Sunday, April 6, 2008

Blog Moving

Check out the action over at the new SneakyRobots.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Content In The Works

We've not forgotten about this thing.

New content - in a whole new format - is on the way.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Neat MEL Trick

I'm thinking it's time to get back to blocking out some of the shots in the first scene. I started trying to put together the first scene - not using references which we'll eventually do - but by bringing together all of the models into one scene. I ran into trouble with the clocktower model.

It's saved as a Maya Binary file and was modeled in Maya 8. Now, I'm working with Maya ASCII files in Maya 2008. For some reason it just wouldn't import. I kept getting a

"File contains unknown nodes or data."

I spent a good 20 min. going through the model in the Hypergraph, deleting history, looking for wonky nodes but I couldn't find anything. Then, well duh, I am taking a MEL class, right? Two little lines of code solved my problems.

select `ls -type "unknown"`;


No New Work

On my end at least, progress on the short has been slow. It happens, of course, but once MEL/Python class is over, it'll be time for me to really kick some arse on this thing.

So, how's class going? Pretty well. This past week was my first introduction to Python, which is new to Maya as of version 8.5, I think. Python's another scripting language. According to Wikipedia, it's a high-level scripting language. That does make me feel pretty cool. It's not Maya-centric and it's currently implemented in XSI and Houdini as well. That's probably a great thing for some of the larger shops with a number of different packages in their pipelines. A programmer could write one set of tools and have it running within three different environments.

Python's also a pretty clean language. It takes whitespace into account, meaning it matters if you start a new line with a "tab" or with a single-space or with no spaces. That just seemed weird to me at first, but I'm starting to appreciate how it forces a visual hierarchy on your code. In a sense, it's like you're kerning and breaking your entire script, doing what you need to to make it look clean and readable. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Right now we're doing things like writing scripts that automatically build IK chains and such. What's an IK chain? That's another post.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Off-Topic #1

Is it a good idea for this blog to start hosting off-topic posts? James, please chime in with your thoughts on the matter. I see a number of reasons why it's no big deal if we drift into non-CG posts but I also see a few reasons why it's maybe not the best idea.

Maybe it's a question more easily answered with a concrete example. In that light, I present two tidbits in our first (and maybe only) "Off-Topic" segment:

  • How to "solo" layers in Photoshop.
Option-click the "eye" in the layers palette. On a daily basis I use Maya, After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator. Each is a brilliant application in one regard or and a complete pile of c#$p in another regard. You sometimes wonder if the application developers even know that there are other applications out there with things that might be worth "borrowing."

On that note, one great tool in After Effects is the "solo layer" command. There's a small radio button in the AE composition window that, when you click it, turns off every other layer. It's a nice, simple thing that quickly becomes part of your workflow. It's great for troubleshooting and overall very nice at helping you figure out complex compositions. Well, why the hell doesn't Photoshop have this option? I mean, they're made the same company, you'd think that some smarts would flow between the two development teams, right? I've pined for a long time for this simple thing...

Turns out it's been in Photoshop since, like, version 4 or something. And it's just that simple, option-click (mac) on the eye in the layers palette to solo your layer, option-click again to un-solo. It remembers your initial state as well, meaning that if you have some layers turned off already when you solo a layer, when you un-solo that layer, the already-off layers remain off.
Nice job.

  • Evo and Proud
I've just started reading a new blog called "Evo and Proud." It bills itself as "Peter Frost's anthropology blog, with special reference to sexual selection and the evolution of skin, hair, and eye pigmentation." I suppose it is all that. To me, it's just interesting.

One of my best friends is anthropologist at Emory U and I'm kind of a pop-science nerd. Give me some Pinker, Pollan or Carl Sagan and I'm a happy guy.

Well, that's it for now. The weekend kicked my butt with MEL class and my re-cutting my reel so I've nothing at all good to show, project-wise.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Maya Tip of the Day #3

Or maybe this is "MEL Tip of the Day #1." You be the judge.

So, I'm starting up a MEL scripting class through CGSociety. I'm pretty excited, though it will definitely take a small chunk out of my free time and slow down my work on this project. My hope, however, is that at the end of the class I've have a few more tools at my disposal that will speed up my work on the project as I come out the other side.

From time to time I'll try and post some MEL goodies and here is the first:


JEdit is a text editor, Java-based so it's platform agnostic and highly customizable. I played with it a little bit and liked it but I didn't love it. There was something about the Java feel that didn't sit right with me. I played with a couple others, namely TextMate and TextWrangler and found them decent enough but uninspiring (this is on OSX, so the biggies like Crimson Editor and MEL Studio Pro aren't in the running).

And then I kept crashing Maya. I'd type some code into TextWrangler, copy it, command-tab to Maya, paste it, run it, command-tab back into TextWrangler, type some code...rinse and repeat until Maya said "ENOUGH!" Maya does not like rapid-fire application switching.

...sigh...There's gotta be a way to execute code in Maya right from within a text editor, right? Right. And the right choice for that is JEdit. Remember how I said it was way customizable? I wasn't kidding. Following a blog post on Sean Nolan's site, I found a tutorial on highend3d written by a guy named Ron Bublitz, who is way, way too smart for me to really get a handle on. He wrote up a couple macros and a tutorial on how to configure JEdit to send your script into Maya and have it executed there. Seriously.

I even did it. I typed "polyCube" in JEdit, clicked a button in my toolbar and there was a little wireframe box in Maya. Magic. Will wonders never cease? Not at this rate.

Tip of the hat to Mr. Bublitz and JEdit and keep yer eyes peeled for more insane scripting action coming your way. I may even write some MEL that would make TWO little boxes appear in Maya! That would be something...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Same Bird, Different Shader

Just for fun, here is the same model as in the previous post, with a blinn shader, using Final Gather and an IBL Node. (Nothing fancy, but it shows the look of the model a bit more polish to it.)
*Disclaimer: This is just to get a sense of how things are coming along. The final Model will most likely not be a solid blob of metal..