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After the madness of all those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, December starts off with some interesting news, beginning with Adobe’s Creative Christmas Cloud. *lol* In what could only be described as one of the most moronic moves, the debacle that was the release of the massively buggy CC 2015 versions overshadowed the rest of the year. With the updates now available, some of that should be fixed, though I’m not sure if we can sleep peacefully. Complaints about the Creative Cloud app refusing to cooperate are already amassing (again) on forums. That is surprising, given that the rather late release (I would have expected it in October) itself is an indication how much stuff needed fixingand they were probably busy until the last minute…

Elsewhere, in more positive, more interesting and more impressive news, a little company shows that there is still some good software on this planet and while I’m no longer a Cinema 4D user, X-Particles still entices me. The 3.5 update actually seems to add some more useful functions than just add the ump-teenth generator like in the original 3.0 version, so my geek nerves tingle at least a bit. Makes you wonder what they cook up for version 4? Or will Maxon buy them and integrate it? Mmmh…

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Predictable 10

You know, there’s nothing more boring than when your grandma can tell you what new features will come to this year’s edition of your favorite software tool (or something along those lines) and I strongly feel that way about the raytrace render stuff in the upcoming Nuke 10. It’s so painfully obvious – users have been requesting an alternate 3D render node for years and beating this horse to dead – it was only a matter of time when it was actually coming. I even seem to remember having seen bits and bobs of this stuff already some while ago, but I may confuse it with something else. Anyway, leaving the mundane-ness behind (before people give me flak: I know it’s a valuable production tool, it’s just not exciting), I’m actually more enawed by the smart paint stuff. If the vector synthesis really works as advertised, this could be pretty cool. Either way, we’ll have to see how it pans out when we may get a chance to play with this stuff next year, won’t we? ;-)

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The Room with a View

This week it was time for my annual medical check-up, so I spent it in the hospital at Universitätsklinikum Halle. Having a room on the tenth floor certainly has its advantages like having a nice view on the surroundings or seeing the rescue chopper hovering in on its approach to the landing pad. On the other hand being surrounded by patients with all sorts of lung problems and being in a room with a couple of elderly men with oxygen tubes that sound like breathing through broken pipes is not necessarily the best holiday experience… ;-)

One of the more annoying things about those hospital stays is the boredom and finding ways of passing the time. Lucky for me, just the week before The Room Three got released and I actually managed to get it downloaded in time so I could take it with me on my iPad. While just like its predecessors it’s one of the few original mobile games that I consider worth playing because they have been designed with the limitations of mobile devices in mind, it’s beginning to wear a bit thin. Most obviously it seems they can’t straighten out their “Zero Element” storyline and so this “riddles within riddles” thing get’s quite annoying at times. One really spends too much time, thinking “I saw that friggin’ symbol somewhere, but for the life of it I can’t remember where.”.

Some technical issues also became painfully apparent. It just crashed at certain points when trying to load the next section and I feel that this shouldn’t really happen, even if my iPad may now be more than two years old. The other thing that got on my nerves was the placement of the hotspots for using the gadgets. Quite often you are producing too many accidental taps when you just wanted to zoom or pan around just like in reverse you never seem to hit the right location when you actually want to activate something. In fact I revisited the first two games and they suffer the same issue, though I couldn’t remember being as aggravated back then. Perhaps my fingers are just getting more arthritic and clumsy?

Overall, though, you could do worse. It’s a nice diversion for a few hours, if not the most satisfactory one. I strongly feel that perhaps the fourth chapter should be the last and resolve the mysteries once and for all.

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The Week of Non-Happenings

One of the things I really miss about the graphics software industry is some positive excitement. These days I rarely ever get that “Me want!” feeling because things seem so predictable, mundane, ordinary and even dreary. You know, that feeling when something comes out and you want to immediately call the developers idiots because what you just saw reminds you of an uninspired rehash plug-in or tool you already saw elsewhere. Call me jaded, but I’m really getting nostalgic for the old times. Everything seemed so much brighter 15 years ago…

That nostalgia has always been a considerable factor in my weird love-hate relationship with Lightwave. After this years lackluster modo release and The Foundry not tackling some of the more fundamental issues in the program, I’m actually getting a weird tingle when watching Lightwave demo videos just as the new one for the FiberFX renderer. Say what you will, but they’re making quite some leaps. If the rest of the program overhaul is only half as good as the render enhancements, this could be huge.

In a similar vein, one of my bigger regrets for leaving Cinema 4D behind (for the time being) is X-Particles. Along with MoGraph it’s one of the few things that are really doubleplusgood, to use a bit of Newspeak here. They just announced version 3.5 after releasing 3.0 quite earlier this year. A first video shows illumination based emission. Not sure if I’d ever use it, but you never know. In fact it would probably be useful as a trigger for all sorts of destruction mayhem involving laser beams.

Rounding off my nostalgic view back is a bit of Flame news. Autodesk‘s compositing and finishing systems always looked cool, but were so far away because you only could by them as complete, pre-configured systems with all the hardware. Obviously we live in a day and age where some smartphones have the processing power a high-end computer had 15 years ago, so in away, it’s a good thing that they’ve come to their senses and finally allow people to make their own hardware choice.

