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Pixar, here I come!

So, Nina asked me what I could do with all this modeling stuff. Well, Miss Smarty, I can make a shiny disembodied gray chicken head float around and chew gum. NOW don’t you feel silly for asking?

Actually, the alert viewer will observe that he’s not really chewing. His bottom jaw has become dislocated and is flying around randomly inside his skull. Darn you, learning curve! Darn you to heck!

Have a good weekend, y’all.


Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:01 pm

He must have said something the Democratic Wisconsin State Senate members did not like!

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:17 pm

Kewl. can you make it turn around, run around and peck a pan of dough?

(sorry, couldn’t resist. Helpdesk work fries your brain after a while….)

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:18 pm

Great!…when does Attack of the Killer Chicken Heads come to a Theatre Near You? 🙂

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:19 pm

Wow! It has a shadow (that actually reflects the movement) and everything! Eagerly awaiting, here, the results at the other end of the learning curve!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:30 pm

That’s the thing about 3D, Can’t hark. You build stuff, it puts in the shadows and reflections and all for you.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:49 pm

Ah. OK. Is it alright if I’m still in awe, or do I have to be all blase about it now?

Comment from Spad13
Time: February 18, 2011, 11:54 pm

We are only days away from cartoon Zombie Reagan eating WI teachers union brains. It will be more epic than when he fired the PATCO idiots. YAY Weaseltoons!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 19, 2011, 12:01 am

The first time I made a picture with a 3D program, Can’t hark, I actually screamed in shock. It was a little scream (I’m not really a screamer), but a scream nonetheless.

I didn’t really know what a raytracer was. But it was a free program, so I followed the instructions to make a sphere, then told it to make a picture, then went into the kitchen for a glass of tea.

Came back, and there was the most perfect shiny red ball floating in the middle of a black screen. Like I could reach out and touch it. “Eeeee!”

This was in the early Nineties, back when graphics mostly really sucked, so a very compelling 3D object was a huge shock.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: February 19, 2011, 1:08 am

Well I stand corrected, Stoaty. 🙂

It’ll be so totally awesome once you get the lower beak to be anatomically realistic.

Notice that I didn’t say natural, just realistic. 🙂

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: February 19, 2011, 2:38 am

wow, not bad, its actually chicken shaped! all my 3d models keep turning into wierd triangular squares….

Comment from Mitchell
Time: February 19, 2011, 9:13 am

Set the Wayback machine to 1986 and wonder at the Amiga Juggler! This was jaw-dropping stuff back then. Max Headroom and The Last Starfighter were done on Amigas too.

When I was 17 my family had the most awesome personal computer on the planet. Yeah I’m still kinda pissed that Apple and IBM won out.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 19, 2011, 12:19 pm

And so was Babylon 5, Mitchell.

An acquaintance of a musical persuasion insists that he has an Amiga running in his recording studio and that it hasn’t been switched off for many years. Apparently he still uses them, regularly.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 19, 2011, 12:32 pm

Yeah, that juggler was done with a very similar sort of ray tracer as Persistence of Vision. That was just mind-blowing stuff back then, when the usual computer graphic was made out of magenta and cyan big chunky blocks.

Remember back then, you’d go into a computer store, and there would be dozens of monitors, but they’d only have a couple of different images on them? (I remember one of a great big clownface, and another of hot air balloons). That’s because computer monitors were capable of displaying pretty good graphics, but it was really hard to get pictures into computers. No flat scanners, digital cameras were at low-end video res. The only options were the grievously expensive drum scanners printers used.

I bought my first machine in 1985, and I very nearly bought the Amiga. It was easily the best machine out there for graphics. By miles.

I went with an IBM compatible because I wanted to remain compatible with the IBM AT’s at work. Little did I realize the ones at work ran on a completely proprietary operating system and had about $100K in specialist hardware under the hood.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 19, 2011, 3:43 pm

Beneath the failure of the Amiga lies Motorola’s halfhearted support of its microprocessors. They were always, always late with support chips like memory managers, serial interfaces including disk controllers, timers, etc., resulting in many a system that was “68x based” containing a significant proportion of Intel and Zilog subprocessors. They also had an odd, sullen attitude toward releasing documentation. In ’81 I sent requests to the chip makers for info on the then-new 16-bit processors. Most of the manufacturers sent a good bit of stuff. Two stood out: Intel sent (via UPS!) a big box full of data books and datasheets for everything closely related, and a checkoff order sheet for free samples of a lot of it; Motorola sent — a one-page price list. Guess which one got used for most of the private and small-company design efforts of the day!


