Blunt Power Reviews

If you smoke flour, like 99.9% of us reading this site do, you have a serious need to get rid of the lingering odor that smoke graces us with.  I won’t call it a foul odor, because as a weed smoker, I enjoy the aftermath of a good smoke and like it to linger around for a while.  I’m probably in the minority with that thought, but still, there’s a serious need for a product that eliminates blunt smells and other odors associated with smoking marijuana.

Until now!  

I’ve found a product that when I stumbled into it, I thought it was too good to be true.  It promised to “not be your Grandma’s air freshener,” and I can agree, it’s anything but that!  I was shocked that I found this, because I spend a lot of time on cannabis forums, and I’d never heard of this product (and people talk about eliminating odor all the time on those forums.)

These air fresheners, called Blunt Power, are sold in many scents – over 250 of them at the last time I made an order, so you can customize your smelling sensations to your liking.  (I go into which ones I like down below.)  So what was my experience like?  Please read on to hear about my experience with the Blunt Power air fresheners.

Visit Blunt Power Online —> Click Here.

What are Blunt Power Air Fresheners Like?

I have one word for this question:  POWERFUL.

On my first use, I accidentally sprayed myself (I took a bad angle) and the Pine Air scent got into my shirt.  It was a pleasant smell that had me thinking I was in the mountains of Colorado, which I really love, so I wore that around all day.  These air fresheners are easy to use, easy to carry around, and they smell amazing.  Check out the picture below of the few products that I sampled. Again, they have many scents, over 250 in fact, and I just chose a few that I thought would be interesting to try out and see how they performed.  I’ve been recommending these to friends of mine, both people who smoke, and who don’t smoke, because they work that well.  I’ve found they work on the following:

  • Pet Odors
  • Odor from sports equipment
  • Food left in the car overnight on accident
  • Create a pleasant aroma in your home or vehicle – almost like incense does.

What Makes Blunt Power Different?

Almost anything you buy in a big box retail store will be an air freshener that is water and alcohol based.  That’s why the smell disappears so fast!

Blunt Power uses an oil-based formula designed to linger around any room.  It’s as simple as using a few sprays and they will last for many days.  It seems hard to believe, and over my years of smoking marijuana, I’ve tried everything from incense, to Lysol, to those tree air fresheners in my car.  NOTHING works as well as Blunt Power.

At the end of the day, if Snoop Dogg uses this air freshener, is there really a better option?  

Here are the scents I sampled as well as a quick take on each one.

Check Them Out at BluntPower.com.

Blunt Power Reviews

Here’s my take on each flavor I tried:

Coconut Vanilla:

The scent is straight from the beaches of Malibu in my opinion, while their website describes it as a coconut vanilla cream pie scent.  Either way, it’s amazing!

Ocean Breeze:

A rejuvenating, fresh spray that had me feeling the smells of the ocean, no matter how far inland I was!

Pine Air:

Think Mountains and pine needles. Is there anything more wintergreen than that?  

Coffee:

The great smell of espresso beans can clean up the worst lingering odors!

Pineapple:

Imagine smelling a freshly sliced Hawaiian pineapple.  I’ll just leave it right there.  

The company also sells incense, but I didn’t sample any of those.  I find these as the perfect product to have in your car, in your home, at your office, and in your locker.

Shane Dwyer
Author: Shane Dwyer
Shane Dwyer is a cannabis advocate who isn’t afraid to tell the world about it! You can find his views, rants, and tips published regularly at The 420 Times.

Marijuana & Cannabis News – The 420 Times

Colorado Reviews New Social Equity Marijuana Business Licenses

New marijuana business licenses reserved for low-income demographics are set to launch in Colorado in 2020, but questions remain about who should receive these licenses and how they should be regulated.

Created by Senate Bill 224, a 2019 law that overhauls the state’s medical and recreational marijuana regulations, the new licenses are intended to add more diversity to Colorado’s cannabis space while providing opportunity to entrepreneurs who don’t have traditional training or funding outlets. Also known as micro licenses, the new permits would require the new businesses to use the facilities of established pot companies as they research and create their own cannabis products.

Colorado cannabis regulators and industry members began addressing the upcoming accelerator licenses during a state Marijuana Enforcement Division stakeholder meeting Friday, September 13. But instead of the usual roundtable discussion, the group of cannabis organization leaders, business owners and regulators broke into working groups to discuss issues such as how long the agreements should last between the accelerator and endorsing businesses, how the state could incentivize potential endorsers, and what criteria should qualify the new licensees.

“People from around the world look to us as an example on how to do things right,” MED director Jim Burack said during the meeting. “What exactly is this relationship between endorser and accelerator? How do we ensure this business relationship is mutually beneficial?”

Marijuana Deals Near You

Per the new law, applicants would have to be from or living in low-income areas (identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade) for at least five of the past ten years, but could operate outside of the community once the license is issued. The licenses would allow for cultivation, extraction and infused-product manufacturing opportunities, but not dispensary operations.

The new licenses are intended to help spur minority participation in the industry, but skin color or gender won’t necessarily define who receives a license, insists Shawn Coleman, a cannabis lobbyist who helped write the language creating the new licenses. Victims of the War on Drugs will, however, receive serious consideration.

“If you’re white and you grew up in a trailer and your dad went to jail for ten years for selling meth, I can see why you’d think you’d be fit for this,” he said. “This isn’t exclusive to any certain group.”

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

Thomas Mitchell

Deciding who qualifies for an accelerator permit is just one of many questions the MED has to figure out before 2020. The relationship between the new licensee and endorsing business — which includes privacy and liability agreements, potential equity shares and royalties, equipment use and more — is still up in the air.

Connor Lux, founder of cannabis event and co-working space Cultivated Synergy, said collaboration during the early years of legal cannabis led to stolen ideas, techniques and technology in an industry in which securing copyrights or patents is difficult. “Sharing [intellectual property] caused huge issues for some people right off the bat, from them not protecting their IP,” he explained.

It’s not just the micro-licensee who’d be at risk, according to several cannabis business owners who are considering becoming hosts to new potrenepeurs. “Let’s say there’s mold or yeast left over [in shared equipment] that affects an accelerator’s product. How do we handle that?” asked Allison Robinette, an assistant state attorney general who specializes in Colorado revenue and utilities.

Kayvan Khalatbari, a boardmember of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and co-founder of cannabis consulting firm Denver Relief, suggested that shared facilities adopt similar rules to commissary kitchens, where multiple food producers use the same facility at different times.

The new law already requires MED approval of any new micro licenses, but Khalatbari suggested the MED monitor the micro license relationships.

“If I’m an endorsement holder, I don’t want to get sued because someone used my equipment incorrectly…. Someone should be available to manage these relationships,” he said, adding that Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking technology mandated by the MED would help show missteps.

Perhaps the most important challenge to the new license’s success rate is getting established cannabis companies to participate. Suggestions to entice them included reducing licensing fees, launching certain excise-tax credits and giving priority designation for licensing transfers and updates. However, the larger potential endorsers who are already set financially would likely want the accolades the most, according to Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.

“For some of the bigger businesses, [decreased] license fees won’t be as big of an impact,” he said, explaining that some sort of good-actor seal of approval could help participants further connect with their communities as well as their chances of earning licenses in other states with legal pot industries.

The final rulemaking hearings will take place through September 20. According to the bill’s drafters and several stakeholders at the meeting, further legislation to update the license program and address the finer details is likely.


