By Prayitno [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, it seems that yet again the Oscars are incapable of giving away 24 gold-plated statues to a load of rich actors in designer gear without some kind of controversy. This year Bonnie and Clyde – Faye Dunnaway and Warren Beaty managed to inadvertently inject anarchy into the awards do by opening the wrong envelope. resulting in La La Land winning best picture when it should have been Moonlight. It transpired, Beaty had been handed the envelope for the previous award for Best Actress, won by Emma Stone for La La Land. The Academy have announced an inquiry but here are the basic facts
apparently, there are 2 people backstage responsible for handing the envelopes from one of 2 sets of envelopes to the presenters. You have to assume the envelopes were marked with the award on there and yet 2 people failed to give an envelope to someone who didn’t even bother to check he had the right envelope. It seems that the problem can be summed up as follows. unused envelopes had contaminated the award pool. either the old envelope opened by Leonardo Di Caprio had somehow made its way to Beaty, or the alternative Best actress awards had been handed out in error. Now I didn’t watch the awards but I would assume there would be some stage directions managing where presenters and winners would enter and exit the stage. Here’s a brief intro to stage direction terms
Areas of a standard proscenium stage; plan view This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
in this diagram, we can see that stage left (SL) and stage right(SR) is relative to an actor standing on stage and facing the audience that forestage (FS) is closer to the audience and backstage(BS) is further away. Now a lot of these awards will also have an elevated staircase that the presenters enter sometimes from SL some time from SR but always from an elevated position, meeting in the center and walking down a shared staircase to centre forestage. Once at the podium the presenters ad-lib and read the autocue to announce the nominees for the award, the envelope is opened, the winner is read, the winner receives the awards, talks for 30 seconds then returns to their seat, the presenters then also leave. Because the next presenters should already be in position, ready to come on it is doubtful the presenters will exit the stage the same way they came in. so here are our stage direction options:
- presenters walk in either from stage right
- presenters walk in either from stage left
- presenters walk in either from a central staircase
once they have given out the awards they exit
- If presenters entered Stage Right, then exit Stage left
- If presenters entered Stage Left then exit Stage Right
- If presenters entered from central staircase, then exit either Stage left or stage right
If there are 2 people handing out the envelopes, then I suggest that 1 of them hand out the envelope at the start, once the envelope has been handed to the presenter, the matching envelope from the alternate set is destroyed. The other person waits for the actors to exit, takes the envelope and card from the, rips them in half and places them in a bin before ticking them off a list.there should be no contamination of envelopes and if the envelopes are in order then the person handing out the envelopes merely has to hand the next available envelope to the presenters, something a robot could do.
in future, the best way to do this possibly would be to announce all the nominees on the autocue and have just a blank piece of paper in the envelope. then there’s only one person responsible for messing up, namely the person who enters the text for the autocue. The text could be signed off by the awards committee either beforehand or in situ ( to be honest, I can’t believe there is no such thing as an autocue that reads from an external file )
This kind of falls into our examination of award ceremony structure. We did look into how an open source award ceremony could be made. our method removes the need for envelopes, mix-ups and incorrect nominees as the award ceremony is generated from the votes dynamically, the only thing you need is someone to press the buttons to switch slides and then bring up the winner at the end. its possible that the next slide preview could be piped to an autocue system or the text from each slide scraped into the autocue giving the announcer the text they merely have to read.
Hi Everyone, I know its been a while since I last posted, but there are reasons – I will post more – promise
In the meantime, I was going through some of the draft blog posts I had started but not finished. and came across this one, So I dusted it off and finished it off. I don’t know if the proposed legislation has been implemented or if it’s been altered since I started it. In any case here it is:
3 cubes of sugar
On 16th March 2016 , the Chancellor of the exchequer, George Osbourne unveiled a new budget,chief among the new policy was a levy on sugary soft drinks – The nation is grip of an obesity epidemic and fizzy, sugary drinks have been identified as the culprit. according to other press agencies, Jamie Oliver did a little victory dance outside the Houses of Parliament as it was announced.
