Dr. Mussey's Blog
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Oct
03

You make your animation and it seems “perfect.”  Then, you realize it is far from perfection.  In fact, it seems fatally flawed.  Can it be fixed?

Usually, taking an apparently final production and backtracking to change dialog or the timing of a scene is an expensive nightmare.

Not so with animation on modern systems!

Take the above animation.  I made it and assumed it was “finished.”

Problem #1 appeared late in production: It was too long.  In order for the scene to “play out,” it took forever.  No single gag is worth five minutes.  So, I compressed the scene by triggering dialog events earlier.  It seemed to be, again, “perfect” with a tighter script.

Problem #2 was made worse by recent news events in our local Washington D.C. area concerning gun violence: A certain section of this animation followed the style of Warner Brothers cartoon type violence which proved excessively jarring.  When two test audiences made an audible gasp, I knew there was a problem.  The comic value was destroyed.  It had gone “over the top” in a bad way.  I had to change it all.  Working almost totally in Harmony and a bit in Audition, I was able to fix the issue within a few hours.

Now, it was “perfect”?  Nope.

Problem #3 appeared in a test audience of other physicians:” The doctor is talking too much.  He’s a real jerk.  No one sympathizes with him.”  The problem was obvious and, somehow, I missed it.  When you do a scene over and over you lose the impact and fail to see obvious problems.  My efforts to compress the scene’s action (see Problem #1 above) had created a new undesirable character trait: The doctor who never listens to the patient.  Perhaps such a non-listening doctor could be a future cartoon topic, but not this one.  Again, with a few hours in Audition and Harmony, the issue was solved.

Imagine doing this in the old days!

So, now it is perfect?   Well, at some point, you have to let go, release the darn thing and move on!

Harmony and the miracle of computer animation make this possible.

May
25

If you want a portable tablet pc for Toon Boom animation, here is very interesting option: The Samsung Ativ SmartPC Pro 700T.
Samsung-ATIV-Smart-PC-Pro-700T
First: This is not designed to replace your desktop PC with a Wacom Cintiq or tablet interface. You will always need the horsepower and precision of a good workstation with a high quality graphics and drawing tablet.

But what about being away from your desk? What if you want to sit on a shaded porch and draw? Perhaps you are killing time in an airport or doctor’s office when a moment of inspiration strikes. If you need something for those moments away from your desk when you want to produce material instead of simply consuming content, this is the machine for you!

The basics: This is a 1080p resolution tablet that inserts into a keyboard or runs alone. The operating system is Windows 8 on an Intel core i5 processor. The surface features touch AND A WACOM SURFACE WITH A PEN!

When inserted into its keyboard, it looks and feels like an Ultrabook or a slightly heavier Macbook Air.
So, here is the bottom line:

Why is this great for Toon Boom animation?
1. Wacom screen and pen allow you to draw directly into Harmony or Animate software.
2. The Samsung 700T is the only detachable tablet with “wintab” drivers to allow you to use other drawing software. (Note: Harmony and Animate from ToonBoom do not require these drivers.)
3. High resolution screen gives lots of workspace even for a small space.
4. Decent pen accuracy. Some have complained, but I see no issues.
5. Compact and 5 hour battery life (I got a bit more in my use).
6. At $999 you will not find anything like this on the market for animating.

Why would you pause and be unsatisfied with this?
1. ToonBoom Studio does not work well on this machine.
2. Earlier models had a finicky keyboard attachment which seems to be fixed in current models.
3. A high resolution screen requires more graphics power. Complex scenes in Harmony with complicated backgrounds or sets had to be “dumbed down” to do lip-synch and action refinement. This is easy to accomplish, though it reminds you the device is not a powerful desktop.
4. The pen is small and should be used only as a backup. Spend the extra $35 and get a bigger Samsung pen.

Other considerations:
1. Windows 8 is less frustrating on a touch screen, but is still a tough transition from Windows 7 or earlier.

Other models to consider
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1. Surface Pro from Microsoft was actually the favorite from the Toon Boom staff. The included pen is better and they reported better accuracy. Note that other reviewers have disagreed on the pen accuracy issue. Surface Pro does not have “wintab” drivers, which is not a Toon Boom problem. Surface Pro is a bit more expensive.
34-680-450-TS
2. The Fujitsu Tablet PC’s are good (T902), but have lower resolution and are a lot heavier. The Lenovo X230T tablet PC is also excellent, but is heavier, more expensive and has poor edge accuracy with the pen. In general, traditional tablet PC’s without a detachable screen can cost twice as much as the Samsung or Surface Pro.

