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Month: January 2011

On giving advice as a successful person

This blog post is kind of interesting: Tough Love, Tomino Style.

A student dreams of becoming an artist, I guess drawing for anime, and asks a professional (Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tominom, to be specific) for advice. The advice ends up being something like: “Turn back! Dreaming is not enough in this industry! It is too labor intensive! Abandon all hope and choose a more normal life with less ambition! And also remember to practice.” That’s my vague summation. It might be a bit wrong, but that’s the vibe I was getting.

I’ve actually had a similar experience (it was quite a bit different, but similar). When I was in college, I asked on a forum for advice about becoming a video game designer in terms of how to spend my time in college. The answer was something like: “You seem like you’re too lazy. Change your attitude, get good grades, work really hard, and maybe something will happen, but probably not.” (I don’t think very many successful people hung out on the forums. Usually successful professionals are too busy for forum visiting, eh?)

These responses are technically accurate. Achieving your dreams might take an enormous amount of work, and there might be no guarantee at all of success, especially if you want to become something very few people can statistically be, like a film director or a movie star or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (we can only have, at most, 500 of those).

But I think these responses miss the point of the question. I don’t think the asker is asking for philosophical advice on balancing lofty dreams and ambitions with a healthy physical and mental lifestyle, or is assuming that the key to success is a simple matter of some unknown secret that a successful pro could write in a letter. (Though I guess there are a number of people out there who buy certain books for this reason.)

Instead, I think the asker is asking for practical advice; what school should I go to? What exactly should I study and practice? What sort of job might I start with?

The advice giver might have useful advice. For example, an animator might say “Check out Animation Mentor, they have a great animation learning program!” Perhaps the advice giver could recount how he got into the industry and found his position, even if it seems unlikely that the same path would work for anyone else. It might be a position that there is no direct path to because the field is highly competitive, such as film scoring. The advice giver could say that. “This field is highly competitive and there’s a lot of luck involved, so I can’t really give you much advice.”

Is that so hard?

Why do advice givers jump to assume that the asker needs the cold splash of reality that says “your lofty dreams probably won’t come true, so consider giving up.” What idiot sits there with broken dreams lamenting “why didn’t anyone tell me it would be so hard? I would’ve listened if only someone had only told me to give up!”

Are 3D movies inherently bad?

Earlier this month I wrote a post about people’s arguments against 3D films. Roger Ebert recently wrote this blog post: Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.

Case closed? As if that will stop people from arguing or as if that excuses you from having to further defend your position in any way?

Ebert starts off by writing:

I received a letter that ends, as far as I am concerned, the discussion about 3D. It doesn’t work with our brains and it never will.

The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous. The case is closed.

Firstly, notice the first sentence of the second paragraph there. Why does he feel the need to mention price? Isn’t that a different (albeit related) argument?

Secondly, nothing can be inherently brain-confusing. Confusion is a psychological response to something; it can’t exist if there’s no brain to be confused. Since it’s completely psychological, it’s also completely subjective. A majority can certainly share opinions since human brains do have a lot of similarities, but you can never objectively close a case about what is and isn’t confusing.

The post is really about Walter Murch’s letter to Ebert, so Ebert then goes into mentioning Murch’s credentials. I’m tempted to scoff at the idea of giving off credentials for something like this; after all, we can all go see 3D movies and make our own judgments, but then I remembered what Ebert’s job was. Oh yeah. He probably feels the need to validate letters like this with credentials, even though, in a case like this, they’re meaningless.

Murch’s argument:

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now “opened up” so that your lines of sight are almost — almost — parallel to each other.

My counter-argument:

Nope, I don’t mind 3D!

Well, there you have it folks! You can’t say “here’s the physiological response of doing what you’re doing, therefore it’s innately bad.” I don’t give a $%@! if it gives you headaches or confuses you subconsciously. My brain feels fine, and unless you show me statistical evidence that 3D movies cause cancer or something, you’re not going to sway my opinion.

Yes, the extra price on top of already-too-high ticket prices is stupid, but if that’s your issue, focus on that. Murch’s argument only supports your anti-3D argument if you get headaches or feel other harmful physiological aspects in yourself while or after watching a 3D film.

It’s kind of funny that Murch writes:

[3D film audiences] are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for.