30 Million Taos

In the motion graphics business only one thing is true: Everything comes back – sometimes with a vengeance – every few years and just like lens flares will never die out (I’m already expecting another onslaught of fan made videos heavy on this stuff after everyone has watched the JJ Abrams-ified version of Star Wars), so won’t dancing smoke and light trails. That and of course with Christmas being not so far away, we’re all going to need some bling-bling soon, so it’s only fitting that the Trapcode Suite just got updated.

Of course Particular still stands out and while I perhaps have used it only twice in the last 5 years, it will always have a special place in my heart. I too vividly remember bugging my boss about it in 2004, when I was trying out the demo on my notebook while doing tradeshow stuff in some dark closet room. Anyway, for years it looked like nobody cared much other then keeping it compatible with whatever would be the latest version of After Effects, so it’s nice to see them giving it some love and care.

I actually got a big grin on my face seeing that they finally changed the mini-graphs to be “normal” curves. The preset system is one of those “Why even bother?” things, since despite its complexity I always found it easy enough to just dig into the parameters and tweak them, which you will probably still have to do a lot to achieve certain effects. Sometimes only really insane combinations of e.g. Wind and Gravity will give you that specific look you’re after.

The other thing is of course Tao. It seems kind of okay, though reading the final feature list I was a bit disappointed. There’s just that last bit of *umph* missing that might potentially make it more useful, though in fairness I can’t quite put my finger on it what exactly it is. The rest of the suite got some mini-updates like 3D integration in Shine, but as whole it’s clear that, regardless of their still being useful (and people still buying them a lot), some tools have moved past their zenith and begin to look old. Even Particular, which I had hoped would one day be a real modular and powerful system like Plexus

Birthday Bits

Yesterday I was crazy enough to watch the Adobe MAX sneak peeks and once more I couldn’t help but feel WTF? Some of the presentations were just awful and well, that aside, I can’t help but feel that we’re fast approaching Creative Cloud Elements with all those gimmicky features like Extract Shading or 3D printing ugly faces. *yuck*

Anyway, today, which incidentally is my birthday, my mood improved a bit when I saw this video of Lightwave 2016‘s interactive volumetrics. It may not look like much and is in fact just a bad presentation as well, but if you are a 3D artist, you clearly understand the implications of what is shown. Getting this level of near realtime feedback with things like self-shadowing turned on is not a minor feat. I’m really getting a bit excited here… Who knows what else they have up their sleeves? ;-)

Just as a little tidbit follow-up on my casual mention of Natron, it seems things are beginning to fall into place. This little add-on for Blender is no doubt just the beginning. With both apps now supporting Python and being Open Source I would predict that it won’t take long for someone to try and really bring them together…

Varekai – at last!

My backstory with Varekai is certainly odd, to say the least. As I wrote a few years ago, I missed their first European tour and the respective dates in Germany. I was doing tradeshow work in Düsseldorf when they were in Berlin (back then the closest location, since they didn’t stop over in Leipzig) and after I returned, they moved exactly where I had just left. Go, figure! If you ever plan on writing a tragic comedy, there’s certainly an idea there. Anyway, sometime’s you’re lucky and life gives you second chances, so I finally had an opportunity and got to see the performance yesterday.

As a fan of Le Cirque I’m naturally biased and enjoy most of what they do, but it’s really hard to find much fault with Varekai. Perhaps one could criticize the overly long comedic interludes with the Skywatcher and Guide characters, and perhaps one could, like a regional newspaper did, bemoan the absence of a really wowing new, big act, but for me it’s actually one of the most enjoyable shows in a “pure fun” sense. It doesn’t have the slightly abstract and surreal backstory like Quidam or Corteo that make it hard to understand some subtexts as the show progresses, nor has it the somewhat artificial and baroque qualities of again Corteo and Alegria.

As such it’s really a pleasure to behold. The costumes are colorful and even flamboyant and if you look at the acts with an artistic eye, you can still appreciate the acrobatics, dancing and gymnastics even without a big trapeze number. Speaking of which, as a gay person I couldn’t help but be totally fascinated by some guys in their tight costumes. Talk about nice butts! I certainly wouldn’t send some of those cuties away if they rang my doorbell. ;-) It also made me realize how young some of them are, now that my 40+1 birthday is only a few days away…

I also think I missed my opportunity for my 5 minutes of fame this time around. Sadly, as I feared, the dry air-conditioned climate didn’t sit well with my lungs and I was coughing a lot. Not only was this totally embarrassing and awkward, but sitting in the front row I couldn’t help but feel that the comedian and his comedienne hat their eye on me for their fun act and only veered away because I was coughing so hard. :-( I certainly wouldn’t have minded making a fool out o myself otherwise. Luckily they found another guy and thankfully he was equally easy about being exposed, so everyone had fun (often people are so terribly stiff, they can completely ruin such a thing).

Overall it was a very satisfying evening and despite my health issues I thoroughly enjoyed it. As long as it’s around, you should take the opportunity to go and see it. Regrettably, the Cirque seems to be more and more focused on producing “exclusive” stationary shows at fixed venues like holiday resorts, casinos and on Broadway and in favor of those keeps culling their travelling shows, so it will get ever more difficult to actually get to enjoy the Cirque experience.


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