Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today's Dilbert


Posting this daily Dilbert for my scientist friends.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Picking up

Fixed the flower, now my main character can pick it up

Friday, October 26, 2007

Crawling along

Yes, I made some progress on my animation today. Unfortunately the way I build the animatable flower for my animation made my 3D animation program XSI crash a couple of times. Found a workaround, hope to finish that model tomorrow. My guy was being obnoxius again today, pretending to have put on quite a bit of weight almost like he was pregnant.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


During class today, I relayed some of the great tips about facial modeling Jonathan Williamson had given during his talk at last weekend's NYC Blender Conference. Like how great police mugshots are as reference, giving you a nice front and side view. So, in preparing for class yesterday, I googled and found a few. I choose one of Jane Fonda, since I had never modeled a female head, seemed like a nice choice.

I guess I'm getting old. None of the students had ever heard on her. And when I said she's the daughter of Henry Fonda they politely smiled and pretended to at least have heard of him. Although I must admit I've never seen any of her Aerobic videos, I mean films. Except the one where Duran Duran got their name from, yes, I'll admit it. Oops, just dated myself again.

In class I could only show the nose and eyes, couldn't resist and build the rest of the face during Law and Order. As shown on right. Not quite done yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

No movement on the animation

I have to confess: did not work on my animation this weekend. Couldn't resist this morning to do a few tweaks on my Blender head, but that hour would not have made a dent in my project. The head is still ugly, but not as bad, is it? Spend the rest of the day on Skype or telephone and updating my demoreel.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

NYC Blender Conference

Today I took the DeCamp in town and the A train to the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn to attend the NYC Blender Conference. I only have one photo, since the batteries of my camera were drained and the spare ones not charged. But it happens to be of the start of the talk I found one of the most interesting. In the middle you see Nick Porcaro, one of the organizers. That talk by Jonathan Williamson actually was not really Blender specific, but dealt with how to build heads. And he builds them real fast and they look great.

Geek alert: skip this paragraph if not into 3D. He insisted on using only quads (polygons with 4 vertices or points) because they subdivide better. I was actually really happy when subdivision surfaces became feasible to work with so that whole terrible NURBS stitching of rectangular patches of quads was over. But he had a point in having his edge loops follow the lines where muscles would be, and how that makes for an easier to adjust mesh.

There were a lot of interesting people there to talk to, like Elephants Dream director Bassam Kurdali. Learned a lot about blender as well, even build a head. A really ugly one. Wish I had time to attend tomorrows sessions as well. And maybe even make the head look good. Did get answers to questions I had, albeit not always the ones I hoped for (it is indeed not possible to animate parameters in the material nodes editor, darn). Had a great day!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Green screen

After instruction and demonstration two weeks ago, students of mine at the University of the Arts had to direct their own green screen recordings yesterday. Unlike during the demo, when I had no clue which socket was connected to which socket in this photo studio, we did not blow any fuses.

What I found interesting is how hard it is to make these animation students collaborate as a crew. I used to teach at the Netherlands Film and Television Academy where that is the default work mode of course. Animators tend to be "loners", individuals working on their own little projects. They are simply not accustomed to division of labour it seems, although they probably will be confronted by that as soon as they venture out into the professional world. Unless they manage to have a career as independent animator. Or win the lottery.

On a geek node: I knew that NTSC DV should be even worse for doing greenscreen than PAL DV, because it uses 4:1:1 sampling instead of 4:2:0. And indeed, the first tests showed some really ugly artifacts. Overall however, I was not unhappy at all with the results of the simple setup we had. And what is really great with these students: they are really creative in finding backgrounds and image combinations for the greenscreen test assignment I gave them!

By the way, if anybody wonders why in the photograph here is this bag on the floor next to the chair where the subject is to sit: this is not because we were being messy. The floor gave a really ugly direct reflection to the shotgun mike hanging overhead. Placing this (light set) bag there made the voice sound a lot friendlier, less hollow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Change logo I must! Or?

After reading todays Bizarro comic, which automatically gets loaded into my Daily Comic Widget, I wonder: should I change the logo for ideePIX? It currently features an old fashioned energy sucking light bulb. Should I replace it with a more energy efficient model?

Sunday, October 14, 2007


No, this post is not about pirates, I'm just voicing my frustration at my animation. Spend almost the entire day fixing stuff. The origin of what went wrong was my own doing: returning to my animation after a three month hold, I was wondering what that old obsolete copy of my main charracter was doing in my scene, next to the newer active one. So I deleted it, no problem. Or so I though. Re-opening my main scene file today, quite some work had not been saved! Sometimes the line between feature and bug is thin. Using external models in Softimage XSI is really powerfull but has it quirks... Aargh!

