Animation Mentor, new camera, and LOTR on blu-ray

Last night at 12 AM I had my 2nd first Animation Mentor Q&A, and it was awesome. The mentor, David Weatherly, was great, as were the classmates. The mentor’s actually from Virginia and went to Virginia Tech, one of the universities I had been accepted to and was thinking about. He’s currently at Dreamworks, which is a bit envy-inducing (in a good inspiring way) when he mentions how great the working conditions are.

Anyway, it’s so far shaping up to be a fun semester! Then again, I haven’t started doing any of the work yet, so I hope I don’t stink too much…

I also bought a couple things yesterday. Bought a new camera, the Canon PowerShot SX130IS. It’s not nearly the super-fanciest camera in the world, but for my simple purposes, it will work wonderfully. It’s great at auto-adjusting to almost any lighting conditions, whereas my cheaper camera can’t deal with lack of light very well. It’s also great at focusing on very close things; you can put something up to almost the lens, and it can get it in focus. It also shoots video in 720 HD, which will be great for shooting animation reference. My only complaint is that it seems to suck up battery life, especially when shooting videos. None of that may seem all that impressive to those of you with very high end cameras, but I’ve only had much cheaper cameras up until now.

I also bought The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition on blu-ray. They had a good deal for it at Best Buy, so I cancelled my order for it and picked it up. Testing it out, it looks fantastic. It looks a little too good, in fact; you can notice some special effects mistakes. For example, when Gollum gets the ring at the end of RotK and the camera zooms out above him as he’s happily looking up at the ring in his hand, his feet wobble unnaturally in front of the ground; you can really tell how he was inserted digitally into the scene. There are also plenty of scenes in which you can really get that blue-screen effect, in which the edges of the characters are strangely blurry and the lighting doesn’t quite match. Actually, that happens on the DVDs too, but I think it’s even more noticeable on blu-ray. But I don’t think anything is so bad that I won’t be able to enjoy it. Overall, it still looks fantastic. I can’t wait until I have time to watch them… I’d love to try watching all three right in a row, though I know that will take all day.

Animation Mentor – Semester 4!

After a 12-week leave of absence, Animation Mentor has started again for me!

Probably the worst thing about Animation Mentor is when they assign you a Q&A time that’s difficult or impossible for you to make, even though you requested to avoid that Q&A time. They gave me a Q&A time of 3 PM on Tuesdays, right in the middle of my job’s Tuesday hours. Animation Mentor will let you switch Q&A times with another student if you can find one, but if you can’t, tough luck for you. And I couldn’t; it seemed there were several students who wanted to swap out of 3 PM Tuesdays. So I thought I’d have to try to get my hours at work switched, which tends to be quite an annoying problem.

Anyway, my mentor was animator Jay Davis and I went to the first Q&A yesterday and it was awesome. Jay Davis was great, and the group was full of students from all over the world, UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland, etc., so it was a lot of fun. But just as the Q&A was finishing up, I got a message from a student willing to swap his Q&A time of Wednesdays at midnight, forcing me to make a quick decision. I was really looking forward to Jay Davis and the international class, but swapping to late Wednesdays completely elliminates having to find subs every Tuesday, so I made the swap. So now I’m looking forward to another first Q&A tonight at midnight with animator David Weatherly!

In other news, I went to a special event at the movie theater last night from Fathom Events. They were playing Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition. Nothing like seeing a big epic film like that on the big screen. Unfortunately about an hour into it, the power went out. We sat waiting in the theater for 25 or 30 minutes before the manager came around and said they had to close the theater. Ugh!! We got a refund, but since that was a one-night only event, I don’t know if that’s a chance I’ll ever get back… at least not until I’m rich enough to own my own big screen or have a rich friend who does. Leaving the theater, it was obvious that power was out for many of the surrounding shops, so lots of businesses probably lost some profits. Some traffic lights were also out and there were cops lining the roads. A storm had passed through, but by the time the theater was closed, the skies were clear and actually sported a rainbow. It was as if God was saying “Leave the fantasies of your mind’s eye and see my rainbow!” Though in my opinion, LOTR > rainbow.