In his book, In the Blink of an Eye, Murch mentions that the same is true for many sorts of editorial cuts in general! He mentions that it’s fascinating the eye can understand such cuts at all considering how, before films, the eye never had a chance to experience and adapt to such cuts before (like over-the-shoulder cuts during a two-way conversation). Of course, there are still limits to what looks good to most audiences and what will undoubtedly confuse them; there are still rules that film editors have to work with for whatever effect they want to achieve.

Considering Murch himself knows this, shouldn’t he at least guess that young eyes and brains might have the ability to adapt to 3D, or that it might cause minimal or no harm or confusion in some brain-eye systems, like, gee, I don’t know… mine?

No “e”

Is it difficult to not push a particular button that sits in front of you? You know, a button you tap whilst typing day in and day out, whilst writing thousands… no… millions of words upon your digital contraption? Can you abstain from such an act? Actually, it’s not that amazing, but it can truly kick a brain into thinking constantly prior to coming up with and spitting out words for any occasion (normally communication, obviously). With a bit of toiling and playing around, you could possibly roll into a habit of constantly passing this button. Now and again, try it, astound your own brain with what you didn’t know you could accomplish! Woohoo! If you want to whip out a full-blown book without using this button, all I can say is: “Wow!” and “A man was victorious in such a mission many moons ago.” An old story known as Gadsby won this honor, so you cannot attain it first! Sorry! Too bad! But you can still savor this bit of fun that springs up from just writing a paragraph without this symbol. And that’s all I want to say! Carry on!

(I admit, this act might finally slip into monotony, but it’s worth trying for an instant or two.)

Why Chinese mothers are stupid

This is a response to the article Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (hence my otherwise offensive title), an excerpt from a book. You’ll have to read the article to understand my response; I don’t feel like summing it up.

Right off the bat, I’ll make it clear that the phrase “Chinese mother” does not mean “all Chinese mothers” — like in the original article, the phrase refers to that particular Chinese mother’s specific strict parenting style. A mother could be a “Chinese mother” without necessarily being Chinese. (If you want to argue about the political correctness of such a phrase, go ahead. I’m an Irish blogger.)

By the way, this article is obviously quite controversial and has inspired responses from a multitude of writers and bloggers, so I don’t think my response here is necessarily anything new. This is an issue of parenting and education, which might as well be religion and politics considering the fervor with which people hold their vindications. I have problems with many of the other responses as well, but for this post I’m only responding to the original article.

What is success? How much is it worth?

My biggest problem with this article is not the Chinese mother’s strict unwavering parenting tactics, but her deep-down not-directly-stated beliefs about what life is about, and what one should do with it.

How does this Chinese mother define success? Her definition seems very limited. She doesn’t directly define it, so I can only guess at what it is based on what she says in the article. She seems to think that success comes from accomplishing something that not many other people do, but that other people would consider to be good. For instance, being a virtuoso on the piano or violin. They can be challenging instruments, and overall not very many humans become masters at playing them; that takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Another example is grades; the highest grade you can get is a 100 percent, an A+. Therefore, getting this grade means you are successful.

Does she ever think about a grander purpose? Why is learning the violin or piano that important? Why not a different instrument? Why not a different skill? Why are grades that important? Why are the school subjects that other people have to decided to grade your child on ultimately that important? (That’s not just a question to the Chinese mother, but to society in general. What is with so many parents’ blind support of good grades, regardless of the particular subject material?) Why is “success” important?

My guess at the Chinese mother’s answer (from reading the article): The difficult practice is only a necessary evil; of course it will be tough in the beginning. But it’s worth it. By the end, the child has a wonderful skill that will bring her joy and happiness, she has confidence and high self-esteem, and her skill makes her popular.

The real answer I feel from reading the article: the Chinese mother is just kind of stupid and never thought about these issues very deeply. She defines success through what she thinks other people want to see and doesn’t really think about what it means on a personal level. (I’m not saying that’s exactly true; that’s just what the article makes me think.)

(How I define success: You have a goal and you achieve it. Simple as that. The general definitions of success involving good grades, popularity, boat loads of money, etc., are, I think, ultimately empty, born of people comparing themselves to others, as if the value of a person’s life and achievements are somehow based on everyone else’s. They’re not. They’re completely intrinsic.)

The Chinese mother recounts a story in which she forces her daughter to practice the piano, a specific piece with a particularly challenging rhythm to it. At the end, the daughter learns to play it, and there is much merriment and joy. To me, it seems like the author is saying: “See? The end justifies the means!”

