Saturday, April 4, 2015

Some Quick BlenderDev Updates

Woah! Where has the past month gone?! Time sure flies...

Sorry about the lack of updates here. Since my last posts, I've been quite busy bunkering down between trying to get a long chapter of stuff written up, teaching/marking (Argh! See Note 1 at the end), and trying to get enough sleep (or to get over a sleep deficit) caused by the disruptive schedules imposed by the university's timetabling team (damn you... whoever you faceless people hiding behind the mask of a buggy timetable algorithm are! Wednesdays have been complete writeoffs for me this past month!).

Unfortunately, that has not left much time or energy left to do much Blender dev (even though even short doses of that are enough to increase net productivity for several days afterwards), and even less for writing blog posts (it seems I only have a fixed tolerance/daily quota of verbiage I'm inclined to try to write).

With this long weekend (and term break for 3 weeks), I finally have a bit of a reprieve from all that now. As you may have noticed from the commit logs these past 2 days, it's been quite good to finally be able to let loose on the long list of smaller things I've been meaning to do for ages. Truth be told though, none of these things are really the things I most want to work on - though, there's another kind of satisfaction that comes from just powering through these more mundane but more pressing/important things first :)

Key Highlights (so far):

* NLA Strips can now have their time and influence curves animated properly (i.e. without lag) as they were originally intended to work

* Grease Pencil layers can now be hidden using H/Shift-H/Alt-H. The meanings of those are the same as in other places. These only work in Stroke Edit Mode though (which has got a fancy new indicator too)

* Added operators to quickly switch between editing actions above/below the currently active one in the NLA Stack. This is one of the key remaining parts of the updated action management pipeline. The idea here is that these operators should be used for checking on actions, instead of using the browse dropdown (and all the problems that entails)

Things I'm currently still working on (and hope to be able to complete this weekend):
* Some fixes/tweaks to what happens when you try to unlink an action - to prevent/warn about dataloss, but more important, rule out the risk of datacorruption that exists right now (DO NOT try to unlink an action while it is in tweakmode now! You have been warned!)
* Preview range adapts to whatever action you've got selected - Apparently these game animators love/need this sort of thing
* Selector for which level the Action Editor works on (currently, it's object level only)
* Smooth brush for Grease Pencil
* Option to toggle between mapping GP pressure to thickness/alpha/both
* Other brush-based tools for Grease Pencil? (e.g. make a simplified stroke from a bunch of strokes, and/or convert that into a filled outline, or randomising the strokes to create some shaking variations, or sculpt/deform tools there)

I intend to create some more detailed breakdowns of these later on. Hopefully I'll have time to do that, though it's likely I may have to prioritise simply getting them implemented/in place first, and then do the remedial education work later (or simply delegate - any willing minions to take up this task? ;)

(As usual... Argh! There are days I wish could clone myself several times to get more hand-brain pairs to power through more of the various things I want to work on. Too much interesting stuff to do... too much other stuff/not enough time to do all of them! Argh! Argh! Argh!)


Note to Self #1: Never set a series of 5 once-per-week reports as part of a course's assessment schedule! It's hellish for the students, and also for the poor sod who has to wade through these. Even more so if you need to endeavour to provide any snippet of feedback on all of them... all 50 of 'em.

Truth be told, for the vast majority, there's really nothing worth saying about them - they will be just, "meh", and both student and teacher know that the student who hands in such work almost always (in this day and age) doesn't care too much about trying to do any better ("but hey, it's still a passing grade"). That said, on principle, I do strive to focus more on the ones at both the top and bottom ends:
  • The bottom end to hopefully bring them up a bit. Things such as immediately actionable steps that would have the greatest impact on them producing a more decent result. These ones are usually the easiest to deal with (in terms of finding things to say); the difficulty comes in making damn right sure that whatever penalities you've applied are really justified. However, there are days when it's like, "Why do I bother!? This guy can't spell, can't string together a sentence on his own (or more than 2 at a time), and tries to pass off some ~1 page (or less) of crap that would've taken 5 minutes to be googled off Wikipedia as evidence that he did the work required, and for a 3rd year university course no doubt!". It's frankly quite ridiculous!!! TBH, it takes a lot of restraint to not give them a big fat zero before launching into an angry rant... Argh!   (NB: The guy in question there was a loud + foul-mouthed, drug-smoking, lazy amateur slob of E****IAN-descent. (As politically incorrect as it is to say that, I have to add that I've known quite a few others of similar ethnicity who were great people who were polar opposites of that, so hopefully I haven't offended anyone there).  I hate to think what his hacked-together code looked like, or the consequences for whichever poor organisation has hired him)
  • The top end on the other hand are a bunch where I give a lot of focus for other reasons. Specifically, having been there myself quite a bit over the years, I know all too well how top-performers want some decent feedback which tells them what they could have done even better than they did; to not get such feedback, and only a "well done" ends up feeling like a hollow victory, and quite a let down. Now, obviously it's a lot harder to come up with good feedback for such people, as they can get quite good at times, but at the same time, it's also quite satisfying.
 It also has to be said that when you really get into the swing of things, it's possible to start getting a "feel" for what grade someone should get from just eyeballing the thing without actually reading it. This worked a lot better last year than it has for this year's bunch. With last year's reports, there was a clear spread where the 1-2 page ones were invariably crappy (i..e. they were things some lazy slob patched together 2 hours before the deadline and called it done), while others were dense 10-page tomes. With this year's reports though (at least the first one; the second one started to stratify right out again) have been generally of a much higher standard. This year, mostly everyone goes up to 6 pages max, with some of the 2 page ones being really quite decent, some of the 3 page ones being a bit crappy, and 4-6 page ones being equally likely to be very good. The top ones of course were still able to be identified by "feel" - there was an extra spark/quality there that wasn't present for the others.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah! GP updates!, now I'm finishing a new GP animation with some tutorial :)