Monday, September 27, 2010

Maya/Qt posting delays

Yes, I plan on posting more about the transition from Maya's UI to Qt. A few posts have already been started. Sadly, though, the reality of my busy schedule has once again reared its head (I don't dare say it's doesn't like that). Priorities being what they are, those other posts are on the back burner for a while. My apologies for the delay.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Maya to Qt: Preface

Before digging into the meat of the Maya-to-Qt discussion, I should probably cover some basics first.

Software Versions

Because all of my Maya/Qt work is currently happening at Reel FX (as I still don't have a current version of Maya at home for various reasons), everything I do will be based on the software versions installed at Reel FX. As of this writing, we're using PyQt 4 with Qt 4.4.2. Most of my work at this point is with Maya 2009. While we do have later versions available, and I may make occasional reference to idiosyncrasies in those versions, assume for the most part that this is all happening in Maya 2009.


One thing that I definitely won't talk about in these posts is how to install either Qt or PyQt, or how to get PyQt conversing with Maya in versions prior to 2011. I'm avoiding that hurdle largely because it was cleared for me by the folks at work, so I don't have any hands-on experience to share in that regard. If you want, head on over to Nathan Horne's blog, where he has kindly shared some packages that he put together to make the PyQt installation process a little easier. I haven't personally used those, though, so I can't offer any comments on their effectiveness.

Code Content

While the code samples that I list will be (ideally) fairly complete, I may only present partial code pieces here and there, partly because I'll be pulling some of these examples from actual stuff I'm doing at work. Those omissions are not only to address code-proprietary-ness issues, but because of some customizations that were done to unify all of our Maya/PyQt development at Reel FX. Just be aware of that in case you copy-paste any code samples that you find here. I'll leave in the essential stuff like imports, naturally, but some other parts won't be there.

I think that about covers it. In the first post (coming soon), we'll take a look at Qt's signals and slots, and then delve into meatier UI topics from there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Python/Qt posts pending

After mulling over the matter of this pesky blog a bit more, I think I finally hit on a topic that will keep me posting semi-regularly, at least for a little while. Seeing that I'm learning all kinds of fun new things as I try to rework various Maya tools at Reel FX to use the Qt framework instead of Maya's own UI framework, I will do my best to share those discoveries here in the interest of helping those who may be traveling a similar path.

In my online searches to figure out this stuff, I've seen plenty of "generic" examples of how to use the various classes available in the Qt framework (and the PyQt module used to interface with it), but haven't stumbled across many that address the specific issues faced by Maya developers. I'd like to remedy that (or at least try to) in this blog.

While Qt offers so much more flexibility than Maya's UI tools, the level of functionality that I find myself trying to achieve in my first full UI conversion (which is about 80% done as of this writing) is that of simply matching Maya's existing capabilities. As inflexible as the default Maya UI tools are compared to Qt (speaking of the original MEL-based tools that have been around for so long), the Maya developers provided fairly easy access to a number of very useful features: popup menus, drag-and-drop, grouped radio buttons, widgets with attached labels, etc. I imagine that many pre-Qt developers who have been coding Maya interfaces for a while -- in either MEL or Python -- are probably at least a little bit like me, and have reached a point where these features are taken for granted to some extent. You may look at that list and say, "What's the big deal? Widgets with labels? Pshaw! That's standard!" Yeah, well it was a bit of an interesting revelation to discover that many of these features don't come auto-attached to most (if any) widgets in the Qt framework. The ability to use these features is all there, but it takes a bit more work on the front end to set them up. Some require very little work, while others require a bit more.

That's the kind of stuff that I'd like to cover here. In short, I want to do my best to answer the "how do I replicate [insert Maya UI feature here] using Qt?" question. That's what's been running through my mind over the past couple days, and I've made some interesting discoveries in my search for the answers. Generally speaking, it's fairly easy to match what Maya can do. However, the real fun begins when you realize how much farther you can go, and I'll try to offer some of those "go farther" tips as well.

As I've said before, I don't have an official programming background -- just a deep passion for problem-solving and tinkering. Most of this stuff is coming to me through trial and error, with a little help from the Qt framework docs and various web searches, so there may be hiccups in some of the stuff I present. If your experience has led you to do things differently, or if I just flat-out get something wrong, feel free to speak up.