If you want to instill confidence in your children, if you want them to realize that they are capable of things they didn’t think they were, don’t you think there are ways that would be less painful for both of you? I’m not going to go into what those ways might be; I’m only wondering if the Chinese mother would even think about that question in the first place.

The value of choice

I also wonder what the children really feel. Not what they say they feel after a successful recital after there has been much applause, but what they truly feel. There may be love between the mother and daughters, but that doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t abusive. The mother may have good intentions, but that doesn’t make her innocent.

As people, I don’t think we can truly sum up our feelings. Our feelings and moods are fleeting; they’re here one moment, gone the next. This creates a problem. The only reason pain would be worth anything now is if it leads to joy later on (or the prevention of even worse pain). For example, you bear cold weather to chop wood and buy food to prevent the pain of freezing and starving to death. You drive through horrible traffic to get to a movie you really want to see. You practice drawing to draw well.

The problem is: how do you know your suffering now is worth it? Well, you can’t know. You’ll just have to decide.

Or your parents decide for you.

Obviously most parents might force their children to do things they don’t like: clean their rooms, eat their vegetables, don’t stay up all night, don’t hit your brother, etc. Though there can be grey areas, most of these are pretty obviously things children (and people in general) should and shouldn’t do (they apply to children because they apply to adults too, the adult just has more experience and discipline… usually).

But the Chinese mother takes it further with even stricter commandments, and her commandments seem stricter and not worthwhile to most of us.

(Another problem: you can’t decide whether or not it was worth it afterwards, because you can only experience one outcome. Afterwards you can only be happy or disappointed, but you can’t make a judgment on the worth of your past feelings; they’re gone.)

I can say with full honestly that I don’t sit here and regret that I’m not a master on the piano or that I didn’t get perfect grades in school. I suppose the Chinese mother would see me as a failure of a human were I her child. But I have been able to pursue my varied interests: computer programming, writing, music composition, and currently computer animation. And doing what I want in and of itself brings me infinite more satisfaction than making anyone else proud. (To get religious, one might say: “But what about God?! Shouldn’t you do what He wants?” Sure, but it’s more than that; you should want to do what He wants, that’s the entire point of free will. What would your good deeds be worth if you didn’t choose to do them yourself?)

Unfortunately the children of the Chinese mother cannot sing “My Way” with any vindication, though they could probably play it very well on the piano.

Motherhood

The Chinese mother makes a point that she thinks her children owe her pretty much everything, so all her apparent abuse is fine and moral and nothing to feel guilty about. I’d love to know what exactly she bases that belief on. Just tradition? It strikes me as a very selfish and morally wrong view of the parent-child relationship, but we really have to get into philosophy and religion to see why, and that’s opening up a whole new can of worms that I don’t really feel like opening. After all, there are books dedicated to the subject.

Ultimately I believe that all individuals deserve equal amounts of respect. The parent-child relationship is a particularly special one, but it doesn’t grant that much power to the parent.

Animating a box lift – part 1

I thought that this semester of Animation Mentor might be more interesting if I did a little more online chronicling of the work I put into an exercise.  For the next few weeks, I’m working on animating a box lift.  This will help me practice a few things: going from blocking to splining to refining and figuring out a work flow that will work for me, animating a character in which the weight distribution changes, and animating the subtle movements of the hands and feet.  There are probably plenty more; really the entire animation process is still less than a year new to me, at least in terms of actually doing it.

This is the first week of working on this exercise, so the only thing (and I’m going to be speaking in first-person plural) we’re going to worry about for now is getting some nice strong easy-to-understand storytelling poses for the shot, as if the shot was going to be told in comic book form.  We won’t even worry about timing yet.  I’ve already shot some video reference of myself picking up a box, and drew some horrible-looking sketches of the poses I think I might want to capture:

sketch1sketch2

(By the way, when shooting video reference for something like this, you must use a truly heavy box.  If you’re only pretending a box is heavy, your weight won’t shift realistically.  When you pick up a heavy box, you shift your weight to stay in balance.  If you shifted your weight that much with a box that is actually very light, you would fall down and go boom.)

