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10. June 2011

 

One of the nicest features of going with Blender is the fact that it is open source.  One of the nicest facts of open source is you don’t have to wait for a vendor to release a new version, you can go get the cutting edge version at any time.  That said, building Blender from scratch is a non-trivial task, but nicely for that we have graphicall.org.

 

Basically graphicall allows people to post and share their builds.  You go on the site andBlogEngineLogo choose a build to download.  You can choose by OS, bit-ness or the various features included in the build. Why the heck would you want to do this?  Well, frankly some of these features are incredibly interesting, but perhaps most interesting of all, is the new BMesh tool.  Remember how I said earlier that the weakest link in Blender was the modeling tools, and the one feature it was missing the most was the lack of n-gons?  Well, bmesh addresses this shortcoming.  It is rumoured that it will be part of Blender 2.8, but it as been in development for a very very very long time, so don’t hold your breath. I will hopefully have a demonstration up shortly that illustrates this powerful tool.

 

But bmesh is by no means the only thing to look forward to.  Another area graphicall builds cover is Google Summer of Code builds.  If you have never heard of it, instead of getting a summer job, students instead propose a project in the open source world and if approved, get paid by Google to implement it.  This year, Blender is a pretty big winner on the number of projects sponsored.  About half of the projects on that list will be a huge boon for game development.  The various branches can be viewed here.

 

A quick trip to GraphicAll is going to confuse the hell out of you though…  Avacodo? Radish? Cucumber?  WTF?  Well lets just say the Blender group like their code names!  Last time it was fruit, this time, it’s veggies.  Anyways, this infographic that I brazenly stole from here which in turn they stole from here.  Anyways, it’s a good image, so here goes(click image for original).

 

Gsoc-2011-branches

 

 

Anyways, probably of most interest from a game perspective are the Avocado, Onion and Pepper branches.  Of most interest to game dev work is the Avocado branch, which is the only one based off the BMesh branch instead of the main trunk fork ( Salad branch ).

 

But by no means are we confined to the Summer of Code builds, lots of other stuff is available as well.  There is Blender Cycles a GPU based render, LuxBlend interface for LuxRender, Yafaray as well as builds using OpenMP for better multicore CPU support.

 

So, if you are willing to take a walk on the wild side and put up with a few more bugs and glitches, Graphicall is very much worth checking out!

Art


5. June 2011

 

When I was starting out, I was just dying to earn my “real programmer badge™”.  At the time “real programmers” used assembly and I was taking the lazy easy way out using C.  So, in my quest to earn my real programmer badge I taught myself assembly.  Now it took me 10 times as long to write my code and it sure was more difficult; no doubt my badge would be in the mail!  Sadly… no, it didn’t arrive.

 

 

The years went by and assembly became more and more niche.  In the meanwhile, higher level languages came to the fore.  There were even languages that hacks and simpletons could rapidly create programs in, like Delphi ( pascal ) and Visual Basic.  Of course real programmers looked down upon these amateurs, everybody knew that this wasn’t real programming.  Hell even C++ was looked down upon, it was way too high level and slow for real programmers to use, so being a real programmer I kept using C.  Things sure were slow and painful, lots and lots of work, no doubt my real programmer badge was on it’s way! 

 

 

Another generation of languages came along, new pretenders like Java and C# rose in popularity and the lazy and weak flocked to them like mad.  Real programmers of course knew that C++ was the one true language.  Sure, those class libraries and the freedom from memory management sure looked tempting, but I am a real programmer damn it, so I continued working in C++.  My god was it difficult so I truly must be getting close to getting my real programmer badge.  When it didn’t arrive I decide their surely must be a mistake at the post office!

 

 

Then the current generation of languages came to the forefront.  Scripting languages had risen in popularity, to the point that it seemed more people were “scripting” than programming these days!  Scripting?  What real programmer in their right mind would ever work in a lowly scripting language?  I am a real programmer, I will leave scripting for the hacks and newbies, thank you very much!  Real programmers work in C++!  Oddly enough, I still haven’t received my badge…?

 

 

Recently a funny thing happened… I took to a project under a tight deadline, it absolutely had to ship on a given date.  There was no way I could possibly succeed in time using a real programming language, so I took to using the plebian tools.  Working in C#, the wonderful class libraries sure did make development fast.  At times I actually slunk to the lowest of the low and used scripting languages!  It felt so dirty but I have to admit the rapid turn around and interactive tools sure did things quick.  In the end, it was a challenge and I had to prostitute my pride, but I shipped on time!  The following day, a FedEx truck pulled up to my front door and delivered my prized Real Programmers Badge™!

