Buzz’s Blog: On Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web


December 16, 2012  4:37 AM

Inexpensive tools to flesh out your 3D animation workflow



Posted by: Roger King
3D animation, 3D animation workflow, audio editors, image editing, sound editing, wave editing, Web development

I teach 3D animation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and am frequently asked by students how they can get their hands on free or cheap image editors (for preparing textures), video editors (for rendering video segments from the single frames rendered by AutoDesk Maya, the most popular 3D animation application), and editing soundtracks for animated videos.

If you are looking for free tools to flesh out your workflow for your project, consider:

1. The following is a free video editor.  I know it has a very loyal following: redshark.   This runs on windows; the mac version is not available yet.  There is also a linux version.

2. This is a free app that is both a sound editor (cutting and pasting and trimming chunks of wave files) and a mixer (blending multiple layers, like voice and music into a single layer): audacity.  This runs on macs and windows.

3. This is a free video editor from Microsoft that runs on windows.  It is very simple but other students tell me they have used it: Movie Maker.

4. This is a free image editor that runs on macs and windows.  It is very powerful: GIMP.

5. This is an audio editor that runs on Windows and Macs.  I THINK, but am not sure that there is a free version.  I couldn’t find a direct link to it on their site.  It might be that you need to download the not-for-free version and then use it in trial mode: WavePad.  To download their mac version, you need to be on a mac, and to download their windows version, you need to be on a windows machine.

They also happen to have a video editor and I don’t know if there is a free version:VideoPad.  The video editor is, however, windows-only.  It is relatively inexpensive.

6. All macs should have garageband on it.  This is actually a full mixing program, as well as a host for electronic instrument plugins, but it can be used as a sound editor alone.

7. This is a free image editor for windows: paint.net.  It is very basic, but I have done a few interesting things with it.

June 17, 2012  3:44 AM

Lion’s missing colors: bad for folks with limited vision



Posted by: Roger King

Hi.  I am a professor of computer science and have been an enthusiastic supporter of Apple computers since the birth of OS X.  Recently, I upgraded all of my office machines to Lion.

The problem with Lion for folks with limited vision.

Well, it’s a good thing Lion didn’t happen a few years ago – because until then I had limited vision.  I’ve had my corneas replaced with transplants.  (The cornea is the clear outside layer of the eye; it pre-focuses light for the lens and holds the guts of your eyes inside your eyeballs.)  I have also had cataract surgery on both eyes and am hyper-nearsighted.

Before my round of surgeries, I depended on one thing very heavily to orient me on a computer screen:

COLOR!

A powerful visual cue.

Not being able to see well robs you of your ability to quickly locate an icon on the display and get your cursor over to it.  That’s because it can be very difficult to interpret the exact shape of an icon.  I found that I learned the color patterns of icons, both within the OS windows and at the top of applications.

It would have been much harder to get by if I couldn’t have used color as a visual cue.

It was disrespectful of Apple.

I’m not any kind of militant – but it was disrespectful of Apple to get rid of color.  Don’t they know that many people with limited vision use computers?


April 1, 2012  3:36 AM

a 3D animation website



Posted by: Roger King
3D animation, 3D modeling, Autodesk Maya

I’ve created a new website with my training videos on 3D animation.  I use Autodesk Maya, arguably the most popular commercially-available 3D modeling, animation, and rendering application.

There are thirty or so videos on the site and they cover all phases of the animation process, including modeling, lighting, materials and textures, dynamics, cloth, cameras, skeletons, deformers, and light effects.

I tend to focus on polygon and NURBS (curved line) modeling, but there is a small amount of attention paid to subdivision modeling, as well.

I am in the process of actively adding new videos to the site.

Please visit http://3DBuzz.co and take a look at them.

Each video is focused on a specific topic, area about 10 to 25 minutes in length, and are meant for beginners. The videos are also posted on my vimeo account.


