The Bradbury Challenge

Someone once told me about the challenge that Ray Bradbury set for himself, which was to write a short story each week. The whole idea of setting a definite time frame to complete a challenging yet achievable task is a good way to start writing.  Over on Dieselpunks, they have an 8-sentence Sunday, which is the same idea, but cut down to a more digestible size. However, what about other artist mediums other than creative writing?


The 25 Project run by Cath & Nick, a few years back aimed to produce 25 songs in the course of one year, about one each fortnight. So the first week would be spent writing the lyrics and melody, while the second was spent recording with local bands and producing the final track. So for a musical challenge try a 2 week cycle to finalise something, with the 2 stages of writing and production.

Visual Art & Animation

The critical thing is to have the deadline to produce something, anything really. Last year I worked on background animations for a musical, Beach Blanket Tempest. Just think Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in the 1960s. However, there was a tight deadline to get the work done, even though I was not completely happy with the quality.

The ‘Bradbury’ Challenge

Named after the Sci-Fi author, the challenge is simple. Create something. It does not matter what medium it is in, but the trick is to create, then rinse and repeat. Through this process, the quality of your art should improve.

So animation is my focus and that is where I’ll be starting. I realise that 3D work requires a lot of time. So I’ll need to break it down to make it easier to work through, much like the music example (above) and the individual stages will change depending on your individual focus.  For example;

  • For 3D Printing; Research, Modelling, Printing.
  • For Animation; Storyboarding, Animation.

Pixar’s RenderMan is free

Pixar have made RenderMan free for Non-Commerical use and have dropped the prices on their amazing render engine. NoFilmSchool have a good overview of the opportunity, to Hone Your VFX Skills for Free. The thing I find interesting is that it’s not really free, since you are investing time in their render engine as apposed to other renders. However, it does provide the opportunity to access RenderMan and build up a demo reel.

Getting (re)started

It’s been to long. The regular distractions of Real Life (TM) crept in to distract from all the possible fun out there.  I’ve only just returned to the many forms of gaming that I enjoy, and long with 3D Animation, and 3D Printing.

So my focus here with be on these things:

  • A Blender course I have been writing over the last few years.
  • 3D Printing for miniature gaming, along with finished projects on shapeways
  • RPG Campaigns I’ve being writing.

How to do an effective web-search

Or notes on finding out who distributed a film in Australia.

Normally, IMDB is a great source of movie-related information, quickly followed by Wikipedia, Although, both these were not effective in easily finding out who the Australian distributor of a film was (or it or will be depending on the case). So a bit of a web search led to a few interesting finds. With no instant solution, but a two-step solution which was ok for this because it was only a few.
The first part was the AustralianClassification government website, which has a useful searchable online catalogue. Looking at the applicant gives the company that is trying to get it through the Australian <strike>Censors</strike>, *cough* sorry, Classification. If you’re lucky it will be the local distributor, such as Roadshow Entertainment or Amalgamated Movies. (They’re the two largest BTW).
However, if they give you no joy, then there is the Australian Film Societies Federation‘s list of film distributors. They focus on allowing locals to show a particular film as a film society, not commercial cinemas. Although this is the Internet, who knows if they can be trusted? So onwards the contact information they provide about many distributors is worth investigating. Roadshow Entertainment only had a phone number and email. Amalgamated Movies had a link to the website, and Joy Oh Joy, the website had an online catalogue of the movies they distributed for “Non Theatrical Film Distributors”.
So combining the AustralianClassification listing and the list of film distributors from Ausfilm, and comparing this with the Amalgamated Movies online catalogue. Barring things like data entry errors, random transmission malfunctions, acts of god(s), and such, I was able to judge the first to be mostly trustworthy.

So to summarize what steps did I follow to conduct this web search and verify that what I found was of any use whatsoever?

  1. Engaged general knowledge to look at IMDB and Wikipedia, but (and this is important) did not use them as a source. I can not trust Wikipedia because of its general nature and multiple editors, and I’m just not sure about IMDB.
  2. Then using Google tried a couple of searchers. australian movie distributors, Australian film distributors, and the like. Trying to use the keywords to narrow down the pages returned.
  3. Skipping past the ads at the top and side. I investigated the most likely sites from the list looking for government sites, organisations, not for profits, because they are more likely to provide unbiased information. A business will usually talk about their products or services and ignore their opposition, so I can rely on what they say.
  4. Skimmed the site for relevance, and if it was useful then scanned it for the useful data I wanted. (Yes you could say I had a quick look and a guess, but there is more to it than that)
  5. Now the critical step is, I verify the information provided from one website against another. Now my tolerance for looking at this kind of information is fairly high. If it was something like ‘best armies for Warhammer 40K’, or ‘Best place to buy a flux capacitor’, then I would spend more time reading to build up a broader basis of knowledge from which to judge the useful of the cr@p. The only way this is achieved is through reading many websites to judge the content, its age, relevance, etc.