When the Macbook Air and later Windows Ultrabooks were introduced, my comment at the time was: Very cool! It still needs a pen, Wacom screen and more robust graphics to be perfect.

The latest release of Intel integrated graphics is now sufficient to run Toon Boom software. Now, the Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T from Samsung and the Surface Pro from Microsoft finally adds the Wacom screen and pen.
CM_S7_ATIV_1
A decent portable animating platform has arrived!

Addendum:
Additional work with Toon Boom Harmony and Studio has revealed a work around for much better performance on this Samsung tablet. This should work for Animate and the other Toon Boom products, too.

First, go into the Toon Boom software preferences and uncheck the box for “wintab” support. Close the program.

Now, you have two choices: Temporary or “Permanent.” You want to disable the Wintab drivers from Wacom. Both are reversible. Do not let the “Permanent” label frighten you.

Temporary Method:
1. Go into the “Task Manager.” You can get in by hitting “Control-Alt-Delete”

2. Enter “Services” tab

3. Find “TabletServiceSD” and “TabletInputService”

4. Right click on these two items.

5. Select “stop”

The disadvantage with this method is you must repeat this every time you start up your machine.

Permanent Method: Again, this can be quickly reversed if you need Wintab drivers. This simply uninstalls the drivers from Wacom.

1. The Samsung “SW Update” lets you manually save the drivers on your hard drive. Manually save the “Digitizer Driver.” This is in case you change your mind and want to reinstall the drivers.

2. Go to program uninstall and uninstall the drivers that have the Wacom name.

3. Restart your computer. Do not panic when you realize your pen is dead. Once you have the restart, your pen is back with the Windows drivers working.

4. Now all Toon Boom programs, with Wintab disabled, work great, great, great! Incredible pen accuracy! Amazing responsiveness!

5. To reverse the process, just reinstall the Samsung Digitizer driver.

Additional points:

1. Do not rush to the Wacom website and try and install the newest drivers. They are not optimized to work with the Samsung device and my experiences have gone badly with these.
2. Samsung SW Update will prod you to reinstall the digitizer drivers. Don’t do it if you like how things are working.
3. Interestingly, Surface Pro from Microsoft made no effort to provide Wintab drivers. This explains why Surface Pro cooperates better with Toon Boom out of the box. Samsung, in its efforts to provide better service, actually made the Toon Boom products malfunction.

Oh, well…..

Jan
07

There is a lot of stuff here at CES.  Hopefully, this is not part of the “innovation.”

final-0007

Jan
07

LG makes washers, dryers, refrigerators, televisions, smartphones, stoves, and other devices.

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LG will make your smartphones work with all of your appliances: Your LG stove, your refrigerator, your television, your washer and your dryer  and will make connectivity easier to let you live “the Smart Life!”

…but only if every appliance and smartphone in your home is from LG.

Sorry iPhone, Motorola and Samsung phones!

Dang!  I knew there was a catch!

Honestly!  Where do these company executives come from?  People cannot simply swap out phones every few months!

Jan
07

Hearing aids are not waterproof.  Apparently, some make claims to being water resistant.

Unfortunately, you still cannot swim in a hearing aid.  You cannot step into the shower with a hearing aid.  If it rains on you, you must hide your hearing aid.  You cannot even sweat too much while wearing a hearing aid.  The water wrecks the electronics.

Siemens won honors in Design and Engineering at CES for creating a hearing aid that is totally waterproof.  You can swim in the device and do any water activity without fear of wrecking the electronics.hearingaid

As an added feature, they have an attachment that allows you to listen to any mp3 music player.

awardIt is called the Aquaris Hearing Aid from Siemens and it is available from your Audiologist if you ask.

Dec
09

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a huge electronics show held annually in Las Vegas.  For the third year in a row, Toon Boom will be there.

This time, however, the company is also going First Class, showing their products at the special show “CES Unveiled.”

This will be huge!  Check out typical CES events in this composite “Best Events of CES.”

