Browsed by
Month: January 2024

Recreating famous scenes with CGI

Recreating famous scenes with CGI

Blender Guru walks us through how a modern CGI workflow would work for a scene everyone knows – the elevator scene in the Shining.

He breaks down all the tools and rendering tricks he uses as well as points out 3 key elements that most VFX artists get wrong and makes CGI workflows look bad: grain, focus, and levels.

He shows why CGI has gained so much traction. The cost for the practical effect version of the elevator scene would likely now run around $50,000-$100,000. The CGI version? $14,000-$20,000.

He needed about 6 days to re-build the CGI version of the scene and 4 days of rendering. He does a fantastic job showing off how modern workflows work.

Tools he used:

Motion capture artist

Motion capture artist

曦曦鱼SAKANA shows off some of amazing skills one needs to have if you’re a motion capture artist working for a video game. She seems to have mastered both male and female (and zombie!) walks along with lots of interesting and really unique kinds of swagger and variations.

One rail train – the self-balancing monorail from 1910

One rail train – the self-balancing monorail from 1910

Primal Space (which has some fantastic videos with 3D model recreations) shows us the innovative Brennan gyroscopic monorail designed in the early 1900s.

Louis Brennan wondered if he could help the spread of rail by making it half as expensive – needing only one rail instead of two rails. But how do you balance tons of train on one rail?

In the end, he designed a monorail that defied conventional limitations by balancing on a single rail, leaning into corners without external input, and remaining stable (no hunting oscillation) even when stationary by the use of 2 extremely clever interconnected gyroscopes.

What seems to have largely done in the idea is that each car in the train would need its own gyroscope motor and assembly. It makes me wonder if there would be a way to reduce that space requirement using an interconnected air system in modern train brake systems to power the gyroscopes. But it also would have the unfortunate problem of falling over if the gyroscopes stopped/malfunctioned/ran out of fuel or weren’t parked with supports. It also didn’t remove the problem of needing to design and acquire right-of-way to lay the tracks in the first place.

Still – it’s quite amazing to see this thing in action. All done before computers and mechanically.

Procedurally generated VR city

Procedurally generated VR city

Vuntra City is a procedural VR city generator in Unreal Engine 5 developed by a single person over the last few years. I know, I know. Procedurally generated content has got some serious shortcomings. Too many games with procedural content are just thinly veiled programmer art designed to fill spaces rather than be part of the experience.

The author actually does a great job recognizing those traditional limitations and attempts to fix them. Probably the best observations they make is not from the technical side, but the aesthetics side.

It turns out they have made an excellent solution with just some good observations and shockingly simple engineering solutions. As an engineer, I see far, far too many projects over-complicate things that could be done much more simply. Simplicity is how you know you’re on the right track. Complexity leads to tears.

After 2 years of experimenting, they have a really interesting solution. Check out the VuntraCity youtube channel to see vidoes of how they experimented with different techniques and solutions. I particularly liked how they used a normal old treemap layout to break up boring city grid structures. Combining it with a caching and pooled allocation system is nothing new; but was a good little optimization.


‘The Day Before’ was exactly the disaster that was predicted

‘The Day Before’ was exactly the disaster that was predicted

“I’d have more fun hiding in a dumpster surrounded by actual zombies.”

If I had to pick a trend for the 2010’s, it’s that we seem to have a growing trend of delusional and outright manipulative entrepreneurial sociopaths that promise everything to get rich and use startup culture to carry it out.

In this case, it was the game “The Day Before”. It was the most hyped game in Steam history. The social media blitz by the strange founders Eduard and Aisen Gotovtsev was something out of a fairy tale. They were the hottest thing on gaming sites and took in millions of dollars from fans that ate up their claims and demo clips – even though experts were dubious from day one. As people started looking deeper, the story got stranger and stranger but the money and fans poured in. I wrote about how the whole thing seems like a scam. Sadly, it’s all come true.

KiraTV did epically good coverage of this strange pair and Fntastic studio that raised red flags from day one. But nobody seemed to care or heed the warnings. The two projected what I can only describe as a cult-like charisma. People forked over millions of dollars to a pretty much unknown and unproven pair with no track record. Their studio was equally strange – in which they seem to be grooming and manipulating young developers to work for them, apparently, for free.

As development went on and people expected updates on progress, the messaging from the developers became more and more strange. Industry vets asked questions and were given inconsistent and confusing answers; yet a very solid core of fans rabidly defended them despite all the experts calling for serious caution.

In the end, after 5 years of development, the game was released to terrible reviews, not delivering even a portion of the promised features at dramatically worse quality than all the demos showed. As people absorbed how bad the game was, Fntastic quick announced it was closing its doors because the game flopped. It was only on sale for 4 days before they announced the studio closure.

A few hours after the studio announced its closure, sales of The Day Before on Steam were halted. “The Day Before has failed financially, and we lack the funds to continue,” the studio said in a statement posted to Twitter. “All income received is being used to pay off debts to our partners.

Their response to countless gamers that were promised the moon and stars and paid for $40 early access? “Shit happens”

I smell a lawsuit. I HOPE there is a lawsuit. These creators clearly were mis-representing the game they were making, took people’s money, and then launched the game in some twisted attempt to show they didn’t just take the money and run.

What’s sad is that almost anyone could see this coming. The signs were all there. Yet, much like Bitcoin, it’s amazing how many people absolutely refused to believe the founders were psychological manipulators, ignored the continual warnings of industry experts, and that they were promising something that just could not be delivered the way they were making it (on the backs of naïve young developers they didn’t even appear to pay).