OK, so we have nine poses there.  That should work nicely, yes?  There are some balance issues with a few of those (I’m not a great 2D artist), such as the last two, in which the feet are displaced too far in front of the hips.  But oh well!  Just as long as we don’t make those same mistakes in 3D.  I might another pose between the last two with him lifting up his front leg to help him get a grip on the box while he slides that front hand forward.  I had it in the video reference, but it didn’t make it to my sketches for some reason, but it could add some extra believability.

Here’s what we’re starting with:

blocking1

Our character in his T-pose.  Boring.  But I added a green hat and a brown box.  Maybe he works for UPS and this is his last shipment of the day.  He’s tired, but he’s happy this is the last piece of work for the day.  And it’s Friday and he gets the weekend off, so in a way he’s even a bit excited.  I also moved the camera to a bit more of an angle so it’ll be easier to see both legs at the same time.

OK, pose #1.  He’s looking down at the box, slightly hovering over it, getting a quick idea of its size and shape.  Oh, one thing we need to think about is whether to IK the spine or not.  In my last class, I always did; it just seemed to make animating something like a back flip or a quick slip easier.  But here we know we’re going to have our box resting right on torso by the final few poses, so the spine will really have to bend around the box.  So, for this shot, I think we’ll keep the spine in FK.  Besides, I should get some practice with FK spines anyway, yes?

OK, here’s what I got:

pose1

We’ll change the lighting and the exact camera framing later (the shadow on his spherical head look terrible and hides his eyes).  The front hand was hard to place; for the sake of an easier-to-read silhouette, I’ve placed it farther back and a little more outward than someone in real life probably would.  Other than that, I think it’s OK for now.

Pose #2 is quite a change.  His feet come forward, he bends way down, and he places both hands on the box, preparing to tilt it forward to see how much it weighs and to get a grip underneath the box.  But for pose #2, he’s just putting his hands on the box; he’s not yet applying any force to it.

pose2

This was a difficult pose because the guy gets into such a little scrunched up form, yet we still want the position of the arms and legs to be clear.  It’s posing a form like this that really makes the character’s wacky geometry noticeable. His arms really are barely long enough to be wrapping themselves around a box that size, and he has to tilt his big old head way up there to prevent himself from smashing into the box.  (I could’ve just changed the box’s size easily enough, but I wanted to treat this shot as if I had been assigned it in a feature film and did not have that option.)  In my sketches, I had the hips much higher in pose #2, but here Stewie (as the character is called) has to have his hips farther down so that the arc of the spine can look OK without Stewie’s head going into the box.  The back leg is a challenge because we want its position to be clear, yet there’s so much stuff in front of it that can block it and intersect with it.

Pose #3 is very similar:

pose3

As we can see, the hands stay mostly the same (I did move the fingers around just a bit, especially the thumbs).  The back foot comes forward.  The hips go up and tilt up so that Stewie does not hit himself in the chin while tilting the box forward.  The back arm is kept straight.  Hopefully this will look much better with lighting so we can get some shadows on the ground.

Pose #4 mainly consists of Stewie shifting his hands.  He’s not yet lifting the box, but he’s preparing to.  The box is now tilted forward, so he can slide his front hand down to the bottom and wrap his fingers around the edge.  The back hand will slide to the other side, out of view.  While we’ll have to worry about that back hand’s position for the sake of the section of the back arm that the audience can see, we won’t have to worry about it’s rotation or the curl of the fingers; they will be invisible, so who cares?

pose4-5

Pose #4 and #5 are really combined here.  The original intent was to have pose #4 show mostly just the hand shifts, and pose #5 would show the downward movement of the hips.  But due to Stewie’s wacko anatomy and short arms (compared to the size of the box), he has to move his hips just to be able to reach the bottom of the box; he can’t shift his hands without moving hips.  This is obviously going to be sheer torture to animate!  I originally also wanted to keep his spine in the same sort of curve as the previous poses, but that would case his head to go through the box, so his spine is going to have to change curve directions for this pose.

As we can also see, the back arm is completely hidden from view, except for just the very upper part of it, which we can see attached to the shoulder, so the placement does matter, though the curling and rotation of the fingers does not.  I’m also cheating with the arm; it’s actually intersecting with the box.  But it’s out of view, so who cares?

The back foot and leg was also quite tricky.  We don’t want them completely hidden from view, yet there’s hardly any room to show them.  I think what we’ve got here might work, but I’m still not 100 percent happy with it.  What other solutions are there?  I’m not sure at the moment.