Spotted Anglia Ruskin University 9/7/2016
The micro:bit goes live
well it seems with very little fanfare, the micro:bit is now being distributed to teachers and students throughout the country.
With my previous post here about the micro:bit. I predict minimal uptake or impact in school lessons. The teachers will not have had any time to incorporate them into lesson plans and the probably wont happen now until possibly September. so these year 7 pupils will actually be in year 8 by the time they actually get to do anything in the classroom with a micro:bit
The launch has been dogged by delays according to the BBC because 1 million units had to made at once, and there were design issues (watch battery could be a choking hazard)
Thing is, other companies do this sort of thing with way more complex boards Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo manage to manufacture boards without these delays. The micro:bit is a smaller, simpler board so should be easier to mass manufacture right?
so the Watch battery is its power source? instead of a watch battery, why not a solar panel? or a bigger battery like a 9v battery? if this was just to make a small portable device that can be programmed, then this would be perfect, but its not. and the reason is obvious. The BBC are betting that wearable tech is the next new thing. pupils make their own micro:bit based wearable tech. problem is with wearable tech is at the moment, the data you get is completely banal, The apple watch basically, acts as a blue-tooth screen for an iPhone, and fitbits are essentially, pedometers that instead of counting steps, store data long term (say over a day) and then download that data to a computer. You cant see your results directly on fitbit. Additionally these devices aren’t waterproof.
But one of the major problems I have is that the micro:bit is free for this year only, resulting in one of 3 outcomes.
- They prove a success in the classroom, Schools will buy a bunch of them and keep them in the classroom, contrary to the founding ethos of the micro:bit
- They prove a success in the classroom and the cost of obtaining micro:bit are left with the parent, creating a 2-tier education system where disadvantaged children lose out because their mum can’t afford £10 on a board, especially if there’s no way to work with it out of school
- They prove a failure, the hobbyist market continues to buy them on occasion but the year 8 cohort will have wasted a year learning how to make a LED flash on and off on a hardware platform that has no further relevancy in an education system that is geared towards attainment
now its possible that some children will be inspired enough to start making other things but I don’t think the numbers justify the sheer amount of money that has been sunk into the micro:bit. Don’t forget we still don’t know about how open the development platform is
Before everyone falls over themselves to jump on this platform, we should also consider the micro:bits main competition. It has competition? yes the Codebug which is a little pricey but has been open source for a while and of course the Raspberry Pi Zero which is is roughly half the price of the micro:bit but currently sold out at the moment.
The original computer boom in the 80’s was based on cheap computing hardware, however let’s get something into perspective, back in 1982, a 48k ZX spectrum would have cost £175 which taking into account inflation would actually be somewhere in the region of £600 while a Commodore 64 cost £400 which equates to £1,372! These are hardly cheap computers compared to a raspberry pi zero or micro:bit as a percentage of a monthly salary.
These are undoubtedly exciting times for computing, with an unprecedented number of truly low cost computers, readily available with a huge potential in using them to do more than just play games. However I still think the micro:bit seems over engineered, poorly thought out with a software platform that seem to be locked behind a Microsoft or apple ecosystem with the vague promise that some day all this will be open source. The success of the micro:bit is dependant on how enthusiastically it is taken up by teachers. If they fail to respond to it, the micro:bit could end up nothing more than an interesting curiosity.
In the previous entries, I had built a small section of LA,placed the Hollywoodland sign, put some buildings in there and some cars. Now its time to think about the actual intro.
Talking to the Director, he wanted to have the majority of the cast over the rain in the sky, before sweeping through the streets of LA with some of the cast and crew credited in shop windows but that would require a huge section of LA to be built, so I decided to split the credits between cast and crew, with the cast being shown in the street somehow.
