Geocaching, Facebook, Twitter, Scorehero, Droid-Life.
What tools do you use to chop?
Most often, I use my work laptop for chopping. It is a Dell with a 2.6 GHz dual core, 4 GB of ram, and Windows XP Pro. I still use Adobe Photoshop CS2.
What gets your creative juices flowing, how do you create a masterpiece?
Anytime I see an advantage pic, I immediately get tons of ideas, but I never have time to implement them. On very rare occasions I will find enough free time or an idea that is too good to pass up and I will chop. I also force myself to participate in the H2H from time to time. I spend about a minimum of 8 hours on a chop and have spent as much as 20+ in the past. It is through this amount of effort and intense detail work that I create "masterpieces".
What inspires you?
I have my own moments of original inspiration, but I also like to look back through very old entries and try to bring back some of the themes, ideas, and quality chopping that was seen at PSC in the olden days.
Do you have a system? Does a chop have to be done a certain way following steps or are you a messy chopper and just go with the flow?
My PSD's are very messy and disorganized, but I get all the details done. Occasionally I will post a PSD, but I have to clean it up significantly before posting it.
What style of chop do you prefer to create?
I like to do a nice, wide variety of chops. I'll do all-source, hefty composites, humor, and I often find myself resorting to chops involving animals or advertisements.
Filters, brushes and techniques: Which do you use, and not use, and why?
Most filters are good to use, if you know how and when to use them. I like using liquify sparingly to bend parts of sources. I often like to add a tasteful touch of noise to my entries at the very end, which helps to make sources of varying levels of blurriness and resolution appear more coherent.
When do you know that you have it just right, or is it constant changes up until, or after, you post?
I usually have a good idea of how I want a chop to end up. When I get all the small details worked out, it is "just right". Sometimes I even make a checklist of things to complete, if it is a very complex chop. I very rarely edit an entry during a contest, but if something obvious really needs to be fixed, then I will.
What is the limit to what you will chop?
It can add some diversity to your portfolio to press the limits occasionally, but I personally try to avoid particularly controversial imagery / themes most of the time.
Are there any tips and/or tricks that you would like to pass along to less experienced choppers?
There are several key mistakes that less experienced choppers make: 1 - Improper mixing of elements / sources of varying blurriness and resolution without blending them together is a big one. The noise trick I mentioned above is good, but it will only get you so far. Don't settle for lower resolution sources; keep looking. 2 - Lack of attention to shadows. Learn to do them right from the start. If you use outside sources, learn to match the shadows between the sources used. 3 - Poor cloning. One of the worst things you can do in an entry is to leave obvious evidence of clone stamping. Don't be afraid to sample a bunch of different areas and even sample from rotated or mirrored copies of the sampled area. 4 - Incorrect perspectives. Some of the best choppers on the site have a very hard time getting perspectives correct. It is one of the most difficult things to do correctly. Use common sense and learn as much as you can. 5 - Poor cutouts. Clean edges are almost always a must. There are, of course, numerous times when you will need to blur something for motion or depth of field, but typically the best chops have very crisp anti-aliased edges on the various elements of the chop.
What is your favorite type of source image, and why?
I like the "object on white background" sources, but you don't see those quite as much anymore since the site started using photos submitted by Advantage users. I am also very partial to road signs. Those usually make for some very interesting contests. Otherwise, I don't really care as long as the quality of the pic is decent.
Side note, one of my mod duties is managing approvals of all submitted sources.
There is often talk about how the source is used and to what extent it should be. What are your views on all sources, outside source use and animations?
As (more or less) the primary person who got the "all source" craze started, I can tell you that the original and correct reason for doing an "all source" chop is to show that you can use nothing but the source and create a coherent, clean chop in a very creative fashion. However, since then, it has essentially become a way to say "Hey, look at me, I only used the source to create this cool looking thing and because I used all source and it took a lot of time, you should forgive all the mistakes I made, such as hasty cutouts, blurry edges, bad shadows, bad perspective, etc. and give me a vote." A few people still do it right, but the vast majority do not. As for using outside sources, metalic became popular for doing vast, impressive composites. Nowadays, hardly anyone does them and "all source" or "heavy source manip" are the status quo. Don't be afraid to do a composite, but make sure you integrate everything properly and show your sources, so that the work will also show. From a voting standpoint, most of the time, composites should be treated as an equal to source manipulations if the quality and level of work are consistent between each. As for animations, I've have no problem with them.
What is your preferred resource for outside source images?
I usually go to Google Images first, however, I also check out sxc.hu and even istockphoto.com if I'm really desperate.
In your opinion what makes a good chop?
This is hard to discuss, because not all styles require the same things. I think the best way to describe what makes a good chop is that it needs to be clean and consistent within the style that you are attempting. There are certain universal things that generally need to be followed. Those are mostly the things I listed above in the section about mistakes new choppers make.
Do you have a system to get things started?
