Dr. Mussey's Blog
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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.

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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.

Jan
12

CES is not all about cool new televisions, laptops, and smart phones.

One of the more fascinating sections of CES deals with Robotics. Last year, I discovered a company which is using robotics to address a serious healthcare problem: Agitation and anxiety in the elderly who suffer from dementia.

When faced with an agitated patient with dementia, the options for management are terrible. Step number one is to use non-medication means to calm the person. These are often useless and are always time intensive. Step number two, is the use of sedative medication. Unfortunately, such medication is usually not effective and always carries high risk for harm and premature death.

Another non-medication option involves the use of “therapy dogs,” which are surprisingly helpful. Unfortunately, in a nursing home setting, this is only possible for short intervals that render the therapy less useful.

An interesting company called PARO was, again, at CES displaying their “therapeutic robots.” It is a robot designed to look like a baby harp seal. The company calls this a “non-familiar animal” that people “can accept” more “easily without their preconception.” It is covered in “artificial antibiotic fur” with a hard inner skeleton.

It contains sophisticated intelligence circuitry to interact with humans, responding to light, sound, temperature, touch and posture.

It recharges with a pacifier like attachment.

To see these devices in person is remarkable. In a very short period of time, you find yourself petting and interacting with it as if it were a living pet that needed comforting. While the CES show floor does not allow “field demonstrations” with elderly patients suffering from dementia, the hands on experience and online video is convincing.

There is just one glitch: the device is not cheap: $200 per month. Insurance will not cover it.

On the other hand, a month of Zyprexa or similar harmful sedative easily exceeds $200 per month and every study confirms these drugs are always harmful and questionably useful. Yet, drugs are covered by insurance.

For the second year in a row, I walked away from the PARO booth convinced this would be a dramatic improvement in patient care. I do suggest this to families who might benefit, but no one has tried a device so far.

Anyone interested can visit the site: http://www.parorobots.com.

Jan
08

CES is the Consumer Electronics Show. It is the place where innovations from all over the world in the field of consumer electronics are gathered and promoted. It is not a gigantic version of BestBuy. It is a place where companies like BestBuy come to see what is new. Nothing, theoretically, is for sale here. These are products that are supposed to appear over the coming year.

Many have been critical of CES: Why have the show in January, when people are burned out from the Christmas Holiday shopping hype? This completely misunderstands CES. CES is where companies gather to figure out what they will sell you NEXT Christmas. Most of the new products do not appear until mid-year, if they appear at all.

That last sentence brings up another interesting aspect of CES. Most of what you see at CES will never appear on a store shelf and will never be available for purchase. Many of the items are prototypes which are often killed before they can appear for consumers.

As you travel to some of the smaller company booths, you also see something interesting: A huge assortment of really cool gadgets that will never appear in the U.S. Many of these are designed for sale in countries with lower income levels. The gadgets tend to be “almost as cool as an iPad or iPod,” but are more cheaply made. Sometimes, they even have extra cool features like 3D screens. Unfortunately, the build quality, feature set, and software are simply not up to standards demanded in the U.S. Nonetheless, these products are still often really cool. I love traveling through these back vendor booths.

CES is a glimpse into the electronics world of the coming year. It is a look into electronics firms’ efforts to create “the next big thing.” Most of this stuff will fail. In fact, some of the most promoted and loved products will fail badly (Motorola Xoom, Blackberry Playbook, etc.).

CES is all about innovation….and a lot of hype.

Jan
01

Our animated team is covering CES 2012!

Ultrabooks are here and they are getting dangerous!
Check out this CES animated coverage:

The newest tablet! It’s called “The Tablee!” See it in this short comical clean animation making fun of the tablet competition.

Dec
11

CES 2012 is approaching and the hype is accelerating. Of course, I will be attending and making fun of the experience. To get an early start, I created several animations and updated some old ones.

The software used:
Toon Boom’s ANIMATE PRO and HARMONY.
Number of animators: One. Just me.

Harmony allowed some extra effects not available in Animate Pro:
1. Pencil Lines that look like a real pencil (Overall, I’m not sure this added much.).
2. The ability to import 3D objects, seen in these animations as the Stealth Bomber.
3. Particle Effects, seen accompanying the Stealth Bomber.

The 3D Television Studio and show floors were created in Animate Pro.

Interesting problems encountered in the creation of these animations:
1. The Steve Ballmer address has many layers of crowds that were placed in a 3D manner to allow a sweeping camera motion over the crowd. I managed to choke my computer with the excess processing power. I played with various methods to not kill Harmony with an epic crash. Would a video upgrade card have helped? Maybe. My current card is not too wimpy, so I was surprised. The problem was severe enough that rendering beyond NTSC resolution was impossible.

2. Time is always an issue. The goal is to crank these out with reasonable quality, but fast enough to be useful. This means lots of short-cuts and limited fiddling when issues develop.

Oct
02

When talking with animators or potential users of Toon Boom software, the learning curve is always the great fear. Learning new software is difficult, time consuming and potentially frustrating.

I became a Toon Boom Studio user way back in 2003.

How in the world would my middle aged brain pick up a totally new program?

After playing with the “Quick Start” tutorial that came with Studio, I realized I could learn the program “enough” to make a serious animation. Yes, vast areas of the program left me completely baffled, but I quickly found the basics and just started drawing. Roadblocks occasionally appeared, but the manual is very clear and complete. Within a couple of months, I created an animation that made it on television. This was my first Toon Boom animation:

Toon Boom’s catalog of “serious” animation products begins with Toon Boom “Studio” and graduates through “Animate” to “Animate Pro” and finally to “Harmony.” I recently became a “Harmony” user. Again, some of the menu selections leave me baffled.

One thing is reassuring: The interface you see in “Studio” will be similar when you get to “Harmony.” As you move into “Animate Pro,” new amazing tools like “Network View” will aid in the creation of complex animations. I love “Network View,” but know it would have made my brain explode if I had tried to learn it back in 2003 as a new animator.

So, for someone new to Toon Boom: Buy “Studio” now and get a Wacom tablet for under $100. Do the “Quick Start” tutorial. Don’t spend more than an hour or two. Then, start animating and see what happens. Do not fret over the unknown buttons. Do what you know first and slowly expand.

Then, when you feel ready, ask Toon Boom about upgrading. Toon Boom upgrades are very reasonable and your time will not be wasted.

Sep
11

Here’s the deal:
It’s called “The 11-Second Club” (http://www.11secondclub.com/)and every month, they post 11-seconds of audio from a movie. You then have one month to make an animation to match the audio. The posted animations are then voted on to see who wins.
In my animation, an older doctor counsels a younger doctor….

Sep
03

An extremely cool monthly contest, “The 11 Second Club,” gives you an 11 second audio clip and holds a contest to see who can create the best animation.

This past month, the winning entry was traditional 2D in the style of Disney. This was a bit unusual. 3D models and animation tend to dominate the entries overall.

It would be great to see some entries using Toon Boom animation software.

So, navigate over to the site and start animating with the latest clip. You have until the end of September to do the current clip. What are you waiting for?!?!?!

Here is the site:
http://www.11secondclub.com/