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Mylenium’s Health Stuff

Myleniums Gesundheitskram

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I see Nodes everywhere!

Trapcode Particular has long been a staple of motion graphics design in After Effects, but with more than 10 years on its back, its age is showing. It comes from a time when things were much more limited and even though it still can do amazing stuff, you wouldn’t do some things the same way today. It always felt crammed and there’s only so much you can squeeze in without only further pushing their – erm – “distinct look” that is usually a dead giveaway of which plug-in or preset has been used and what the limitations are. In that regard Particular has always been a victim of its own success.

It seems things are about to change as there’s a new kid in town thanks to Stardust and it seems pretty nifty. Ironically, many of the presets look exactly like – shall we say “inspired” by that other tool (and its brother Form as well as Plexus) and I wouldn’t be surprised if the people behind it, which so far choose to remain mostly anonymous turn out to be the same ones involved with those tools. The only real flaw is that it only comes for the “bad” After Effects versions with Creative Cloud. If only those weren’t so atrocious that I couldn’t be bothered to re-install one of them, perhaps I might consider trying this out…

Elsewhere Flowbox is finally available, though I can’t help but feel that the result is nothing like what it appeared to aim at some years ago. It seems that the realities of software development caught up with them and instead of an all out solution from the start we are going to get it in slices. In my imagination this looks like they scrambled to release the rotoscoping part instead of having nothing to show for another two years or so. At least from the available clips and screenshots there’s no trace of the scripting system and a few other things hinted at back then. I also get a very “ugly as Nuke” vibe which furthers this rushed feeling – there appears to have been no time for better UI design. Don’t get my usual nitpicking the wrong way – I’m willing to believe that it does its stuff well enough, but it just seems a bit sparse compared to what the marketing had you believe it would be…

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The Thorn is gone…

Sad news reaches us today as the magical Ron Thornton now has passed away. Apparently his struggle with whatever health issues he had was a short one, which I, having experienced my father’s own demise recently, consider a lucky thing. You really don’t want to see your beloved ones going down that path further than they have to and remember them as they were in their prime. Ah well, may he rest in peace! With so many of the Babylon 5 crowd already having gone to the sea, he’s certainly not alone up there, though I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing…

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Render War Veterans

Times they are a-changing, are they not? Once, long ago, a free version of Renderman or Mental Ray would have had us drooling all day. These days the only reason to write anything about them is  when they are given away for free. NVidia are clearly playing for keeps with their Mental Ray for Maya effort now that they got the boot by ways of Autodesk buying Arnold, but no matter what – it’s dated technology that has seen better times.

On some level I feel that’s also true for Pixar‘s Renderman, though obviously their priorities are completely different and at version 21 you probably shouldn’t expect anything revolutionary and be happy that, to use a hollow marketing phrase, it’s a “robust, proven production renderer” that can chew through scenes with gigazillions of objects without crashing. They now have a non-commercial edition as well. Funny enough, a Cinema 4D plug-in still doesn’t seem to be high on their list of priorities.

In light of the previous it’s actually a good thing you now have access to the Cycles renderer via Cycles 4D. Compared to other products of its ilk it’s quite inexpensive and offers a broad and complex feature set by ways of nodes. Naturally, if you already use X-Particles, it’s almost a no-brainer to get it, too, given how you can access data from the plug-in just as well as MoGraph.

The bitch of it all? With so many options out there, you are facing the severe dilemma of having to decide which ones to learn and use. Not only will you need to have a handle on your 3D program’s native renderer, but also the ins and outs of your add-on renderer. As the situation with Mental Ray illustrates, this can quickly turn into a one-way road you can’t easily get out. And as Murphy’s Law dictates, what can happen will happen and after you spend years of finessing your Mental Ray skills or similar, you’ll end up on a job that requires VRay knowledge. It almost makes you pine for those simpler days, when we had to make do with what was built into the programs…

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State of the Ra-CC-e

Here we are again, a week after the latest Creative Cloud versions of Adobe‘s products have been released and it’s pretty much like it has been for the last five years or so – a veritable mess. Time-warping the numbering scheme forward to 2017 hasn’t helped and as you would expect, you will find all the same bugs again that you hold so dear, from DynamicLink losing connections to obscure audio and output module errors in the video apps, totally random and inexplicable crashes in Illustrator and Photoshop mauling your files on save. Quality management at Adobe has seriously gone down the drain and by comparison, it makes some of the bugs we moaned about ten years ago look like a walk in the park. *umph*

Elsewhere everyone is already going crazy about Adobe MAX and the latest sneak peaks. I already told you that example-based painting will become a thing and now you have the demo software to play around with. Project Felix is obviously an attempt to replace Photoshop‘s botched 3D tools, but so far there’s nothing convincing to see. The renderings look sub-par and the way it’s being presented, it’s clear it’s just another link in the chain that binds you to Creative Cloud. Too much talk about Libraries, you know.

