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Enter the micro:bit

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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.

Bulding LA: doing the credits

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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.

capitan 1

Left Side posters

capitan 2

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:

MoonOverMiami-Feb2012MWC  congs and costume
wallpaper-212772   credit2
 creature-from-the-black-lagoon-2  production credits
1405041892.film_.noir_.poster.-.customs.agent_.01 credit4
tophat choreographycredit
The_cameraman_poster directingcredti

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:

royal rascal

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

 

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