OK, on to pose #6.  This will be fun; Stewie is now actually lifting the box.  We will have to shift his hips back to keep him in balance.  His hands will pretty much be in the same position, though perhaps we can shift the front hand forward a bit for a better grip.

pose6

OK, so he only shifted his hand a little.  And I curled the very end of his back hand around the back edge of the box, so you can just see it.  A nice touch, perhaps?  Or perhaps it makes his arm look too long on that side?  Eh, we’ll leave it in for now anyway and we’ll see what my mentor says.

At first glance, this pose looks so similar to the last one, you might think it was quite simple to pose.  On the contrary; I found it the most difficult to pose yet, for two reasons: firstly, Stewie’s anatomy is just too small to pick up a box that size.  If you see the pose from another angle, you’d realize how much cheating is going on just to get that front arm to look OK and not intersect with the box.  That back arm is going almost completely through the box, and, as you can probably see by the position of Stewie’s shoulders, Stewie is really standing to the front side of the box.  Who would ever pick up a box like that?  Secondly, getting the balance right took forever.  We really have to do it by eye, and it’s almost like trying to draw a perfect circle; it always seems to look just a bit off and you feel like you could just sit there and tweak it forever.  A little back, a little forward, no, back again, a bit to the side, etc.  On and on.  It is easy to go mad.  At a quick glance, I think what we have here is at least good enough to move on to the next pose, but part of me still feels like something is still a bit off, still a bit out of balance.  Oh well; we do have a due date, so let’s move on.

Oh, I also don’t like the position of the back foot and leg; they are too hard to see.  However, I didn’t want to move the feet at all for this pose; Stewie is picking up the box, after all.  I can’t imagine someone one change his footing too much as he’s just starting to pick up a box.

Again, getting some light and shadows in the final renders should help; right now it’s difficult to tell how high he’s lifting the box.

Here’s the pose from another angle, showing all the cheating being done:

otherview

Yikes!

OK, on to pose #7.  The trick with #7 is that Stewie has lifted the box up past his waist.  In our last pose, Stewie is lifting the box with his arms and spine the most; in pose #7, he’ll be using more leg power to stand all the way up again, but he’ll also be changing the direction of the curve in his spine and using his arms to the bring the box in closer to his chest (so that, obviously, it will lean on his chest, and he’ll be thankful he’s not a woman).

pose7

This pose wasn’t quite as time consuming, but the balancing act was still tricky, and I’m still not sure I’ve got it quite right.  I also rotated the front foot out a bit to make the outline of the leg clearer, plus a foot between those two poses might add a touch of believability to the animation.  Similarly, I moved the back foot forward a bit, so that the leg didn’t look so much like it was coming out of the hand.  We still want to keep Stewie balanced, so there’s only so far we can move the foot like that, obviously.

Again, there’s some major cheating going behind the front of the box there.  Perhaps next week we’ll take out the tiny portion of the back hand that’s visible; it looks like he might need to have that hand on the bottom of the box at this point, instead of way over there.  But I’m not sure.

My favorite thing I did here was to lower that front shoulder and tilt it towards the camera a bit; it really makes it look like Stewie is putting some effort into keeping that side of the box up, which could be some good setup for pose #8.  It gives the tiny portion of the back arm some room to be seen, and helps make the outline of the front arm more visible.

All right, I think only two more poses are really needed.  In pose #8, Stewie will have his back more straightened out, really standing up as tall as he can with such a large object.  But to help him get a better grip with his front hand, he’s going to bring his front leg up a little and let the box rest on it just for a second so he can shift his arm easily.  Which means – a one leg balancing act.  Oh boy.  Ugh.

pose8

The invisible hand behind the box is really way out there.  Perhaps next week I will use FK on that back arm; we really just need to control how that little upper portion of it that’s visible looks, and doing it with IK means animating the upper arm by animating the hand, which could become frustrating.  Also, if we light this scene, our messed up hidden half might show in the shadows.  But we won’t worry about that this week, I suppose.

So there’s our pose #8.  The box is really close to Stewie now, he’s really brining it in close.  In my original sketches, I had planned to have Stewie hold the box from the outer bottom corner, but his arms are just to short, and stretching them looks ridiculous.  So instead I think we will have Stewie hold the upper part of the box, more like he is now, but we’ll try to straighten out his arm if we can.  I hope it is clear what Stewie is doing: bringing up his leg to help shove upwards so he can get the box into his final grip so he can carry it somewhere (good thing I’m not animating him walking with the box – yet).  It’s pretty nice having that back hand completely hidden and not having to worry about it, yes?

