Archive for June, 2006


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©2006 EricAtRandom

More video.

I’ve added a couple more shorts to the tiny videos I put up in the Media Player.  There are now three (four if you count my little intro video):
  • A fly-by of the building – 4 seconds
  • Shuttle from space (original) – 3 seconds
  • Shuttle from a camera anchored to the fuel tank – 3 seconds
I know, the building one is really long, but if you sit through the whole 4 seconds, the other two are shorter.    Humor aside, it took 10 hours to generate the building video on a pretty powerful machine (~5 minutes per frame time 120 frames).  The others were significantly shorter because the models were significantly less complicated.  Still, you don’t just push a button after your design is done and get a video.
If you want to see it full sized in a separate video player, click here.
Late edit: Let me know if you have trouble with the video link… it wouldnt’ work at my school.  You should not get an ad for filelodge (I think that’s what they send when they can’t find the requested file).  If this happens, click "Play" in the Media Player.  Same video, just shown smaller.

Here’s an example of why I doodle in meetings. If I didn’t, they’d go something like this:

The "big project" meeting has progresssed to the point where responsibilities are being doled out. There are a dozen reports to be written, and the boss has the requirements in his hand. 

Boss: OK, will you be able to handle these, Mr. Peters?

Eric thinks:

Heh heh… he said "peters"! Oh God, how juvenile. Still funny though.


Yes.  How did I become the reports guy, BTW?

Eric thinks:

Hmmm.. Tying together God and Peter from that last phrase, Saint Peter watches the pearly gates. Does that mean that there are jobs in Heaven? Of all people, shouldn’t Saint Peter get a break?  What are the hours? I mean people die at all hours of the day and night. Maybe time doesn’t flow in the same manner there, so he could work 8 hours there and still cover all 24 hours here.

Boss: <says something>

Eric thinks:

Wow. If there are jobs in heaven, then there must be some kind of incentive to work. I mean, no one would work if there wasn’t some noticable improvement to the standards of living. So, if that’s the case, what’s the worst social stratus in Heaven.

Some other employees:

chatter chatter

Eric thinks:

After all, it couldn’t be Heaven if it had an undesirable class of living. But then, if even the lowest class of living in Heaven is desirable, then only the greedy would choose to hold jobs, right? I mean, if life was good — like in "Heaven good" — why would you give up part of that life to work for something better?

Boss: <sighs> OK. Then …. chatter chatter chatter….

Eric thinks:

But the greedy aren’t supposed to go to Heaven. Hmmm… but then Jesus did say that the humble on earth would have palaces in Heaven, so there must be socio-economic strata. Maybe it’s not a matter of choosing to work. Maybe when you go there, you just get assigned a job and you have no choice.

Other employee whose name doesn’t contribute to the humor:

I think Eric knows that system.

Eric thinks:

Huh? Was that my name? Oh, so anyway, it seems like "Rest In Peace" isn’t really resting after all. You’d have to work. Everyone would. Otherwise it would be unfair to those who do.

Boss: So, Eric, can you do that?


<snapping back to the meeting> What? Oh, yeah. Just assign it to me. I’ll never get to retire for the rest of eternity, anyway.

Eric thinks:  What did I just commit to???

Rest of the room:


Eric thinks:  Oh well… doesn’t matter.  After all that, I’ll be lucky to even get to Heaven.  I wonder if there are jobs in Hell.

This goes out to BarnyardMama, who posed the following questions.  I wish I had this put together when I was in the running for "Best of…"!

Were you always a creative soul? 

I was always “different”.  I’ve always had a highly developed, yet frequently misunderstood sense of humor.  I was neither socially adept nor inept.  I never had a crowd, always several.  Sometimes, they were extremely different and opposed groups, and one couldn’t understand why I hung around with the other.  In my hometown crowd, I hung out on street corners, purposely avoiding adults.  My high school crowd was absolutely the “nice guy” crowd.  In another crowd, we frequented roller-rinks and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  All three of these were at the same time.


On my own, I was something of a science geek.  Again, at home I was a relative “uber-geek”.  Then I got into computers and found myself to be a “quasi-geek” in that crowd.  I joined the sci-fi club at school, but they were a bit too far over the edge for me.  I remained in the computer club.  The absence of the first and the relative infancy of the second (it was 1982, folks!) meant I never got to play with stop-motion animation, which always fascinated me.


Drawing in class when you should be listening? 

