Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of Year Rambling - 2016 Edition

Lo and behold, it's already the end of December, and the last day of 2016 too! How time flies...

Pardon the lack of updates here over the past month(s). As you may have noticed, it's been a rather hectic few months for me as I'm currently locked into a soul-sucking death march tussle with my PhD project (also known as the dreaded "write up"). There's still a few short/long months left before I'll be done with it; whether it's short or long depends on your worldview - short when it comes to the mountain of work remaining (eek!) and long when thinking about the amount of time/energy required to get it all done (double eek!). On the bright side though, come May 1st (all going to plan, fingers-crossed), I'll finally be able to resume work on my ever-growing backlog of 1000x more exciting projects... Hang in there Blender animators - there's heaps of goodness just around the corner!

Therefore, the past week and a half I've been having a "real Christmas vacation" - that is, no work, no work-like things, and no "projects"... Just taking a break, and enjoying life like any "normal/regular/sane" human being does when this time of the year rolls around ;)  So, I'll keep this post short, so that I can get back to my holidays :)

In many ways, 2016 has been a year of two halves: The first half was quite promising, while the second has been nothing but a tiring uphill slog (though that doesn't mean that nothing good happened!)

First Half Highlights
The first half of the year was a productive time on many fronts. In particular, what stands out the most for me was:

1) Bendy Bones - [1] [2]
It's been amazing seeing the commuity response to these tools.

2) Pose Sculpting - [1] [2]
This year, I've finally gotten around to making a bit of headway into a passion project that I've been dreaming about for years. The first main breakthrough was figuring out the logic for the "Adjust" brush (see first video). The second was that I finally managed to get the direct-sketch-line-to-pose working (see second video).

Since posting these videos, I've made a whole bunch of improvements to the tools. (Note: Bendy Bone support is planned for these tools - I've got it all mapped out how these will work, but I just haven't had time to finish implementing the functionality).  Hopefully in the new year, I'll finally get time to finish up this stuff and push it to the next level (there's a lot more that I still haven't even had time to touch on yet!)

3) High School Reunion
Early in the year, we had a small gathering of friends and others from back in high school. It was great catching up with everyone again after so many years - it's funny how although a lot of things change, many things are still the same (including how you can look at most people, even those you don't really know by name, and recognise/remember who they were :)

4) A successful experiment in the bag
Finally, I managed to successfully run a successful experiment for my PhD project! It took a lot of work getting it all set up and configured correctly to generate interesting results, and then, it took a small miracle to recruit and run enough participants through to generate some data. But, I did it! Yay!

5) Grease Pencil 
I think we can say that this was the year that Grease Pencil really took off! The interest from the community and industry at large has been phenomenal and deeply pleasing.

Favourite Pics from this Year
Here's a small selection of some of my favourite shots from the year. I haven't had much time to post long-form galleries of these this year, so here's just a taste...


General Remarks
Some other things I've learned this year:
* I finally have a much better appreciation for the saying, "Take a step back and enjoy the view". Sometimes, by being too judgemental/narrow-focussed, we end up chasing a misguided and downright "wrong" path, when if we just take a step back and relax one or two constraints, suddenly a whole wide world of much easier/achievable paths opens up.

* I've finally got a much better handle on what motivates me (and what does not). For instance, I've come to the realisation that modern HCI research (or at least, the quantitative-empirical sort) is not really my cup of tea... while I won't say I will never do this sort of stuff again in the future post-PhD, I can say for sure that I don't intend to carry on with this sort of work in the near future (for at least the next 2-3 years), and if/when I do do any more HCI work, it will be in a different style (i.e. more qualitative "how to do it..." and "what happen if...")

* In general, I really should trust my "gut instinct" more when...
   - For instance, it comes it tends to be pretty much dead accurate when to veto/reject technical designs (and actually follow through on that, even if it's less comfortable/politcally viable to do so). Though I often can't put my finger on it precisely at the time, I've learned that if I get a "twinge" that "something is wrong with that design", something probably really is. And the problem is often something that will cause us a lot of grief down the track (e.g. a few of these have been things that got baked into our SDNA format or in old files, meaning that we can't just remove the thing in future without breaking old files... but, having that problematic stuff in there prevents a lot of other planned work taking place, since we'd have to actually remove those kludges first...)

   - Also, the same applies to just getting things done. Usually, stewing over things for a long time won't really produce a "better" or "different" outcome... I'll likely just have wasted time trying to justify why I'm going with my gut reaction anyway ;)  

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