Superfortress Sunrise

For the last month or so I’ve been buried in work relating to CNC machines and material constraints and toolpaths, so it was nice to do a quick, straightforward animation job. This was a very fast project for a friend, and I think it turned out pretty nicely. It is extremely simple; the B-29s are textured using blueprint drawings as bump maps, the exhaust plumes are textured boxes, and the planes and camera were animated procedurally. All light and cloud stuff was done in After Effects, as you can see here:

Many, many, Januaries ago, when I was just four years old, my Dad took me to see the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. At the time, it was still being refurbished, but the Smithsonian used to let folks behind the curtain if they asked nicely. Last January, when my niece Katherine was almost four years old, her Daddy took her to the Air and Space Museum’s giant Udvar-Hazy Hangar, where the completely restored Enola Gay is currently exhibited. She was fascinated by the big planes, but her little brother Nehamiah was most intrigued by the P-40 Warhawk that “had a mouth on it.”

Christmas and The Gospel

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Merry Christmas, everyone! We are enjoying a snowy family time in Colorado, and reflecting on the many ways that God has blessed us over the past year. However, Christmas is also the time to give thanks for the gift of Jesus Christ, not just in our own time, but also His work over the last 2000 years. This gift is not just to us individually; His sacrifice has blessed the entire world. Of course, the redemptive power of the Gospel does save us as individuals, working directly in our hearts, but it is also a transforming power in all tribes, tongues, and nations.

Heidi and I made this map last year to show spread of the Gospel, as a tool to help us all see the constant increase of Christ’s influence and government on this earth, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. We hope that it is an encouragement to you, and a reminder to worship and glorify Jesus Christ. We praise Him for the work that He has done on earth through His saints, even as we thank Him for the work that He has done in our own hearts through the Spirit.

We often fall into the trap of focusing on a single attribute of Christ at a time, sometimes forgetting that He is fully God and fully man at the same time. This Christmas, let us remember that the Son of God, by whom all things were created, humbled Himself to became a man like us, even to the point of being born a helpless baby in a stable. In no way does His Sovereign Majesty detract from the humility of His approachable human nature, or vice versa. In the same way, the sacrificial purpose of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world only adds glory to His rule as our King, to whom all authority has been given.

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The World View in 5 Minutes

Here’s a quick promotional video that I put together for The Worldview in 5 Minutes, a Christian news service that provides an overview of what is happening in the world, every day. I find it to be a particularly useful service, partly because it’s very flexible; I can either skim the text of the transcript or listen to the professional audio recording depending on what I’m doing. But more importantly, I really appreciate the tone and perspective that this news report provides. For example, today’s WV5 broadcast contrasted information on the San Bernardino Muslim Terror attack with testimony of a Muslim couple coming to Christ, and finished a report from Open Doors on Christian persecution by quoting Romans 8:17.

There are other Christian news sites out there, some of which only report on things that have happened directly to professing Christians, and some of which that have a wider focus, but few reporters really mention the Sovereign God who is behind everything going on in the world. The Worldview in 5 Minutes does a much better job of providing that context to events of the day.

And on a side note, this is the first project that James was able to participate in! In case you were wondering, he appears as “Baby in Background” in the first shot.

Tom Thumb Studio Thanksgiving Sale

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For those of you that don’t know, I have an Etsy shop, and for the next few days we are running a Thanksgiving sale! At the moment, we have several new wool jackets available, and everything in the shop is 30% off. All of our products are made by either my mother-in-law or me, and are crafted from beautiful felted wool, then hand embroidered. These classic sweaters are warm and cozy, and make wonderful Christmas gifts.  Go to the Tom Thumb Studio Facebook page to get updates, or our store to see more of what we have in stock.

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Concept Renders: Data

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Here are a few pieces of concept art I made today. I’m in the middle of building out a full marketing and branding package for a data analytics company, and today I’m experimenting with different ways of depicting the abstract concept of “data.”

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Today’s experiments are in developing the look. I’ve already done a number of tests of motion; how these blocks of “data” are animated as they are “analyzed” to reveal patterns, shapes, and relationships. Right now the process is pretty simple.

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T-Rex T-Shirt Design

Fight LIke T-Rex

Any day that you can draw a Tyrannosaurus Rex using modern military hardware is a good day, and I think Bill Waterson would agree with me! Dinosaurs are always fun to draw, particularly the majestic T-Rex. A technical note: since the shirt was being printed with water-based discharge inks, rather than opaque plastisol inks, I had to do a little research and planning. It ended up needing three color separations, first white, which was actually a bleach, and then black ink, and then red ink. Now discharge inks behave more like dyes than ink on paper, so it ended up being a six-color print; essentially two passes on parts of each of these separations using different inks.

