Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Have you ever wanted to share one keyboard and mouse with multiple computers?  Sure, you could buy one of those KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switches and wire it all up, but there's no need for that when you can just install Synergy.

The beauty of Synergy is that it works over your network, and it's available for multiple platforms.  No new wires to mess with.  Just install the software, set some parameters, and you're off and running.  Drag your mouse off the edge of the screen on one computer and it instantly appears on the other.  Boom!

And that's just the beginning.  Want to copy text from one computer to another?  Synergy supports that.  The developers are even working to support file drag-and-drop between systems.  How cool is that?

If you have multiple computers at your desk, skip the hardware KVM (or worse yet, separate peripherals for each) and get Synergy.

Contest postponed

You know, I was afraid that I'd jumped on the contest idea a bit too soon.  Sure enough, I haven't had time to even wrangle the details together.  Conceptually it's all there, but there are several things that need to be put into place before I can kick it off, and it's just not gonna happen right now.  Heck, I haven't even had time to work on the update in a while.

My apologies for the premature announcement.  When it's actually to roll, you'll hear more.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Contest announcement delay

I thought I'd have the earlier part of this week to get ready for today's official kickoff of the tweenMachine Design Contest, but then life happened. I may have time to work on it before the weekend is out, but if not, it'll have to wait 'til next week. My apologies for the delay.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


You know, I was thinking that the tweenMachine Facebook page needs some art.  I was also thinking that with the new Python version of tweenMachine coming, maybe it's time to get a new shelf button icon as well.  Thinking about those two thinks spawned another think, one that I hope will be fun and interactive.  So without further ado, it's time to announce...

The tweenMachine Design Contest!

The tweenMachine Design Contest will present a unique challenge for graphic designers, and a unique opportunity to have your designs seen in multiple locations, both in Maya and on the web.

What's so unique about it?  Well, the contest centers around the creation of two images, each serving a dual purpose...

  • Image 1 will be used as the new official tweenMachine shelf button icon in Maya AND as the profile image on the tweenMachine Facebook page.
  • Image 2 will be used as a header graphic for the new "About" dialog in the upcoming tweenMachine update in Maya AND as the cover image on the tweenMachine Facebook page.
  • Both images will also likely be used in other places as well: web sites, documentation, etc.
The images will need to be created based on very specific guidelines, so don't start on anything yet.  I will announce the full contest details when it officially kicks off on August 1st.  Stay tuned for more!

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Okay, I feel just a little embarrassed.

In the last post, I ended with a teaser about a possible teaching opportunity, saying that I would share "more on that later."  I guess that I got so wrapped up in actually doing it that I forgot to come back later and write about it.

In early April, I began teaching the inaugural Intro to Maya class with AnimSchool.  I was approached about the opportunity by my friend Tony Bonilla, who works as the curriculum manager for AnimSchool in addition to teaching several classes.  It didn't take much prodding for Tony to convince me that this could be a fun opportunity, so I took the plunge.  As of this writing, the term is nearly over, and I can definitely say that it's been a great experience, and I'm looking forward to the next term, which kicks off in July.

One of the perks that the students get at AnimSchool is a full recording of every live class lecture.  Little did I know that Tony and friends would take one of these lectures and turn it into a short promo video for the course.   I guess I should have seen it coming.  ;)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Joinin' Jamaroos!

It's funny...when I switched from 3D animation to technical development at Reel FX several years ago, I was pretty much ready to just let animation go and never do it again.  Even though several friends and colleagues responded to this change with comments like, "Once an animator, always an animator," I wasn't convinced.  I mean, animation at that time had sorta become an artsy synonym for "stress" in my book.  Why on earth would I want to pick it up again?

I bet you know where this is going.

Yup.  I'm animating again.

You know what else?

It's fun again!

Zap the zebra from Jamaroos
Early last week I sat down with Dale Carman, one of the co-founders of Reel FX, who had approached me about possibly contributing both creatively and technically to a side project of his called Jamaroos.  It's a series of interactive books for the iPhone and iPad (and related iDevices) that aims to entertain and engage young readers with fun stories and characters.  The first book in the series, Z is for Zap, is already available for the iPad on the iOS app store, with an iPhone version coming soon.

I quickly became interested in the project, and joined the Jamaroos team as a freelance animator/developer.  For now I'm helping to complete animation on the next book in the series, J is for Jag, but I hope to get a taste of the development side of things in the future.  And yes, I'll probably do a little voice work as well.  :)

So what makes animating on Jamaroos so fun?  After working on it for the past week or so, I think it has to do with simplicity: the characters are very simply designed and drawn, and the animation tool we're using has very simple controls for animating them.  This forces us to keep our animation simple, but don't think that simple means boring.  These books are all about rewarding kids' touches on the screen with entertaining moments, and I'm blessed to be creating these moments alongside my friend Barrett Lewis, one of my former Reel FX compadres and a creative lead on the Jamaroos project.  We're constantly throwing ideas back and forth, and are pouring all of our animation knowledge into these characters to make their performances as lively and whimsical as possible while working within the constraints of the animation tool.  I'm constantly amazed at what we're able to come up with using nothing but 2D images assembled into simple hierarchies, and animated mostly using position, rotation, and scale.  It's forcing us to think much more creatively, which just adds to the fun of it all once we see what we can actually pull off.