 

 

 

Official-Seal-of-Awesome

 

( Image totally stolen from a middle aged drama queen. )

Of course, this story is completely full of crap but the moral is completely true.  When I was starting out C was truly looked down upon as being a tool of “fake” programmers. Through the years the language has changed but there has always been an “IT” language that new programmers to the field think they have to work in to be a real programmer.  It sadly often takes years of experience to realize how stupid this mindset actually is.  Can you imagine a carpenter that wouldn’t use a drill because “real carpenters” use screw drivers, would you hire this person?

 

 

A real programmer uses the right tool for the job.  For those of you just starting out, “the job” very much includes “learning to program”.  In the end a real programmer makes the best product they can, as efficiently as they can, using whatever tool works best.  Sometimes, that tool might even be C++!

Programming


30. May 2011

 

So, until this point I have been using Microsoft’s Expressions Encoder to do video capture for tutorials on this site.  I am an MSDN subscriber and already had the Expression Studio installed, so even though I was really (…….. really ) pushing the bounds of my license I went ahead and used it.  Then I ran into a pretty big snag, see the encoder that ships with my Expression Ultimate version is the “free” version, which you can download here.  It is an impressive product, that makes for very small file sizes that are surprisingly detailed.  That is, until you hit the 10 minute mark.  That… is a sizable gotcha.

 

So, I started looking into alternatives.  Camtasia Studio is easily the big player in this space, but with a pretty severe 350$ price tag.  The before mentioned Expressions Encoder can be had for a more modest but still too high 200$.  The I found Cam Studio which is a free and open source alternative, but it really wasn’t a viable option.  My first test was 15 seconds long and a little over a GB in size!  Plus frankly, it looked awful.  I just don’t think Cam Studio is set up to do HD video.  I played around with various codecs and settings but frankly never got anything that approached usable. 

 

I was really starting to fret that I would have to put out a couple hundred bucks to simply capture video and frankly me and my money are rather tight friends and don’t want to part so easily.  Then a moment of serendipity occurred… I came across a shareware product called FastStone Capture which effortlessly recorded my screen, at > 15FPS directly to WMV.  After a minute of recording at 1080p I was well under 20MB!  What is so serendipitous about that you ask?  Ironically enough, I had already purchased this product a couple years back for helping me with screenshots!  SCORE.

 

Anyways, if you are looking to do video/screen capture on a Windows machine, I highly recommend you check out FastStone.  Comes with a fully featured trial and is only 20$ if you register it.  Keep in mind, it is NOT a video editor and isn’t even in the same league as Expressions Encoder or Camtasia for features, but if you want to just capture the screen in a high quality but small size, this is the best product I’ve seen.  Actually as I am using Blender for NLE and not Expressions, my work flow just became a heck of a lot faster, as I lost an encoding step!

Totally Off Topic


29. May 2011

 

Well here is one out of nowhere.  StudioGPU have released their flagship product MachStudio Pro 2 for free.  Real free too so far as I can tell, not free with an asterisk free.  For those of you that have never heard of MachStudio, it is in very rough terms a near to realtime renderer that makes use of your GPU.  In their own words:

 

StudioGPU's MachStudio Pro reinvents the 3D visualization production pipeline by putting the power of real-time graphics processing at your fingertips.

Render times that typically take hours or days are reduced to minutes and even seconds, limiting artists only to the scope of their creativity.

MachStudio Pro lets you truly Work at the Speed of Thought!

 

 

A Blender exporter is coming soon, but for now it does support importing FBX files.  Previous to this announcement, MachStudio sold for 4 grand!

 

Now the downside… you need a 1GB Direct X 11 GPU to run it.  In the world of desktops, that’s not too demanding.  For people like myself that buy only laptops, then it gets a bit trickier.  My best GPU is currently 512MB, but I am downloading it anyways to see what happens.

 

At that price though, if you have the system to run it, what are you waiting for, go download it now!

 

 

For those who ignore minimum requirements, just an FYI, it simply refused to run on my non-DX11 card.

Art


28. May 2011

 

As YouTube allows videos up to 1080p in size and does a very good job of providing downsampled versions, from now on I will try to publish all future videos in 1080p.  The only exception are videos capture on my 720p laptop…. which will obviously be 720p. Only downside is, some of these can get pretty blasted big!

 

Also, I am now using a utility to display what keys and buttons are being pressed, which should make it easier to follow along with what I am doing, while minimizing the amount of explanation I have to make.  Well, that’s the plan anyways.

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