OK, one more pose.  In pose #9, Stewie will be in his final position, the box firmly resting on his chest, Stewie leaning back a little bearing the weight and ready to walk around with the package.

pose9

As always, the balance was tricky to get, and every time I look at the pose from a different angle, it feels just a bit off balance somehow.  But you have to stop tweaking eventually.  Here we’ve got a straight in the front arm, just like I wanted, running across the top edge of the box, something I didn’t exactly plan for, but I think it will work since Stewie’s arms are too short and my box is too big for Stewie to the reach the opposite corner.  As you can see, we also have Stewie’s fingers from his back hand just barely visible on the underside of the box.  Stewie’s spine is mostly straight and leaning back, so Stewie is bearing a lot of weight on his chest.

And – I think that’s pretty much it!

Finally, let’s render those eight poses with mental ray.  It takes longer to render, but it can put in some simple shadows we couldn’t get before.  (And we don’t even have to set up lights, woohoo!)

mr-pose1mr-pose2mr-pose3mr-pose4-5mr-pose6mr-pose7mr-pose8mr-pose9

Hmmm.  That white ground with the green hat and brown package makes him look more like an elf.

And that’s it for this week!  Hopefully I’ll continue to blog like this as I continue my assignments, but who knows.  I’m often busy and tired.

Computer plays Jeopardy, but does not know how to love

According to this article on Engadget:

So, in February IBM’s Watson will be in an official Jeopardy tournament-style competition with titans of trivia Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. That competition will be taped starting tomorrow, but hopefully we’ll get to know if a computer really can take down the greatest Jeopardy players of all time in “real time” as the show airs. It will be a historic event on par with Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov, and we’ll absolutely be glued to our seats. Today IBM and Jeopardy offered a quick teaser of that match, with the three contestants knocking out three categories at lightning speed. Not a single question was answered wrongly, and at the end of the match Watson, who answers questions with a cold computer voice, telegraphing his certainty with simple color changes on his “avatar,” was ahead with $4,400, Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200.

This is kind of interesting because what makes a computer good at Jeopardy is the opposite of what makes a human good at Jeopardy.

A computer can easily store vast amounts of data, but cannot so easily process human language.

A human can easily understand language, but we can’t easily store vast amounts of data. After all, the entire point of Jeopardy is not understanding the question, but knowing data that most humans don’t use in every day life.

So I think the real achievement here is in language processing — being able to output a specific answer based really only on an incoming string of letters (or maybe sound waves).

It’s easy to understand how such an achievement could be useful: imagine being able to type a question into Google and getting a direct answer (or at least a direct guess) instead of just a bunch of webpages that make you search for the answer yourself. Even though searching for the answer yourself doesn’t always take that much time, getting a direct answer would be much more convenient. Or imagine being able to speak a question into your phone or your car’s dashboard while driving, when you can’t browse the web without risking death, and having it speak back a direct answer. Imagine being able to cheat easily while you’re playing trivia games with your friends who are judging your intelligence and value as a friend based on how many useless random things you know.

While this would be nice technology for us to have, it still doesn’t have the power to create so much, does it? When will we have computers that can formulate their own sentences? That can write metaphors? That can write entire books? I guess we’re still too far away from that…

Anyway, if the computer wins, I say it should take over Alex Trebek’s job. I mean, what does he get paid for anyway? He just stands there and reads stuff. Computers can already do that. And besides, he still has his life insurance spokesperson job to fall back on.

Animation Mentor class 2 reel

I finally uploaded my animation reel after finishing class 2 of Animation Mentor… this includes my work from class 1 and class 2; only the first three shots are from class 2 (the back flip, the quick slip, and the jumping hips):

Of course, none of this will end up on my final job-searching reel. It’s all just practice. I find it a bit annoying to watch those first few class 2 shots; while I learned a lot doing them, I can still see that they need quite a bit more work. That back flip was especially difficult, and I picked a pretty dumb place for the camera to go. I should’ve put it at more of an angle so it would be easier to see both arms and legs at the same time. Also I don’t think the landing works very well. I think I was too lazy in my blocking, and by the time I moved into splining it was too hard to get the timing to right. (I wasn’t really lazy, just had a tough time managing my time that week. I’m still trying to balance work with animation studies with not going completely crazy.)