February 19, 2012  10:57 PM

Introductory videos on 3D animation with Maya, part 2



Posted by: Roger King
3D animation, 3D graphics, Autodesk Maya, materials and textures in Maya, NURBS modeling, polygon modeling, Web development

I teach 3D animation at the University of Colorado in Boulder (in the computer science department).

I got a good response from the previous posting where I listed the first five Vimeo videos I have created on how to use Autodesk Maya to create animated projects, so I have added 7 more. They are short, meant for beginners, and each is focused on a specific topic. They are meant to more or less be watched in order.

They are on:

Creating a simple cactus model with NURBS modeling.

Using the Outliner window to create dependencies between objects in a scene.

Using the Graph Editor to re-use scale, translate, and rotate animation.

Using basic polygon tools: edges, beveling, and surfaces, and creating a mailbox.

Creating a simple breadbox by using the sweeps of NURBS surfaces.

Materials, procedural textures, and bump mapping: making a varnished table.

Creating a sidewalk and a roadway using materials and bump-maps.

All of the videos are on my Vimeo account.


January 29, 2012  11:08 PM

Introductory videos on 3D animation with Maya



Posted by: Roger King
3D modeling, Autodesk Maya, extrusion, polygon modeling, Web 2.0, Web 3.0

This blog is dedicated to cutting edge web development and media technology.

Since animation is being used more and more heavily to build highly interactive web 2.0/3.0 interfaces, I thought folks might be interested in a series of videos I am creating for the 3D animation classes I teach at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The videos are on Vimeo.

They feature Autodesk Maya, which is by far the most popular professional quality 3D modeling, animation, and rendering application.  Each short video focuses on one specific concept and they are very much meant for raw beginners:

As of today, January 29, 2012, there are five of them:

Introduction to the Autodesk Maya Interface.

The 3 Kinds of Modeling Supported by Maya.

The Basic Concepts of Translation, Rotation, and  Scaling.

The Basic Concept of Curved Line Modeling.

An Introduction to Polygon Modeling and Extrusion.

The entire set of videos can be found in my Vimeo account.


January 14, 2012  2:19 AM

A lesson in product dependencies: why a great product can be the wrong solution



Posted by: Roger King
RapidWeaver, Sandvox, software application dependencies, Stacks for Rapidweaver, Vimeo plugins, Web development

3D Animation Videos.

I teach information systems and 3D animation at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For my animation classes, I like to record my in-class lectures to that later, when students are trying to remember how to do something with an infinitely complex application like Autodesk Maya, they can look at the demonstrations on the videos. I use Camtasia (they have both a Mac and a Windows application) to create desktop/voice recordings and have found it to be a great product.

Finding a tool to quickly build a simple website.

The problem I ran into had to do with posting these videos for students to download. The site I built and where I used to host videos (http://3dbybuzz.com) turned out to be a pain to maintain because of the large number of videos I post on it. The videos are also very long. So I decided that I would make a fresh set of much shorter videos and have them hosted on a paid Vimeo account. All that works fine.

Extending an application with plugins.

Now, the Mac-based web design application I had been using is called Sandvox and it is a very elegant, intuitive tool. I think it’s the best in its class in terms of ease of use. But it’s a little short on functionality. So, I followed the advice from the Sandvox site to check out plugins made my another (completely unrelated) software vendor. I bought five of their plugins and they worked great. I used them on 3dbybuzz.com. So, I naturally went back there to see if they had Vimeo plugins.

A problem with service for the plugins.

Which they do. But their site seemed to malfunction. I could log in to my account, but not access anything I had paid for. The site would not let me post a service request. I couldn’t find an email address or phone number on their site. (Remember, this is NOT the Sandvox folks; this is a separate company that supplies plugins.) I managed to dig up an email address for the vendor by poking around the Web. I sent a message asking to help. I tracked down one of the lead guys in the company on Facebook and left a polite request, saying their plugins are great but their site is broken.

I never heard back. Period.

Finding a different tool to build a good website.

