Friday, December 10, 2010

A Glass of Wine

My class is coming along quite nicely. I am pretty pleased with how my wine glass and wine have turned out. I went in and added spots and fingerprints to the wine glass to add a little more realism to the whole thing. Overall, I think it is looking quite good.

I think I need to spend a little more time on the pitcher. I'm not thrilled with the top design yet, and I want to add more to the handle.

If I have the time.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

15 Fictional Characters

Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who've influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what characters my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)

1. Captain America from Marvel Comics

2. Wile E. Coyote from Looney Toons

3. Belgarath from David Edding’s Belgariod seies

4. Han Solo from Star Wars

5. Thor from Marvel Comics

6. Superman from DC Comics

7. Sherlock Holmes

8. Hercule Poirot

9. Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

10. Scotty from Star Trek

11. Duncan MacLeod from the Highlander TV series

12. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

13. Rowlf the Dog from the Muppets

14. G’Kar from Babylon 5

15. Doctor Who

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Textures: Cloth

The textures of cloth is really tricking in 3DS Max. I don't have it all quite figured out, but I'm getting there. I have added many layers and levels to get this cloth to look right. I've got a bump map for the textures, a sec map to create the reflectivity level of the cloth, and an opacity map that allows us to see through it. It's taking a lot of concentration and so forth to make it all work. I also don't have all the processes down quite yet. What you are seeing is actually frame 20 of 100. I don't know how to make the fabric relaxed like this at the start of the animation instead of at the end.

Once I got the fabric about where I wanted it, I had to add tears and stains. If you take a look at the second image, you can see the winestain I added on the cloth, and it certainly has more frayed edges, and you can see through the weave. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how this is coming out.

For the first time in four classes, I am really enjoying this again. Part of it is the pacing. This is a professor who fully understands that her students are mainly working folk who have limited time. The material is coming at me at a speed that I can actually learn it instead of 'oh-my-gawd-gotta-get-this-done' speed. I've been able to breath and absorb the information. It's been WONderful.

Although, I don't know if my grade will fully reflect how much I've actually learned. Ah, well. That will make up for the B+ I got in my on-line Math class. I really didn't understand any of the last concept, and still pulled off a B+ in it.

I'll be posting the work on my wine glass next. It will look cool!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Getting a Head in the World...

One of the projects I was going to take time to learn to do better during December was to create a much more realistic looking head in my 3DS Max program. It's something that I've been looking forward to trying. I was going to spend time searching for a good tutorial that I would fully understand. I was going to go through step by step from the books that I have had to buy. I was going to do it slowly and methodically over several days, especially since my ADD kicks in so badly when I try to spend too much time at once on a single project.

Well, one of my assignments for my textures class was to create a head and then create an interesting bump map for it. I had just a few days to create it. I charged ahead, and the head shape was a disaster. I never did get the eyes put in. You do have to admit, though, that the scales on my character really do look pretty effective! I was happy with the texture.

I'm still going to be working hard on another head during my vacation. When I get that done, I'll share that, too.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Avid Reader - November 2010

Ah, the things we’ll do for love. My wife’s favorite mystery series is written by a gentleman named Jonathan Gash. The lead character, Lovejoy, is an antiques dealer; with a single glance, he can tell if an antique is valuable or a forgery – which makes sense since he is an excellent forger, perennially broke, amoral when it comes to women, and a firm believer in taking justice into his own hands. He also grows on you. I had tried to read Lovejoy before, but I couldn’t get past the first five pages without loathing him. I struggled past them and got to the mystery, and found myself engrossed. Even though I had suspicions of who the murderer was, I didn’t have all the pieces in place, even though they were wide open. The narrative style is told from the first person with little bits and pieces of humor and observations directed directly to the audience. Lovejoy is a rogue, and a truly great ‘gray’ character. ‘Gold by Gemini’ is Lovejoy’s second book; I thought it was the first. I will be going back and reading the first one in early December. I give ‘Gold By Gemini’ a B.

I did go back to my Star Wars sagas after my excursion into mystery. The next book chronologically for the Star Wars Expanded Universe is ‘X-Wing: Wraith Squadron.’ Aaron Allston took over the writing of the series from Michael Stackpole, and Allston takes the X-Wing series a completely different direction. It is the first of the X-Wing books not to focus in on Rogue Squadron, but has Wedge Antilles, the commander of Rogue Squadron, forming a new squadron. It is the Star Wars version of the Dirty Dozen. The characters, for the most part, are washouts from other areas of the New Republic. I did feel rather abruptly pulled from Rogue Squadron and its characters and to start caring about the new characters of the Wraith Squadron. I wasn’t thrilled with the portrayal of Wedge Antilles in the book. Even so, the new characters were interesting and growth in one of the main characters, Kell Tainer, was well thought out. Overall, I’d give ‘Wraith Squadron’ a C+

My friend Dag Rossman gave me a book by one of my favorite authors – Neil Gaiman. I was thrilled. The book is called ‘Fragile Things.’ It’s a collection of short stories, most with a fantasy center to them. I have to admit it’s been a long time since I’ve read short stories. I think I have to go back when I was teaching in the late 90’s to when I really read short stories. It really is a different type of reading from novel reading. One can immerse oneself in the environment of a novel, whereas in a short story, it is just a taste. I also found I did not like it as much. I’d just get involved in the world the wordsmith created, and then it was done. I was rather irritated at that. I enjoyed a couple of the stories – the first being an interesting combination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the horror world of H.P Lovecraft. The final story was a re-visit the world of Gaiman’s novel ‘American Gods.’ I enjoyed that, but that’s because it was a return to a world that I had immersed myself in before. While well written, I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. I give ‘Fragile Things’ a B-.