I decided to make a proper animatic, I used the overture to help me time out the intro. The Cast names were added as text overlays and I added wipes in and out to give it a more retro look and because cutting to the next name seemed very jarring. Once I had the main cast in there, I was able to check how long the camera would need to hold before i moved it to the Theatre, approximately 3 minutes or so. This meant that the camera is essentially static for nearly 3 minutes before moving to the chinese theatre showing the crew in the street. There are 12 crew members to place in the street, but where? That’s when I had the idea of using the star of building LA part 1, The El capitan theatre
The El capitan theatre is just down the street from the real Chinese theatre, and has a foyer with 6 posters in it, Looking at the foyer, you can see that one side is mirrored from the other.
Left Side posters
Right Side posters – note the text is backwards
What we want to do is replace the posters with 6 different posters with 2 crew members on each and 2 with one each on
Ok, so in 3ds max, I created a set of polygons on top of each poster. I then set out to find suitable posters that could be altered to add crew members. I spent ages removing type from the posters before adding the crew member names and credits:
I planar mapped my altered poster imaged on these newly created polygons
I then made a camera move that swooped from the hollywoodland sign down the El Capitan theatre, looking at each poster before swinging around and moving towards the Chinese theatre, I animated some cars so they could be seen
While I was working in GIMP/Photoshop, I decided to remove the shadow from the Chinese theatre front wall, and swap out the poster for the film it was showing ( 300 ) to the one in the script ‘the Royal Rascal’
it looked ok, but it really lacked pizzazz, looking at the film this is the establishing shot of the chinese theatre:
I decided I would replicate the same text I used a font called K22 Spotty Face and used that to make a texture that was mapped to a polygon roughly in the same place
the intro, was a massive animation in 3dsmax, which meant I had to tweak the particle system to show the rain. with all the objects in the scene, it became hard to actually update the display, it would actually take time for the screen to redraw, so previewing the results in realtime was out of the question. I made a series of small preview renders at low quality to let me see how the animation was coming along.
Once timed, it was ready to render. Render time was 4 hours after than I dropped it into the animatic, and rendered it out to an .avi file, which I then dropped into my animatic and rendered out for a final piece of animation
Phew! thats the hardest shot in the show out of the way- next up a starry night sky with some rolling clouds
Having previously created the landscape of LA and placed the model of the chinese theater. for a flythrough for the intro of Pied Pipers Production of Singin’ in the rain.Next thing I did was to make some rain
Makin’ it Rain
to make the rain effect, I created a simple particle flow system and altered its settings to look like it was falling like rain. I then built a simple raindrop and then made the particle system reference this one raindrop . I turned off random rotation so the raindrops are heading straight down. Particle systems are expensive in terms of redraw and update speed so I will hide it untill I need to render it.
A single raindrop
I then placed a camera in the scene, set up some controls for it and after a bit of trial and error , made the beginings of what could be an interesting camera move.Here’s roughly what I had:
I then went on a download spree over on 3D warehouse, looking at the collections of models in LA and Hollywood checking against the map to find buildings next to the Chinese theatre. Then I got some more generic buildings and come cars
Changin’ the Format
here’s the next problem. 3D ware house has files in sketchup format, which if you remember from last time, I don’t have sketchup. but 3D warehouse also has the option to download in google earths model format – .KMZ
I renamed each of the .kmz files to .zip before extracting to new folders. Each folder has a collada file and a folder of directories. Luckily 3DS Max will import .dae files
Except when it doesn’t. these files simply crashed 3DS Max. So I tried a different approach. I fired up a copy of Blender and imported the .dae file it loaded so I exported out to .fbx
El Capitan Theater in Blender
after a little of trial and error, I managed to get a model into 3DS Max ! behold the El capitan theatre!