By the way...did you know that the official pronunciation of "Qt" is "cute"? Before digging into it, I heard tons of references to "Q-T", but not one talking about it with its real name. Is it because it's a bunch of guys who have this thing with saying "cute" in the context of programming geekiness? Is it ignorance? A bit of both, perhaps? No matter. You can say it however you wish. As for me, it's "cute" all the way. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The latest goings-(Pyth)on

Now that animation has wrapped at Reel FX on both Open Season 3 and the three Wile E / Roadrunner shorts, I'm back to updating the animation tools. While I was able to do a little development during production, it's tough making big changes for various reasons. With things flowing a bit slower now, it's nice to finally have the time to tackle some long-overdue to-do items.

One particular programming puzzle piece that I've been half dreading, half eagerly-anticipating is Qt. For those not in the know, Qt is (in the words of its current developer, Nokia) "a cross-platform application and UI framework." With the popular PyQt module that provides an interface to this framework for Python users, its use in the development of tools and interfaces for CG software has grown immensely, just as Python's use has grown in the same field.

The TD team at Reel FX has been steadily pushing farther into Qt development over the past several months, but production demands pretty much kept me from taking a serious look at it until last week. After just a few days of play, though, I'm already a fan/convert/addict. Just as Python is so much more versatile than MEL, Qt's UI tools are WAY more versatile than the UI tools provided by Maya. My mind is reeling with so many ideas of how we can significantly upgrade our animation tools to take advantage of the versatility provided by the Qt toolkit. While I'm far from an expert at it after only a few days, I've managed to conduct several successful tests of greatly enhanced functionality for our character GUI system, and can't wait to overhaul the whole thing and put the new pieces in place.

The only hitch is that getting Maya set up to use the Qt framework takes a bit of work, at least if you're using Maya 2009 (which we still are for some recent projects). While the folks at work have taken care of that already, and we are already using Qt for a greater number of internal Maya tools, we have several tools that are also used by remote animators who are hired to help us with various projects. By relying only upon the toolset within Maya up until now, we've been able to minimize the setup hassle for remote artists. If we suddenly ask folks to also go through the necessary steps to get Maya and Qt talking, we'll likely run into some problems, and that kind of remote support is something that we're just not prepared to handle.

This means that until production switches to using the later versions of Maya that have built-in Qt support, it's going to be difficult to justify spending much time on the tools that are used by both internal and external animators, which is just a tad frustrating. However, there are plenty of internal-only things that can be upgraded, which will give me time to become more familiar with Qt's idiosyncrasies.

On a somewhat-related note, I've taken on yet another side job. This one's more informal, though, but it also involves Python. One of my friends owns a dent-repair business, and he approached me a few weeks ago asking for help with something that will perform a bunch of calculations and track certain information related to the jobs done by him and his team members. Originally he wanted to do everything in a spreadsheet, and in our initial meeting we came up with something that worked fairly well after a couple hours. However, as my friend came up with additional features that he wanted for this system, it quickly became apparent that while it's certainly possible to do the whole thing via spreadsheets, in the long run it would be too much of a headache. I've been wanting to try my hand at standalone development for a while, and this looked like the perfect opportunity. To keep deployment simple, I plan on using Tkinter for the program interface, and will pack the whole thing up using py2exe. While I've only put a few hours into it so far, my experience with Python development at work is helping immensely. I could not imagine tackling something like this in my early Python programming days.

I hope to put out some more posts in the coming days/weeks with some further Python programming thoughts, but only time will tell if it actually happens.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Looney, you say?

Jerry over at Cartoon Brew just posted his thoughts about the new 3D CG short films featuring Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, the first of which can be seen in front of Cats and Dogs 2 beginning next week. The article features a few stills plus a 25-second clip from the first short. It's a real ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I don't often think about this, but summer is a celebration of two industry anniversaries for me. One in late June marks my entrance into the Reel FX family, while the other in mid-May marks my entrance into the animation industry. This year the counts are:

6 years at Reel FX
9 years overall

What brought this to mind was the realization that next year will bring the overall count into double digits. I realize that there are plenty of people who have been in the biz far longer than that, but consdidering (all together now) "these tough economic times" (*ahem*), I'm pleased as punch that I've managed to last this long. It's been quite an interesting ride, and I'm sure there are plenty of new thrills and spills (hopefully fewer of the latter than the former) on the road/track ahead.

I'll save the big gushy post for next year. For now, I'll just offer a brief but heartfelt thanks to God for allowing this all to happen, and to all those who I've had the pleasure of meeting along the way for making the journey interesting.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sorry, friends...