Toke of the Town

Reviews: ‘Lion King’ Has Fierce FX & Voices, Few Surprises for Fans

Jon Favreau’s hotly anticipated photoreal recreation of Disney’s The Lion King is ready to roar in theaters nationwide on July 19. Early reviews are in, with critics lauding the film’s high-tech visual feats (which you can read more about in Michael Goldman’s story in our August issue) and stand-out voice performances — with special props given to Florence Kasumba, who voices hyena pack leader Shenzi. However, some felt the lifelike digital critters didn’t fit the ‘90s toon musical numbers and had hoped for more novelty in the remake.

These mixed feelings have resulted in a 61% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far, though the movie is still anticipated to be a box-office hit. The film is pouncing on Chinese theaters this weekend ahead of the rest of the world, and is expected to pull in $ 50-$ 60 million over three days.

The Lion King is directed by Jon Favreau and features the voices of Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones. The score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who also handled the 1994 animated movie, with Elton John reworking his toon compositions with the help of Beyoncé. John, Beyoncé and original lyricist Tim Rice also created a new song, “Spirit,” performed by Beyoncé.

Some poignant review quotes from the first critiques:

The Lion King is a monumental achievement of technological advancement. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

The Lion King at least honors what came before, using current animation technology to convince us that we’re watching the real thing.” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“I was impressed with Beyoncé’s voice acting. She was able to bring the same energy as the young Nala, while still bringing her own her flavor to the older version.” – Dorian Parks, Geeks of Color

“Where the other actors are left to say nearly all the original film’s dialogue, Eichner and Rogen [as Timon and Pumbaa] just seem to be naturally riffing off each other, to hilarious effect.” – Kristen Lopez, io9

“We have more Nala than ever, and her expanded role opens up an enormous range of emotional depth. … Don’t be surprised to see ‘Spirit’ become a strong contender for Best Original Song.” – Jazz Tangcay, Awards Daily

“The realism of the animals makes it hard to connect with them as characters, undermining the inspired anthropomorphism that has been the most enduring source of Disney magic.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

“It’s hard to say why it’s needed when the first one already exists… as an expansion of the 1994 film, The Lion King says and adds little.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“Audiences are likely to eat it up. And that’s the circle of life.” – Rafer Guzman, Newsday

Animation Magazine

April Tech Reviews

Wacom’s Cintiq 16

What makes the new slimmed-down Wacom Cintiq 16 tablet different from previous versions?

Wacom recognizes that its products generally don’t price within everyone’s reach, especially if you are a student, just starting out as a digital artist, or if you are simply a hobbyist who likes to create things. So, how does one open their products to a broader demographic? You make it less expensive. And how do you do that? You look at the product and see what the professionals have that are essential for the other users. So that’s exactly what they did.

With the Wacom 16, the essentials remain intact: 8,192 pressure levels in the Wacom Pro Pen 2 — the same pen with both tiers, the 16.7 million colors match the 13 and 16 versions of the Cintiq Pro, it has the similar sleek design with collapsible legs, and you can use the optional ExpressKey Remote — just like you have with the big boys.

I don’t want to make this a review of what you are losing, but it’s important to contextualize it, in order to weigh what you actually need on a limited budget. First, the resolution is Full HD (1920 x 1080), which is less than the 4K (3840 x 2160) of the Pro 16 as well as the larger 24 and 32 versions. Frankly, 4K on a 16” screen is super tiny, but beneficial on the larger Cintiqs. The color gamut for the 16 is 72% of NTSC, which won’t cut it for serious professional workflows — where the high-end screens are 94-99% Adobe RGB — and the big screens are 10-bit color, sending you into over a billion colors.

Physically, the Cintiq 16 is just as robust, but the cover is a layer of anti-glare film. The Pros have an edge-to-edge sheet of etched glass bonded to the surface and screen beneath. And the Wacom 16 doesn’t have the multi-touch functions of its big brothers. (I’m fine with that because I rarely use the touch functions.) And what you do get is a 3-in-1 cable to connect to your laptop or workstation. The larger Pro models have a bunch of cables that get a little cumbersome.

Yes, you may not have all the super bells and whistles of the Pros. But, you have plenty to work with to make excellent art. Nothing is holding you back. At a starting point of $ 649, it’s still not an impulse buy. But it’s half the cost of the Cintiq Pro of the equivalent size. And if you’re hankering to dive in, this makes for a good starter model until you start bringing in cash with your mad art skillz!

Website: >www.wacom.com

Price: $ 649

Red Shift 2

Red Shift has made a big splash in the rendering community, so I’m happy to finally get around to reviewing this powerful release. The 2.0 version of this GPU-accelerated, biased render engine does some pre-calculations and approximations in the scene before it starts sending out rays. When it does, it takes advantage of the multi-processing of the GPU on the graphics card and accelerates the render speed. This not only speeds up things, but it frees the CPU on the motherboard to do other things.

Generally, I’ve been wary of GPU renderers because geometry and textures can take up a lot of RAM. It used to be that graphics cards didn’t have a lot of that, and scenes want to be stored in the VRAM on the card. But nowadays, we have cards that go up to 24GB on the card, or you can have an array of cards that work in conjunction with one another. And, Red Shift has a memory management system that will allow scenes with TBs of information to be rendered, which is a possibility — especially when you are using UDIMs.

One of Red Shift’s other primary selling points is that its available for most of the 3D packages: Maya, Max, C4D, Houdini, Katana and even Softimage, if you happen to still be using that. The integration is pretty seamless, and the results are predictable between packages. And, even though all DCCs are not created equal, Red Shift does manage to maintain support not only for many of the plugins in the different packages, but for a lot of the key internal things in Houdini like hair, primitives, volumes, instancing and particles. The volumes are cross-platform through Open VDBs.

The primary high-end production workflows have a great deal of support: deeps, layered EXRs, a ton of AOVs, HDRs, IES lights, skin, volume lighting, mesh lighting, complex shading nodes, displacement, proxy objects, direct integration to the Altus (with a license) or NVIDIA’s Optix denoisers (if you have their card) — and, super important for larger studios, Python access from the host and a C++ SDK for integrating into custom pipelines.

Red Shift is fast, predictable, and has a shallow learning curve for anyone who has any experience lighting and rendering. Because its biased, there are a lot of parameters to tweak to balance time versus noise versus quality. I’ve run it in each of the 3D programs without a problem: All of the methodologies are interchangeable.

The cost at $ 500 (+$ 250 per year for maintenance) for a node-locked license is enticing compared to some of the other engines out there. You just have to take into consideration the cost of the hardware to get the best results. But let’s face it, if you’re doing this kind of work, chances are you have a beefy graphics card anyway!

Website: www.redshift3d.com

Price: $ 500 (node-locked); $ 600 (floating)

Todd Sheridan Perry is a vfx supervisor and digital artist whose credits include The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at [email protected]

Animation Magazine

May 2018 Tech Reviews

wacom-Intuos-g6

Wacom Intuos

Just when I thought tablets couldn’t get any smaller and maintain their functionality, the brilliant folks at Wacom released their latest Intuos last month.

This new Intuos line of tablets has an incredible small footprint. The active drawing area is over 75 percent of the tablet itself. The full size of the tablet is roughly the size of the drawing space of the previous models. Removing the bezel area pares down the workspace to just the necessary area. The express keys are moved to the top of the tablet, recessed into a groove that doubles as a place for the pen to live. In addition, the tablet is incredibly light and amazingly thin — 8mm. Seriously, it’s like a clipboard. The surface has a bit more tooth to it than earlier models, so you get that subtle grit to the surface, like paper … similar to the anti-glare surface on the HP ZBook x2 (reviewed below). Plus, it comes in a few fanciful colors outside of black! Pistachio and Berry (in some regions), if you like your tablet pastel.

