Burning Man Canopy Bike

September 14, 2011

For Burning Man this year, I decided to roam into the land of EL Wire and Arduino and do some animation in the world of programmable hardware. This turned out to be a lot more challenging than I first imagined. While the coding was fairly simple, the hardware I’d chosen had a number of issues including things like lighting all of the EL Wire at once would smoke some of the components on the board.

So I spent a lot of time programming interrupt-driven PWM (Pulse Width Modulation Code) This also allowed me to control the effective brightness of the lines but flickering the various EL Strands on and off very quickly.

As usual, I took no photos of the finished product when I was at Burning Man and… It takes a bit of work to assemble. So I’ll show the prototype here in a couple of pieces.

First, the bike canopy itself The white center stripe is stitched with open overlapping ‘scales’ so that wind coming from the front will pass through them with less resistance and wind coming from behind closes them and works like a sail.

A demo of the PWM software is here:

In this demo, the code is just passing a greyscale fractal image through the 8 channels. Because I spent so much time working around the hardware limitations, I didn’t get to do the animation I was planning. Now that I understand the hardware better, I’m going to try designing a new board that can control more strands and will either not require or will offload the PWM handling so it will be a little while before I come back to the animation.

The actual animation for the EL Array will ultimately be controlled by manipulating symbols in a Flash timeline. These then export the data to a compressed file format which will be stored on an SD card and loaded into the bicycle’s onboard computer. Lots of neat stuff left to do on this project but I’m going to detour from it for a short time to work on another project in order to gain the experience required to finish the hardware redesign for this one.


Name change

July 15, 2011

http://halfcircle.wordpress.com is now https://obscurestar.wordpress.com

After decades of a split personality on the internet, I’m trying to unify my identities under a common name.



April 26, 2011

I recently took a trip to the natural history museum in New York and had a really fantastic time geeking out over the skeletons of the various animals and dinosaurs. I think I learned a tremendous amount about hip and shoulder construction and thus the locomotion of various sorts of creatures. It’s well-worth the trip if you can take it.

However, it also left me with questions. Skeletons gave me an idea of some of the movement but I kept wondering about the range of motion for certain limb designs so I came away with as many questions as answers.

When I returned home, I began looking for some good books to really help me nail down convincing anatomical movement. I’ve got a few books.

    Gray’s Anatomy

, the ubiquitous Burne Hoggarth book,

    Dynamic Anatomy

, and a few others. The only one that I might recommend is the

    Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

which is pretty decent, but I found I was still wanting something more in depth.

A little searching at the local bookstore lead me to a pair of books:

    Anatomy Drawing School

by András Szunyoghy and György Fehér. One on humans and a separate volume on animals. These books I feel really go into a lot of depth on all the details I was searching for. The renderings of the structures are quite good and go into a good deal of depth about the behaviors of the different types of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. It also includes descriptions of the ranges of motion. The text information is quite terse but somehow manages to convey a lot more detail than I felt I gleaned from Gray’s (at least for my field of interest) And most text descriptions are accompanied by graphical depictions of the motions and ranges in question.

I have a few very minor nits with the books. In particular, some of the drawings when showing the various views of a bone will also switch from right to left, which can be a little confusing. Also, I with in the animals book they had included a plantigrade quadruped (such as a bear) but on the whole, these are far and away the best art reference anatomy books I’ve come across and was so moved as to write a review.


Optical Registration of Bulk Scans

May 24, 2010

Moved recently and my animation stand is currently buried beneath boxes in the basement of our new home waiting for a house remodel project to finish before it can be put back into service. In the meanwhile, I needed to do some pencil tests.

During the move, my scanner (which had been making funny noises for a while) finally conked out, and my printer was both near-dead and no longer supported by the manufacturer so I took the opportunity to replace both with an Epson Artisan 810 combo unit. Since it comes with a sheet feeder, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out the state of inexpensive solutions to optical registration of bulk scans.

All of these work by requiring you to black out part of the scan bed where the peg bar sits so that you get solid black peg holes to make it easy for the software to identify the location of the punches. Finding information about automatic optical registration proved difficult. There are of course many high-end solutions in the several hundred dollar range but at the moment, these solutions are out of my range.

Two solutions I did find within my price range are DigiCel’s Flipbook Lite (just shy of $80) and a free beta of a java application called ScanFix written by Duane M. Palyka.

Both applications performed reasonably well. Flipbook’s import is easier to use and it also has some built-in smarts about adjusting the contrast of the drawings to make them show up well. The only minor confusion I had with it was in configuration of the registration offset but this was quickly fixed. It also supports TWAIN libraries and was able to import directly from my scanner with no interim files. I did not invest the time to tinker around with the rest of flipbook’s features for actually creating animation since I’m already familiar with and invested in another tool however, it seemed fairly straightforward and intuitive and may well be worth looking at.

Scanfix is a little less user friendly. I had to do a bit of tweaking to my scan configuration to get files where it could reliably detect the holes. It is also in beta test and I encountered a few problems in using the optional rotations but, once I resolved these issues, it performed adequately. In addition, Mr. Palyka has been quite pleasant to converse with.

