Archive for category music

501 for christmas

Modo 501 is looking fantastic. I downloaded it today, and I can’t wait to put it through it’s paces. I’m especially excited about the revamped painting and sculpting, since it means I can stay in one app as opposed to jumping back and forth between Maya and Mudbox or ZBrush. But more that that, I feel like Modo is exactly where Blender will be once the 2.5 series is put to bed and gives birth to a stable 2.6. Everything is scriptable and it’s extremely simple to make new commands, or commands that properly refire when using interface sliders. I think my favorite part is, I’ve yet to find a feature I don’t like that I couldn’t disable or otherwise change its behavior. Even the default space bar behavior (which switches between component editing modes) is changeable; mine is set to pick item mode now. Not to mention, one of the new guys at work, Rowan, is a Modo master. He’s been invaluable in finding out where things are.

It’s a pretty steep learning curve both modeling and scripting-wise, particularly for someone who’s only really done 3D scripting through the Maya and Blender APIs. Also, while every tool I use when modeling seems to exist in Modo, the names and methods for use are so different that it’s taken me all week to find the first quarter of my usual bag of tricks. But I’ve also picked up a few new ones, like Background Constraint with Vector direction. Holy crap, did I not know I wanted that feature so badly.

Blender’s always going to be there for me, but at least until the 2.5 series stabilizes (and the input manager stops getting stuck when I sculpt, making sculpting impossible), I have a new swiss-army knife for work. Oh, and Luxology: thank you for making my ordering process amazing. I’m not going to say why I’m so happy with you on this blog, but if more companies behaved like you I’d be a happier person all around.

It’s funny, though– I’m not finding with Modo that I fight the learning curve as much as I do when I move to, say, Houdini. Modo draws from all the best parts of Blender, Maya, and Lightwave, so it just works for my head. Here’s to being more efficient with modeling tasks in 2011!

By the way, the new Gorillaz album (the one recorded on an iPad) is up for streaming. I like it a lot more than Plastic Beach. In fact, it feels a lot like D-Sides, which is one of my favorite collections of their music. If you’re a fan, definitely check it out. And if anyone knows what iPad software Albarn used to master these songs, please let me know.

inspiration, part two

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks. At work I’m back on the DVD project, working on a few of the scripting things I’ve wanted to have done since the first DVD. It feels good to be checking those things off on my list. I also ended up writing a few pipeline tools. Today is a day for bulletproofing them.

I saw both Tangled and Harry Potter 7a recently. Both were terrific. Tangled took its time getting started, but once all the players are in place it becomes a very satisfying ride through until the end. The horse, Maximus, has become my favorite animated feature character of all time. In fact, animation-wise this is the strongest film out of Disney since, perhaps, the golden 90’s. There were some sequences where I’m sure the animators were let run wild with their ideas, and the results are uproarious.

HP7’s effects were out of this world. It’s expected that each Harry Potter outdo the last in terms of visual quality, but this one outpaced all my expectations, and did so with a perfectly-paced plot that followed book seven’s first half quite closely.

Between those two, and the new Avatar Collector’s Edition (yeah, I’m a sucker who just bought the same movie again), I’m to the brim with inspiration. Tangled on the big screen reminded me what I loved about Disney films when I was little, and a bit about why I wanted to become an animator. HP7 reminded me how much fun it is to be able to lose myself in a world that doesn’t exist and, even if only for a moment, believe that somewhere, somehow, those characters and their eventual triumphs are all real.

Long story short, seeing movies like those always makes me feel energized for what I do for a living.

On the musical side, I’ve bought so many CDs recently that I’m almost at a loss for what to listen to because there are too many choices! I finally picked up a copy of 2009’s Sounds of the Universe by Depeche Mode. Not quite Destroying the Angel, but still decent. Duffy’s new disc, Endlessly, is lovely start to finish; if she’s this good now I look forward to her releases a few years down the line. Her sound has changed just enough to invite new listeners without alienating fans of the first disc. She’s also one of those rare pop artists who, in my opinion, manages to keep love songs from sounding trite or contrived.

About a week left before the break. Here’s hoping I get some sleep.

new paradigms

Part of working at anything, of being a craftsperson, is the constant search for new techniques that either aid you on your process or add something new to your process, making you better in the process.

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard about a number of rigging techniques that sounded counter-intuive at first, but the more I think about them the more interesting they become.

The one I’m most interested in trying out will be arriving soon as a very expensive DVD: the Mastering Maya: Developing Modular Rigging Systems with Python. The autorig itself is almost identical to something I’ve worked on in my spare time, but what’s crazy about it is that the autorigger works by layering on top of referenced FK skeletons in shot files.