Another addition is that they’ve moved the USB port to the top of the tablet, so it is a little more out of the way. Of course, if you want to go tetherless, you can check out the Bluetooth models of the tablet.

The pen itself is a thinner version of previous models, and it maintains a nice balance and feel — plus, it retains the rocker side button that makes my life easier. There is no separate pen cradle, as the pen rests in the top of the tablet, as mentioned above. But, you don’t lose your extra nibs.  Well, you don’t have quite as many as before as the extras live in the body of the pen itself. You have the standard nibs, but you can swap them out with felt or flex nibs that are sold separately. The pressure sensitivity is at 4,096 levels, and the tilt functionality remains.

Along with the tablet, you can choose two free downloads, from Corel Painter Essentials (for paint-y things), Corel After Shot (for photo-y things) and Celsys Clip Art Studio Paint Pro (for manga-y things). But, of course, as a professional, you have all the other tools in your toolset already. And your tablet works well with them all.

Like all Wacom products, the feel and feedback is wonderful with imperceptible latency. The smaller footprint is fantastic for artists on the go or for freelancers who like to carry around their tools from studio to studio.

Website: wacom.com/catalog/pen-tablets/intuos

Price: $ 79.95 (Small without Bluetooth); $ 99.95 (Small with BT); $ 199.95 (Medium with BT)

HP Zbook x2 copy

HP Zbook x2

Almost everyone knows that HP ZBook Mobile Workstations are powerful, designed with power users in mind — especially for those working in the animation and vfx industry, those who push the CPUs and GPUs to the limits with our ZBrush-ing and Maya-ing and Houdini-ing and Adobe-ing. But we’ve just been witness to the unveiling of the next generation of that power: the ZBook x2.

While we would all like to untether ourselves from the tower workstations and carry our work with us wherever we go, there is a new brand of creatives out there; artists who want to be able to create things on the fly, in meetings, walking around, even in airports (all the places that we would have been able to pull out a sketchbook and draw). It’s still kind of cumbersome to pull out a laptop and a Wacom tablet. This is the niche that devices such as the iPad and the Surface Pro have been filling, and this is where HP is elbowing in.

First off, the design is thin and sleek and beautiful, able to conform to four different modes: Tablet (with Wacom pen), Detached (with Bluetooth keyboard), Docked (driving multiple monitors through HDMI and Thunderbolts), and straight Laptop (with keyboard connected and screen propped up). Inside, the 14” 4K Dreamcolor is driven by an Nvidia M620 with 2GB which is in the body of the tablet, as opposed to the keyboard, so display capacity doesn’t drop when it’s in tablet mode. The Intel CPUs are quad 8th gen i5/i7. It can hold up to 32GB of RAM and uses solid state drives (HP Z Turbo Drives or SATA) with a capacity of up to 2TBs on the Turbo drives. All this is cooled by a fan system that draws air in the sides and pushes heat out the top. In fact, most of the heat is relegated to the top half of the body, generally away from hands and laps.

The included stylus is Wacom technology with 4,096 pressure levels. The surface of the Dreamcolor is covered with an anti-glare coating that not only helps viewing experience, but features texture on the surface, providing a paper-ish feel when drawing.  My quibble about the pen is that is has only one side button. I’m one to use the rocker button on Wacom products to get that three-button mouse action, so I miss that when using the x2.

Overall, the feel of the x2 is great — not too heavy despite the equipment inside, so there isn’t as much fatigue. The tablet connects to the keyboard with a satisfying “snikt!”.And, while there aren’t as many ports as on the others in the ZBook family, there are enough to get by (USB3, HDMI, USB-c x2, SD Card).  2GB on the GPU isn’t enough for intense texturing in Mari or Substance, but as display cards can fit more power into smaller spaces, that capacity is sure to increase. Price tag is north of an iPad/Surface Pro, but for legit creative production work, you need this kind of power.

Website: www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/workstations/zbook-x2

Prices: Begin at $ 1,575 (15u G4, 128GB memory SSD storage) $ 2,279 (8GB memory, 256 SSD storage)

Per PR: Depends on customizable options; basic models start at $ 1,749

viewsonic copy

ViewSonic VP3881

I’ve been itching to try out one of the new curved monitors to see if they are all that they are cracked up to be. I’m happy to report that yes, indeed, they are all that they are cracked up to be.

The ViewSonic 38” VP3881 is one of these monitors — and it’s a little bit dreamy. (Full disclosure: I haven’t put it through rigorous technical tests, checking the limits of the display — so I’m really going off of user experience and practicality.)

Firstly, the wide 21:9 aspect ratio (3840 x 1600) with a curve that encroaches into your peripheral vision just feels natural. The seamless work area is a nice change from my two-monitor setup, where you end up delegating tasks more heavily to one monitor or the other. At least that’s me. I can still break apart my work area expanding Nuke into Viewing Window, Nodes and Parameters, for example. But the environment feels more cohesive. Plus, there is support software to split your workspace into discrete areas, for those of us who are more particular.

The display itself is crisp and deep, displaying 4.39 trillion colors with HDR10 support (I hope to see Dolby Vision support in the future). That means that you are going to have brighter brights and darker darks than what you’ve been getting in your older monitors. And with a projected Delta E?2 color accuracy, the monitor should be more than adequate for color sensitive tasks like compositing, editing and color grading.

SideNote:  Delta E is the comparative difference between two colors (not touching each other) that should be the same. A Delta E of 1 is imperceptible, while a Delta E between 3 and 6 is deemed acceptable.  So E?2 ain’t too shabby (understatement).

The color specs are listed on the delivery sheet that comes with the monitor.  But for the critical color people, ViewSonic does have a “Colorbration Kit” available to ensure that your monitor stays plumb to the colors you expect.

The monitor sports a number of display inputs: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, and USB-c Thunderbolt — so, not only can you transmitter video and audio, but you can also charge your iPhone. There are also built-in speakers — which is a nice feature, but if you are an editing pro, you’ll know that you should probably have some pro speaks in your suite.

All in all, I have to confess that I’ve been broken by this monitor, or at least by 21:9 curved monitors in general. I don’t know if I can ever go back!

Website: www.viewsonic.com/us/vp3881.html

Price: $ 1,259.99

Animation Magazine

Daily News Bytes: ‘A Silent Voice’ Tix on Sale, ‘Breadwinner’ Wins Strong Reviews, & More

daily-news-bytes-150

TICKETS: ‘A Silent Voice’ in US Theaters Oct. 20
ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio’s presentation of the moving anime feature from Naoko Yamada is confirmed for 51 cinemas across the country — from San Diego to New York City and a goodly variety of cities in between.

‘The Breadwinner’ Toronto Review: Vibrant Animated Movie May Force Oscar Attention
Debuting at TIFF, the Cartoon Saloon feature set in war-torn Afghanistan is getting rave reviews that could bring helmer Nora Twomey (who co-directed The Secret of Kells) into the Best Animated Feature race again, despite the questionable shift in Academy voting rules.

Facebook to Spend $ 1 Billion on Original Content for “Watch” Through 2018
Tubefilter sifts the news and rumors about Facebook’s aggressive push into original video content production and promulgation. Watch launched across the US last week.

Where YouTube Meets Japanese Animation
Video sharing sites which blend role-play, film and gaming elements are giving Chinese millennials a customizable online escape from the tedium of everyday life.

In the Golden Age of TV, the Existential-Animation Is King
Sam Thielman dissects the importance of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman (season four available now) and Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty season 3 in today’s television landscape.

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner

Animation Magazine

August-September 2017 Tech Reviews

Boords

Boords

boords.com

I draw storyboards. I draw them a lot.

I draw them for visual effects. I draw them for short films. I draw them for animation projects. I even draw them for prototyping software and pipeline tools.

