Saturday, 8 March 2008


I hadnt ever seen this little animation from Dreamworks Animation until now, Madagascar is a fun ride with some serious animation polish. The rendering has some beautiful elements from things like hair and fur to effects of lighting and fire etc. The modelling has plenty of nice character to it with signature pieces like the angular feet/hands and those super spirally nostrils.

For me it is the penguins and indeed those kooky lemurs who make the film - they are great. Those penguins may even get their own show (see article on nydailynews) - indeed there is a sequel coming our way in Nov (Madagascar: The Crate Escape)

[some images showing the CG quality on display from Madagascar Library]

3D graphics in Excel

One of the cool things about how we use IT here in FBE is the repurposing of software and hardware to the benefit of our professions. One such example that is tangentially related is using a powerful tool like excel to drive functionality in some other arena - like 3D graphics.

The article on Gamasutra by Peter Rakos entitled Microsoft Excel: Revolutionary 3D Game Engine? sees him driving a 3D representation (a simple one admittedly) through excel. He argues there is more power to be had and that the idea could generate something of a paradigm shift. I like the two graphics modes and just the idea of getting cool tools to do things outside their comfort zone. (ta Andrew for pointing out this gem for me) I like some of the comments as well (the one about the TYPEWRITER keys and the AA testing one are fascinating).

[youtube vid from the Gamastutra site showing 3D graphics driven by Excel]


On a related note I was looking at setting up a set of excel spreadsheets which would benefit from allowing multiple users to edit things at the same time. Well, having a quick look at articles like this on the Abacus blog, shows that there is indeed a way to do this now. It looks like it will be quite powerful with edit tracking and conflict resolution etc. Have to do a test next.

Friday, 7 March 2008

RDP (RDC) for my Mac

This is nothing to do with 3D or design specifically, but it is another piece of the puzzle for those who want to live in the mac world but still need to interact with the windows one.
Microsoft's RDP client for the Mac (now at RDC 2.0 beta 2) seems to work fine and dandy for me after a quick play this morning. Now our venerable windows servers are under my command from my mac as well (about time).

[the connect window for MS RDC 2.0 beta 2 for da mac]

Thursday, 6 March 2008

iMac and XPS

With work continuing on our evals of kit for a lab upgrade one of the interesting decision points is around the look'n'feel of the lab itself. We currently have a set of Dell Precision machines in there and it looks kinda ugly with cables in all directions facing both ways on our double row etc.

To start to get a feel for the different between two of our options (Dell XPS 420 and Apple's iMac 24") I roughly pasted together the following pic. Even though no cables are shown it does hint at the difference between the two in this respect...

[mock up rough of XPS vs iMac for lab]

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

iMac 24 Gaming??

With our decision on the upgrade of our lab hardware overdue now we are still running tests and working through pricing options with suppliers etc etc. Anyhow, one of the most interesting threads of discussion/experimentation has been around the graphics performance of the 24" iMac. Armed with a dual core 2.8 and the ATI HD 2600 graphics it doesnt knock you over on first reading, but does it pack enough punch to make the leap in capability and styling worthwhile.

Our early tests on its smaller 20" cousin has us running Crysis on medium with no problems at all, Shattrath in WoW is a bit choppy, Unreal III ran pretty well even on the highest settings and the sketchups and VRays were running ok. This low quality Youtube vid shows Crysis running on the bigger 24" beastie (which has the same graphics as the 20") - this one says he is running it on High. Very pretty game running on a very pretty computer. Youtube has plenty more vids of people running things on this hardware from TF2 to Bioshock.

[imac pics from the Apple site]

There are threads and blogs out there of course talking about the gaminess of the 24" iMac Extreme, this one on Macnn sums them up. There is always contention about its capability compared to other systems, Mac and Windows both. Interestingly some say they 20" model out-performs the 24" for gaming - though this comparison on Macspeedzone shows the extreme model blows the 20"er away in all categories. Indeed on this set of benchmarks on barefeats, the 24" iMac does itself proud.

My wish is that all was as it is, but that we could upgrade the graphics a few notches - that would make it simply awesome.

