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There’s a (Plot) Hole in the Desert

For the last three weeks or so I’ve been kinda binge-watching Breaking Bad again, which, like so many other people, in my view is the only cool way to watch the series. I haven’t touched it in pretty much exactly a whole year after my run last year and while I remembered most of the story, I had completely forgotten some of the  details and misremembered others.

Getting the story straight and discovering new tiny bits and pieces with every re-watch is actually fun and one of those things I enjoy a lot even with series like Babylon 5 or the various Star Trek ones and I’ve been watching many of those for the last 20 years multiple times a year! I already look forward to starting my first full watch-through of The Next Generation which I haven’t touched yet aside from the short peek at the sample episodes back then. Shall be interesting to recognize new visual details that you couldn’t make out in the old mushy VHS quality version.

Speaking of leaving things untouched this time around I also watched the second half of the 5th season of Breaking Bad for the first time because it only came out in January here in these parts. I only read the synopses that floated the Internet at the time and in a way I wish I hadn’t. No, not so much that I’d already knew the storyline, but more like being disappointed. The fanboys gave it such a massive build-up, it simply left me with a feeling that there would be something missing when I actually got to see it.

Don’t get me wrong, the series is still in its own way brilliant and the quality excellent and I hope they can snatch another few Emmys this evening, but if only… My biggest grief is that just like with so many other series a lot of things feel rushed and forced as if they really were bent on tying up ever knot. In particular I found it more than just a bit unbelievable how Hank suddenly realizes that Walt is at the center of it all after being completely ignorant of it (despite many clues right in front of his eyes). That seemed too sharp a turn and then from there things just go downhill a bit too quickly and the characters lose their feeling of reality because some actions seem irrational.

Personally I prefer the lighter mood of the earlier seasons, anyway. There are, however, some really funny moments in all that grimness. That incidental comment about “three hours of something called Babylon 5″ with Walt sitting in the back of a car was just pure gold for insiders. My neighbors must have thought I’m completely whack-o when I burst into a loud laugh at 2 in the morning.

Character wise Jesse still is kinda annoying and Skyler is a bitch, but I also found many of Walt‘s rationalizations and lies getting quite on my nerves. It’s too bad they’re killing of Hank all too quickly like they did with Mike. Those were actually people you could root for and they would have deserved a better ending…

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SIGGRAPH *d’oh*

Is it just me or was this year’s SIGGRAPH boring as in being really dull? Okay, I admit that most of the news would not be relevant to me in terms of actually using the programs, but even in the geek sense I didn’t exactly get a hard-on this time. It seems that all news this years fall into one or the other of the following categories:

  • Companies that are desperately trying to catch up and fix their broken toys like what Maxon does/ needs to do with Cinema 4D.
  • Product enhancements focusing on performance improvements via GPU and other optimizations like The Foundry in Nuke 9.
  • Interoperability stuff with exchanging and supporting more file formats like e.g. in Clarisse iFX.
  • Companies trying to take over the world by providing their renderers and simulation tools like Octane, VRay or Krakatoa even for your iPhone.
  • A whole slew of “production pipeline” tech that you may never get your hands on or will not be geek enough to actually use them like Weta‘s Manuka renderer or Fabric Engine.
  • Companies buying other companies by the bucket.

While none of these are actually bad and surely solve specific problems that people may have, it leaves me surprisingly untouched and emotionally empty. The real excitement is gone and I don’t know if this is a bad thing. In fact the only news that got me a bit giddy was that the ZBrush people released yet another update for free with some interesting enhancements like the hard surface brushes. That’s just crazy. Makes me want to get a license one of those days even more (despite the awful interface). ;-)

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Because I’m nappy!

During my scribbling evening sessions on my bed, the other day I ended up drawing a number of ideas for a teddy bear and don’t you know it – somewhere there lived a little nappy bear inside my roller pen!

Nappy Bear

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Cinesoon!

After we had a bit of fun speculating on when the next release of Cinema 4D will hit, we are now considerably closer to the truth. While I was away for a job interview in Berlin, Maxon jumped the gun and released some preliminary info.

As always, it’s a somewhat mixed bag and final judgement needs to be reserved for when we can actually use it, but once more I’m decidedly undecided. It still seems the program is moving forward at snail pace and many features feel like they sat in a meeting and decided “Let’s just copy that from program X!”.

The most obvious of these copycat features is of course the poly pen. I really can’t help but smirk at how they barely disguised it as being a riff on many retopology tools in other programs. Not that it’s a bad thing with sculpting tools in place and all that, but it’s still more of a mee-too than a genuine innovation.