So I sadly went home wondering why such suffering must exist (because being kicked out of a theater is one of the worst tragedies that can befall man), and finished watching the film on DVD. The blu-rays of the extended editions should be out now, so I have to wait for Amazon to ship mine (they take their time when you request free shipping), and then I’ll probably watch the whole trilogy yet again, if I can ever find the time.

Android Melody Generator released

I’ve been tweeting it, but I have to officially blog it too…

My Android Melody Generator app is now available on the Android market! I still need to redesign the website for it, and create some more graphics, but that will have to wait a day or two. Here’s my description:

Easily generate short tonal melodies for your songs or compositions.
Melody Generator for Android uses a new theory of melody to automatically generate melodies with the tap of a finger. Melody Generator can provide quick and easy assistance to composers and songwriters who need quick melody ideas, or to any music lover who just wants to play around. The current version of Melody Generator (Version 1) includes the following features:

– 8 bar melodies
– Time signatures: 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8
– Random chord progressions
– Random or custom key signatures (A, Bb, B, C, Db, D)
– Random or custom tempos
– Use of whole notes, half note, quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes

The Melody Generator saves melodies as short MIDI files to your SD card, and allows you to browse through and listen to them after they are generated. Check out the website for sample output. Of course, more features are in the works!

The Android Melody Generator – coming this week

The first version of my Android Melody Generator app is complete. The only things left to be done do not involve programming:

– create an icon for it
– create some screenshots for it
– create a little website for it that includes examples and some documentation (I purchased the domain … it’s simple and to-the-point … nothing’s there yet, but there should be soon)

And that’s it! Then I will upload it to the Android market. It will be $4.99. Might even be done by this time tomorrow.

I will admit this: one of the problems I have with the app is that, at least for me, it becomes more addicting to just have it write melodies and listen to the results than to actually spend the time using the melodies in my own work. For me, it’s a bit more like a musical toy than a tool. But that’s just a testament to how much I enjoy it. And I’m obviously quite biased.

Is it done? Does it work? Am I finished? … I am finished. It works. It is done. I am a genius. Sean, you are an unadulterated genius. You are an indisputable extraordinary — is that bug? No, it’s not. You’re a fool. You are finished. And it begins…

Careful, careful, mustn’t get excited, mustn’t overdo it. Slowly, don’t rush, you’ll get used to it in no time. Look at it! Incredible! What an app to use, what an app to write! I shall be inspired, I shall turn out symphonies and operas, measures by the ton, at last I have an app, and everyone will know, everyone in the world, everyone will know that it’s here. It is here! It is here!

Melody generator – almost done

My Android melody generator is complete (at least what will be the first version of it).  All I have to do now is put in some anti-piracy measures (though I know no method is ever 100% effective) and figure out how to get it on the Android market.  Not sure how long that will take, but hopefully less than a week.  And, as I said last time, I need to create an icon for it, take some screenshots of it, and make a little website for it, but that stuff should take less than a day to do.

And who didn’t think I could do it?  Who doubted me?  Who said it couldn’t be done?  There’s a traitor amongst us who does not belong… maybe it is Glenn Close dressed as a man…

Melody project – update 9

Whew, I haven’t blogged yet this month. Animation Mentor starts back up in less than two weeks, on June 27th, and my semester-long leave of absence will be over. I’m excited to get back to animation, but I’m not excited about free time being reduced once again to almost zilch.

Anyway, I’ve been continuing to work on my Android melody generator app, hoping to get it completed before Animation Mentor starts. It’s coming along slowly but surely…

The interface is pretty much complete, and most of the functionality is there. (The interface is nothing fancy, just Android’s default style menus and such, but I’ve been focusing on the algorithms, not fancy interfaces.) I could probably try releasing it now if I really wanted. There are just a few bugs here and there to work out, and then I need to figure out what to do to actually get it on the market. And then I need make an icon for it, take some screenshots of it, and make a little website for it.

I won’t get much done tonight, though… after work, I’ll be spending the evening at the movie theater, watching Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition. Bwahahaha! I actually never saw FotR in theaters, so this should make up for it.