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On July 26, the Western Pennsylvania Linux Users Group will be showing both Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny at the Creative Treehouse in Pittsburgh, which will be followed by a 45-minute presentation/demo/talk and Q & A about Blender by yours truly.

Details of the event can be found on the WPLUG wiki:

http://www.wplug.org/w/index.php/Meeting-20080726

Any Blenderheads in the Pittsburgh area are encouraged to just show up!

Check back here before you leave, though, as the Creative Treehouse doesn’t have air conditioning, and there is a slight possibly that the shrinking violets of the Pittsburgh Open Source community may move or reschedule the event if in fact it is hotter than the surface of the sun that day. Personally, I love it. The hotter the better. I was thinking of bringing one of those portable outdoor blast heaters that you hook directly up to a propane tank, just in case it isn’t 115 degrees inside.

In addition to the Blender demo, I’ll be doing, like, backflips and all the other stuff I used to practice before I got bounced from the U.S. men’s Olympic team for freebasing strawberry Charleston Chews back in the 80′s.

More Linux Praise

Right now, I have both my laptop and desktop rendering away on the HD version of The Beast, with the main files housed on the laptop (they’ll be transfered to the workstation later). Both Blenders just hit the shot file over the network. Now, on to the Linux stuff. While both machines are on teh Internets via wireless, I made a cross-over cable (Cat5e) today and just wired them together for significantly faster network throughput. There’s no sense going both ways over the air and through the cheapo Linksys router if you don’t have to. I was pleased with the ease of setup of the multi-homing solution in Ubuntu. I was able to use the GUI tools and not drop down to command line level. So, cool.

However, the Connect to Server option available from the Gnome desktop isn’t reachable via command line, it seems, or really mounted anywhere, so I could access the other machine across the network with it. I had to go to the command line, where a “mount -t smbfs …” command did the trick. One for two. Oh well.

Anyway, I’ve found that I’m not only impressed with Blender’s rendering speed under Linux, but it also seems to make significantly better use of my graphics card (nVidia Quadro FX 550) than Windows ever did. Scenes that were frame skipping while panning in 3D on Windows are just cruising along. I tweak some of the first shot’s animation in Linux, and the response time when working was so much better, I’ll be booting into Ubuntu for animation work from now on.

The book manuscript has been with Focal Press since the middle of last month. Since then, we’ve finalized the DVD, and they’ve been sending me .PDFs of the final book for review. As soon as that process is done (this week), the book will be off to the printer, which takes a looooong time. I started writing in January, which means that a lot of the stuff has gone “cold” to me since then. In writing terms, that means that I can read it as a third party, as opposed to the author. If you try to read something too soon after you write it, it’s still “hot” and you can’t really read it objectively. The point is that, reading it cold now, it’s very good.

I’ve also started working on the tweaking and re-render for the August release of The Beast. The production version of the animation is finalized and on the book’s DVD. However, over the next month and a half I’ll be spending a little more time on the animation itself to give it another round of refinement. Also, I’m rendering in HD at 16:9 (the production version is NTSC 4:3) and have updated the lighting and compositing pipeline for a better outcome. The overall sound will be getting a remix by the music’s composer.

In my quest to reduce render times, especially now that I’m going HD (1080p), I decided to try out the always-stated fact that Blender renders faster under Linux than Windows. I installed Ubuntu 8.04 (64-bit, using wubi) on my laptop (Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM), and after using Envy to install the proper nVidia drivers, found that it was true. An HD frame (1920×1080) from the opening shot renders in 1:50 in Linux, but takes 2:55 in Windows XP. Same computer, dual booting. Yikes. That’s crazy. I’ll be installing this on my main workstation, too. That’s going to drastically cut render times.

Handoff and Sound

The manuscript of the book has been handed off to Focal Press so they can work their editorial magic! The Beast is nearing completion (well, book completion, but more about that in a second), with only one shot left to lip sync and render. The music, which you’ll hear about in a later post, has been composed and delivered. I’ll be doing a final edit, color correction, Foley and export this week.

* I say Book completion, because I will continue to refine The Beast during the summer, even though I have to include a version with the book within the next few weeks. All of the instructional aspects of the animation will still be 100% valid with the version included with the book, but the final animation I’ll be releasing at the end of the summer enjoy a higher level of polish.

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