The same El Capitan Theater model in 3DS Max
hmmm. Looks a little strange. lets take a look at the 3D model in the browser again:
The El Captian model in 3D warehouse
Yeah it looks like as part of the dae import, it welds/deletes faces and/or verts seems Dae importer is not very well supported in blender so, back to the drawing board. This time I tried to import the .dae into Maya and straight back out to fbx and back into 3DS Max
El Capitan Theatre, converted via Maya
Ok, that’s looking good. Let’s go ahead and put some buildings in there!
Buildin’ the town
I dropped in some generic looking buildings on Hollywood Boulevard, built some very simple buildings ( literally cubes with texture maps on them) in there and made a starry night sky dome.
Then I found a model T ford on 3D Warehouse. I downloaded , got rid of the open bonnet, and merged the objects to make 4 new object, the car body, the back wheels, and 2 front wheels
I then modelled 2 low poly cones and fitted them to the headlamps. These cones were given a gradient in their diffuse and opacity channels to make them fade out. In effect faking the light cone you see in headlamps in fog
Model T Ford with headlamps
I then patented all this to a dummy, I made copies of the dummy and animated them driving down Hollywood Boulevard.
Paintin’ the town
The opening is in black and white, So I decided that I would have to tweak all the textures, I made an action Photoshop to convert an image to grayscale and ran it as a batch on a copy of the textures (if I ever want to swap them back then it should be easy)
the only building I am going to worry about is Graumans chinese Theater itself. It’s current textures are promoting the film ‘300’ so I need to change it to promote the film in the script.
Lightin’ the lights
Lighting this set was hard, mainly because I suck at lighting. The first thing I did was make a large blue spotlight toward the top of the skydome . This represents the moonlight
I Created some large omni lights at the edges of the planes and set them to white with -1 intensity which sucked the colour out of the scene, darkening the edges of the map when the cameras moving you hopefully won’t notice the square edges of the landscape.
I then stuck a series of lights on each car ( in hindsight I should have lit the cars first then animated them) I put a couple of low intensity omni lights in front of the car and a free spot to represent the headlights.
I found a Streetlamp model from 3D warehouse and created a couple of lights an omni light for the glow and a spot pointing downwards. These were patented to a dummy. I was then able to mass duplicate 20 down Hollywood boulevard
A streetlamp lit rigged and ready to duplicate
A lot of the buildings in my section of Hollwood Boulevard have lit signs .I will mke those textures be self illuminated.
Next up, Balancing Textures and animating the camera move
I have been asked to create a series of video projections for The Pied Pipers Musical Theatre Group’s upcoming production of Singin’ in the Rain. Since I won the NODA national poster competition I have been pretty busy. At the moment, everyone wants me to design backgrounds that are to be projected for 3 different shows.
Singing in the Rain is first- after getting some information from BAWDS I was able to work out a frame size.
First challenge: The director wanted a fly-through through 1920’s LA to the Graumans Chinese theatre.
Well it looks like SketchUp Make could solve this problem. I could use it to generate terrain and place buildings accurately – or so I thought.
Thing is, right now, I don’t use windows at home. I have an ancient Mac mini, so I tried installing SketchUp Make on that. Latest version installed, only to tell me when starting that the OS was the wrong version and so it wouldn’t run- thanks apple
Linux doesn’t have a version, so I tried to install SketchUp under WINE. this installed and ran (sort of) but there was no 3D view. So in desperation I contacted Mike who had a windows laptop and was able to extract chunks of landscape and the Hollywood sign and Chinese theatre to a number of .3ds files.
First up – let’s make the land.
Opening up a copy of 3ds max one lunchtime, I was able to import the landscape. As part of that, mike had very acurately placed the hollywood sign for me. I also had 30 or so chunks of land
Terrain Data extracted from SketchUp
Opening Photoshop I loaded the textures into a large file and using the 3D view as a guide, arranged the textures together:
Then I went through each layer cropping the footer display to create a large texture that could be mapped onto all the planes at the same time.