Almost everything has been restored...

Luckily I had a music break. After yesterdays opening at Gallery 51, the artist's band Scott Gordley Trio played a nice bit of Jazz on the sidewalk in front of the gallery. If you happen to be visiting Montclair, go check out the exhibition of Scott's great photo real and photo based paintings.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Coat Fix

Last week the coat of the main character in my animation behaved badly. I trained it to do better today. Somehow the guy also turned Japanese. Except for his nose of course.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Late Lunch at cafe Mogodor

Went into the city today, to meet with Nick Porcaro. I met him at this years SIGGRAPH Conference during a presentation on Open Source software. He is working with painter / graphic designer Ellen Levy, who joined us briefly for coffee, and is investigating ways to turn these paintings into 3D objects using Blender. He is a musician and has been working with her before, combining his music with her painting(s). An interesting project that will not be easy to pull off: how do you add a third dimension to a broad brush stroke, with a method that should be semi-automated?

I am not really doing anything in Blender at the moment, since I am working on my animation in Softimage XSI and teaching a course using Lightwave (the image accompanying this post I created in Lightwave to show UV Texturing). But I will be attending the Blender New York Conference next weekend, at least Saturdays sessions (The big conference is this weekend in Amsterdam). One of the issues I run into when teaching 3D (or any other computer based course actually) is the access student have to the software. Using open source software, like Blender, would eliminate this problem, since all students can install it on their own machines. I know students are really good at getting their hands on software, but this would actually be legal! Downside: the documentation on open source software usually su... is often not all that good. Not to speak of the GUI issues. But in both respects Blender is actually not half bad. For open source software.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Artificial Life

Through the feed of a friend I came across this article: "I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer". It would be great if they manage to create micro organisms that can eat pollution and even curb climate change. That is the best case scenario, but I have read too much science fiction (as a boy, not recently, really!) to not immediately think of what can go wrong. Giant mutant bacteria ruling the world! Anyway, an intriguing development, let's see it there will really be an announcement tomorrow or if this turns out to be another cold fusion.

Wardrope Malfunction

Been animating again today. Ran into the usual tech problem, like the coat of my character behaving badly as can be seen in the image. Tried using the Cloth function that is present in Softimage XSI 4.2 for this character when I first build him, but that was not practical. I'm using simple blendshapes (morphing hand sculpted shapes) so back to sculpting of the coat again!

Oh, wait, I should not forget to prepare for class as well. It's easy to get sucked into animation and wonder where the last few hours went. Time flies...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A few seconds

Finally got back to my animation, and animated a few more seconds. Too bad I had to stop and go Barbecue with friends :). By then my character seemed to have turned against me anyway. Not only did it refuse to keep its feet on the ground, but it also suddenly looked a bit like a devil, as shown in the image. Winding down now with a bit of Saturday Night Live on TV, more to animate tomorrow!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Something Awful

Through Boing Boing I found this image, part of the Photoshop Phriday Competition at Something Awful. This week the assignment was to modernize art.

Fascinating: as if the worst fear of humans is no longer to burn in hell, but to lose a game of Halo. How small is the globalized world of the video game player? One image that is missing from the competition I think, was Munch's 'The Scream': The famous guy adorned with the white earbuds that are the signature of the iPod. But that is probably because that image is hard to create. The face would have to be altered from expressing primal fear to glowing with the bliss of ignorance

Lazy Friday

me an mp3?Today is my day to recover from my 5AM till after midnight, teaching two sections with a long commute on one day Thursday. The day I try to force myself not to work, or at least not to work constantly. So through my sisters blog I ended up on Insufficient Intelligence (love that title) and from there onto a test that determined that if I were a file extension, I would be mp3. Yeah, right. Anyway, today I am definetely not an exe.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I hear the crickets outside, or are they cicadas? I though those are supposed to only appear every 17 years, but the photo on the right shows one from this year and one from last year. Yes, both are deceased and the ladybug is wooden.

It's kind of quiet in here. My wife has left for the South Pole. So except for teaching two classes there is no good excuse for stalling my animation any further. Animate I must! I will be posting progress reports here soon. Was my last one really three months ago?

Did do more lightwave stuff, since I'm teaching a class in it. I created the image on the right to show bumpmapping