I’ve used multiple types of storyboarding programs, but a lot of them might be a little more robust than you need — and  they still require you to fall back on more traditional methods when it comes to managing and reviewing boards with clients and teams.

Boords is an online subscription service that sort of puts Storyboard Pro and BaseCamp into the same room. It’s not meant to make you a better storyboard artist, but rather to organize and creatively collaborate with others on and present your project to.

The interface is light and friendly, designed for ease of use. It does have drawing tools within the package, but for my own style, I’d prefer to work via the option of uploading previously created boards (either digitally or — God forbid! — with pencil and paper). Then keep the drawing tools more for team and client annotations and notes. And on that note it would be fantastic to have notes and drawing tools in the same interface for ease of annotations. Layers would be cool, too.

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Once you have a version of the boards you and your team love, you can share the boards either through a URL link or you can export a presentation PDF that you can tailor design for your company.

Overall, I like the idea, design and execution. I have a feeling that they have plans to bolster the toolset as they get feedback and grow. And ranging from $ 12 per month for occasional boarders and upwards as you add more collaborators, the features are definitely worth it.

ZBook

Hewlett-Packard ZBook 15 & 17

hp.com

The Hewlett-Packard ZBook series has been a popular choice for a broad range of industries. NASA  decided on the 15-inch ZBook to send up to the International Space Station and, if anyone is more worried about reliability, portability and weight than NASA, I don’t know who that is. But we aren’t launching things into space. We’re just making art. However, sometimes our art needs a bit more firepower than the standard laptop.

HP released the G4 series of their Zbook Mobile Workstation in all of its flavors: 14u/15u (the thin guys), Studio (the all-around guy), and the 15-inch and 17-inch full-performance ZBooks (the workhorses). We’ll focus on the last two.

One great thing about the new G4 line is that everything internally has been leveled up, but the profile of the body has remained the same. The CPUs are seventh generation Intel and Xeon processors and the GPUs can now either be AMD RadeonPro WX4170 or NVIDIA M1200, up to a whopping P5000 with 16GB of RAM (for the 17-inch ZBook). And both machines can be brought up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. All-in-all, enough power to provide real-time VR demos.

Like I mentioned, the profile of the body hasn’t changed and has maintained a surface that almost feels soft. But there have been some body alterations. HP has incorporated tool-less access for the battery and the hard drives, which makes swapping disks quick and easy. And with four drive ports — a couple M.2s and a couple 2.5-inch slots you can pack in 4 TBs into the 17-inch and 3 TB for the 15-inch — two slots could be taken up by 1 TB TurboDrives for that extra boost of drive-access speed. And as far as the battery goes, HP has made it so the 16-hour battery life is quickly accessible. They have somehow made it so you can have a 50 percent charge within a half hour!

HP has also kicked up the security on the ZBooks. On top of fingerprint and multiple-stage logins, there is something called SureStart, which is a BIOS level security. It has been getting more popular for hackers and purveyors of malware to alter the actual BIOS, affecting things on the system even before the operating system can boot up. So HP has put in a redundant BIOS system, which monitors the boot time BIOS for unauthorized changes in real time, and can be used to flush and refresh the primary BIOS — even while retaining user preference.

I really love these machines. They run more expensive than the run-of-the-mill laptops that you use for your email and browsing. But that’s because they are designed for more. It’s made for those who need a substantial amount of power while on the run or working away from their primary workstation. Yes, I want to be able to run Houdini sims on a laptop. Who wouldn’t!

mosketch

MoSketch

www.mokastudio.com

I’m always enthralled by innovations taking place in disciplines that have been doing things in particular ways for so long. And I say “so long” in a way that implies that 3D animation has been around for SO LONG. It hasn’t. So, that said, there are always places that can be made more efficient. One of those places is in how character animation is accomplished.

If you are a working animator and have had the chance to work with someone who is coming from the 2D animation of yore — like Glen Keane, for example — you will be familiar with them drawing on your frames to indicate silhouettes and action lines. Well, what if you could kinda animate like that?

I can only imagine that that is what was going through the heads of the developers at Moka Studios when they conceived MoSketch, their character animation tool that attempts to bring some fluidity to the process of 3D animation.

See, traditionally, we go through and — with a combination of forward and inverse kinematics — we pose our characters at certain points in time. But frequently, that requires tweaking a whole bunch of bones or controllers, and it doesn’t necessarily feel “natural.”

MoSketch allows you to select a chain of bones in your character and then draw the pose you’d like those bones to form. You click on the parent bone and use hotkeys to adjust how many bones you are influencing, and then sketch the path you want the bones to follow. Keyframe those positions and then refine — either through additional sketching, or you can switch to using traditional FK/IK translations by simply clicking the parent bones and holding — which gives you a standard transform handle.

The up-down influence of the bones is also handy, because you can either go from the base “up” like from the shoulder to the elbow, so you just bend the arm. But you can reduce influence from the ends down. So, you could rotate the elbow and keep your shoulder and your fingers locked into place. The IK solutions are, interestingly enough, accelerated using the GPU.

Once you have keyframes, you can switch to your curve editor, which appears as a HUD using the entire screen real estate, which I haven’t see much of except for another unique animation tool called Nukeygara. It allows you to watch the animation changes behind the curves as you alter the key positions on the curve.

MoSketch does have the ability to export your animation back out through FBX files, so that you can apply them back onto the original skeleton of your character. So, in theory, you could use the animation in a workflow outside of MoSketch, but in my experience, the complexity of full-blown production rigs climb into the stratosphere. So it’s hard to predict how it could work in larger pipelines.

That said, I love the feel, I love the concept, and I love how quickly you can block out performances. I see big things happening for it if there was some way the motion could be embedded into your standard animation packages.

pencil-plus

PSOFT Pencil+ 4

www.psoft.co.jp

Nonphotorealistic renderers have been around for as long as we’ve been trying to take 3D objects and smash them back into 2D space, in an attempt to make the artwork look “traditional.” And since we started, those renderers just keeping getting better and more robust.

PSOFT Pencil+4, as a plugin for 3ds Max is one of those options. And it’s a kind of exciting option considering that this is its first upgrade in seven years. And what have they been doing in that time?

Well, for starters then integrated the render tool set to work with Max’s Nitrous render, for real-time results at near final quality, with not just flat cel-shaded like rendering, but also calculating lights and shadows.

And that Max integration doesn’t stop there. The interface design has been revisited to incorporate the toolset into the UX of Max itself, allowing for a much easier transition into using the new tool.

And to maintain the theme of Max integration, PSOFT supports Max’s XRef system, allowing you to not only populate scenes with tons of objects, but to take advantage of being able to swap out a model for another model — without looks your drawing settings.

PSOFT deals with material interpenetration so that you get shapes that look like they appear in front of others. Not such a big deal when rendering with a photorealistic renderer. But nonphotorealistic renderers have to contend with outline of shapes and contours and how to maintain a consistency. These interpenetrations can frequently lead to unnatural looking renderers.

Part of that issue is resolved by new edge-detection algorithms that look to see how internal and outer edges are working in 3D space, and how best to present them.

But the accuracy and rigidity of the 3D world isn’t something you want all the time. You are trying to create a different aesthetic after all. So PSOFT offers some unique object modifiers to deform, bend and exaggerate the model beyond what you would normally expect — even further attempting to break that tell-tale tie with CG renders.

Oh! And PSOFT Pencil+ is now multi-threaded, providing exponentially faster renders than before. And who doesn’t want that?