I go stare at a pic and once that one good idea pops into my head, I just run with it. I think the start is the hardest part. When you begin chopping, it sometimes feels like the image will never look like what you want, but eventually you should reach a moment when you can tell it is all coming together and then it becomes very easy to "get into it" and finish the job.
Have you ever completed a chop and then decided not to enter it in the contest? If so, why?
I've never completed a chop and not entered it. The farthest I've ever got into a chop without entering was about 50% complete.
After you finish your chop do you just post it or seek opinions of family and/or fellow choppers first?
I like to get the opinions of other choppers. I have a very select few that I get to look mine over and I appreciate them very much.
If some one finds a fault in your work do you change it or stay with what you posted?
I think there's a certain amount of strategy involved in this. Since you get bumped to the bottom of the default sorting order if you edit, there's a lot of motivation not to edit during contests so that you don't get missed by people who vote using the default order. However, there are certain times when the errors that people catch are just too prominent and you just need to update it, even during the contest. Regardless, I will eventually try to fix errors that people found, if I didn't fix them during the contest.
What qualities do you look for when deciding to vote on a chop?
On the surface, I look to see if they avoided the 5 mistakes I listed above in the section on advice for less experienced choppers. Those mistakes stand out like a sore thumb if they are there. As I look more in depth, I try to look at how the source was utilized (both in level of manipulation and subtle usages), how much time was put into the chop, how much technical skill was involved, and generally I'm looking for some kind of wow factor to push me over the edge.
Some member prefer not to vote for filtered chops or animations. Is there any particular style/type of chop you won't vote for?
I give everything a fair chance. That said, if a chop is purely based around the usage of a filter or filters, it's highly unlikely it will get a vote from me.
Time is always a factor, how much time do you spend on a chop and how much time is too much?
In my earlier days, my minimum time spent was about 4 hours. More recently, my minimum is about 8-10 hours. I have spent over 20 hours a few times. The most was when I spent close to 24 hours on my "New Four Horsemen" entry in the 2007 H2H. Seeing as I lost that contest to a much stronger idea with less effort and execution, it's probably safe to say I spent too much time on that one.
We all love to get votes. Now are you a constant vote checker or do you just let it go and check once a day? (be honest)
When I'm in a contest, I might as well have a PSC IV hooked into my veins. I check the contest constantly.
What chop of yours did not do as well as you expected?
Almost every time I've ever been knocked out of the H2H, I felt like my chop underperformed vote wise. Probably my two biggest disappointments in daily contests were The Old Man And The Sea (2nd) and 20 Ideas (3rd). I've always thought that both of those entries clearly should have won by large margins, as they were extremely innovative, cleaner, and much more work than the chops that beat them. In both cases, there was a little bit of a growing anti-billtv sentiment amongst certain parts of the PSC community, and it affected the outcomes of those contests. It came to a head when my Phoenix entry, on which I had spent about 22 hours, received a fairly low vote total relative to other winning entries at that time, especially considering it was one of the best entries I had ever done. Those incidents contributed to my lack of motivation to enter daily contests thereafter. The much more important factor in my retirement from daily contests was not having enough time to chop after Rock Band came out and my Youtube channel boomed in popularity, lol. If there is a positive to take out of all of this, not entering daily contests anymore freed up a lot of time for me to focus on moderating and coming up with ideas to improve the site.
What do you consider your best chop so far?
I have this one listed first in my portfolio: http://photoshopcontest.com/view-entry/81263/the-hunt.html
The method of converting the ropes to vines was a completely original technique that I came up with and I was really happy with how that entry turned out.
That said, I think most people who were around the site at the time would say that this entry: http://photoshopcontest.com/tournament/view/423/display.html
was my defining moment on PSC.
What do you consider your worst chop so far?
I'd say my 1st or 4th entry.
Who is your favorite chopper out there and why?
Claf is the best technical chopper on the site, hands down. ReyRey is a little bit behind Claf in that regard, but typically has slightly better ideas, so I think they have a nice little competition going on. I may have the highest pscore, but I did that through reasonably good chopping, effort, and ideas / innovation, rather than technical chopping prowess.
What do you NOT like to see in a chop, and why not?
See suggestions for inexperienced choppers listed far above.
What is the best chop of all time?
That is a doozy of a question to have to answer. The one that has always stuck with me was a 5 vote chop entered on the last day of a very, very old contest by fzwarkatootl. It was a 20-30 story hotel created out of various buildings from a seaside village, with perfect, dramatic execution. I think I have the image saved on an old computer and may try to dig it up someday. As far as pure vision on a chop, YerPalAl's car panels made from a jet cockpit will (probably) always be the king. As far as pushing the level of effort on the site to a new level, metalic's overhead view of a footrace completely changed the game.
Do you have any other PSC related comments to add?
I love this site and what it has done for me, both in giving me an outlet as an artist, but also increasing my technical prowess and giving me a toolset that has been useful both in my job and for freelance work. I also appreciate the friendships I've developed with various people here. I am privileged to be able to give back to site by working as one of the site moderators.