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Rob’s Blog

Behave, Lightwave!

Every once in a while, 3D software that you know and love will begin to hiccup. When this happens, it is important to maintain a level head. Yesterday when Lightwave 3D began acting up on me, dropping textures and refusing to render within the boundaries of the Limited Region render box I had set (instead it was arbitrarily picking a spot 50-100 pixels away and rendering that,) I had to fight to resist the urge to headbutt the computer. Instead, I walked into Vinnie’s office and ranted a little bit while my PC restarted; upon rebooting, things worked as they should and life returned to normal. Sometimes all you need is some time apart to reflect and repair the relationship!

Despite the issues, my renders are for the most part coming out well. We are working on a series of stills set within a hand-crafted and very specific 3D environment. Its exciting to think that we’re now working on projects with an approach very similar to what the Star Wars prequels were doing for the past 10 years. With fully keyed and realistic looking video and photo compositing over high-fidelity, client customized 3D environments, we are truly able to have our actors and models go anywhere we need them.

As long as Lightwave continues to behave, that is! As I told Vinnie yesterday, sometimes I wish I could make Lightwave manifest as an anthropomorphic version of itself, just so we could step outside and have “words.” I wonder how it would look? I would imagine it would be the Lightwave logo, but with little hands and feet, and maybe some googly eyes at the top? I’d feel bad then, if it were too cute, about wanting to punch it in the face… but I’m sure it would never actually come to blows. I’d probably just give it a stern talking to, then put my arm around it and walk it back inside, telling it how much I love it.

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Entry by: Rob

The End of the Procedurally Generated 3D Simulation of Los Angeles

Last night I watched John Cusack and his kids fight the end of the world. No, I’m not talking about the straight-to-DVD sequel to Sixteen Candles (though that would probably be an awesome movie, too.) I’m talking about last year’s special effects laden film 2012, which surprisingly has been gracing the Netflix instant streaming list for a few months now.

Until last night I hadn’t seen 2012, which ended up being, at least for me, a surprisingly fun action/disaster movie in the vein of Independence Day (one of my  favorites.) The star of the show, obviously, were the special effects, with entire land-masses shifting around and huge chunks of the city of Los Angeles falling into the ocean. It is a little bit hilarious that I counted no less than three unique “close call airplane takeoff” sequences; something that is way overdone in movies in general, but the fact that they so blatantly overused it within this one film made me suspect that there was a little bit of inside baseball going on in the writer’s room.

From what I have read, 2012’s visual effects were mostly done in 3DS Max, making liberal use of thinking particles and a plugin called Cebas that helps create simulations of the destruction of buildings. Here’s Dennis Muren of Industrial Light and Magic, talking about special effects, and the FX Industry in general.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/conference/2007/muren

Its always amazing what can be done in CG these days, with even rudimentary 3D software and one or two dedicated animators. At DDA, we have been pushing our 3D capabilities forward for over a decade. Today, DDA works on creating realistic 3D environments with composited video or photographs of actors, fully rendered 3D medical simulations, medical training tools that utilize 3D graphics, virtual reality using 3D and CG environments, brochures that contain 3D and hand-illustrated graphics, and much, much more! What will we be doing by 2012? Well provided the US doesn’t fall into the ocean (help us, John Cusack!) we could very well be working on some awesome 3D for your corporate or medical organization!

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Entry by: Rob

Test It Out

I managed to get into the Beta Test for the next World of Warcraft expansion last weekend, simply by being signed up long enough to qualify. As a tester, not only do I get a free, early look at the development of the next big multi-million selling game by Blizzard, but I also have the entertaining task of testing for and reporting any bugs, glitches, or issues that the game may have in this early testing phase. Its not like it’s a job that pays, but as the price for a free early look at an amazing game I’d say its pretty worth it overall.

Blizzard has the right idea using its existing playerbase to test the game. Who better to test than the players, who know the game inside-out already? And its not like they have to pay them, either!  Not a bad deal considering it is one of the more time-consuming and typically arduous stages of the production of a game.

In any software application under development, the testing and proofing process is of utmost importance. Most bugs and issues don’t pop up until after the software, interactive video game, virtual reality simulation, or website has been put under hard use. Even then, some issues don’t occur until they are encountered on certain types of hardware configurations, run in certain web browsers, or viewed using a specific type of monitor. When developing virtual medical simulations, medical websites with interactive instructional video, interactive training tools, or any number of the other pieces of development software we work on at DDA and DDA Medical, we always make sure to run them through rigorous testing not unlike that found in WoW’s beta tests.

So while the overall scope of a project involving the simulated removal of a patient’s kidney may not be the same as running a 12 million user multiplayer environment, you can bet that our team will be testing those with as much attention to detail as possible!

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Entry by: Rob

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