It sells for 60,480 yen, which is roughly $ 550. Not a super cheap plug-in, but not the most expensive either. And if NPR is your jam, you may want to check it out.

rebelle 2

Rebelle2

www.escapemotions.com

Sometimes Photoshop just isn’t what you need. And that’s kinda saying a lot since Photoshop is the de facto standard for creating and manipulating imagery. But sometimes you want to be a little more creative. Sometimes you yearn for painting with physical paint.

Rebelle 2 provides these things (to an extent), through its system of fluid-based brushes, paints and canvases. Compounding on the initial watercolor engine that was part of Rebelle’s first outing, additional brushes and mediums bring a level of realism that just feels real. You can select traditional watercolors, or maybe acrylics are your interest. Or maybe you do want to go the wet paint route — you can choose pastels, chalk and other dry medium. You can even wet down the canvas or dry areas. Each variation on the wetness creates different responses in the medium, and give you different results.

Rebelle 2 has added a bunch of new brushes to the kit, and the ability to combine features and save brand new custom brushes. Each of them has the ability to be accelerated through the GPU.

Additionally, you have a set of stencils that react to both the brushes and the canvas to give you an interesting interactive experience as you wet down a canvas through the stencil and see how the paints beneath begin to respond.

Rebelle 2 does support PSD files from Photoshop, so you can move your files back and forth without having to flatten the artwork before moving. Top that with speed optimizations, multitouch options for tablets, and a price tag under $ 100, and Rebelle 2 is a great artistic tool for professional and hobbyist a like.

frankb-cumulonimbus_frank_basinski

Terragen 4.1

planetside.co.uk

Planetside Software released Terragen 4.0 last October, so I’m a bit slow on the uptake. However, with a point upgrade to 4.1, I felt it was an opportune moment to hit on some of the advances that happened from TG3 to TG4.

First on the list is speed and responsiveness. TG4 takes advantage of Intel’s Embree ray-tracing core to drive its new progressive ray-trace preview. Instead of the traditional micropoly buildup, we can a quick pixelated version of our view with all of the bells and whistles activated (if you like), providing immediate feedback for color and composition decisions. The longer you let the frame cook, the more detail is rendered. This provides fast iterations as you tweak lighting, shaders, cameras, etc.

But, then, when you have something you like and hit render, everything under the hood has been optimized to give you substantial speed improvements over TG3 — even taking into consideration that more complex math is at play.

New multi-scatter cloud algorithms have been implemented for more realistic light calculations with and around cloud systems. These are controlled by parameters in the atmosphere nodes, and can easily be setup with a quick set of presets for reality-based cloud systems like cirrus and stratocumulus and other clouds with sciency names. Plus, like many other presets, you can purchase cloud preset packs from sources like www.lucbianco.fr

To bring the atmosphere to an even higher level than with simply pretty clouds, there is the incorporation of light absorption through ozone. It may sound like an insubstantial thing when it fits into one sentence. But ozone and how it affects sunlight is what makes everything in the world look like it does — and when you’re in the business of creating worlds, it’s kind of a thing.

The camera has received a few updates as far as lens effects go. It’s not so much improvements on the scenes themselves as much as how we perceive those scenes through the camera lens. What’s great is that the post effects are taking information from the high dynamic range that Terragen is generating in its renders and applying the post effects to that — which takes into consideration the light source, specular reflectivity, atmospheric scattering, color and occlusion (like when the sun move behind clouds, mountains, or tree leaves.)

Shaders have been added and current ones improved upon, and all of them are incorporated into the powerful node-based system that drives all of Terragen.

For the 4.1 upgrade, Planetside is throwing in some parameters for your EXR output so you can save 16-bit or 32-bit files. Some new shaders are being incorporated. Some interface and naming tweaks. But most of the heavy lifting has been going into the cloud systems and atmosphere to optimize quality and render times.

Terragen and always has been super powerful. The workflow is a bit different than other 3D programs, so it has a steeper learning curve. It’s also a bit pipeline unfriendly. Moving things out of Terragen into other packages is less than kind. However, that said, a great deal of the realism of Terragen lies in the renderer — and if you move your stuff out to another program? Well, you kinda lose that.

For future upgrades, I would love to see some support for OpenVDB — both import and export.

Animation Magazine

MA Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy Reviews Long List of Bills

When Massachusetts voters acted to pass marijuana legalization back in November, the Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy was formed to help usher in the ever evolving cannabis climate. The committee, chaired by Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree), is tasked with transforming a piece of legislature into a functional and regulated marijuana […]
Marijuana

March 2017 Tech Reviews

cinedesignerr2

Cine Designer R2

www.cinematographydb.com

Previsualization is the big thing these days.

It used to be geared more toward complex visual-effects sequences, mainly because big effects sequences are expensive, require lots of people, and the money people want to see what they are spending their money on before they spend their money.

Now the technique has spread into all facets of film production. The ability to make creative choices before 150 people are sitting around a set, waiting for you to make a decision is invaluable.

The norm is that facilities like The Third Floor or Proof are hired to conceptualize sequences, which will then be cut into an edit for discussion. This data is used to determine required equipment in production as well as post-production requirements.

But what about for the smallish shoots that should go through the previs process, but don’t have the resources to hire a previs company? Sure, you could go into Maya, 3ds Max, etc., and animate some cameras and people and props. But you risk doing things that physically can’t be replicated on set or, even if they could, it doesn’t provide you with any information beyond how the shot should look.

CineDesigner R2, created by cinematographer and technical director of photography Matthew Workman, was made to provide a simple way to create previs using real-life camera, lighting and grip equipment.

Its a plugin for Maxon’s Cinema 4D (all flavors excluding the lite version come bundled with After Effects), that brings up interfaces: Camera Truck, Lighting Truck and Grip Truck. Each ties into a library of prebuilt equipment models that correspond to the real-world stuff. For instance, I can put together an Alexa XT sitting on an Arri BPL2 plate, which sits on an OConner head, on a 24-inch JLF-TH offset, mounted onto a J.L. Fisher Model 10 Dolly. Yes ,it’s that specific.

The camera is then controlled by sliders within the interface of each piece of equipment. You can pan and tilt with the OConnor. You can raise and lower the camera with the hydraulic lift beam on the Fisher. You move the camera via the dolly — on or off tracks. And if you want to swap out pieces, it’s as easy as importing a new piece — a Mitchell 18-inch riser for instance — and dragging it in the object list so it ends up between the offset and the head. In 3D, the new riser snaps in between the other two pieces. It’s pretty snazzy.

The same works for the Lighting and Grip Trucks. The Lights are working lights in the 3D viewport, so if you build a 3D set in Cinema 4D that represents the set, you can do some broad-stroke lighting design. It’s not as 1:1 as I might like, but we aren’t going for photorealism; we are conceptualizing and planning.

CineDesigner is about the idea is that you are designing your shots with the restrictions of the real-world in mind, which then allows you to plan your camera, lighting and grip lists with specific budgets in mind. Things will change once you are shooting — but a solid plan is invaluable.

You can find more at Matt’s site www.cinematographydb.com

realflow10

Real Flow 10

www.realflow.com

RealFlow has been used for fluid simulations for a long time now. And Next Limit continues to push its boundaries with new tools for controlling the simulations — tweaking things under the hood to make it faster and more stable, and all the while making things more complex.

The biggest advance is beefing up the Dyverso multiphysics solver, which has been optimized and takes advantage of both the GPU and the CPU in your workstation. Introduced in RealFlow 2015, the solver is meant to take into consideration many different kinds of objects, requiring different solvers, and get them to work together. So even though RealFlow has had fluid and rigid-body solvers, and they have worked together in the past, the Dyverso solver makes them faster, more accurate and more solid.