Animation Testing with Blender

As part of working with the Blender 3D animation software I need to find out the details how some aspects are showing. For example ; I want an easy way of doing a cross section, I thought that I fake the effect by using the camera’s clipping distance. So I build a simple scene with four cubes one for each of the four material types.

The goal was a non-destructive way of doing cross-sections of objects, and it didn’t work the way I wanted. However, it does provide me with more info on how blender does things and gives me an animation technique that I can use elsewhere.

Should I learn Python?

As an experienced programmer (mainly Java & C#) and having taught computer programming (C#, C, ActionScript**)  to high school students, I’m now considering learning Python, so I have listed my reasons as to why I’m going to learn Python;

  1. In the way of research I found Python & Java : A Side-by-Side Comparison which has now redirects to Python Conquers The Universe. This series of articles provides excellent explanations of why Python is better than Java and the author gives some good examples as well.
  2. It’s used in Blender, the 3D animation tool I use.
  3. There is Jython: Python for the Java Platform, which translates as “from Python source code to Java Bytecode” *
  4. “Python makes it very easy to just Get Things Done.” * . This I suspect would make it easier from a teaching perspective for a class to learn the fundamentals of programming.
  5. There is PyGame, android-python27, python-for-android, and android-scripting. All of which allow the creation of programs on mobile devices (ie phones, tablets, etc)

Useful resources for Python;

All of the above been said Java is still useful to know;

  1. As it is a building block or stepping stone to learning C/C++. Mainly because it is part of the same family of languages.
  2. It is used with the cross platform mobile development tool Libgdx.
  3. Java can be translated into Python with java2python. Read:Automated Translation of Java to Python

There is also C#;

  • “Python vs C# decision has all the same points as the Python vs Java decision.” *
  • “there is a reason C# is popular: it is pretty much Java for C++’ers.” *

* Quotes from After C++ – Python or Java? [closed]

** Note: I know some programmers think at Flash’s ActionScript is not a real programming language, but it does meet the definition.

Overall, I will invest some of my free time from the next 6 months in learning this and trying to testing the reasons I have given above. This article is really just an abbreviated PMI (Plus-Minus-Interesting see this or this) to outline my own thinking and wither I should do this. Some of the things I have no listed include prior experience with programming which means I don’t need to learn the basics again, or that the time might be better spent elsewhere.

Review of Blender for 3D Printing

Having a keen interest in 3D Printing and teaching Blender in a high school for my day job, I couldn’t resist getting the DVD, Blender for 3D Printing. In fact I downloaded it immediately instead of waiting for the physical DVD to arrive. With most of these tutorial or training DVDs, I tend to be disappointed with the presentation style of watching someone work through a single project in real time without a break, which I find very boring and frustrating because I want to skip a head, but on the other hand I’m worried I’ll miss something useful.

So with this in mind, I found that best bit of this DVD was the style of presentation. The presenter, Dolf (Macouno) Veenvliet, provided concise explanations and easy examples of how to apply that idea. This allows me to view a section to understand the content or review it to reinforce an idea. Also where most training DVDs are purely screen capture this combined that with a view of Macouno working, in which he would turn to the camera and discuss a concept, before using Blender to demonstrate it.

The section on Checks and Fixes provides an excellent overview of the new 3D printing tools in Blender 2.67 and it makes the DVD worth purchasing on it’s own. The previous section on Colouring Models is also high quality and informative. The final section on Making Sintel Printable gives you a summary of the process followed without the many hours the how it was done video, and the final version is available on shapeways.

Overall, I think that this would not suit an absolute beginner, but someone with a little experience in using the software and wanting to gain knowledge for entry into the 3D printing market or just to make some cool stuff, because the focus is 3D Printing and he simply high-lights effective tools and techniques in that direction. For example; in the Using Modifier’s section he does gives a brief outline of the four types of modifiers and then focuses on the two or three that are useful in 3D Printing.

Levitating Sound

Over at the Argonne National Laboratory they have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets. Their application is targets at application in the pharmaceutical industries, but the idea of using sound harmonics to make small objects float is intriguing.