In a different part of this planet, E-on Software have released new versions of The Plant Factory and Vue. Due to some bad experiences with their shitty licensing system in the past I wouldn’t trust them to dispose of one of my used diapers, but on a geek level I’m inclined to think that they are beginning to get a handle on their products in technical terms. This latest much-delayed release is showing clear signs of getting more professional.

Belonging to Bentley Systems now there’s very obviously more emphasis being placed on things like playing nice with other apps, exchanging data or even trivial stuff like allowing better integration of pre-modeled height fields, which no doubt will make some architects happy as will the new interactive path tracer. Over the years Vue has gotten a lot better with its OpenGL previews, but there’s only so much you can do with them, after all.

Similar things could be said about the LOD features in Plant Factory and the compound Grow node, which should make it easier to create some sort of tree for arch-viz and the like even for people who have barely looked at the program. I just hope they also have gotten it to a level where it actually doesn’t crash every five minutes, which always annoys me even on those rare occasions I decide to play around with the PLE.

Maxon does a Radeon

The last days came with a little surprise that had everybody a bit stumped – Maxon is going to integrate AMD‘s ProRender (which until not so long ago was called Radeon Render). Never heard of it? Quite naturally so. Similar to the already integrated intel Embree acceleration stuff this is more of an API with a set of highly optimized core routines and libraries rather than an actual end-user rendering application (the basic tools that come with the code notwithstanding). The good news is that it’s based on OpenCL, so it should pretty much work everywhere, even on a shoddy cheap notebook with an on-chip GPU/ APU, the bad news probably is that, knowing the many shortcomings of Cinema 4D‘s current rendering options, it may not at all be that easy to implement nor come close to other renderers like Redshift in terms of quality and speed, at least not right away. In the long term it could work out, of course, and perhaps then that Cinema render stuff in After Effects might be going somewhere?

Oh (Con)Sole mio!

I’m rarely impressed by anything that happens in the After Effects world these days, but I have to give it to Mr. Kramer – he always seems to find a niche for his tools and then is pretty thorough in implementing the features. His latest, FX Console, is no exception. The biggest irony here is how he puts the shoddy Effects & Presets palette to shame, which of course could/ should have had all these features built-in natively for over a decade. My favorite are in particular the Overrides. The useless default settings on many effects have always been a thorn in the side of many artists. That’s of course assuming I actually were using animation presets. I rarely have/ do, because of their inability to store complex dependencies such as I usually create them when using my kind of expressions and of course the whole procedure is rather clunky when you have to select a large number of properties that go with the preset. So for better or worse, FX Console solves a bunch of problems, but how well it integrates into your workflow will hugely depend on the kind of work you do. for the most part it can be a time saver when you do assembly line kind of work, using specific effects and presets over and over, but perhaps not so much when you’re experimenting around and exploring things creatively, shifting things away from those preset values…

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Everything dies

What a day! My father just passed away this morning with all the full bells and whistles – emergency ambulance, resuscitation attempts for 45 minutes and all that and my mum and I were there all the time. Not that we weren’t expecting it after his liver cancer diagnosis, but how fast things went downhill took us all by surprise. And in case you have that picture in your head: No, he wasn’t a drunker, this is a side effect of over 20 years of diabetes and certain medications having a negative toxic effect on other organs. Well, now all that’s left is to organize the funeral. My 90-year-old grandma will certainly not be on the best of terms putting her son to rest.

Speaking of these things, I now finally and ultimately put the Error Code Database to rest. Given the state of most Adobe products these days it just didn’t seem worthwhile any longer. No point in being obsessive in explaining errors and bugs when there’s so many of them that you can’t even advise on workarounds. I haven’t done anything on it in over a year, anyway, so it was out of date and well, it’s always been a financial burden that didn’t even recover any of its cost. You can quit poking for it now…

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