But then you add the latest craze of granular stuff — teeny tiny grains. Sand. Snow. Tiny ball bearings. Frozen’s dynamic snow-clumping simulations come to mind, as does the hyper-macro world of Pixar’s short, Piper, with its wet sand. And most recently, an Imperial AT-AT (or I guess, AT-ACT to be accurate) in Rogue One stepping onto the beaches of Scarif.

Yeah, granular simulations are a thing. And Next Limit not only has implemented it, but because it’s within the Dyverso universe, it can interact with other materials like water and rigid bodies.

But they haven’t ignored the Hybrido solver, which makes the larger fluid simulations, such as boats plowing through waves or water crashing up on craggy rocks. Speed, stability and memory management have all improved.

Also added are some pretty nifty new daemons or daemon features. The Particle Skinner daemon essentially wraps particles around an object, not to make a particle-y object, but to make a proxy surface on the object with which to simulate. The particles collide with other surfaces and their movements get translated to the original object. So whether the simulation is rigid or elastic, the particle solve drives the translation and deformation. If that makes sense — explaining this is more difficult than witnessing it. You can check out videos at www.realflow.com.

Daemons have also been given parameters to add a falloff to their effect, which could be based on an object or other modes. This gives your forces a much more controllable and subtle effect on the simulation. And the k Volume now has an object mode. In earlier versions, you could only kill particles based on a cubical volume; in RealFlow10, you can use geometry to kill the particles.

All in all, an exciting release that should provide hours and fun and torment for effects artists around the world, who are now being driven by directors and producers who have figured: “Oh! You can do THIS now!? Let’s do it! And more!”

substancepaintertovray

Substance Painter to VRay

https://hocuspocus-studio.fr/tools

I’ve brought up Chaos Group’s VRay, which, incidentally, won a SciTech Oscar this year, and Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter quite a lot these past few years. Mainly because I like ’em, but also because they frequently release updates. I like them both, but they don’t necessarily play together nicely.

The reason for this is because of the way Substance wants to model light and surfaces in its physically-based render setup, and the way VRay likes to handle it, don’t mathematically jibe. As you are painting in Substance Painter, you are getting real-time feedback. You can spin lights around, change the HDR for different lighting situations, etc., but then when you export the maps to render in VRay, they don’t look the same. Sure, you can make them both look cool, and there are workflows to get them to behave, but I’ve found those get a little hinky. And if you are like me, and aren’t painting textures every day, you can’t forget all the little switches and knobs you have to flip and turn.

Well, Kinematic Lab seems to think this is an issue, too, because they released a free plugin for 3ds Max users that sets up your VRay shaders to accept the Substance Maps, places them into the correct channels, adds the appropriate gamma adjustments.

The results aren’t identical, but they are very similar. At least more similar than I’ve been able to get without a lot of fumbling and tweaking.

So, there you have it. A short and sweet review for a piece of free software, written by one of the little guys, by the name of Clovis Gay, who just wants all of us other little guys to be able to make pretty pictures with a lot less trouble.

Check out the Kinematic Lab site for the download and for lots more free and inexpensive tools for 3ds Max. https://hocuspocus-studio.fr/tools.

Animation Magazine

Report: Weedmaps is Loaded with Fake Reviews

The service also failed to protect customer information.

Here’s your daily round up of pot news, excerpted from the newsletter WeedWeek.

Irvine, Calif.-based Weedmaps is full of bogus dispensary reviews, according to an investigation by the L.A. Times.

Reporter Paresh Dave looked at nearly 600 businesses reviewed on the site and found that 70% included reviews submitted from a single IP address (i.e. a single computer). A textual analysis found that 62% of reviews on the site are “fake.”

Weedmaps, a Yelp-like service with operations in several states, had stored the IP addresses of anonymous reviewers, in its publicly available code. A Weedmaps executive said the 62% figure is far too high, and emphasized that reviews are only part of the product.

The Sacramento Bees digs up who gave the $ 6.6M in political contributions to the main group supporting AUMA in California. “Among the donors are those with obvious existing ties to the issue who could profit immensely from a legal marijuana marketplace,” the paper writes. A report estimated that the California market could reach $ 6.5B by 2020.

Some cannabis activists are voting no in California.

A State Department report criticizes other countries for persecuting people who use marijuana for religious purposes.

Washington state licensed sales spiked to more than $ 60M in July suggesting that the state’s elimination of the MED market is working as expected.

An Arkansas group is asking the state supreme court to block a MED initiative. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said allowing MED would suck up state resources. Texas is beginning to write CBD rules.

Floridians are squabbling about whether the MED initiative would allow businesses, “to move in right next door to your neighborhood, your church, your business and even your child’s school.”

An Arizona judge threw out a lawsuit to block the state’s REC initiative from appearing on the ballot. An appeal is likely.

Michigan’s Supreme Court will decide whether a REC initiative makes the ballot. A clerical error could complicate Montana’s MED initiative.

Oklahoma’s MED initiative collected (just) enough signatures. Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) then changed the ballot title to language supporters find misleading. The maneuver could keep it off the ballot. Pruitt helped lead the Oklahoma/Nebraska lawsuit against Colorado that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear.

Prosecutors in Missouri are trying to block MED from appearing on the ballot. It’s not yet clear if the initiative will qualify. The column by Dave Helling also has a nice discussion of state vs. federal law.

Toke of the Town

Summer Product Reviews

JUJUSticks

JUJU Joints

The vaping revolution is here! JUJU Joints™ are quickly becoming a favorite among patients of all preferences. When JUJU Joints™ began their journey into the cannabis space, they came at it on their own terms. JUJU Joints™ created their vaporizer from the ground up so that their vape would produce the cleanest and most desirable results. The result is the perfect vape that is also fully charged and loaded and ready for use. The oil that JUJU Joints™ puts into their vaporizers is pure cannabis oil, completely free of additives or carriers. JUJU Joints™ offers a variety of options and the strain specific options are also desirable and welcomed. There is a JUJU Joints™ for every type of patient. There is a CBD only JUJU Joints™, a hybrid, THC & CBD JUJU Joints™, and a strain specific THC JUJU Joints™.

Each JUJU Joints™ is easy to use and are ready to go out of the box. Each also have a convenient window near the mouthpiece to show the level of oil that remains. We also really appreciate the test results labeled on the back of each box indicating how much THC, CBD, and CBN and all ingredients are clearly labeled. The THC JUJU Joints™ is strain specific and has all the flavors one would expect with the strain. We tried the OG Kush and the Skywalker flavors and they were spot on for flavor and effects. JUJU Joints™ come in a variety of strain options and sizes of either 250mg or 500mg options. We really enjoyed each option and were really impressed with how they tasted just like the strain they are labeled as. JUJU Joints™ have been thoroughly designed for convenience, discretion, and ease of delivery. Before you reach for your next vape pen purchase, try JUJU Joints™ and discover a whole new world in medicating. To learn more about JUJU Joints™ and to find a collective near you (watch their informative videos too) visit www.jujujoints.com

StashLogixStashLogix

The folks at StashLogix have the perfect travel companion for all our stash needs. Each size of StashLogix stash bags are designed for the individual’s use and needs in mind. Each bag has numerous features that will delight and organize your stash and all of your accessories. No matter the size you choose, each have a zippered combination lock, so no one gets into your stash except you (don’t forget your combo.) Customizable padded dividers keep everything organized and secure. These geniuses didn’t leave anything out, StashLogix bags have a small port on the side for easy charging of devices while remaining secure inside. We love the stash journal and pen designed to log your favorite strains and products for further exploring in your cannabis journeys. Each bag also comes with one or more jars that are designed to be labeled with the provided pen for easy identification. They left nothing out, there is a carbon odor absorbing pack that has its own pocket inside the bag to cut down on the obvious. StashLogix products are smart security for a number of reasons; keeping your meds locked at home, in your car trunk, away from children, or roommates from getting into your precious stash. This has become our go to bag for both storing cannabis and accessories at home or on the go. Every patient should have one, get yours today by visiting www.stashlogix.com. Use promo code 420TIMES for $ 4.20 off any purchase over $ 35.