Texture when cleaned up
Back in max, I combined all the landscape planes together and then made another plane above the land with roughly the same density as the merge plane object. I then applied a Conform spacewarp to the object and suddenly my new plane was fitting snugly over the Holly wood hills
Combining the landscape planes
I now had a single surface with no co planar polygons. I made a snapshot this mesh and deleted the faces and vertices that hadn’t been affected by the conform operation.
Single surface generated from the terrain data
Slap the text ure on and VOILA!
Texturing the landscape
It’s not 100% but its a lot quicker than manually editing and welding thousands of verts and performing countless STL checks
a quick render:
Rendering the Hollywood hills
And I was ready to swap out the HOLLYWOOD sign for the earlier HOLLWOODLAND sign. I fudged it a bit but it still looks pretty good:
Next Up I will add the Chinese Theatre, and then populate the Rest of LA with generic buildings
Yes, finally after nearly 3 years of development and work, The Snail Tales project is finished. I had actually finished it late last year but decided to get christmas and new year out of the way before releasing to Snail Tales.
Here’s the finished film:
I will be collating all the character and background files and creating a public repository for them
On paper it seems an awful long time to make a piece of animation. But as well as the games I made as part of my job I moved house, got engaged, had to learn hot to use Synfig, and get S-Cargo and the continuous integration system working.
I recorded my presentation at OggCamp late last year – I will upload that shortly. In the meantime, here’s the presentation I did the year before, detailing how Synfig Stage and continuous integration will work:
The other week Miss Vicki and I went to see SPECTRE, and maybe it’s my age, but while I enjoyed the film, later on I felt that a lot of the film was trying its hardest to dig up 1960s bond memes
Hey remember Bond drove an Aston Martin? Quick chuck in an Aston Martin – quick!
Hey, remember how cool all the voodoo stuff was in Live and Let die? here’s a sequence at the Mexican Day of the dead for no reason whatsoever
Hey remember the crap flirting between bond and Moneypenny, that somehow looks sexist in a modern society? SHAZAM- it’s back Baby!
Hey remember that sometimes Bond villains wore Mao suits or Nehru jackets? let’s do it!
Hey remember how bond villains used to have rooms full of henchmen operating machinery? yeah chuck a high-tech headquarters in there
Well here at the Bunker we have wings of high-tech machines that go ping and are operated by legions of guys in overalls and hard hats so we know a thing or two about running an underground base, so I thought it would be fun if I dug out this months copy of ‘Lairs and Bunkers’
Latest copy of Lairs & Bunkers
and look at some of the reviews inside:
classic with full on retro 70s stylings, with occasional swathes of red which is a welcome relief. Everything here is a monochromatic nightmare. Granted it can destroy a planet, but sheesh!
The word here is variety, there are lots of different styles of Henchmen White plated storm troopers, Black plated TIE fighter pilots grey officers all suited and booted with a certain Nazi stylings chuck into the mix the black-robed Emperor, and Darth Vader. However having lots of different Henchmen does not make up for the fact that yet again everything is GREY! it’s a mercy that imperial guards are crimson, because otherwise I might think I was watching a black and white film.
Well, where to begin with this? The layout of the Death Star seems wildly illogical, the station seems to be hollow, with the most dangerous explosion-causing device (the main reactor) situated in the dead centre of the facility. This means that an explosion will destroy the whole facility. Whereas positioning the reactor off-centre would only destroy a section of the facility, and would allow the henchmen time to get to escape pods. The designers for the death star also thought that having long bottomless shafts without handrails was a perfectly acceptable way to design an interior along with doors that operate bridges. This is important if you are a storm trooper, you can surely not see much in that helmet and the reduced visibility will only lead to more accidents, which is a damming indictment of what is a government facility.
Don’t Believe the hype. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of a work place free from tripping hazards and bottomless pits.