In grammar school, yes.  I had the intense ability to focus on things I liked and the opposite for those I didn’t.  I did well in science and math, primarily, and English to a lesser degree.  History was my Achilles heel.  While achieving almost straight A’s, my eighth grade history teacher once told my parents she thought I had a learning disability.  This from a teacher who called Kaiser Wilhelm “Kaiser Willie”.  That might have caught my attention in grade 3.  So, when I wasn’t asleep at my desk, I came out of that class with lots of art. 


By high school, drawing became “track 2”.  To filter out other distractions (or, again, falling asleep from boredom), I drew all over the margins.  But its purpose was to keep me focused and alert.  I was fairly good at paying attention while drawing, but not always.  Sometimes, the little stories the pictures created were too enticing.


Professionally, it was the same.  During meetings, I would doodle incessantly unless I was directly involved in the conversation.  Since it was intended to keep me focused instead of sending me off into introspection, I kept the images structured.  People said I had the most elaborate doodles they’d ever seen.


You’ve mentioned previously that you had "problems" in school and I wondered if that turned you off for a while or did you press through immediately?

Which school?  In H.S., I had a run in that nearly got me expelled.  I was spotted in Geometry with an Italian textbook on my desk.  The teacher didn’t like Italians (he once told a friend of mine he was lucky he didn’t look Italian).  It set us against each other.  When I was sent to the principal’s office, I made a new friend there.  With the exception of that class, I had no further problems in school (except my History grades – see the last question).


As for DAVE School, yes, I’ve had some frustrating moments (with the assignments – the school has been entirely top-notch!).  At those times, I feel both the need to get away and the compulsion to keep improving on my work.  I am highly self-critical and can be pessimistic at times.  But I use that to my advantage.  So, I look at my item and say “It really sucks, and it will never be good.”  A true pessimist would give up.  I approach it with “If I’m to survive this with any dignity, I’d better make it as good as I can.”


Generally, I attack, step back and look, then attack again as compulsion and aversion wax and wane against each other.


I guess I’m really curious because I work with creative types like you all the time and I would like to better direct them in life.  What drives you? 

I’d be a total liar if I didn’t credit vanity to a large degree.  I love sharing my work and getting “ooh’s” and “aah’s”.  But I’m perceptive enough to tell when I’m being patronized, which is worse than an actual insult.  I look at criticism like a vitamin – I might not like it when I have to take it, but I’ll be stronger for it later.  I like a challenge where I can see success (even if I am not sure I can achieve it).  If I look at some thing and I can’t see success in it, that makes me want to walk away.  If you want to drive me to success, the definition and path to it must be clear.


I also love making things “work”.  I’m no mechanic, but I love making stuff.  That’s what got me into computer programming.  I could create something, and then it would behave in a (generally) predictable manner.  It’s exactly the same for digital animation.  You put together all the components, and then you let it go and it WORKS.  Or, it doesn’t and you fix it.  Either way, you’ve created something, and it takes on a life of its own.  I’ve heard that this may be a male complex, since we can’t give birth.  I’m OK with that (although I’m not sure I believe it).  It doesn’t take away from the thrill at all.  My father-in-law is a mechanic and restores antique tractors to their former glory, and I think he’s the same as I am in this aspect.  He gets to assemble it, make it “as it should be”, and then turn the thing on and it goes.  TOTALLY different disciplines, same driving force.


What makes you pack it all up and go to school to become an animator?

I have a vivid imagination and the desire to share it visually.  I have always had a mildly artistic nature.  I can draw pictures, but they never looked good enough for me to pursue traditional animation/artwork.  When I saw what I could do with graphics software, I realized I’d found a medium that was precise, yet forgiving enough to work with.  Then I saw a DAVE School commercial.  It raised my interest and curiosity to the point where I thought, “You know, I probably could do that!”  But there was no way I could afford a year off work and tuition payments, and if I were going to do it, I wanted to do it right.


This year in January, however, I lost my father to cancer.  While it’s still a financial struggle, he left me enough to pursue the dream.  It was a matter of “now or never” at that point (pardon the cliché).  My wife helped me decide to go for it.  So, between my father and my wife, I am pursuing this goal intensely.  My job has been very understanding and has kept me on the payroll for advice and assistance.  It’s my airbag in case this new venture crashes and burns.