EdipureEdipure

Edipure has become a favorite medicated edible for a number of reasons; recently we had an opportunity to discover the sweet snack side of Edipure products. If you are not into gummy candy, this could be a great alternative to the wildly popular Edipure candies and gummies. We tried the mixed nut clusters, cookie butter cookies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, and the waffle ‘n caramel cookies. Each variety is delicious and does not have a canna aftertaste. The cookie butter cookies are a light buttery cookie with a cookie butter center sandwiched between with 25mg of cannabis in each. The peanut butter cookies are also awesome with a 25mg dose in each cookie. The waffle and caramel cookies are amazing with a cup of coffee or alone and also are 25mg per piece. Lastly, the mixed nut clusters are small and easy to eat with cashews, almonds, cane sugar, pumpkin seed kernels, rice syrup, sea salt, honey and consistent cannabis extract of 10mg per cluster. Edipure has made it easy to effectively and accurately dose your cannabis edible, but they also have made their edibles delicious and delightful. Ask for them by name at your favorite collective/ dispensary and tell them you read about Edipure in The 420 Times.To learn more or find a location visit: www.edipure.com

daily-ritual-50mg_grandeJambo Superfoods

This company is taking health and cannabis to a new level with their super healthy CBD and THC infused products. Their signature product is supercharged oil made with ghee from grass fed cows, MCT Oil and Cannabidiol (CBD.) The result is a perfect way to daily dose your CBD or THC or both. Our team used the CBD oil daily for overall good health effects as well as adding a daily dose of CBD to enhance the endocannabinoid system for balance. Each patient will use the product differently according to your goals or desire, but essentially this 50mg bottle shown here could provide a months’ worth of 1 teaspoon per day regimen which would be 2mg in each dose. Along with their line of both THC and CBD versions of their supercharged oil, they also have edibles that are sure to delight in both THC and CBD options. The THC version has a small percentage of CBD as well for a well-balanced experience. The CBD that Jambo uses for their oil comes directly from hemp plants, so there is no THC detectible in the CBD version and can be purchased online without a recommendation worldwide. The THC version of all their products including the oil and their fabulous cookie truffles are available at participating collectives/ dispensaries throughout CA. Keep reading The 420 Times for more reviews on all of the Jambo products. For more information and locations on where you can discover Jambo Superfoods for yourself, visit www.jambosuperfoods.com

MellowFellowMellow Fellow

Smoking cannabis wrapped in tobacco (known as a blunt) has been a common practice for some time; however it’s not the healthiest option available. Now you can roll a larger joint with a wrap that is all natural and doesn’t interfere with the flavor of your cannabis. Introducing Mellow Fellow wraps, the natural alternative to rolling your cannabis. Mellow Fellow brings a traditional Rastafarian practice to the mainstream with three material options; Corn husks, veggie, and banana leaf. Mellow Fellow provides the user with a chemical and tobacco free option. Simply fill with your favorite herb, twist and lightly run your flame across the length of the wrap this will create a natural adhesive around the outside securing your cannabis inside. Each wrap adds a unique smoking experience to your herb. The only way to fully know is to experience it for yourself, visit http://www.mellowfellowsmokewraps.com

The 420 Times

November 2014 Tech Reviews

Imagineer Systems’ mocha Pro

Imagineer Systems’ mocha Pro

Imagineer Systems’ mocha Pr

Mocha Pro has worked its way into the visual effects and post-production world in a big way. If you doubt me, then you can probably take it up with the Oscar they were granted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for technical achievements. I mean, that’s gotta count for something. But they don’t need that gold statue to prove their value. It’s all there in the work that is done with mocha Pro.

Mocha is, at its foundation, a planar tracker, which means that it tracks patterns in footage that lie on a particular plane – like a television screen. But if you look around you, almost everything can be broken down into flat planes, and that’s what mocha looks for. You then can take that tracked data and make magic.

The latest iteration mostly has support for working in stereoscopic 3D. If you work on stereo shows, you know that there is footage for each eye – each being slightly different. Can you imagine trying to do tracking or rotoscoping for one eye, and then doing it manually for the other? And make it match? Neither can I. Mocha Pro 4 takes its tried and true tracking system and extends it to both eyes at the same time, taking into consideration the offset between the eyes. Any change that you make to rotoscoping or remove functions happens in the other eye. Or not. You have the ability to turn it off if you want. All of the stereo tracking and spline data can be exported to stereo-supported software, such as Nuke.

If you don’t do stereo projects, you still get some new stuff though, including full export to Nuke nodes, a streamlined UI, custom key assignment to tailor the workflow to you, and even exporting your roto to Premiere Pro (although I hardly condone handing over the compositing reigns to editors). And finally, Python has been brought into the system, elevating a fantastic piece of software to a fantastic piece of software that can now be incorporated into a larger pipeline with custom tools – a critical factor when talking to larger visual-effects houses with intense infrastructures.

If you have After Effects, then you have (and are probably familiar with) mocha. If you haven’t done so already, the pro version is worth the $ 500. And if you are using Nuke, you’ll love the new export tools, but you’ll love even more MochaImport+ for Nuke. For more on that, read on.

Mamoworld’s MochaImport+

Mamoworld’s MochaImport+

Mamoworld’s MochaImport+

MochaImport+ is a suite of tools known for creating a workflow between After Effects and mocha Pro. But with small and medium-size effects houses beginning to move to Nuke, it was apparent that the tools needed to be available. Mamoworld has stepped up and created a suite of tools for Nuke users to take advantage of the strengths in mocha Pro.

All the tools use as their foundation the mocha Pro planar tracker to drive their functions. CornerPin+ and Tracker+ are more robust nodes of the same name, using not only the position, rotation and scale of the trackers, but also the shear and perspective of the plane from Mocha, which adds that subtle dimension to tough tracks that you just can’t get from point trackers.

The Roto+ and RotoPaint+ work with the Mocha tracking data and multiple trackers, which means that in Nuke there are individual splines within the one node that could be tracking objects moving in completely different ways. Any roto or paint that you apply a particular spline will be locked to only that spline, keeping your Nuke scripts clean and efficient.

But my favorites are the Stabilize+, GridWarp+ and SplineWarp+ features.

Stabilize+ takes the Mocha data, and then make a little Nuke flow that brings in your footage, and applies stabilize to it. You then apply your effects to the stable footage. And then a final node returns the footage to its original state – but now with the effects. The process is something I use all the time and this tool makes it so easy.

SplineWarps and GridWarps are fantastic tools, but can be cumbersome with moving footage – and what footage isn’t? SplineWarp+ and GridWarp+ take the mocha data and apply it to the warp so it follows the thing you are warping (like maybe the Mad Hatter’s eyes). The transforms are applied to the underlying matrix of the warp, rather than to the points, so you can actually add animation on top of the tracked warp. The black arts, I say.

Some may say, “Well, I can do that in Nuke already with tools already available, why buy another tool?” The answer is: to make it a simpler workflow. Yes, you can act all smart and build node trees to do much of this. But outside of feeling smart, where does that put you? It puts you behind the compositor who used the Mochaimport+ tool to streamline the process. Instead of spending time building a node tree, that artist is already doing the art.

