Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sideband #53: Making Movies

clapperToday I want to tie up last time’s post about animation before moving on to other things. I’m sure I’ll return to the topic of making movies with POV-Ray and FFmpeg; it’s just too much fun, and I have tons of ideas. (I can finally do a really decent animation for the Special Relativity article I’m planning for Albert’s birthday.)

Firstly, I’ll discuss the animation initialization file, the ANI.INI file, and show you how the multiple segments are managed. Secondly, I’ll talk about the output files — all those frames we generate — and what to do with them.

Plus, I have a couple of important announcements!

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Sideband #52: POV-Ray Animation

NPNI mentioned last time that a big draw for me with POV-Ray is the ability to create three-dimensional scenes and move around them. Having lots of camera positions is part of that; I want to see my scene from multiple angles. (Moving about a 3D space was often a big part of what little interest I ever had in video games. I especially liked flying games.)

From the very beginning, knowing that POV has support for animation, I’ve wanted to take it to the next level and make 3D movies. Rather than frozen snapshots taken from a bunch of (hopefully) well-chosen points, I wanted a fluid movement through the space.

Today I thought I’d write about some tricks I use to do that.

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Sideband #51: POV-Ray Cameras

camerasI’ve been mentioning, and even writing about, POV-Ray for a while now. It and I go back quite a few years, and — as with may of my long-time hobbies — it’s something I’ll pick up and get really into for a while.  Then, after some period, which varies considerably, I’ll exhaust my interest, and back it goes onto the shelf (which is not the same as onto the back burner).

This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve picked it up, but the first time I’ve really gotten into it. It’s been fun and very productive (all this retirement free time is awesome). I make no claim for being any good at creating mind-blowing scenes (but I’m working on it). I do, however, have a couple process tricks that have made my life easier, and I thought I’d share them.

This first one is about managing camera positions.

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Sunday Sundries

day of rest 1I have mentioned before that I like to observe a Sabbath of some kind, a day of rest and difference. Years of religious indoctrination cause me to see Sunday as that day. More than forty years of work life reenforced that view (although I often worked Sundays in my very first job). Ultimately the actual day isn’t important; it’s the idea of taking a weekly break from normal that I think is crucial to mental well-being.

There is also for me, not a religious component, but a moral one nevertheless. I observe certain restrictions on my Sabbath (I don’t watch anything violent, for example), and I try to connect with my gentler side. (I’m actually a gentle soul at heart. The world has had the effect of giving me a crusty, pointy exterior.)

So today, no Python, no POV-Ray, no math (no rants).

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It’s Dead, Jim

Star Trek RedshirtsHaving penned a perplexing pair of Python posts, and planning a putative pair of POV-Ray posts for the pending week, I feel the pressure to pause and ponder some other puzzle for a period. Like words that start with “P”, for instance. Or something more profound, like peas in our time. (And pass the potatoes.) Perhaps something personal would please?

I can’t write of cabbages or kings. I don’t care much for the former (except in egg rolls), and I wrote about chess yesterday, which is almost about kings. Nor can I write of sealing ships or sailing wax. (Wait… how did that go?)

But it is Science Fiction Saturday again!

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Sideband #50: Pawn to King-4

Spock ChessLast time I mentioned wanting to write a chess move parser since my earliest days of programming. Hard-core coders often see things in terms of the software behind them. For instance, I sometimes wonder about the software running my microwave oven. Andy Warhol drew our attention to how an artist is behind even a mundane soup can label. Similarly, every computer-driven item in your growing collection of smart tools and toys has a programmer or many behind it.

Dedicated coders also look at problems in terms of the software to solve them. When my (ex-)wife complained about the difficulty of scheduling teachers, rooms, and classes, for the year, I began pondering scheduling software. I think a big part of it is the challenge of solving a double-puzzle. First you have to figure out the problem; then you have to figure out the software solution.

And one area that programmers find extremely attractive is games!

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Sideband #49: A Mazing Python

amazingI don’t know if it’s having been in the saddle so long, having all this retirement time, or the magic of Python (perhaps all three), but I’ve made major advances in personal projects that have been on my drawing board for a very long time. One of them, in fact, goes back to my earliest days of programming in late 70s!

It’s certainly true that 35 years of writing computer software teaches you a few tricks. At the very least, you learn all sorts of things not to do! On some level, the computer language doesn’t matter, but a highly expressive language makes some kinds of development not just easier, but actually fun!

And Python! I haven’t laughed with delight over a computer language since Lisp!

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S’no Power, S’no Kidding!

snowDateline: Monday. The little-known eclectic blogger, Wyrd Smythe, had no idea that his blogging provider, a mysterious global enterprise known as “Word Press” (a possible anagram for “Sword Reps”), had granted him extreme power over the weather. At this time, we cannot report whether this was a deliberate seasonal gift, or if the power somehow escaped the control of its owners. Neither can we report on how many this may affect.

What we do know is this: On Monday, when the unsuspecting blogger clicked the “Let It Snow” checkbox on his settings page, sure enough, a gentle snow fall began on his posts. That was the desired and expected effect. What happened next, however, was a surprise.

It also began to snow outside for the first time this season!

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300 (and Counting)

300-postsAs I’ve posted articles recently, it’s been impossible to not to notice a looming milestone: post #300! Which is what this one is. At least, it’s the 300th post on this blog. The double qualifier is because there are a number of pages not included in that count, and because I had a go at a baseball blog before I started this one. (Plus I have another blog with a small number of posts.)

On top of all that, there’s all the stuff I wrote on Newsvine and other online forums, not to mention several personal website incarnations. And I can’t even begin to number how much I wrote for work over the years; there were four websites I authored and countless user and technical documents.

But still… 300 Logos Con Carne posts, that’s not nothing!

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Geek Posts Ahead!

Sideband MachineAs one might guess from yesterday’s post, which was supposed to be about vampires, that the geek force runs strong in this one. Of course, it always does. Far as I can tell, I was born an über-geek and shall remain an über-geek until my final breath (which will no doubt be some geeky observation).

But then geek comes from “carnival geek” and just means someone with expertise in a niche field. I’m fine with that — it’s just the plain truth in my case — but I like to believe my expertise is maybe just a little bit broader than biting heads off chickens. (On the other hand, as perhaps everyone does, I’ve sometimes wondered if joining a carnival might not make for a much simpler life.)

In any event, for a while I intend to indulge my inner über-geek.

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