Joker’s Lair – Batman
Vivid bright colours and circus memorabilia all over the place, there are very few Lairs that accurately reflect the personality of their owner, The Joker takes every lair he has and makes it something totally unique. But here’s the problem: Any city planner worth their salt would simply devise a scheme where a wealthy philanthropist, like Bruce Wayne, could buy up all the disused joke shops, factories that made goods for joke shops or derelict fun fairs and turn them into affordable homes, reducing the number of potential lairs for the joker, it also makes him very easy to find. The point of a secret lair is that its secret. If batman can guess where you live and he’s right 9 times out of 10, then maybe its time to think about changing your property M.O.
Depends, Sometimes the joker opts for normal hoodlums and gives then cars to match his colour-scheme, sometimes he demands they actually dress like clowns, and some days he simply hires a lot of hoodlums and kills them off during the heist! Capriciousness. This makes for a stress filled working environment, No doubt an average henchman’s locker will be crammed depending on the mood of the joker, or if it’s dress-down Friday.
Structurally, The Joker’s lairs seem sound, if not a little dilapidated. They have all variety of exploding props and things with spring-loaded hidden blades that can cause problems. There is also the possibility you will be sacrificed by your boss just for a punchline.
The Joker’s lair is surprisingly well laid out with a consistent aesthetic. High turnover of staff however will cause problems for the continued smooth running of the lair.
V’s Lair – (V for Vendetta)
As a contrast to most of the lairs on the list, V’s lair is can be described as a Man-cave for the intelligent man. Expect to see priceless works of art hanging on the wall next to a Wurlitzer jukebox , books stacked ceiling high and a copy of the Count of Monte Cristo on DVD.
None, This is a solitary place, a refuge from the world. The last thing V needs is a house guest – if you do find yourself his guest, expect to stay for at least a year.
There is very little wrong with V’s lair, probably the only thing V would need to worry about would be to make sure that his central heating boiler is serviced regularly, as with no windows, any build up of carbon monoxide could prove fatal. On the plus side the lair does come with its own tube train and track – only 1 destination – but it beats walking, and do you know how much property prices are in London these days?
A place for quiet reflection, the overall feeling from this lair is of overstuffed wing back chairs, some Vivaldi or Ella Fitzgerald playing in the background and some dusty tome to read, accompanied by a cheeky red wine.
Well that was quite interesting, I’ll probably grab the next issue and print some of them out too.
Last weekend, miss Vicki and I ventured firth to Leeds for the NODA AGM. It turns out that a poster I designed was in the running for the Thomson Leng trophy for the NODA national poster design competition. I ended up winning first place so I thought it might be a good idea to write about the poster and how I made it.
I was asked by the director to design a poster for his production of communicating doors. He asked that it be cartoony and a little comic book like
I had long admired the artwork by Adrian Salmon on the Big Finish Bernice Summerfield audio CDs. Here’s an example of one
I love the use of the black line and the fill colour in this case blue. I thought it was cool approach to colour I would try to apply to this poster. I spent a couple of hours noodling in Krita
and came up with a rough colour study
The character proportions wasn’t that great so I set about drawing a better layout on 12 field animation paper. I photographed it and imported into my computer
I inked up and coloured the artwork in Krita. Blocking off the bottom of the poster where the show information was going. The director wanted to add that information there himself,
Next up, Typography. I saved a flattened version of the post from Krita and used it as a template to create the curved text for the title of the play. I got a number of fonts I thought would work well for the title and ran them past the Director, We both decided that #3 was the font
I removed the template and saved off a png of the page before loading it into the layered krita Document and adjusting it position a little.
Finally I sent the Artwork off to the Director for final approval before he added the show information to the bottom of the poster.
Here’s the Final poster:
Finally here’s a picture of the Thomson Leng trophy.
I really enjoyed working on the poster. Thinking back it was one of the last things I drew on my laptop, It used to hang and crash krita a lot, but now I upgraded the RAM it might be time to revisit drawing on my laptop. The last couple of productions for Waterbeach Community players, I have used photo montages for poster designs, hopefully the next one I can draw again!