So yeah, I'm animating again, and I'm having a blast doing it.  What's more, I'm only doing it part-time, so I can do other work as well, like VO and acting...

...and maybe teaching?

More on that later.  ;)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Winnin' with minions, part 2

Dang, this just keeps gettin' cooler.  :)

Last night, another award was bestowed up on "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem," the 3D ride film that was produced at Reel FX for the fine folks at Universal Orlando and Illumination Entertainment.  This one was from the Visual Effects Society, another of the major names in award-giving for the CG/VFX industry, and was for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project.

To win both an Annie Award and a VES Award in the same year may not be that big of a deal for some studios, but it's a huge deal for Reel FX.  Unless my memory is fading prematurely, the studio has never won an Annie Award, though several of its creations have been nominated in past years.  I'm not as clear about the VES awards.  I know the studio has submitted material in the past, and I think received nominations, but I don't recall if any VES awards have followed.  If someone at the studio sees this and can correct the record, I'll update the post accordingly.

Memory-fuzziness aside, to receive awards from both organizations in the same year is a major achievement for Reel FX, and I applaud my formerly-fellow studio minions for their amazing work on this project.  Even though I'm no longer with the studio, I was very deeply involved in the project while I was there, and couldn't be happier about this pair of awards.  While the bestowal of awards is never (or shouldn't be) the goal of any effort of this kind, it's wonderfully gratifying when one is received.  When that one becomes two, it's a double helping of awesomesauce.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Winnin' with minions

One of the final projects that I worked on at Reel FX before making the jump was "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem," a ride film for Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios.  It was a blast getting to work with Gru, the girls, and of course the ever-present minions, but it was quite a challenge at several levels, and many of the technical hurdles came across my desk at various points throughout the project's production.  I specifically remember spending several incredibly-late nights at the studio, feverishly cranking on code or troubleshooting problematic playblasts.  To say that I've got mixed feelings about the project is an understatement, so it was quite gratifying to surface from fixing some elusive technical issues on a freelance programming job to find reports that "Minion Mayhem" won for Best Animated Special Production in the Annie Awards!

Congratulations to all of my friends and former co-workers who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the job.  Y'all done good, gang.  :)

Friday, January 25, 2013


Six months ago yesterday -- July 24, 2012 -- was my last day of full-time employment.

Six months ago today was the beginning of my full-time pursuit of my passions: primarily acting and voiceover, but not forgetting programming, as I still like to get my geek on.

I mentioned this to my wife yesterday, and her first question was, "Do you regret it?"

As I stood there and thought about everything that's happened in the past six months, I really didn't know how to answer that question. In an odd way, it feels like it's too soon to tell yet. I've definitely enjoyed the many new experiences that I've had during that time -- things that I never could have done if I still had a day job -- but there have been plenty of times when I've gone to bed a total mental and emotional mess because I had no idea how we were going to pay for the next big bill that was due in just a few days. So far, though, we've been blessed with lots of little miracles in those moments of madness...

  • a friend would pay us to watch their dog while they're on a trip
  • a long-awaited check from a previous job would finally arrive in the mail
  • my wife would pick up a new piano student
  • I'd pick up some extra hours at a seasonal job

...and the list goes on.

Thinking about possible regrets, there's only one that comes to mind readily: I regret not setting aside more funds before making the leap. The first couple months weren't so bad, but it's been getting progressively scarier since then, even with the little miracles that still pop up to save the day.

Do I regret it?

Let me get back to you on that. I've got work to do.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Animate a Face" now online!

Wow!  It's been a while since I've written anything in this blog.  Not terribly surprising considering my career shift, but anyway, I've got some awesome news to share...

My "Animate a Face" tutorial videos are now available online!

For those who may not have heard of this product, the original was released in 2004, and was a 2 CD-ROM set containing 15 videos -- nearly 4 hours of fully-narrated screen-captured material -- all about the wonderful world of facial animation, including a couple detailed lip sync demonstrations.  As I was reviewing the videos to get them ready for uploading to MindBites, it was a little weird seeing such outdated animation software (I used Animation:Master v10.5, per my contract with Anzovin Studio).  However, as I've said numerous times about this product, it was created with a focus on principles over programs.  The core material is all about animation, and is just as useful now as it was then.  And now, it's a heckuvalot cheaper!  The original CD set made its debut at about $50 if I remember correctly, but on MindBites you can buy individual lessons for a buck or two, or the whole collection for less than $15!

If you want to really dig into facial animation, check out this material.  Happy animating!