The second thing is the 3D tracker. That’s gonna pee on the parade for many other tools of this kind, but it’s not unwelcome and a consequent extension of what they introduced last year with the static camera matcher. This could also open up better venues for working in After Effects on such projects. You know, things like genuine calibration and matching scene scale. 3D tracking makes so much more sense in a 3D program…

The rendering department also received some love. It seems they learned from the TeamRender debacle and pimped it considerably. The reflectivity mapping is indeed something I wished for doing my machinery stuff, but how much it will improve rendering quality will remain to be seen. In my little world it would only make real sense if they also have optimized reflections considerably. Blurry reflection can make scenes terribly slow. The hidden good news is raytracing support for Sketch & Toon and Hair, which is pretty significant and should eliminate the need for convolutedd workarounds and compositing tricks.

So all in all it’s not that bad, just not particularly exciting, either. There’s simply no killer feature that would win me over if I were using another program and ultimately that’s what Cinema needs  one of those days…  If you get my meaning: The program is like a Volkswagen – solid and reliable, but in your dreams you still yearn for that Porsche.

Berlin is pretty crazy, BTW. Hadn’t been there in ages, but it’s amazing how  the city has changed. And to me at least it has much more charme than Hamburg

Plug-Ins ahead!

The lull of summer leaves everyone short on news, but those last two weeks a few bright spots have appeared on the horizon that could be interesting.

The most notable to me is that Renato Tarabella has revived his N.O.T.A. plug-in, but now it comes as a MoGraph effector. The thing is that while for a time MoGraph seemed to redefine some fundamental stuff on Cinema 4D, it is now somewhat frozen in place and hasn’t seen any major expansion in the last few releases. They never managed to replace e.g. Thinking Particles fully with this more modern architecture. Even worse yet, some things like the Sound Effector are actually kinda broken. So there is some room to improve one thing or the other and this seems to fill some gaps nicely, judging from the videos. In fact this makes me almost wish that Remo would revive his DiTools just as well…

Another tool of interest is DEM Earth 2. There’s not much real info, but a couple of videos and photos floating around. The city building stuff is pretty rad, as setting such stuff up manually could take forever. It also once more reminds me that I will need to finish up my city building tools one of those days. *ummph*

Finally, one of those tiny tools that could be infinitely helpful is Blackstar‘s Spline UV Mapper. You can do some of that stuff using a few tricks already, but being able to interactively adjust it is of course preferable to having to bake UV coordinates manually. Still, I suppose even that neat little utility can’t really convince me to use anything but modo for UV work. Cinema is just so severely lacking in that department and even these plug-ins aren’t a saving grace for the bulk of the work.

On a final note, since two of the plug-ins aren’t available yet, you might consider holding off on a purchase until R16 is released unless you really need them immediately. That way you’ll save yourself the trouble of having to request a new serial number only a few weeks after the initial release…

Cinewhen?

Curious little buggers that you are you keep poking my site for a Cinema 4D R16 release date, but in all honesty I can’t tell you. Still, the annual update spiral of death keeps spinning and in August there’s SIGGRAPH shortly followed by IBC, so you can expect the new release to drop in September most likely. That said, if you still want some news, here’s som food for thought for you.

Nemetschek, Maxon‘s parent company, have just released info on their 2015 version of Allplan and when you read the details you could guess that some of the features may appear in Cinema as well. A decent realtime renderer/ preview has long been overdue and I certainly wouldn’t object to being able to tweak stuff based on interactive viewport feedback.

The other thing of note us that they speak of CineRender, which in conclusion could mean that they broke out the renderer completely from the main program. If this is the case, it could solve a ton of problems. Having the renderer operate separately would allow users to get back what they had with the old NetRender while at the same time potentially still allowing a TeamRender like workflow. Let’s face it – R15 was a complete bust in that regard and armies of users have resorted to sticking with R14 or downsaving their R15 scenes just so they can be used in NetRender R14. It’s also interesting from a technical point of view since decoupling development of the renderer from the main program would allow optimizations to be done more easily in both without being hindered by limitations. Finally, it would also simplify development for third-party renderers like VRay. In the end, if any of this comes true, R16 could be what R15 should have been.

Sick Heat

Don’t I love it? As bad luck would have it, I picked just the wrong time to check in to the hospital again… It’s going to be really hot the coming weekend, marking the second heat wave after the temperatures had surged on the Pentecost weekend and I’m down with a nasty infection. All of it because in those last few years I already had so many antibiotics that normal pills won’t work that well anymore and they have to give me some extra good stuff as an infusion. It’s a good thing my venes are still in superb working condition and they always find a good spot to poke in their needles. Anyway, while I’ve gotten used to those excursions over the years, they are still somewhat boring. There’s simply nothing to domthan wait for your treatments or the next meal, idle away the time reading or surfing the web, watching TV… In fact this makes me wish the siccer world championships were still on. Plenty of time to watch it! But at least we really did win big this time…! ;-)

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