On the whole, scanning at 150DPI, the scanner imported equivalent to the fastest I could possibly photograph work on my animation stand (meaning that on average, the scanner was far faster). I even got so lazy as to write a short script to reverse the order of scanned pages so I didn’t have to resort my cels after taking them off the animation desk. Finally, the scanner does not require me to operate the camera. Throw in a stack of cels, hit a button, and off it goes. So in good situations, it’s a bit of a time saver. However, I did run into issues a couple of times where the scanner grabbed more than one page and caused me some problems with a sequence and bogged down my progress. Since this is an invisible fail until you run the pencil test, it’s a bit of a sticking point.

Still. If you’re a student or otherwise on a tight budget, both tools are worth checking out, depending on your personal needs. Though I must confess that I enjoy drawing 12 field and since my scanner does not support paper of that size combined with the scanner feed issues means that I shall not be tossing out my animation stand just yet.


Where did I go?

February 10, 2009

So easy to fall off the internet when you’ve got your nose too close to the grindstone. Lots has been happening. Art, Animation and the usual. I keep my personal blog updated far more frequently than this one. For the most part, I’ve been working on music, sewing, and traditional art (DeviantArt gallery has a link over on the right)

Here’s a bad webcam photo of some beadwork I did recently. (Just the necklace for the ocarina, I’m afraid, not the other necklace) Though speaking of photos, I met Michael Olsen of ZorkMagazine last night at an event for the Timothy Leary archive and he snapped a couple photos of me. His photos of the event can be found here. Met a lot of really amazing and fascinating people there. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been downloading tons of video off archive.org to put together a retrospective of the late Dr. Leary. I’ll post some updates on this blog when there’s more to show.


Book Review

October 3, 2008

If you love making animation and haven’t yet heard of the AnimationPodcast, let me strongly recommend it.  http://www.animationpodcast.com  Terrific host, guests, and content.

Clay’s most recent guest, Eric Goldberg has a new book out titled, Character Animation Crash Course

Since I’d just come off a long animation hiatus and my character animation has always been stiff, I bought a copy and the hardest thing has not been just ripping through it cover to cover.

This is the absolute best book I’ve ever read on character animation.  His style of writing is easy to read, his examples clear, and it just makes everything click for me in a way that it really hadn’t before.

Curiously, before getting his book, I’d decided to take a stripped down character and re-animate him doing the same ‘take’ over and over in different ways to convey character, emotion, etc.  In his book, Goldberg had taken this exercise one step further, starting and ending with the same pose and doing different in-betweens.  Very good stuff.

I’m also really appreciating his information on timing.  I’ve long understood timing in a strictly mathematical and mechanical sense.  I can graph parabolas like nobody’s business, and I understand how they relate to good motion, but it hadn’t clicked.  I had all the right steps in there but it was still stiff and mechanical.

Somewhere between reading Goldberg’s book and freeze-framing through Clampett animation, it all just suddenly clicked and, like Victor Frankenstein, I now feel as if my corpses have been brought to life!

Two thumbs up!  (But four frames apart to avoid twinning!)


Fantasy Worlds of Samantha

September 4, 2008

Vist my DeviantArt Gallery

After a long interlude, I’m finally returning to doing some animation. In the interim, I’ve largely been working on still art, writing, and sewing.

One of the many projects I created during this hiatus was the creation of a fantasy blog. Rather than post art and stories with the continual disclaimer of ‘This is just make believe.’, I created a blog where faeries are real and the writer lives in a strange world. The writing still takes the form of short stories but for some reason, the framework of living in a world of fantasy helps me bypass a form of writer’s block that would otherwise impair the work.

So. Hang on! Animation is coming soon and in the meanwhile, how about a story? Please check out my fantasy worlds with The deviant spirit, wanderer of the twilight worlds at http://dvnt-spirit.livejournal.com


Adobe Premiere CS3 Product Review

February 1, 2008

Premiere was the first serious video editing application I used, starting with versin 4 around 1996ish and as such, it holds a special place in my heart. We’ve had some good times together. I was very disappointed when MacOS-X came out and Premiere was not ported to it and for years afterwards, I faithfully ran it in Classic mode, right up until my purchase of an IntelMac.

Happily, Premiere has returned for the Mac. I purchased the CS3 production suite and paid a visit to my old friend. Read the rest of this entry »


Godzilla: Guest of Honor

January 31, 2008

Work on the Godzilla project is now complete, though perhaps not exactly what I’d ideally have liked. There were a number of problems with the shoot itself stemming mostly from the green screen being too small and outdoors with a short shooting schedule and some costume problems. However, aside from a few problems with the screen and enough jump-cuts to make any film student cringe, it came off reasonably well.



October 20, 2007

November is national novel writing month. What the heck! I’ve done a fair bit of writing in the form of short stories and scripts for my animation. This seems like a fun new venue to try out. In addition, it should generate material that I may be able to use for a podcast I’ve been considering setting up some day soon. (More on that when it develops) In the meanwhile, if you are looking for me in November, you can probably find me over at NaNoWriMo as DV_Girl

Doing NaNoWriMo yourself? I’d love a peer group and support network! Friend me!