For the next few weeks I’ll be animating the lifting of a heavy box. Multiple mentors have told me: “Keep it simple! You’re still learning; this is practice!” But it’s easy to think of a box lift as being really boring. Nobody looks at a box lift and says “wow, what a great box lift!” And you see people animating all this running and jumping off walls and balancing on tall columns and you think: “Woah! I wanna do that! Like, right now!” But you have to calm down and think to yourself “silence, young grasshopper, in time you will come to wield such powers, but you first must focus on the basics.” And then you think: “But I am mortal! By the time I hold such lofty powerful powers of power, I will be be close to death and it will matter not!” And then you have to think: “Oh, do shut up!” And then you think: “Don’t tell me to shut up!” And then you give yourself a slap and get back to work.

Why do so many people hate 3D movies?

The few reasons I can think of:

1. Prices are stupid. The extra money isn’t for the glasses. In fact, I’m not sure what it’s for. Does the projector cost that much more money to run? I doubt it. The production companies are just stupid. Less people coming to the theater? Let’s jack up the prices! They might be happily traveling down the road that will kill them, especially as Internet movie distribution becomes more prevalent with Internet TVs. But who knows how much money they’re making? Maybe they have nothing to complain about. But, from an audience point of view, $13 or more is just not worth it for seeing a movie one time in a theater. So I think this argument is entirely valid.

2. You get motion sickness. I don’t, but some people do. Obviously you don’t want to watch a movie that makes you sick.

3. The glasses look dorky. I don’t understand this one. They are uncomfortable in their “one-size-fits-all” design. It would be nice to have a pair that are designed more like sunglasses. But if you think you look like a dork in them, that’s just your own self-conscious fault. You’re in a darkened theater. If you’re concerned how you look in a movie theater, you have bigger problems than how you look in a movie theater.

4. Aesthetic reasons. I can only partly understand this. From what I’ve seen, when they convert 2D to 3D, it looks cardboard-cutout-ish and awful. Looks much better if they shoot it in 3D, or if it’s already CGI and they can just move the virtual camera (as long as they do it right; you can’t just move it over a random distance to the side, obviously). Supposedly they’ve gotten better at converting 2D to 3D, but the examples I’ve seen so far have been awful.

I don’t understand the larger argument of a 3D movie in general being bad. The real world is in 3D after all. Do you get mad that a movie isn’t in black and white or isn’t silent?

If you’re distracted by the beauty of the 3D (I do sometimes find myself thinking “ooh, this looks so cool!” especially in a good theater), why is that a bad thing? You could be equally distracted by the beauty of a character, or a set, or the music, or the cinematography, etc. Maybe you will not be as conscious of those other elements because you are more used to them, in which case being distracted by 3D is simply a matter of experience with it. Would you claim that the story is the only part of a movie that is allowed to be beautiful, that is allowed to affect you emotionally?

If it distracts you because you think it is ugly, why do you think it’s ugly? Is it just unconvincing for some reason? As I said, the real world is in 3D and you probably don’t go around with one eye closed because you find 3D ugly. It should make the movie more immersive; from an audience point of view, that’s the entire point of 3D; it makes the world of the film look more tangible. I think that’s awesome, and I hope it doesn’t go away anytime soon. (And I do hope 3D TVs stop using that flicker technology; that’s just annoying. Find a way to get both images up there at once.)

Boring first week of the year…

Happy New Year!

First piece of news: Animation Mentor Semester 3 has started!  My mentor this semester is Mike Gasaway, who directed quite a few episodes of Jimmy Neutron.  We had our first class Q&A on Tuesday, and it was awesome; I’m really looking forward to the semester.

Second piece of news: I’m still studying Blender.  I’m now about half-way through the book Blender Foundations.  Chapter I’m currently on: surfacing.  That is, applying textures to surfaces and tweaking the way the renderer calculates how the light bounces off surfaces. It’s really boring… uh… I mean interesting stuff.

Finally, novel update: I’m still planning my untitled fantasy novel.  This morning I completed my outlines for Chapter 13.  I currently have 45 chapters planned, so I’m only about 29% complete.  This will take a long time, apparently, and I’m only in the planning phase.

That’s pretty much it.  It’s been a pretty uneventful week here. *yawn*