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Mylenium’s Error Code Database

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It’s Plexus – with Plexus this time!

When I was writing this post about PlexusPhotoshop knock-off I already knew about version 3 of the original and now, after a rather short Beta phase that I was involved in, if only peripherally at times, it is here for your pleasure. So what’s new?

Now everybody has their own new favorite feature, but for me I tend to think that the unified rendering would actually be quite a thing. If you care to remember, back then I did go quite crazy with generating nested structures such as plants and while some referencing across multiple layers always has been possible, there were eventually limits how you could get a bunch of different Plexus stuff to interact. Now it’s essentially one big happy universe, including collapsed transformations on precomps and as long as your computer has a bit of juice left to handle it, you can – in theory – create almost infinite structures. Incidentally this also comes with improved DOF and now also built-in motion blur.

Another thing I used quite a lot were of course Beams to create all sorts of fancy charts and diagrams and what have you. Those render now seamlessly, so no more need to crank up their density until your computer breaks. This also takes care of that annoying thing with pretty unpredictable opacity when you were upping the number of points to draw. Other such tiny enhancements include a number of ways to deal with depth perception such as custom culling/ clipping based on an external depth map, more graceful internal depth fading, some improvements to text and mask path treatment. Also the Noise Effector can now be looped with just a click and finally is able to move along normals of imported OBJ files for that wobbly metaball effect.

In the “new & fancy” department there’s two things that stand out. Most obvious is naturally the Sound Effector. It has of course always been possible to do some stuff by using Trapcode Soundkeys to modulate property values and using custom maps in pre-comps this way, but now you also get to influence stuff directly within the system. It will just take you some time to get an intuitive understanding of how the spectrum distribution relates to the internal point order. The other new thing is the Slice object. Similar to the existing Container it checks for intersections of two entities, in this case obviously a plane, and modifies your points based thereon. This can be used for some interesting build-up and scanner sweep effects.

There’s quite a bit more like SVG export now also supporting sequences, improvments to OBJ handling in general and all the usual tweaks and optimizations, but as it is these days, I just didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to delve deeper into this. Maybe I get around to finishing up something one of these days. Since I used them already for testing, something cool using Andrew‘s Star Wars models perhaps? ;-)

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Goodbye, Buddy!

No, not that, and yes, that one. Confused? You quite likely are if you are not living in Germany, Italy or Spain and have never even heard of the man who was Bud Spencer. He has now passed away at 86.

Granted you’re not missing much in terms of artistry when not knowing any of his films, but to me and my brother he and his companion Terence Hill are some of our childhood heroes. We watched those films so many times, exchanging quotes and quips from them is part of pretty much every conversation. Funny enough, a lot of that is owing to the carefully written German voice-overs, which I usually don’t like that much, but in this case it really improves everything. Neither the Italian nor the English with heavy accent original versions come close to this comedic quality and hilarity.

Even today we still watch some of the movies from time to time as a guilty pleasure and for the last two and a half years have been buying this collection of these “masterpieces” every two weeks. As children we would often spend entire afternoons in front of the TV, many times carefully tweaking some analog indoor antenna (you young kids probably have no idea what that is) and very bad perception so we could catch every bit on West German TV channels. It really has been a huge part of our lives and we must be grateful for what he’s given us.

As such, he was an extremely popular person around these parts and in return appreciated his fans. People had film nights with these movies and when a few years ago he published his memoirs, people queued up in very long lines to get his signature. He was even in Leipzig for a book signing, but somehow in my usual way I completely missed it. Either way, he had an exciting life not only as an actor and seemed at peace with himself, so we wish him the best wherever he may be now. He really has enriched our lives.

On a similar note, German actor Götz George also has passed away at 77. You might not know much about him, either, because he wasn’t an international star, but he was an excellent actor and aside from his notorious role as Schimanski in several Tatort crime series episodes had quite a few roles under his belt. He even crossed paths with Terence Hill on the Winnetou movies, when both were still very young and not yet as famous…

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Fresh (Body)Paint

I admit, I really don’t like any form of digital painting. It’s always like you have to futz around with ten different brushes and a million brush strokes forever to achieve something that takes a minute with a piece of paper and a pencil. That also extends to texturing 3D stuff. Luckily, I did CAD visualizations and other technical stuff plus some motion graphics, so I never had to seriously get into painting beyond patching together some textures in Photoshop.

That said, I still followed this stuff at least on a nerd level and if I were to do 3D painting, Bodypaint clearly would be the last tool I’d be considering these days. It’s been dead as in really dead for years. Maxon made it free to their customers way too late and at that point it was already long surpassed by better technology in other programs and standalone tools. Not so much the actual painting, but obviously the UV editing was so clunky, it never got you anywhere. Even older versions of Lightwave already had better tools for this.