Apparently I enjoyed ‘Wraith Squadron’ more than I thought I did because I went right back to the Star Wars Universe.In ‘X-Wing: Iron Fist’ by Aaron Allston, the Wraith Squadron really started to grow on me during the second book. The focus of the story turned from Kell Tainer to ‘Face’ Loran, a former child star who had been in many Imperial docu-dramas about the greatness of the Empire and recruiting for the Imperial navy. His development was an adequate read. The other person it focused on was a double agent for the Empire. Gara Petothel, took the name Lara Nostil to infiltrate Wraith Squadron for the over-arcing villain Warlord Zsinj. Keeping her identity hidden, she starts having second thoughts. Her development is not nearly as convincing as I think trained Imperial spy should be. Wedge Antilles is still the commander of Wraith Squadron, but once again, I’m not that thrilled with his treatment, , and I felt like when Han Solo came on the scene, I was missing half of the story between Han and Warlord Zsinj. I am reading the Star Wars books in chronologic order, and I am sure that the hatred between the two is explained somewhere, but it hasn’t been explained yet. ‘Iron Fist is a step up from Wraith Squadron, but I still can only give it a B-.

I continued my meanderings through the series I have enjoyed by going back to the Riverworld series and re-reading ‘The Magic Labyrinth’ by Philip Jose Farmer. As I have said in previous ‘Avid Reader’ posts, I am a sucker for Bangsian fantasy, and Farmer’s Riverworld series is amongst the best. In the first three books, Farmer sets up the world, introduces the quest, and sets up opponents. In ‘The Magic Labyrinth,’ he brings them to fruition. He continues jumping from character’s point of view to characters point of view. He’ll start with Sir Richard Francis Bacon (the main protagonist) to Sam Clemens/Mark Twain to Farmer’s counterpart Peter Frigate to Cyrano de Bergerac. This was a book of action, of loss, of redemption, and of overcoming trials. I did enjoy the book, although there were a couple of chapters where Farmer goes off on his philosophic ramblings, but nothing compared to what he did in the previous book. Overall, I enjoyed the book and give it an A-.

I only read one new graphic novel this past month. It was ‘Siege: Thor.’ It is a tie-in to the mini-series ‘Siege.’ Last month, I reviewed ‘Siege’ and gave it a B+. Last month, I also reviewed ‘Secret Invasion: Thor,’ which was Thor’s tie-in to the previous mini-series, and gave that one an C-. I am giving ‘Siege: Thor’ an A. Yes, you read right. An A. ‘Siege: Thor’ does exactly what a tie-in to one of those huge universe wide events should do. In the main ‘Siege’ book, we see what Thor is doing, and we see a little of what the other Asgardians are doing. ‘Siege: Thor’ fills in the blanks. We see what Thor’s supporting cast is doing. It is a direct tie-in. It expands on what King Balder of Asgard is doing, and what Heimdall the Guardian and Tyr god of war are doing. This book is the best treatment that Tyr has ever gotten. Perhaps most importantly, we see what happened to Volstagg who was used by Norman Osborn (AKA the Green Goblin) to start the invasion of Asgard. I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and actually rate it higher than the parent book. I repeat: I give ‘Seige: Thor’ an A.

Taking a step away from the fantasy and science fiction, I went to the mysteries to look at one of the most famous literary detectives ever created. I am speaking of one of Dame Agatha Christie’s creations – Hercule Poirot. Poirot is a little man with a elegant mustache, slight obsessive compulsive tendencies, and an incredible mind filled with ‘little gray cells.’ The first book in his series is ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles.’ We are introduced first to the narrator, Captain Hastings, a soldier back from WWI who wishes to become a detective. He finds himself embroiled in a mysterious poisoning death of his hostess, and also happens to have Poirot, a retired Belgian detective, living nearby (displaced by WWI). Poirot and Hastings hit it off well, although Poirot’s mind works so much faster than Hasting’s that both come close to despair as Hasting barks up the wrong tree and Poirot does not share what he knows. One of the wonderful things about Christie’s writing is that all the clues are there to ‘see’ so the astute reader can figure it out, but seeing it through Hasting’s eyes blurs the importance of various clues. I enjoy books where I have the chance to figure it out before the detective reveals everything. I have to admit, I did not have it all figured out in the end and was just a surprised as Hastings was when Poirot revealed the end. ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ is a decent first book for a series that has 33 books and several short stories in it. I give it an A.

The final book I read in November was the final book in the Riverworld series. I was surprised when the fifth book came out. I thought the ‘The Magic Labyrinth’ had tied up all the loose strings. Author Philip Jose Farmer did not think so. ‘The Gods of Riverworld’ returns to the single person’s point of view. We see this final book from Sir Richard Francis Burton’s point of view. Burton and his companions figure out the technology of the Ethicals, the people who created Riverworld, and start experimenting with it. The resurrect many people, including a disastrous one that nearly destroys them all. I’m not sure if this book was truly necessary, but it was not a bad read, and there is only one chapter where Farmer steps out of the characters to expound upon a point of philosophy. I don’t mind the characters arguing philosophy, but it does drive me crazy when it’s not done ‘in character’ but as an ‘aside chapter.’ The battle at the end is entertaining; if you look at the cover, you’ll see what the battle entails. On a much darker note, in this book I saw the most brutal and fair punishment of rape that I have seen in fiction. Overall , I did find the book entertaining and an adequate end to Farmer’s Riverworld series. I do know that there are two collections of short stories that feature other famous people who awaken on the river (among them Will Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Adolph Hitler), but none that have an over-arcing quest like these first five books. I give ‘The Gods of Riverworld’ a solid B.