Biped, and speed renders

20°C, rain, seemingly endless till sunset.


3DS Max: for the 3-peaks video, I wanted to add some of the night-shots. There weren’t many pictures taken in the dark, so I decided to do a 3D animation. Max is good at this kind of thing.
 
Max is rendering these amazingly quickly, about 9 minutes for this SVGA sized 5 second clip. Previously on my old machine, it took about half-an hour, sometimes overnight. At least, time to walk the dogs or do the washing-up or something.
Short isn’t it?
But it doesn’t need to be any longer. I’d like to add another figure to it, a female one this time. the clip will be glimpsed along with various moving stills, and an explanation of the route in the 3-Peaks hike video.
Doing this render has taught me some new tricks with Biped, mainly in the use of animation layers. The proceedural walk made from Footsteps can be edited with keyframes that are isolated from the Biped walk-cycle, or changed without screwing up the origonal walk. If you goof, then removing them is dead easy. Still some more tricks to learn though. Curious now about the whereabouts of the new layer’s keyframes, perhaps I need to look in the Animation Mixer.
Wonderful programme.

Projectors

18°C, some sun, few showers.


Interactive whiteboards: new scare, see here. It almost reads like exposure to radiation.
 
On a work related theme, we’re getting the new version of M$ Office. In the last 5 years or so, M$ have released "new versions" which have been substantially the same, with things moved from one menu to another, some file incompatibility added in and little else worth mentioning. Any other software developer would meerly release a point five update, like Office 2000.5. At some point they added in jelly-bean buttons then we all switched them off when we noticed the progammes run faster without.
This time, upgrade is worthy of comment because they actually have changed the suite. Export to pdf is there (they are catching up with Open Office), file formats have changed and there are some useful fix utilities for damaged or bloated files. The interface is the most noticable change, some fill freak when they see it. All they have done is move menu items onto tabs of buttons at a cost to screen space. Theway things operate is  always the important thing, the one that lasts after novelty has gone- and these really are better in the ones I tried in the staffroom yesterday.
 
The only thing they have missed off that OpenOffice have, is they forgot to make the software cost free.

Tchernobyl- and STALKER

15°C, N wind and sunny(mostly)


GAME: playing a new game- as mentioned a few posts ago. This is work commenting on because it’s so immersive, there are lots of detailed touches that make the game worth exploring as an activity in its own right. there is a trading element to it, but primarily- it is a fps game based around The Zone- the exclusion zone around Tchernobyl in northern Ukraine. Do I need ot explain the story of that place? No probably not.
Here is a Wiki article of you need it.
 
See the screenshots for a taster– one is of a camp- where one of the stalkers, wearing a radiation suit occasionally whips out an acoustic guitar and strums a tune. There are strange wild animals around and the weather is very changable, heavy rain showers are frequent. The characters speak Russian, but the interface is in English- unfortunately, I don’t speak any Russian. There is very little to spoil the immersion in the game- some of the character animation smarts, especially when figures are walking upstairs- but then I have never seen that done well in any game. The whole thing really needs the newest computers to run though, it does support widescreen monitors, and represents DX9 shown off to its best.
Normal mapping and shadow mapping is very well done- though the former seems a little over-sharpened in my opinion. Another area I admire is model making, especially buildings and all those wrecked vehicles- rusting Lada cars are around, with flat tires and flaky paint. I really ought to try out normal mapping more often in 3DS Max. The overall effect matches the mood of those photos of the city of Pripyat that have been published in recent years. the Tarkovsky film "Stalker" is an obviousl link, my copy arrived this week and from the first bit I watched looks set to be an excellent film- it has been over a decade since I saw a Tarkowsky film- Solaris.
 
Oh well, more tomorrow. I really mustn’t let this game take up any sleep time though.

Boot sometimes

21°C, heavy showers and sun


RAM delivery arrived yesterday. It’s not right again- sometimes it fails to boot up, with only the fans and hard discs starting up- no bleeps or anything. Putting in both RAM sticks worked well enough the first stime, enough to install some woftware, drivers and stuff. So I shut it down to take the dogs out and on getting home- it would not start up. That was the point where I started finding all the combinations I can, different cards in different slots to find a pattern. Now I am running memtest86. The first chip seems to be passing- but it does take a long time.
How tedious.
 
Below is a screen photo of the test after four hours. The second was a test shosen from the menu, I have little idea what it all means however.

Cat on the head.

20°C, heavy rain & light sun


Dawn surprise: 04.10 (am) cat falls on my head, all clumsy and claws. That leaves bloody gouges on my scalp which ache like  bruises. Stupid creature climbs in through the window, teeters past the clock and tries to get in the airing cupboard. He’s not clever enough, falls and then decides to take the opportunity to whip out hs sabres for a good gashing. I’ll teach him about rugby one of these days.
 
Game arrived, but no sign of that much needed memory return. Finally, may be well enough to ride tomorrow.

Stuck at home

19°C, cloud & sun but dry.


Stuck with no cycling. Still held up with that cold from a week ago- how frustrating.
Nevermind, I’ve drafted a letter of complaint to Eclipse; set up the computer so the expected RAM delivery can be tested tomorrow;  the ladies have had a haircut, but I have been playing FEAR on the computer too much. STALKER should arrive tomorrow also.
FEAR: Currently playing this the second time around, with the difficulty set higher. It’s far more entertaining doing that- previously the game was spoilt by being too easy. I shlln’t make that mistake with the follow-on game STALKER. Stalker has been out a few months now, so the developer have had time to finish it. It’s a ludicrus situation where the game is published before it is ready- and they all do this. So best to wait a few months untill the patches are released (which is now). This one should keep me going until Bioshock is published.
STALKER is loosely based on a Tarkovsky film which must be worth getting. The story centres around Tchernobyl, Ukraine in it’s post nuclear accident desolation. See this clip:
Isn’t Tarkovsky the director that made "Solaris"? Yes, but that’s loosely based on the book "Roadside Picnic" by Strugatsky. Now stop talking to yourself.
 
Below is a photo of Stugeron’s field, one month on from the last one. Much of the grass is now flattened by heavy rain but it should spring back over the next week or so.

waiting a week…

14°C, rain, lots of it.


Eclipse computers: have an answer phone system that doesn’t answer. I phonesd to get a a loud electronic voice saying
"all our customer advisers are busy, we will answer shortly; you are number one in the queue"
this went on for 52 minutes. All this was to confirm my address for a returned faulty memory pack for the computer. I had actually made the same phone call last week. Why do they need my address, they didn’t need to send the memory successfully here the first time.
This is the pinnacle of all the frustrations during the purchase of a series of upgrades for my computyer. Origonally, I placed the order on the 27th March; just in time for Easter when I have free time to build the new gear. That was two holidays ago- three months with a useless box of gubbins that cost a lot and can’t be used.
 
Needless to say, I want a damned good reason why I should consider using that company again.