As for my outlook on life and how it pertains to this, I don’t think there was any one event that made me lose my conservative viewpoint.  But, I lost my mom at age 53.  My dad was 69.  There has been too much early death in my extended family, too.  In 2002, I was shot in the back while being held up, and at times it didn’t look like I was going to make it.  So, my attitude over the years has become “absolutely plan for the future, but not at the expense of today”.  I want my kids to learn the same philosophy, and you have to teach by example!


We animated today. Check out the big three-second video in the media player. Not bad, eh?

The clouds of smoke are a bit "overdone", but this one looks good in motion.  This is a frame of the video in the media player..

This is a nicer close-up view of the shuttle in what I believe to be its final state. We have until 11:30am to tweak it, and I do expect to do some tweaking.  Since this render, I’ve added the little side adjuster vents on the front under the cockpit windows.

I have another video I’d like to make. Three seconds is the required duration for the assignment. The teacher showed us an animation that looked like the downward-facing camera mounted on the SRB’s. I may use my left over time to practice that technique.

We learned smoke effects today. I guess I need more work.

This just looks like it’s in need of an exhaust system overhaul. Black, puffy smoke balls don’t cut it. I’ll work with the teachers on this tomorrow (which is now "later today").

This took so long to generate, I couldn’t imagine animating it (i.e. 30 frames per second??)… but that’s the plan. I’ll keep you up to date! I have to get the clouds fixed  first.

We have to come up with places to put the shuttle. As I’m one of the students who didn’t build a launching pad, I had to innovate. Here’s the shuttle, as seen in 2020, preserved with the other antiques in the Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center. Who knows what we’ll be flying off the planet at that time?

The trick to this picture was getting the lighting right so the shuttle had the same colors and brightnesses as the stuff around it.  Not perfect, but good enough to blend in to some degree.


OK, so I’m not panicking anymore, but I’m still not feeling this is a top-notch example of 3D modelling. As it turns out, no request for renders was made by end of class today. So we’ll see if it’s still due tomorrow or if we’ll get an extra day’s reprieve.

With one day left on the shuttle, here’s where it is. I mapped a bunch of the textures on to the body. I also started playing with the general textures that go with them. The real shuttle generally looks a bit "streaked" front to back. I’ll need to simulate that. I’m still left struggling to figure out just what it is about this project that has me so stalled.

I’m still toying with the textures on the front of the shuttle. I have to apply the rest of the lettering, black edges, escape hatches, and some of the adjustment thrusters. But, this gives you a good idea where it’s headed.


On the underside of the wing, I experimented with making the individual tiles visible. The jury is still out on this one. I can also make it a "bump" map. That way it would show as slight dents instead of gray lines.  By the way, these pictures really look better at full size.  So much detail is missing at this scale.

There’s only one day left. I think the problem I’m having is one of not fully knowing what to do next. As with the building, I’m just trying to get this thing ready in time for Wednesday’s renders. I have no idea what to expect "grade-wise" on this thing.

Here’s the shuttle today… windows need some work… so does everything else.  Is this thing gonna be done by Wednesday???  I have the textures at school, so I can’t really "paint" it until Monday.  Still, I’ll continue to work on details tomorrow.

To my Dad on our first Father’s day without him… you’re still with me, and here’s a very incomplete list of how:



What you did

What it gave me



Took regular walks in the “woods” (a string of overgrown vacant lots which is now Rt. 878).

Perspective to step away from the grind and just "be" once in a while.



Taught me to use Erector sets, electronics kits, model airplanes, etc…

The ability to see the whole from a bunch of seemingly unrelated pieces – to work with my hands and mind in unison.



Lay on the floor between the couch and TV.

An understanding of just how great it can be to do nothing while your kids climb all over you!  It doesn’t last long, does it.



Sang with the choir – no matter which parish you were with.

An appreciation for music.  An understanding of commitment.  The importance of being true to your muse. 



Took pictures.

Thousands of memories that we can carry forward in your absence.  They let me share some good times with loved ones who didn’t get to experience them firsthand.



Gave advice.

OK, a lot of times, I didn’t ask for it.  And some I didn’t want.  But there was a lot of good knowledge you had and which you shared with me.



Loved God

A faith that transcends religion.  The ability to believe even when things don’t seem  to indicate His existence.



Loved Mom.

The ability to enter a relationship and be realistic about it.  To enjoy the highest points, and stick it out through the lowest.  To be flexible.  To be there.



Loved your kids.

The desire and capacity to do the same.


I miss you terribly, Dad.  We all do.