At $ 123, I’d say the investment is worth exponentially more than the time investment in building the Nuke nodes every time you need them.

And just because MamoWorld is a standup company, they added a bonus. They throw in a free tool that lets you re-path your Nuke sources for easy migration from, say, a directory structure on the freelance artist’s home machine and the one at the studio who contracted him.

3ds Max Extension Pack 2015

3ds Max Extension Pack 2015

Autodesk’s 3ds Max Extension Park 2015

You may look at 3ds Max’s extension pack for 2015 and think, “Huh, that’s not so much.” But the number of features in a release hardly reflects the importance of those features.

Let’s look at OpenSubDiv. For those of you who don’t know, subdividing models is a common function in a 3D pipeline. So common, in fact, that it is quite possibly part of every CG character in every CG film you’ve seen in the last 15 years. It’s important. But just dividing polygons on models isn’t as simple as it sounds. There is a lot of math going on. And, who else better to tackle the issue than Pixar. In fact, I first remember hearing about polygon subdivision around the time of Geri’s Game, and it just grew from there. Well, Pixar made their technology open source — in the form of OpenSubDiv, which Autodesk has picked up and incorporated into their DCC suite. Mudbox and Maya got it first and now, finally, 3ds Max.

Basically, OpenSubDiv allows one to take a low-polygon mesh and apply a smoothing process to it to make it appear as if it had more detail. In the past, 3ds Max had Turbosmooth (and still does), but that process has its limitations and can frequently cause artifacts if your base model isn’t created properly. Now, while you still need to be aware of proper modeling techniques, OpenSubDiv alleviates the need for unnecessary edge loops to control detail. Along with the OpenSubDiv modifier, there is the Crease Set system that allows you to define how sharp edges will become when the model is subdivided. So, you can have really soft, rounded edges, all the way to absolutely sharp corners. And, because you can establish crease sets, you can control many edges at the same time. And best of all? These parameters will migrate nicely to Maya and Mudbox, so that interchangability is less of a problem.

And speaking on interchangability, 3ds Max now supports the Alembic interchange format that is all the rage these days. Developed from some of the big boys in the industry, like ILM and Imageworks, Alembic is designed from the get-go to manage and retain model, animation and simulated data and have it move between 3D platforms with little to no difference. Exocortex released a plugin for Alembic support for Max a few years ago, but now the feature is built into Max through the latest extension (which means it’ll be incorporated into Max 2016.)

Lastly, and not least, for the real-time and gaming people, ShaderFX has been expanded with more shading options, additional procedures, and a fancy interface that looks like the Material Slate already in Max. But even better, the interface is mirrored over to Maya so that the user experience is the same between the systems.

So, again, it’s not a lot of features, but it is some pretty significant ones. Kinda like the choice of buying the lame fireworks multipack with sparklers and ground bloom flowers when really you want a two or three huge rockets that are illegal in most counties.

Animation Magazine

‘Boxtrolls’ Opens Wide with Positive Reviews

The-Boxtrolls-150

All right, stop-motion fans — The Boxtrolls is here at last!

LAIKA’s third feature-length movie boasts the widest opening of any film this week, with more than 3,400 cinemas set to show the Focus Features release. Right behind is Sony’s live-action reboot of The Equalizer, playing in some 3,200 cinemas.

The release will be the most recent test of the appeal of stop-motion. While CG-animated features from the majors expect headline-making openings, only one stop-motion feature has cracked $ 100 million domestic: 2000?s Chicken Run.

LAIKA’s first feature, Coraline, is No. 2 on the list of top-grossing stop-motion features with a $ 75 million domestic tally. Coraline opened with about $ 17 million; LAIKA’s second feature, ParaNorman, opened with $ 14 million on its way to a $ 56 million domestic total.

Read Animation Magazine’s cover story from issue 243 on The Boxtrolls here. Order that issue here. Subscribe here.

Most prognosticators expect The Boxtrolls to finish the weekend in the same range as Coraline and ParaNorman; time will tell.

Critics on the other hand have been pleased with the results. Rotten Tomatoes has the Boxtrolls at 71 percent “fresh,” while Metacritic gives it a solid 63.

The New York Times’ A.O. Scott writes:

Like the company’s previous features, including the sublime “Coraline” and the nutty “ParaNorman,” this one, directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable from a script by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava, plays down sentimentality and didacticism in favor of clever verbiage and loving attention to visual detail. The expected lessons about self-reliance, open-mindedness and friendship are delivered without too much fuss or ceremony.

Like much of the best animation, “The Boxtrolls” is above all a marvel of craft. Just before the final credits, we catch a glimpse of the labor involved — a fast, funny riff on just how painstaking the work of creating a kinetic stop-motion universe can be. And yet it looks like child’s play.

Los Angeles Times’ Betsey Sharkey was less impressed, but still writes:

Even so, the latest film from Laika, the Oregon-animated force behind Oscar animation nominees “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” has many charms. That signature off-center orientation and the devotion to outsiders is always welcome in the animation house. And in the current conversation over what makes a family these days, boxtrolls make a good case for embracing different.

Jake Coyle of the Associated Press writes:

Surely, it’s only to the good that an animated film can include a devilish little girl like Winnie lamenting that the Boxtrolls aren’t as fearsome as foretold: “I was promised rivers of blood!”

The trades were less taken with the movie, with both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety coming down more on the con side than the pro. Variety’s Peter DeBruge writes:

They’re not cute, they’re not funny. They’re neither scary nor special nor even all that original. Ladies and gentlemen, they’re “The Boxtrolls,” and as animated kid-movie characters go, these drab, cardboard-clad critters are about as compelling as a bunch of pet rocks.

The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls

Animation Magazine

Bungie Responds to Destiny Reviews: We “Thrive on Feedback”

The latest Bungie Weekly Update has been published on the developer’s website today. Along with discussing some of the updates coming to Destiny and the release of its soundtrack, the developer responded to a mailbag question inquiring about its thoughts on Destiny’s reviews.

As you may have noticed, many of the reviews Destiny receivedincluding GameSpot’s–scored the game lower than most of Bungie’s previous games, and lower than what many people were expecting. Asked to comment on reviews, community manager David Dague writes, “Bungie thrives on feedback. Never feel like you need to stick up for us when you see someone expressing an honest opinion about our games. We’re harder on ourselves than anyone else.”

Aside from inspiring more of the continued discussion about what role review scores serve, there is possibly a tangible effect of the scores that Destiny received. If a 2010 contract between Bungie and Activision is still being used, the developer may have lost out on a $ 2.5 million bonus by failing to earn a average score of 90 or higher on GameSpot sister site Metacritic. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time review scores cost a developer a bonus.

A number of these coins are hidden in the Tower

Elsewhere in today’s Weekly Update, Bungie highlighted today’s launch of the Destiny soundtrack, which you can now pick up on iTunes. $ 10 gets you the 44-track album, or you can pick out your favorite songs for $ .99 a pop.

Also of note, Bungie’s staff suffered another defeat in last night’s Bungie Bounty; a group managed to complete the Vault of Glass raid on hard mode; and the first person to find all of the hidden coins in the Tower (and let Bungie know) will receive an exclusive player emblem.

Amusingly, the Weekly Update goes on to mention yesterday’s shut down of the so-called Treasure Cave, saying, “Our Dev Team is currently working faster than the Mail Sack. The fix is in. And it’s hot!” Despite this, players managed to find another location that works in much the same way before the Weekly Update even went live.

Destiny was launched earlier this month on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Just yesterday, a new update went out that addressed a variety of issues, and Bungie outlined some of its plans for more updates to come over the next few months. It also recently announced some upcoming in-game events, which are nicely summarized in the image below.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
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