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I have in my hands my first advance copy of Animating with Blender: How To Create Short Animations from Start to Finish! It looks really nice. In the end, I wasn’t super jazzed about the cover design, but due to production issues we had run out of time. Oh well. It’s certainly a friendly cover, although it doesn’t convey the depth in which the whole pipeline is explained.

At the end of August, I’ll be doing the web release of The Beast, in 720p HD. There will be downloadables, a crummy YouTube version, and a nice streaming HD version on Vimeo. When it’s time, it’ll get it’s own page, as well as a link from here and the main Blender forums, just to make sure that no one misses it. I’m down to re-working the titles in HD. The animation itself is re-rendered, and I only have to finish the titles and pump the whole thing through the final compositing network, which takes several hours.

I’ve just gone back and read some bits and pieces from the book, and it’s such a different experience from writing or revising it on screen. I’ve found that while I’m writing something, I think it’s great. Then, when it’s out of my hands my confidence in the voice and material falls by several orders of magnitude, and I’m convinced it sucks and will be the object of ridicule. Finally, when I dare to crack the cover of the finished piece, I read a little and find myself saying “not bad… not bad…” and even “that’s pretty good…” in some places. Thus it was with The Essential Blender, and hopefully how it will be with this

The real test, though, is when people in the target audience finally get the book. Despite accusations of arrogance from time to time throughout my life (It’s just confidence I tell you!), I know enough to realize that I’m not the one who will ultimately declare something I write anything better than “good.” That can be done by others, and only if it deserves it. We’ll see next month!

Usually the Blender development projects that I work on are a direct response to a production problem I’ve encountered. BlenderPeople created animation baking, the Floor Constraint, Visual Keying and Python API enhancements. The Beast birthed Sequencer and Action Editor selection method upgrades. One other problem I ran into during The Beast was shadow control, but didn’t have time to address it in the sources during production. Often, I would get my light placement and intensity just right only to discover that shadows were just too dark in one or two places. As the balance between materials and lamps is tricky to get just right, I was loathe to start adding lamps (the standard method of fixing too-shadowed areas) or altering lamp intensity.

Wouldn’t it be easier, and better for the overall shading and looked that you’ve struggled to craft, if you could just turn down the intensity of the shadow of the offending lamp?

Of course it would!

Now you can.

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This probably won’t be of use to anyone who reads this website for Blender information or even a general interest in stuff that I’m working on. However, whenever I’ve solved a technical problem that apparently hasn’t yet been solved (i.e., searches turn up lots of people asking the question but no one giving a real answer), I like to document it so that anyone after me who has the same problem can find my solution. Thus: “For The Record”.

When using MS Access as a front end to a MySQL database through ODBC, updating a record can cause a warning message that the records could not be updated “due to lock violations”. It turns out that it has nothing to with locking. Access will throw this warning and disallow the update if the data you are attempting to update is the same as the incoming update.

So, with this simple query:

“UPDATE TblParameters SET Value=’1587′ WHERE Parameter=’CurrentCustomer’;”

You will get a “lock violation” if the Value field already contains “1587″.

If you’re doing this interactively, you can just click through the warning. However, if you’re getting this problem in the middle of a program or script, all you need to do is to enclose the Update command within an if/then statement that checks to see if the value you want to update is already at the desired value. If they are already the same, just skip it.

Yes, it’s one extra step, and one more hit on the DB, but that’s what you get for using Access as a front end.

A big thanks to everyone who came out to see Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny at the Creative Treehouse in Bellevue tonight! It was a lot of fun meeting everyone and jawing about Blender. It was also cool to finally see ED and BBB on something bigger than my TV set.

I also wanted to plug the Creative Treehouse — it’s a big work-in-progress studio space that’s available 24/7 to members. Basically it’s a large work/lounge space that would be perfect for creatives who don’t have an office, but who don’t feel they can get their artistic mojo going at home. They also have a photo set with lighting for photographers. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and wish you had a place to go to work on your creative stuff, you should check out their web site:

 http://creativetreehousepgh.com/

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