Thoughts on Blender

I'm much deeper into the rabbit hole of Blender now, and a particular analysis of the program has stuck in my mind. 

It goes like this: Blender's biggest shortfall is its age. The program is still only about ten years old, while Max, Maya, Lightwave, XSI, etc. are often twenty, twenty five years old. As a result, those programs have had a lot longer to add on new features, remove problems, or adjust what's already there. 

But there's the rub: all these "additions" are basically polishing something already in existence. The result? Due to the built in hierarchy of Maya or Max now, there's some problems they can't fix, because these flaws have become an integral part of pipelines everywhere. So to change a major part of Maya or Max, they have to rip out a ton of infrastructure.

Now try jumping into Blender, and you'll soon discover all sorts of things that they change from other programs, because they don't have to restart from the ground up. As a result, things like basic movements, the graph editor, character tools, weight painting and the like work the way they should. 

Weight painting is a great example. In Max and Maya, the first thing you do when learning to weight paint is pull out all your hair. The reason is because you have to get comfortable with the mathematics it's based around: adding up to %100, no more no less. So it ends up pissing you off when you can't increase a bone weight, and it especially pisses you off when you reduce weight to 90%, and it shoots to some wonky bone in order to automatically add up to 100%.

But mathematically, how does that make sense? Anything divided by itself equals 100%, so Blender goes off a splendidly additive system. If you've only got a cumulative 90% of the weight distributed (aka 90%/90%, aka 1) it doesn't jump to new places. If you've got (GASP!) two different bones at 80% (aka an unimaginable 160%) it just figures out the math any third grader should be able to handle, and puts 50% weight in both areas. 

It's clear that Blender's youth may limit its functionality so far, but at the same time Blender's youth means it tore down a lot of the broken, unfixable ideas from other programs. To date, I've used Blender tools for modeling, UV unwrapping, rigging, skin weighting and animating, and all of these have left me pleasantly impressed. 



My movie to-do list

The problem with IMDB's top 250 movie list is that it's too democratic; any 13-year-old kid can create a profile and rank The Matrix higher than The Third Man.

The problem with AFI's top 100 films is that it's too mired with dogma. Some secret panel of men with long white beards tell us what's good, often when historical significance or precedence is all a film has going for it (Snow White's on it, not because it's the best animated feature, just 'cause it was the first.)

But combine the two, and you get an excellent cross-reference of the gems of our cinema landscape. So I'm going to get back on the wagon and make the big push to round out AFI's top 100, as well as the first 100 of IMDB's 250. Here's what I've got left:

1. Paths of Glory
2. M
3. The Lives of Others
4. Double Indemnity
5. Eve
6. Spirited Away
7. Downfall
8. Metropolis
9. Modern Times
10. Rebecca
11. Life is Beautiful
12. Some Like it Hot
13. City Lights
14. The Seventh Seal
15. The Elephant Man
16. Touch of Evil
17. Once Upon a Time in America
18. Kramer vs. Kramer
19. The Great Dictator

1. Some like it hot
2. African Queen
3. The Grapes of Wrath
4. Bonnie and Clyde
5. High Noon
6. It happened one night
7. The Best Years of our Lives
8. Double Indemnity
9. West Side Story
10. Birth of a Nation
11. A Streetcar Named Desire
12. Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid
13. Philadelphia Story
14. From Here to Eternity
15. Mash
16. Stagecoach
17. Network
18. An American in Paris
19. The French Connection
20. Wuthering Heights
21. The Gold Rush
22. City Lights
23. The Wild Bunch
24. Modern Times
25. Giant
26. Duck Soup
27. Mutiny on the Bounty
28. Frankenstein
29. The Jazz Singer
30. My Fair Lady
31. A Place in the Sun
32. The Apartment
33. The Searchers
34. Bringing up Baby
35. Yanky Doodle Dandy

I'm watching All About Eve right now, which is freakin' terrific. In some ways, the art of the evil woman has been lost. Sure, there's still female bad guys, and catty teen girls are frequent villains. However, that truly lifelike, catty, two-faced type of the finer sex's uglier side is a rarely well-portrayed character. For more great films with this, I recommend The Manchurian Candidate, Sunset Boulevard and Singin' in the Rain.




I have a confession...

The first step is admitting you have a problem...so I'd just like to confess that I've developed an addiction to the firefox plugin on www.stumbleit.com.

For those of you not in the know, stumbleit.com has you fill in your user's interests, then provides you with a time-sucking firefox button, which will randomly pull up pages relating to your interests. Here's one I just came across, for all you mac users:


But the main website you need to check out is:


Seriously. It'll replace your current "web 1.0" internet addiction in a heartbeat.



More new art!

Here's some stuff I've been painting recently. One is a mother's day gift for my mom, one I gave to my brother at my bachelor party, and the last one's a present for a friend's birthday. Back in the day I would make attempts at art for people's christmas presents, but it's hard to pack in 20 to 30 pieces in one holiday season. So my New Year's Resolution this year was to paint for peoples' individual occasions, most notably birthdays. This system's been much more successful (although not bulletproof), and definitely facilitated much more frequent painting. 

I also have to strongly agree with the argument that you can never be good at photoshop until you've tried your hand at other media. The Art Institute of Seattle doesn't have painting as a requirement, but we do learn photoshop and illustration techniques therein. However, it was always a situation with me where I was terrified of the program. "Is this selection clean? Is this the right layer?" I would generally be far to careful and mathematical--like you can easily do in 3D. But once I started water colors, there's this intense difference. You're constantly making mistakes and resigning yourself to a lack of an eraser or undo key, so you drive on and create a finished product. Once I experienced that, photoshop and painter became much more free-form painterly and casual; in that last illustration I did, I was so lazy that I just had a "value" layer for most of the way through, laying down B&W, then just colorized it and had color-transferring layers on top of it. 

But enough of that, on to my new paintings! 



New art

I've been rather busy these last few weeks...first off, I got married! The wedding was a blast, and I couldn't be happier. I don't deserve what I lucked into. 

Secondly, I've been doing some art projects in my free time, some as part of a skill test for a local company. But anyway, here's a chunk of concept art I did, which I'm rather happy with. Enjoy!