Dec
09

Microsoft is doomed. This is the popular cliché. However, this week, I saw something that made it all so clear.

microsoft-surface-top6302

Our annual Christmas office party was this week. Those attending can best be described as grandmothers and older mothers. Someone brought their iPad. The entire group was thrilled when they saw the iPad. You would think someone just brought out pictures of their new grandchildren. Actually, the pictures came later, courtesy of the iPad. Those without iPads talked excitedly about their plans to buy one this Christmas.

Though they use computers regularly, they merely tolerate them. For them, computers are simply an ugly necessity.

Yet, this group loves their iPads. They are not at all intimidated. They are genuinely excited, even weeks after their purchases. They “love” their iPads in the same way technology addicts like myself “love” our own shiny new computers or gadgets.

While geeks like me debate the merits between Android versus Windows RT versus iPads, this group of technology-phobic people know only one thing: They love their iPad or they want one now. They do not know the meaning of the word “Android” and they have no idea what Windows RT or Windows 8 means. They are not even interested.

Microsoft lost this segment of the market. It is too late. The race is over. The iPad won.

Nov
29

This year, Intel released Ivy Bridge. This offered fans of Toon Boom animation improved graphics performance.

The big issue for Toon Boom Animate Pro and Harmony is video graphics. If your video card is inadequate, the programs will run badly or not at all, meaning they crash.

This creates problems. Windows Tablet PC’s all tend to offer only integrated graphics, except for some models of the HP tm2 (now obsolete) and Fujitsu T901 (also soon disappearing). This created challenges for those who wanted a portable animation platform.

Enter Ivy Bridge with its higher end HD 4000 graphics and promises of OpenGL support in an integrated graphics laptop. Anandtech.com has a good review of the graphics capabilities. I was impressed enough to get a Lenovo X230T tablet, running Windows 7.

Verdict: Harmony runs well on this machine. I am finding no problems!

Is this as good as a laptop with a dedicated graphics card? Of course not…. But you get a portable animation machine!

Key things to look for in a tablet PC:

  1. Wacom Digitizing Hardware
  2. Intel Corei5 or Corei7 processor
  3. HD 4000 Graphics (NOT HD 3000!!!)

     

    I am aware of only three tablets meeting these criteria. One each from Lenovo, Fujitsu, and Samsung can be found at this time.

     

    Good luck!

     

    Steven Mussey, MD

 

 

 

Toon Boom Studio seems to be far more tolerant of lower end hardware.

Aug
17


Last year, I made an animation for CES about Steve Ballmer. Using all of the 3D features of Harmony 9, I added a stage, characters, and background. I also added rows and rows of people. The goal was to recreate the “drama” of the big event before making fun of it all.

As the scene was composited, I ran into trouble: Simply maneuvering around the elements made my machine pause and then crash. It became extremely difficult to work with the animation. If I rendered anything other than a 720 by 480 resolution frame, the program crashed. Even though I set my preferences in the program to reduce memory use, the program still stuttered. I was able to create the basic scene before frustration made me stop.

My assumption: Even my well-equipped Intel i7 machine was overwhelmed.

I was wrong. The problem was Harmony 9, which is a 32-bit program, could not handle the memory demands of my complex scene.

So, Harmony 10 is 64-bits and advertises faster and better scene handling. Would it perform as advertised? Is it REALLY better?

On that same machine, now running Harmony 10, I loaded up the Steve Ballmer animation. Would it crash? Could I render film resolution frames without the dreaded Windows 7 error message?

The result: The animation is easily handled by my computer and Harmony 10. The animation renders film quality frames with no difficulty. The difference is dramatic.

Harmony has a lot of features. Power users will quickly add complexity to their scenes. If you are stuck in 32-bit, these scenes become unmanageable, even on the fastest super-computer.

Switch to 64-bit and even my first generation Intel i7 runs like a sports car.

Harmony 10’s step upwards is 64-bits and it is a really big deal! Go for it!

Steven Mussey, M.D.

Jan
13

Toon Boom is promoting “Doodle.” “Doodle” is a cool animation program for kids and will allow anyone to make sophisticated animations that can be shared on YouTube, Facebook and others. The folks at Toon Boom were at CES this week and gave us a demo of their product.

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