Three Ink Layers

The team at Threadbird did an excellent job with the actual printing, and so this t-shirt is currently available from the fine holstermakers at T-Rex Arms.

Smart Cruise Control

Self-driving cars are supposed to be the Next Big Thing(tm). Audi, Google, and Tesla have all exhibited and demonstrated vehicles with very impressive autonomous ability. The legal framework for self-driving cars is probably lagging behind the technological frameworks at this point.

At the moment, Tesla’s autopilot is legally limited to the car bringing itself to your front door in the morning, and a very adaptive cruise control that uses radar to detect other cars and cameras to read the speed limit off of road signs when controlling the throttle. It’s a complicated thing to implement, and it’s actually more than I want. I propose a simpler “smart cruise control.”

In essence, I’d like to have cruise control that takes RPM and MPG into account when setting the MPH. I don’t mind braking around other vehicles or keeping an eye open for speed limit signs, but I do get annoyed when cruise control suddenly downshifts and redlines the engine on an uphill to avoid losing speed or jams on the engine braking on a slight downhill to avoid gaining speed. Small, gradual changes to speed are preferable to large, rapid changes to the throttle.

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Experiments in 3D Printing

Earlier this year I printed some 3D objects at Shapeways. 3D printing is a fairly new technology, with lots of methodologies and applications. In its simplest form, it’s just like regular inkjet printing, but instead of the print head laying down a drop of ink, it lays down a blob of plastic, and once the first layer is done, the print head starts printing plastic on top of the plastic. After several hundred layers, a 3D object is finished, and can be assembled into a UAV, or a rifle reciever, or a magazine.

Different printers can print different types of resin, plastic, ceramic, and even metal. Some printers have an ink nozzle right next to the media nozzle, so it can paint objects in full color while printing. Other dual-head printers can print a rigid plastic and soft rubber at the same time, or ABS and wax. This is useful for objects with a lot of non-touching moving parts, like gears. The gears and axles can be printed in hard plastic, supported by the printed wax until the object is done and the wax can be melted or crumbled out.

Objet Printed Gear Widget

There are even experiments in printing blood vessels and human organs, cell by cell, custom designed for transplant surgeries. As the printers get more sophisticated, they can do more things. Researchers are building machines than can print optics and electronic sensors directly into objects during printing. One of the great advantages of this system is that the cost is the same to print one object as it is to print a thousand. Mass production of injection molded plastic still might be cheaper in the long run, but there’s no setup cost to print a single custom product.

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Ideas for New Audio Gear

There have been some amazing advances in video tech recently. In post, Adobe has been leading the way, with new workflows, faster everything, and a very cool new warp stabilizer and some extremely competitive 3D camera tracking. Premiere and After Effects both have a whole bunch of new tools, and these are accelerated by a bunch of new advanced GPUs from nVidia.

Also, there’s no shortage of fantastic new HD cameras, like the Blackmagic Cinema camera, which gets you uncompressed 2.5k video for less than $3,000, or Sony’s just-announced NEX-VG900, which is a full-featured camcorder with full-frame 35mm sensor, and next week Panasonic is going to unveil the Lumix GH3. Everything is getting better, smaller, and cheaper.

With pro audio, however, not so much. Sample technology for composition is advancing by leaps and bounds, but mics, mixers, and recorders haven’t changed much since the digital revolution over a decade ago. Stu Maschwitz has a great post up asking for a new revolution in audio support for newbies, or in other words, video guys.

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Building a City in Lightwave

Earlier this year I worked on a project that called for a 3D map of Washington DC, and a semi-realistic handling of buildings, terrain, and lighting. While there are some excellent applications that are specifically designed around the unique challenges of large-scale terrestrial rendering, namely e-on’s Vue Infinite and Planetside’s Terragen 2, I decided to tackle this project in Lightwave.

I was extremely pressed for time, so I had to come up with a solution that would work without global illumination or volumetric rendering. The real trick for aerial shots like this is simulating the effect of looking though several miles of atmosphere. Dust, humidity, and even the air itself will diffuse and absorb light in complicated ways, but I decided to cheat this haziness and distortion with a combination of Lightwave’s fog and some depth-mapped gradients in After Effects.

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