The last post had to be temporarily removed due to certain restrictions of which I was unaware. Kinda sad when lots of people know you did something, but you can't say it yourself. What a crazy world.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


If you don't know what "FWIW" means, you're probably not alone. At least one of the animators at Reel FX didn't know what it meant until yesterday. I used that acronym (which, BTW, means "For what it's worth") in a reply to a post he'd sent to the animation crew, and he responded with a puzzled look....well, a puzzled-looking email. After I explained it, one of the other guys chimed in with, "OTWTM IWLT" (later translating it into "Oh that's what that means. I was lost, too"). That, in turn, spawned numerous other comedic replies.

The last reply in the thread used selected letters from the original guy's name as a fake acronym, and that was the spark that led me to create the list below. It contains the name of every animator (and one non-animator) at Reel FX, but the names are all printed "long-form", as if the name were actually an acronym for something else. As you can see, I had way too much fun (and probably took more time than I should have) trying to figure out what that "something else" could be for each one. In most cases, I wasn't aiming for anything specific, though a few passages do contain items relating to actual qualities/traits about the associated individual.

While I figured everyone would get a kick out of the list, I wasn't prepared for the replies from the group. Almost immediately, people started replying in the same pseudo-acronym "code", taking their real message and expanding it out to a bunch of nonsense words and phrases. The exchange was so funny (IMO) that I asked for permission from the group to share their replies here as well. You find them below the main list. The scary thing is that some of them actually make sense outside of their fake acronym-ity.



David almost veered into dedicated luchadors, inflating Steve's big ego.

Kent enjoys new tomatoes, and leaves fifteen rabbits eating dessert.

Randy accidentally nudged Doug, yet handily applied yams evenly spaced.

Joe oversaw every jump, only hitting Nelson six times over nothing.

Justin upset Steve's tray, inverting nine bottles and royally ruining Ernesto's tea time.

Ray acquired yonder cheese? Huzzah! Always so excellent.

Bryan rode yaks, and nearly exceeded Nelson's greatest ride. Almost, man.

Ken's egrets never hike up long inclines near goats.

Ernesto races Nigerian elk, skillfully taking over better opportunities to teach gerbils English. Really!

Doug ousted underpaid garment labelers after sprinting liberally in Texan ostrich skins

Monica owns no ice cream, although avocados sometimes tempt one nibble.

Ben: excellent ninja, jumping all mountains instantly. No, really! Obviously superior athletic limbs easily scale.

Trevor recovers emeralds, vanquishing outrageous rhinos, yammering ocelots, unbelievably nefarious giraffes.

John obviously has nifty beats, excellent rapping rhymes, yo.

Steve takes elephants Venetian eggplant nuggets in chocolate hollow orbs, like so.

Michael intercepts camouflaged hairpieces, and even liberates hidden oranges lurking languidly amid nectarines during evening rituals.

Tim is mysterious, like a nondescript nugget of nougat

Abraham breaks reclusive armchairs, hammering at manifold armoires. "Give up! I like applied radiology!"

Sean, earnestly anticipating new encounters, recently made effervescent yogurt

Eric rips into chocolate deposits ravenously, overtly bypassing internal lemon essence

Dave avoids vicious emus, vivaciously applying liberal linguistics on next email

Tom overcooks meringue dishes and neatly engineers neckties.

Josh? Oh, snap! He creates awesomely rigged eyes. Yeah!

Nelson elevates limp sombreros over nineteen blazing rings on Wednesday nights.



Why are Steve and Nelson listed so frequently?
- Kent

Pure randomness. If someone's name came to mind at a certain point, and it fit the flow of the text, I used it.
- Me

So he understands the underlying problems, knowingly entertaining nobody today
- John

Has anyone had a half a** hamburger accident?
- Joe

Like old Lenny?
- John

Now I can eat
- Joe

Winning eliminates lame losers. People like all your excessive domination!
- David

You offer umbrellas and rain, even jokingly uttering sad thoughts... John empties angry lotus orbs under sweet juice oak humming nests.
- Kent

Is life in Kentuky exciting, capsules ate kewl envelopes
- Ray

pickle grandma rain yelling monkey September ninja brick pee pee whisper happy.
- Joe

Really answering Nelson's doorknock, you see that interesting neighbor Kent's sexiness.
- Kent

On hibiscus nibs, oranges wallow happily after tipsy housewives applied vivid eggplants in domes over next event
- Me

Y’all obviously underestimate all literary levity. How are varied enigmas written, and you’re totally overlooking obvious mastery? Unlike childish happenstance from really elementary efforts, this iteration marks expertise.
- Tim

Tony is missing wonderfully insane nonsensical stuff!
- David

Time I met your old ugly retarded obnoxious codger kid. Jackson unbelieving sucker thought Whitaker had a tight isolated white anger soon. Tenaciously heightening its noodley kind in near grossness.
- Randy