Thursday, March 31, 2011

[State of the Animation Nation Address] - Reviewing the state of Animation in Blender (2.57)

So, I thought today I'd do a little "state of the nation address", but in this case, for the "Blender Animation Nation" ;)

Firstly, let's recap about some of the developments which have been occurring since 2.56. In my previous comprehensive update post here, I mentioned about some new features in 2.57 (such as the "Whole Character Keying Set" and "'Only Selected' DopeSheet filter working in the Action Editor too) inspired by workflow problems I encountered while animating a while ago. I also mentioned some bugfixes, such as [#25902].

Speaking of bugfixes, for riggers out there, it may pay to cast your eye over this announcement I made a few days ago. From comments left there, it sounds like this might've saved a whole lot of head scratching out there!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rigger Service Announcement - Time to Update Your Rigs Again

In the same vein as public service announcements, I'd like to take this opportunity to alert riggers out there to some recent changes to the RNA/Py-API that cause some rig breakage from 2.56 to 2.57.

A recent commit (r. 35764) by Campbell will break ShapeKey Drivers and/or ShapeKey Animation, as the "keys" collection in the "Key" ID-Blocks (i.e. container for ShapeKeys) has been renamed to "key_blocks", to avoid conflicts with Python's builtin datatypes.

Recommended Remediation Procedure:
Run the "FCurve/Driver Version Fix" operator from the Help menu.
- You will need a build of at least r.35804 35808 to do so, as Driver F-Curves were not fixed by this operator prior to this commit
- EDIT: After doing so, you may still encounter problems with some drivers still not working correctly. See this bugreport for details/updates

Thank you for your attention.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Animation Goodie - Propagate Pose Tool

As I mentioned in an earlier post here (gee... it's been a while), while animating, I found that it would be nice to have a tool for making tweaks to some controls in already-keyed poses, and having those changes get "propagated" (i.e. copied) over to successive keyframes (where the control was "static", or in a "hold").

Let's see a little diagram of what I mean:

Previously, if you had gone through blocking out some sequence of actions, and then find that some hand pose (or something like that) which is held for a number of keyframes in a row looks quite bad and you need to tweak it, you'd need to go through a little "Ctrl-Pageup Ctrl-V dance" (i.e. jump to next keyframe, then paste pose) to get this change applied to those poses too (remembering to firstly Copy the Pose, and also to enable Auto-Keying). You could also have gone through and used the Animation Editors, and duplicated/adjusted curve values too, but going down that route is also a lot of monkey-work that a computer could do for you in many cases.

This afternoon, I finished coding a tool to do this. Grab a recent SVN build or wait for the 2.57 in the next week or so (?) to try it out. Read on for a little "release log" for this...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stay tuned...

(cue tumbleweed, or more seasonally appropriately, falling leaves)

Hrm... It's been a bit quiet here lately. But don't despair! I'll hopefully have some interesting updates here in the coming days.

As us Cantabs have been saying recently, we've been adapting to a "new normal" over the past few weeks, as life starts to resume some kind of normality. For those of us in the Computer Science department at the University, this means once a week a full day of lectures one after the other, with frequently changing venues. Then again, at least we can still do labs anywhere anytime ;)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The world is a shakin'

My thoughts go out to the people of Japan tonight, as news of the quakes (and tsunamis caused by these) to strike there today emerge. Having just endured two large quakes here in the space of half a year, and the continuing aftershocks (including the many which have still been coming in today), I can fully sympathize with what those in the midst of this massive natural disaster now are going through.

Seeing footage of the destruction is really nothing like actually witnessing it live in front of you, in full 6D glory (or should that be "in all its gory details"). Indeed, the aftershocks, which continue for ages after the "main event" and very frequently in the first few hours (like, a few point-magnitudes smaller, once every few minutes for a few hours), are something that you generally don't hear about from the media. They're a factor in the whole "quake experience" that you don't really know about till you've been through it, sitting/trembling/huddling while miserable and cold, waiting for "the essentials" to come back so that you can begin to try and assume some normality to get over the event and/or to know what's happening.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Documenting code - An alternative to Doxygen/Javadoc and others...

Documenting how things work is quite important, especially in environments where collaborative work is involved (such as software engineering) or when other people who were not involved in the development later need to use it.

One of the most popular ways to do so is using a tool called "Doxygen", which I believe was popularised by the C++ community for whom such a tool is probably strictly necessary to get a grip on the codebases involved (and which also mandated the creation of UML and other such tools/methodologies which are highly considered by software engineers). Another one, though more language antagonistic, is "JavaDoc", which is Java's assimilated dialect of Doxygen-ism.

However, while I'm not going to dispute the value of such documents (though IMO they should not be a crutch upon which bad code can be hung), I do take issue with some of the details of their workings, in particular, the syntax they use.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Updates from the Quake Zone

So after two days of relatively low seismic activity, today marked a return to the routine of old. What more could you ask for in life? A sizable shake for a wakeup call in the morning, routine shakes throughout the day, another really sizable and long-running shake during dinner, and to top it off more pre-bedtime shakes. ;)

What follows are some photos taken while out and about from time to time this week (which I've only finally gotten around to offloading from my camera).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Behold the power of ctypes

Despite uncertainty over when the University year will resume here, I've been chipping away at a little assignment that was handed out on the first day of term (to be precise, it was the first lecture I had this year, and also the last course I had a lecture for so far, about 1 hour before the quake struck). Anyways, getting back to the main story for today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One week on...

It's been a week now.

A week since the university year started, but was abruptly interrupted.
A week since many people's homes, livelihoods, and lives have once again been thrown into chaos, or in some cases, complete disrepair.
A week since the landscape of the city has forever changed, trapping many people just going about their daily lives; someone's mum/dad... brother/sister... child, forever unable to go home at the end of the day.

An extraordinary week since the earthquake struck.

One week on, let us take a moment of silence for reflection over the events of the past week...