So, I have switched to RapidWeaver, which has a very large community of plugin suppliers. It’s also a very powerful app. I also bought three plugins. One for a RapidWeaver extension that provides a new kind of webpage, called Stacks, to the RapidWeaver application and two from another plugin vendor that give Vimeo capabilities to Stacks pages. They work great. I find that the combination of the Stacks webpage and the wide variety of plugins it can support to be a very clever way of extending RapidWeaver.  First, you install Stacks, which allows Rapidweaver users to add a Stacks page to a website and then you choose plugins to provide capabilities to Stacks pages.

It’s really too bad…

I’m a teacher and a researcher, not a business person. But tying yourself to a plugin supplier that does not provide timely customer support seems like a bad business decision to me. But, honestly, Sandvox and the five plugins I did buy from that vendor are all extremely good pieces of software, in terms of their functionality and their usability and the appearance of the resulting webpages.


January 6, 2012  2:24 AM

More on audio editing: audio formats



Posted by: Roger King
Add new tag, Amadeus Pro, audio, audio editing, audio formats, sound editing

Note: I have trouble uploading images to the IT Knowledge Exchange blog server.  To see this blog posting with its included image go to: sound editing.

Editing Sound.

We’re in a series of postings relating to editing sound.

Previously.

See the previous postings on  cleaning audio, selecting an audio editor, and a couple of basic audio editing principles.  We have also looked at the interface to a popular audio editor, Amadeus Pro, and at basic editing in Amadeus Pro. We looked at a free audio editor, Audacity, and how one of its effects can be used to remove noise.  Most recently, we looked at the way that VST and AU plugins add power to sound editors, and then at the difference between audio editors and digital audio workstations.

Sound formats.

Today, we look at a few popular audio formats and compare them.

Uncompressed.

If you want your sound to be as close as possible to the original sound captured in the real world, wav and aiff are two very popular choices. The problem is that these uncompressed sound formats can lead to very large files.

But wav and aiff are important for capturing sound in a “lossless” way, meaning that the digital media contains all the information that is captured by the recording equipment. They serve as very good archival formats for permanent recordings that might later be edited and used in a variety of other formats.

By the way, wav, which is short for Waveform Audio Format, is a Microsoft standard. And aiff stands for Audio Interchange File Format and it was developed by Apple.

Compressed.

Perhaps the most popular compressed sound format is mp3. It is used heavily on the Internet. It is a proprietary format owned by the Motion Picture Experts Group, and its full name is MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3. It is highly compressed in that an audio recording in wav format might be reduced by 80 or 90% when converted to mp3.

This sort of transformation is called “lossy”, in that information is removed during the conversion process. But what is removed is for the most part not missed by the human ear. The idea is to remove frequencies not heard by people and to remove soft sounds that are drowned out by other, louder sounds.

The end result is good enough for high quality music.

A competitor of mp3 is wma, which stands for Windows Media Audio, and is also proprietary. And yes, Apple promotes mp3.

More later…


December 10, 2011  1:54 AM

More on sound editing: DAWs vs. wave editors



Posted by: Roger King
audio editing, DAWs, non-destructive editing, sound editors, wave editors

Editing Sound.

We’re in a series of postings relating to editing sound.

Previously.

See the previous postings on  cleaning audio, selecting an audio editor, and a couple of basic audio editing principles.  We have also looked at the interface to a popular audio editor, Amadeus Pro, and at basic editing in Amadeus Pro. We looked at a free audio editor, Audacity, and how one of its effects can be used to remove noise.  Most recently, we looked at the way that VST and AU plugins add power to sound editors.

Today, we look at a common question.

What is the difference between a DAW and a wave editor?

The products we have looked at so far are generally called audio editors or wave editors. These include Amadeus, Wavelab, Peak, Sound Forge, and Sound Studio.  See the links above.

Highly multitrack.

A Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW) is generally a far more complicated program.  A wave (or audio) editor usually can only handle one or two tracks of recordings, while a DAW might support ten or twenty or more tracks.

Non-destructive editing.

Wave editors are used (usually) to perform what is called destructive editing.