In light of those previous things I didn’t think they would spend much resources on revamping Bodypaint and rather come up with a new toolset for UV-ing while ditching the rest, but it appears I was wrong about it. Yepp, crazy as it sounds, they are renovating it. While I don’t care for the actual painting and the poorly done demo (including the ugly androgynous pirate model), there’s some interesting bits hidden in there. For one, it seems they are going to do a Modo and do a tiered roll-out in R18 with significant features not being in the initial release. The other part is that the OpenGL stuff seems to have received some love and tender care and is finally on a level that is comparable to other 3D programs. Could be interesting…

It’s still 2015…

Well, at least according to Adobe. Thus this year’s first new Creative Cloud versions are labeled as 2015.something, which is actually pretty terrible. It’s like the company being in full Corel mode and having zero confidence in their products because they know that a) they are still full of bugs and unresolved issues (trust me, they know when they fuck up even before releasing this stuff), b) there is little to none real innovation and new features and c) not having the guts to openly admit it. It’s like saying to their customers “Look, be glad we are still fixing bugs for you, so shut the fuck up. The ‘real’ 2016 (in October/ November) versions are going to be awesome.”. If only! Here we are, barely 48 hours after the release and forums are already filling up with the same issues as they have with every CC release thus far – stuff that worked previously doesn’t work, plug-ins disappera, updates can’t even be installed and new features don’t work “as advertised”. I don’t know what you would call it, but I call this grossly incompetent on all accounts – developers, marketing, overall strategy. As for the features – not much worth talking about and as per the previous paragraphs, Adobe is milking the ever same features for as long as they possibly can. Content aware crop in Photoshop? Who even asked for that? Oh my…

Chekov checking out…

The world is a strange place indeed. Cheap puns aside, that scrawny little wretch getting overrun by his own car is just weird. Yepp, the latest incarnation of everyone’s favorite man with fake Russian accent at the helm a.k.a. Mr. Chekov in Star Trek as played by Anton Yelchin has passed away, at the age of 27 no less. I guess J.J. Abrams‘ head already hurts from thinking so hard how to spin this year’s Star Trek movie (and possible future outings) to honor the situation. Funny enough, while everyone goes out of their way to mention his appearances in the tiniest TV ads, nobody seems to care to even mention that he also played in Terminator – Salvation. Oooh-aaahhh…

Procedural Modo(e)ling

Two weeks of no activity… Guess that shows how much I’ve withdrawn from my former life and all that geek nonsense I used to obsess about. *lol* Anyway, at least a bit of  worthwile news comes our way with the release of Modo 10.1 – the one with the procedural modeling stuff. As I wrote back then already, so far I’m not getting particularly excited over it since it’s way too limited and well, overall many of Modo‘s other bad habits simply get in the way, but who knows? I would think that if I wasn’t down almost permanently sick at home even I might at least use it to construct my own procedural cog generator or whatever else comes up. Still, this is going to be a long haul until it gets anywhere near procedural modeling features in other programs…

GPU Rendering and (Virtual) Reality Check

The last two days a sort of interesting discussion on a forum unspun about the uses and performance gains of the just newly released NVidia GeForce GTX 1080. The starting point was someone looking to replace his four year old card and he was quite generically asking about the future-proof-ness of the 1080 without even knowing what VR solution he was going to get. In my usual charming way I told him not to jerk off on hardware. Then a few posts later the subject of GPU renderers came up and someone linked this article bemoaning the lack of double-precision features and other stuff in NVidia‘s latest consumer card. Now that’s all fine and well, but I think it is time to look at this for what it is. Let me summarize and elaborate some of my thoughts.

First, most obviously current GPU-accelerated renderers like Octane, Red Shift, VRay RT and so on work just fine even without these fancies and on older hardware as well. They will (have to) continue to do so for quite a while for the simple reason that not everyone will immediately throw out his just recently bought GTX 980, Titan Black or whatever. Of course this will complicate matters for developers, but when has it not? All this stuff is in a constant state of flux, anyways, and a lot of time is spent on sorting out those compatibility issues already. In the end, many of the reasons I’m not delirious with joy whenever stuff gets more dependent on GPU features are the bugs and quirks associated with this. I appreciate having fast rendering as much as the next guy, but as long as everyone just greedily usurps your GPU resources this will not change. You can have as much hardware power as you want, but the sad truth is that even today it’s a struggle to even run two 3D programs side by side because they struggle for OpenGL resources, not to speak of things like CUDA or OpenCL.

Second on the list would be the question, whether there are actually any benefits to you as a user. A programmer might think it fantastic not having to employ tricks like remapping value ranges and memory areas (and spend extra clock cycles on it), but as a user, why should you even care? It’s under-the-hood stuff you won’t even notice. Not saying that there couldn’t be benefits, but with regards to GPU renderers this is a somewhat ambiguous thing. Things like specific complex shaders might gain speed, but other stuff like geometry processing might not. And then of course the usual “if”s apply like scene size and complexity. For games this would be a bit different since things like double-precision could improve clipping calculations, collision precision for dynamics and so on. however, even so, the engines would have to support it first, which is why at this point I find any complaints about the absence of such features are misplaced. It wil ltake time before developers actualyl begin to implement it.

Which brings us near a point: People that have a genuine need for this stuff clearly have the wits and money to go with a “proper” Tesla card to use these features. Ultimately in my view this has a lot to do with people’s expectations. Everyone is wanting a free lunch because conveniently they have gotten used to GPU rendering and now the world is coming to an end when NVidia is not giving them their toys, they get upset. Does anyone even remember that once CUDA only worked on expensive professional Quadro cards? If it wasn’t for some hackers back then that patched BIOSes to coerce consumer cards into pretending they were Quadros and enabling these features, none of this might actually have happened. NVidia only reluctantly opened up this stuff. People these days just take it for granted.

Finally, to come back to that VR thing: I’m sure a 1080 would be fantastic to support whatever is currently on the market, but a year down the road? I’m not too sure. Currently nothing is standardized and it’s not even particularly affordable to buy such a headset. On a technical side, resolutions are “just” HD or slightly above, but 4K displays are already on the way and nobody even knows what requirements they will bring. These are certainly exiting times, but not necessarily in a positive way. This market is in its infancy and what’s hot today will be expensive scrap tomorrow. Your fancy Oculus could quickly become a memento of “good old times”…

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