Here are 2 reviews as well: CNET and ZDNet.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008


After a little Trolling about in WoW the idea of creating an iPod advert using their dance came to me. So a quick screenshot and some photoshop work (not much mind you) I created this baby. I like the way it captures my feel of both the iPod and my newby Troll with his rich Caribbean nature.

[My iPod advert from the heart of the WoW Trolls]

Unreal III coming for the Mac

Yep, it sounds too good to be true, but the might of EPIC is bringing its mighty Unreal 3 engine to the Mac. I can only hope that the editor comes along for the ride - that the platform is supported fully. If so this will make the Mac option for staff and students at FBE even more appealing.

Peter Cohen on Macworld tells us that we should see it 'early in 2008' from the MacSoft source - cant wait.

[Promo image for Unreal 3 on the Mac from destineer studios]

Those Googlers bring us Google Sites

I have been looking at both Wikis (including WikiSpaces) and Google Pages over the last few days to complement things like blogger.
At first the disappearance of JotSpot after Google bought them seemed like a big hole in the options I was keen to explore. But it actually does exist again - re-badged as part of Google Sites. Jotbot's functionality seems to be in the new team working spaces provided through the enhanced Google Apps (now including Google Sites).

Google's services in this area are expanding at a great rate, now providing a totally viable infrastructure set for not just whimsical little projects, but larger corporate and educational groups. With the interoperability of their apps now a key selling point, we are able to Googlify things that werent possible only 18 months ago.

These are the links to example sites from the Google Sites homepage:

Check out Garett Rogers Google blog on ZDnet for lots more on this and other things Google.

oh and the Google Apps org special...

Implications for CollabStud
What does this mean for the Studio - armed with a full Google Apps/Sites 'place' for the course we should be able to share and communicate inside the Google space. Questions/Needs: domain registration looks likely; what sort of visibility can it have for the outside world, set of Admins (tutors perhaps); Integration with other email and services...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Architecture Ideas for Collab Studio

With Collaboration Studio even closer now, I thought it sane to have a little look at pieces of architecture that might fit the bill for group creation in the Unreal III engine. Good work from Russ on the Googlepages front end so far. I have found a bunch of cool Archi projects here on the blog that could work at the larger scale - lets see what else there is...

References of Unbuilt Architecture
Archimedia AA Prize
Gabion Fantasy Architecture
BLDGBLOG Science Fiction and the City
Architectural Studies Library Comp
Hydrogen City
Omnispace - multiple interesting bits
Architectural Digest Unbuilt Houses
Gage/Clemenceau Architects Projects.
Evolo Arch

[just 1 image to get you looking at those juicy links]


Gameplay and architecture (McGregor)
I also found this article by Georgia Leigh McGregor from UNSW on Architecture, Space and Gameplay in World of Warcraft and Battle for Middle Earth 2. I will have to catch up with her - perhaps she will be interested in a bunch of the things going on here in FBE.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

3rd COFA Course for MDM - perhaps

With impending implications of Jury Duty and the IT Change program I am now enrolled in another online course for the MDM. COFA0923 Visualising the Past is right up my alley and appropriate for work as well. This is the Handbook description:

How were those incredibly authentic-looking historical backgrounds in the movie Gladiator created? How has it been possible to see how Egypt’s ancient pyramids were built, or how Pompeii originally looked?

Unique imaging technologies make it possible to design realistic visualisations of ancient cultures. Anyone who has an interest in art, architecture, history, and digital image-making will be astonished at the startling achievements possible with this cutting-edge technology. A critical and historical appreciation of our own and past cultures depends on our interpretation of the images that are made to visualise them.

This fully online course extensively investigates the variety of ways that virtual reality is used in archaeological and historical visualisation. You will individually and in teams apply a number of the techniques used with this technology to create your own representative 2D and 3D visualisations of cultures. You will learn strategies that will allow you to effectively analyse these type of dazzling visual reconstructions, and how to extend them into your own studies. By learning how different kinds of data are used to build visual reconstructions you will gain sophisticated conceptual processes fundamental for cross-disciplinary studies in art and design. No special computer software or prior knowledge is required.