I’ve never built a rig that was feature limited, or where an animator asked for something that I thought wouldn’t benefit everyone. (I do only IK limbs in my own work, but that’s a different story.) But before, the rig would be modified and the change would move downstream as part of the referencing system. The idea that you’d want to not reference characters as a whole, and allow animators to pick and choose their favorite controls, seemed ludicrous on first listen.

The pros are very compelling. You can always strip out the control rigs and put the keys on the FK rig; pure FK rigs are very compatible across all programs. Not to mention, feature-level control schemes could be applied to game characters as well (and moving forwards, I fully expect more and more projects in this industry to target all “three screens”). There’s also the ease of fixing issues on a single animator basis: once a fix is in the autorig, they can bake their keys down to the FK rig, remove the old controller, them reapply the rig in the scene with no need for the TD to come over and swap things around.

But what of multiple scenes? Does a script run on scene load and alert animators to updates controls as they become available? How are major changes propagated to all shots throughout the pipeline?

Right now the answer I’m coming up with is: the animators apply changes on their own. If they want the new rig with fixes, then they opt in by baking their keys to the base FK rig and blowing away the broken contol rig, replacing it with the fixed version. I can’t wait to see if that’s how the 3DBuzz tutorial solves this problem.

It also gets around a nasty issue: because broken rigs live in scene files, you don’t have to have multiple copies of fixed rigs that travel downstream for shots that used the respective broken rig iterations.

Then there’s the idea that this makes character referencing less important– in software that doesn’t support animated references like Lightwave and Cinema4D, you get the benefts of a tool that gets around the issues of rig updates. You still need to force tool updates on all artist machines, but that’s less of an problem for me.

Anyway, it’s been over a week and I’m still waiting on my purchase, so all I can do is speculate and look forward to what’s in store.

On the music front, I finally got something out of Live that did not suck. In fact, I just might like the drum beat. The weird part is that while nothing I have in my head comes out when I sit down to write music, what does come– however different it may be– still makes me happy.

good news everyone

I’ve been meaning to post what’s below for about a week. I suppose it’s only going up now because at this moment I’m in the waiting room at the doctor’s office; took a bad spill down some stairs yesterday and everyone keeps telling me to go in and get checked out.

I don’t quote Dr. Farnsworth just any day: Mac users will be pleased to note that Snow Leopard 10.6.2 fixes almost all compatibility issues with Maya. And the graph editor no longer corrupts! So if you were waiting on Maya before upgrading, your wait is over. I haven’t tried 2010 (haven’t upgraded since there’s nothing new in it) but 2009 now works better than it did under Leopard. I think Dimos tried 2010, though, and dubbed it good.

But today I want to talk about music. Specifically: I finally bought an Axiom 49.

I bought one of M-Audio’s Oxygen 25-key keyboards years back. It was a solid piece of hardware despite being the entry-level unit, and traveled with me to and from Japan. I recently gave it to a friend who wants to start producing her own music with Garage Band. I’d like to say it was for wholly selfless reasons, but the truth is I wanted an excuse to get a keyboard with more octaves.

The Axiom 49 doesn’t disappoint. It’s not a keyboard you want to lug to a gig; it’s heavy as sin. However, it’s well-constructed and sturdy. I feel like I could fight off a zombie with it and still play a round of lounge jazz afterwards. Also, I dig how the drum pads feel and control. They’re pressure sensitive like the piano keys, and they’re lovely for hammering out tom hits or even for a quick lead pattern.

The best part is that it came with Ableton Live Lite 6, which was upgradeable to Live Lite 8 for free with their current ten-year promotion. I’d been thinking of getting the recently-released Intro version of Live 8, but this was close enough to help me decide if I needed the full version or not, saving me a hundred bucks.

I think that a lot of people out there would be fine with Live Lite. The one feature that I found a dealbreaker is that a single song can only have up to 6 effects in total across all instruments. (In Live Intro it’s 12.) The way I design my sounds, I hit that limit playing around on a single loop a few nights ago. It wouldn’t be a problem if I could freeze tracks or if the limit were for simultaneous effects in use, but even effects on tracks currently producing no sound count.

So I’ll be picking up the full version of Live pretty soon. I had a look at the Studio package but I’m dithering on whether pay the extra cost for a lot of samples I might not need at the moment, and I’m only interested in two of their custom software instruments.

The bonus of using Live: PureMagnetik has really cheap sample packs, and their guitar rig kits sound fricken’ awesome. I also can’t wait to use Sampler to make kits from sounds around town.

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