If you’re curious what one of the most hyped games in Steam history ended up looking like at launch, here’s the first 22 minutes:

Despite the highly publicized and ongoing wreck and knowing the game was pulled from the Steam store, people were paying $200-$400 for a Steam key for the game even AFTER it was pulled. Perhaps they want to own the gaming equivalent of the Fyre Festival?


Trends in custom-build PC’s

Trends in custom-build PC’s

Tom’s hardware visits Cooler Master headquarters in Taipei and gets an interesting view of upcoming developments in home pc building

What are some of the trends Cooler Master sees?

  • Case design
    • Flatpack cases you assemble
    • Impressive designed minicases
    • More colors and select premium materials such as exteriors featuring leather, wood, and bamboo alongside traditional PC case materials like metal, glass, and plastic
    • Upward trends in computer cases:
      • aquarium-style cases with lots of glass
      • integrated display cases
      • high-end showcase chassis
      • designs with tasteful RGB lighting.
    • Downward trends in case design:
      • ‘old school’ RGB
      • classic towers
      • pure workstations due to the host of attractive alternatives now available.
  • Back-plugin motherboards – motherboards that feature plugs on the back/bottom of the motherboard. Components like memory, cpu, M.2, and other components go on top, and all the cable clutter goes on the back.
  • Power supplies: quieter and silent passive cooled PSUs, delivering more watts for silent and SFF builds, offering more 12VHPWR connectors, and providing white versions of new and upcoming PSUs.
    • Sizes were also shrinking by demonstrating some truly tiny 1000w power supplies.
    • They are also offering quite 1100W, 1300W, 1600W, and 2000W supplies that come with heat pipes and passive cooling blocks to reduce noise.
    • 12 year power supply warranties
  • Immersive experience devices like the Dyn X Dynamic Racing Experience and the Orb X Gaming Throne.
US Copyright, Patents, and Generative AI

US Copyright, Patents, and Generative AI

There’s a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation of copyright and patent law when it comes to generative AI. In fact, the US copyright office has already flip-flopped on this issue; and the Chinese courts have come up with a completely different ruling saying that AI generated images can be copyrighted. It appears this could be a political war as much as a legal one.

A lot of the social media hyperbole is being fueled by fear and uncertainty. Not that there isn’t a real problem with generative AI taking away people’s livelihoods or possible copyright violation; but it’s worth knowing what one is talking about before heading off with pitchforks and torches.

I found this article on IPWatchdog to be informative about the actual legal arguments – but it’s important to know the jury is still out; and the US Copyright Office has already ruled exactly the opposite on this issue just a year ago. First off, what does copyright protect (compared to a patent)?

The Supreme Court laid out the difference first in Baker v. Selden, and re-emphasized it a century later in Mazer v. Stein. “Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea—not the idea itself.” In this way, each type of intellectual property right exists in different types of creations, which arise in a different ways, and have different requirements for protection. “[C]opyright protects originality rather than novelty or invention,” which is the domain of patents, said the Court in Mazer.

Indeed, what the Court made clear in Feist v. Rural, is that authorial works need to be original; that is, both created independently and “creative.” Other cases, such as Bleistein v. Donaldson, spoke of original expressions as “personal reaction upon nature,” where the author contributes “something recognizably his own,” per Alfred Bell

So the question for copyright becomes ‘Is AI creative?’. This is a tough point because it’s not clear what creativity really is. However, that philosophical or neuroscientific point is not that important when it comes to law. What is important is the previous language used to describe what is protected.

The article author indicates the emerging legal arguments seem to indicate that the kind of ‘creativity’ that is covered by copyright relates to that of human activity. Neither the courts nor the US Copyright Office have so far found AI to be creative with respect to the wording of existing copyright law.

Whether that argument is valid/sticks is a whole other story. Law is fickle and can change. It also doesn’t touch on the question of fair use on publicly displayed images and the argument that AI might be just considered as using copyrighted work to learn techniques/make but making their own reactive/derivative works which is something that art students do and the whole point of going to art school.

Either way, we’re likely see the most important legal decision in a decades with profound repercussions for future generations.


International Longshore and Warehouse Union files bankruptcy for Port of Portland violations

International Longshore and Warehouse Union files bankruptcy for Port of Portland violations

It looks like the illegal slowdowns by ILWU that ended up destroying the Port of Portland and leaving it’s own members jobless when shipping companies cut all ties has finally reached a head – in the bankruptcy of ILWU.

The bankruptcy of the union was the final result of a decades-old litigation between the union and an affiliate of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. It started as, what a jury later determined, to be illegal tactics when workers for years caused operational disruptions at the Port of Portland.

After a 10-day trial in late 2019, a jury found ICTSI was entitled to over $93.6 million in damages – an astounding and unheard of record amount. Especially in union-friendly Oregon. While the union challenged the fine and a judge reduced the amount owed by the union to just over $19 million (March 2020), the amount was still too much.

ILWU filed for bankruptcy in Oct 2023.

Still, the damage was done. The Port of Portland went completly dark. May 2016 was when the last container ship left the facility and all dock work was permanently lost.

2023 Update:

In 2020, the Port of Portland has again started accepting container ships and are back up to just over half it’s former volume. Lets hope cooler heads have now prevailed and the militant rhetoric ended.


You Want to Be a Video Game Developer?

You Want to Be a Video Game Developer?

Techspot wrote up a simple introduction to being in game development as a career. I think it’s a reasonable intro article to anyone interested in getting into the field as it is today; but definitely doesn’t go very deep in career development, if this would be a good fit for your personality, or matching long-term career goals.

I think some of the comments at the bottom are pretty interesting though. 🙂