The Hess Report

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Everlasting Project Queue 

About a year and a half ago, I posted a little list of ongoing projects that were monopolizing my time. I've put some of them to rest, new ones have been added, and other things have popped their heads up only to be immediately put down. Here's last year's list, and how it's gone:

1. Completion of my animated short Audition. Status: untouched. Still waiting for Blender's character animation tool rewrite, which is now in progress, and will probably be finished in November.

2. Coding work on the Blender Open Source project. Status: done. I contributed a couple of bug fixes, spent a lot of time writing detailed proposals for features and workflows, and even wrote code for a new small feature in the program, which will be a part of the next official release. I'm still looking for ways to contribute, but the existence of this very list kind of preclude taking on anything too time consuming.

3. Creation of an Open Source Python-based AI system for crowd motion. Status: done. Well, not completely done, but a good way along. It's called BlenderPeople and is at version 0.7 right now, awaiting the same character animation updates as point 1. Latest samples (click the image for an animation, DivX required):

The Blue team just wants to boogie, but Red wants to party down on the sacred ground, too. 5 MB.

Nice swarming motion animation, featuring around 200 Actors. Fun music included. 1 MB.

Development has its own web page and its own blog.

4. Move the Hess Report to my own servers. Status: done. Since last year, I've set up, which is where you read the Hess Report.

5. Brew more wine and beer. Status: meh. I only brewed one batch of beer during the entire year. That is unacceptable. Must do better. I've chosen to abandon brewing wine, though. It was a good thing to get me started on home brewing, but with the extreme cheapness of good-tasting wine available (Pennsylvania's stoopid monopoly notwithstanding), it doesn't make sense to spend the time and money to make my own sub-par wine. The beer, on the other hand, is good enough that it's made most commercial beers I've had recently kind of taste like poo.

6. Screenplay about Shatner groupies at a ranch retreat... Status: I was really just kidding about this when I mentioned it last year. Still, it is a good idea, and would be cool to do.

So that's last year's list. Overall, I've done pretty well. Several new things have been added to the list, and are at various stages of completion. Here's what I'll be continuing to work on this year, in order of supposed priority:

1. My personal digital publishing venture. It's some software I wrote that chews up your blog, then typesets it into a nice library-style book, then lets you preview and purchase high-quality hardbound editions of that book, probably for around $20-$25 a piece. You can use it on your own blog, or someone else's to give as a gift, or whatever. It's still in the Beta stage, and you can only preview the books. I'm still chasing down suppliers for the bookbinding supplies. But it seems that my unique combination of experience with blogs, programming, typesetting and high-end digital printing might combine to make me some $. We'll see.

2. The Audition short animation, which has its home page here. Yep. I can still see the finished product in my head, so it's still a viable project. Things that will cause this to happen this year, as opposed to last year: Blender's character animation rewrite will be done, allowing the project to be done to the level that I have in mind; we have in our position excellent audio recording equipment that we did not have last year, which is necessary for the level of quality I want to have from the vocals.

3. BlenderPeople. Still working on it, and still waiting for the Blender character animation retool. I want this thing to be useful, not just some hacker's play toy.

4. Cataloona Zoo. One of the things I neglected to write about was musical!Joy's venture into children's music. She and I wrote several original (really really good) songs, targeted at the 4-8 year old bracket, where kids graduate from Raffi and Barney, but aren't yet dumb enough to want hear Top Forty. Parents have a real opportunity at that stage to give their kids some great stuff to listen to, and there is actually a decent amount of good music out there. But, she felt that we had something to contribute, so, well, just hit the web site. Anyway, we had some music up for a little bit, but we were unhappy with the final sound, so we pulled it. Both of our voices were only half-recovered from week-long laryngitis when we did the songs, we were unbelievably exhausted when we engineered it, and it just didn't sound right. Since then, poor!Joy's been fighting with voice problems, and we've not had the time to re-record. But it's on the list, and I'm giving it a priority somewhere above "wishful fantasy".

Wishful Fantasy Projects

I know there will be no time for these, but I have to list them anyway.

Fantasy Project #1: A Sara and Kate kid's novel. I've told the girls at least a dozen "Sara and Kate" stories, about two sisters who are always stuck in the house with their sunlight allergic agoraphobic parents. One year, their uncle sends them a new night-light style lamp, which when used, transports them to a magical forest land, where of course, they have many adventures. Maddie and Lucy have always loved the stories, and each one would be just about right for a separate chapter of a book. I already know the stories, and I can sorta write a little bit, so I've wanted to plunk them down. Time...

Fantasy Project #2: The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants, by Pricilla Turner. I've mentioned before that it's a great kids book, and it would make an even better short animation for someone who's looking to debut their crowd motion and battle generation software.

Fantasy Project #3: Integrate Renderman support into Blender. I don't have the time or the chops, but I'd love to do it.

Well, that's what's been keeping me busy this past year, in addition to the many house projects big and small, hanging out with the kids, spending time with darling!Joy, and handling everything else that life flings at you. So, if you don't see a Hess Report for a week, you'll know why.

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