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I’ve handed off the last chapter of the book to my technical editor, the excellent Andy Dolphin (andyd). The book also has a page up at Amazon.com, although it’s not going to be shipping until September. As for The Beast, there is only about 15% left to render and edit. Things are nearing completion!

Final stretch of the book

I’m in the final stretch of writing the book. Next week, I write the rendering/compositing chapter, followed by the “final edit” chapter. Then, the manuscript goes to Focal Press, who edits, etc.

On the topic of The Beast,  I think it’s going to be a great learning tool. It’s not unbelievably complex like Elephants Dream was or (I’m guessing) Big Buck Bunny is, and I’m hoping the files and techniques will be accessible and useful to everyone who reads the book. In fact, a lot of the stuff I did in the animation were purposefully done in order to provide a teaching example for the book.

I’m getting frames back from the render farm as I work to clean and finish the animation for the 2/3 of shots that haven’t yet been rendered. There are some neat effects and some fairly simple but effective compositing setups for putting together scenes. It’s a lot of fun!

Header Quotes

I added a little thing to the wordpress theme I’m using that rotates a quote or phrase in the site header. I’ve had a few people ask about the phrases, so I thought I’d present them here with their source:

“Feel the Love” — frequent statement of the Right Reverend Love Master Mr. James Markham

“Practically Perfect People Never Let Sentiment Muddle Their Thinking” — Mary Poppins

“Come on Party Puppies – Put Your Paws in the Air” — dog-lover’s bastardization of The Roof is on Fire

“Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Should Be A Convenience Store not a Government Agency” — this one’s just the truth, man

“Be Audacious Brave and Courageous – Against These Weapons Society Has No Defense” — the ABC plan from Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man — Read this book. You won’t believe it was written fifty years ago, as opposed to, say, last month.

“It’s Better To Do Something Bad Now Than To Have To Do Something Horrible Later” — Walter Slovotsky (paraphrase)

“See the Torus” — a vaguely anal insult (or statement of spiritual quest) for 3D folks and math geeks

“Oh Good, My Dog Found the Chainsaw” — Lilo (the little girl, not the bootloader or queue type)

“That Is The Sound of Inevitability. It Is The Sound Of Your Death.” — Hugo Weaving, Devouring Scenery

“w00t to the Ceiling Cat!” — LOLCats translation of “Glory to God!”

I’m using Farmerjoe for rendering The Beast. The three elements about the software that have lead me to choose it are:

  1. I was able to get it working with minimal grief. It comes with Perl sources, plus compiled binaries for Windows, OSX and Linux, as well as a Python script for Blender for job submission.
  2. It allows you to run a heterogeneous farm: 1 Mac (Dual G5), 2 Linux (Dual Xeon), and 3 Windows (2 are Dual PIII, and one is a Quad Xeon, which, incidentally, chews up the renders like crazy)
  3. The ability to quickly use custom builds. No binaries are stored on any of the slave computers — you just plop your binaries on the master and set your paths correctly. This means that if you want to use updated builds, you just drop them in the ./bin folder on the master machine and all the slaves run with the updated binaries.

Adding slaves is as simple as mounting an SMB (Windows) share from the master host and typing a command. It also has a simple web interface that lets you track your jobs. Not as fancy as what the Peachers are using, but I don’t have Sun Microsystems as a donor on my project.

I’ve also finally identified the correct lighting setup for the renders. Of course, as the preliminary renders are being returned, I’m tweaking things (animation, materials, lighting, etc.) for the final high-quality renders. I’ve been looking for just the right interior lighting setup that will allow me minimize overall render times while keeping the quality of the interiors high and retaining controllability over the key lighting on the characters. It took me several iterations and some dead ends, but I’ve finally figured it out.

So, good news all around. By the way, I just passed the half-way point on the book this week.

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