This is a term that is used with regard to a wide variety of media applications, and quite frankly, “non-destructive” editing tends to sound better to the average person.  Apple Aperture is a photo editor and manager that supports non-destructive editing, in that you can apply powerful effects to an image without risk of destroying the original image.

DAWs support non-destructive editing because the goal of a DAW is to support the sophisticated mixing of pre-existing sound tracks, as well as the application of special effects to sound tracks.  But a wave editor is used to make raw recordings and edit them into the sorts of useful tracks that might be imported into a DAW.

Special effects, software instruments, and MIDI.

We’ll look at these things in the next in this series of blog postings relating to audio editing.

But to wrap things up, here is a screenshot of a very popular DAW, Cubase, the same folks who make the WaveLab wave editor we have previously discussed:


November 22, 2011  7:55 PM

VST and AU plugins: Making audio editors more powerful



Posted by: Roger King
AU plugins, audio editors, Bias Peak, editing sound, Steinberg Wavelab, VST plugins

This blog is dedicated to advanced Web and media technology.  Most recently, we have been looking at editing audio.

Editing Sound.

See the previous postings on  cleaning audio, selecting an audio editor, and a couple of basic audio editing principles.  Then, we looked at the interface to a popular audio editor, Amadeus Pro, and at basic editing in Amadeus Pro. We then looked at a free audio editor, Audacity, and how one of its effects can be used to remove noise.

Plugins: extending an editor’s power.

Today, we look at audio plugins.  These are the way we can augment the basic capabilities of an audio editor.  It is important to choose an editor, in fact, that supports plugins.  If you don’t, you are buying an already-handicapped editor.

Two popular plugin formats.

There are two popular formats for plugins: VST and AU.  The first stands for Virtual Studio Technology and was developed by Steinberg, makers of a very powerful audio editor called Wavelab.  The second stands for Audio Unit and was developed by Apple.

Most audio editors support VST plugins (and sometimes derivatives of VST).  Some also support AU plugins.  Plugins can be used to clean audio, correct and change pitch in sound tracks, analyze the properties of a sound track, remove specific frequencies of sound, equalize sound volume levels across a track, and many other things.

The Peak editor.

Below is an audio editor sold by Bias.  It is called Peak.  It’s rather expensive, but they have a much cheaper “LE” edition that is moderately priced and has almost all the capabilities of the full version.  It comes with a powerful suite of plugins made by Bias (and using their proprietary format).  Peak also supports VST and AU plugins.

The image shows a stereo track along with Reveal, Bias’ powerful audio analysis plugin. Reveal is used heavily by editors who are mastering audio tracks. It can be used to monitor sound levels and panning (the movement of sound between the two stereo channels).  It can also perform spectral analysis, which can be used to remove short, loud noises such as a mouse clicking.

Peak LE is probably the best editor for the money.  It costs more than Amadeus Pro, but is far more powerful and comes with a suite of great plugins.  Another great choice is Steinberg’s Wavelab Elements.

More soon…


November 12, 2011  5:07 AM

More on audio editing: cleaning in the free Amadeus editor



Posted by: Roger King
Audacity sound editor, audio editing, cleaning audio, denoising sound

Recently, we have been looked at the process of editing and cleaning sound.  See the previous three postings: cleaning and editing(1) and editing(2).  Then, we looked at a very popular Mac wave editor, Amadeus Pro.   Most recently, we looked at basic sound editing in Amadeus.

Today, we look at a free audio editor, Audacity.  In particular, it has a great noise removal effect.

Cleaning sound in Audacity – a voice track.

First, we create a track and use the red button to record a few seconds of silence, and then a voice.

The denoise effect in Audible.

Now, we swipe the “silence” part of the track, which is really a bunch of background and mic noise.  Then, we select the noise removal effect.

Then we tell the effect plugin to “Get Noise Profile”.

Then, we go back to the track and swipe all of it.  Then, pull down the effect again and choose “OK”.

Now, look at how the effect has removed the noise from the entire track, including the part with the voice recording on it.

The result is a chunk of audio that sounds very professional.

More soon.


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