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 19, 2011, 4:10 pm

Yes, a strangely tormented company, Motorola. I’ve always wondered if it was cursed by the fairies at birth.

Comment from Nina
Time: February 19, 2011, 4:34 pm

I never had an Amiga, my first computer was a C 64, which we squeezed every little bit of processor ability out of until we went Apple. We still have fond memories of our first forays into the digital age.

Me dear old dad didn’t get it at first. Mom was a teacher, and wanted to get one of the original Macs through the fledgling teacher discount program that Apple still has (it about pays the tax, fair enough). Daddy grumbled that it was a waste of two grand plus and anyway what would you use a computer for that you couldn’t do just as well without one?

But as je usually did, only put up a token protest (he learned early on that letting Mom do what she wanted made his life easier), and she got it. He continued to grumble about it–until he actually fired up the machine for himself out of curiosity (and, methinks, the desire to be able to say “told ya so”). Mom never got her computer back and Daddy had to buy her another one. He upgraded every couple of years until he died, and he’d’a gone spare if he got his hands on an iPhone or iPad.

RIP, Dad!

Comment from EZnSF
Time: February 19, 2011, 5:09 pm

Amiga Jugglers, 68x based Zilog subprocessors, IBM drums, NTSC D2 pixals, blah, blah, blah.

Fire! Make it breath Fire! No…lighting!

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 19, 2011, 5:36 pm

Patience, EZnSF. We will return to normal content shortly 🙂
The nerds are muttering among themselves.

Motorola in that era was one of the companies (DEC being the outstanding exemplar) that had “value pricing” at the core of their strategy — that is, their products were so wonderful that customers could make a lot of money off them, so didn’t mind paying high for the privilege. They then failed to invest the profits in creating support chips, which often led to the Motorola chip being alone on a board otherwise populated with Intel, Zilog, TI, or other makers’ products, every one of them a lost revenue opportunity. They also worked very differently, adding design time and chip count (and therefore cost) to the board.

The Amiga was hands down the best graphics and audio/music computer of its day, but much of its functionality depended on custom (for which read: expen$ive) chips that kept its sale price high. Those custom chips originated as an attempt to build the coprocessors Motorola didn’t make; the Amiga designers set out to build a cheap game console, then kept adding functionality to the custom chips in a rather spectacular example of “mission creep”.

IMO the final deathblow to the Amiga came from its disk format. In those days everybody who designed a computer tended to come up with a proprietary format. The Amiga’s was very, very good — but they never added routines to read and write IBM, Apple, etc., disks (though some third-party developers did), and the Amiga format was ‘way too complex for the Other Guys to handle. As a result it was very difficult to swap data with an Amiga, and that meant corporate buyers weren’t anxious to introduce a few of them into their operations to see how they went.

Ah, well, hindsight is always 20-20 🙂


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 19, 2011, 9:06 pm

I had an Apricot once. Yes, that’s right – not an Apple, an Apricot.

It was a very advanced PC for its day (the first in the UK to use 3 1/2″ discs) but some design genius had endowed it with a standard MS DOS operating system that wasn’t IBM compatible, so there was no swapping discs between the two machines, even though they used identical operating systems and discs.

Genius. Pure genius.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 19, 2011, 10:17 pm

Ha! This ain’t exactly Gumby’s neighborhood: Chainsaw Maid.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 19, 2011, 11:32 pm

Not Gumby, no, but wasn’t the fat one a bit character on Wallace & Gromit a while ago?

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: February 20, 2011, 12:22 pm

Ric said:

They also had an odd, sullen attitude toward releasing documentation. In ’81 I sent requests to the chip makers for info on the then-new 16-bit processors. Most of the manufacturers sent a good bit of stuff. Two stood out: Intel sent (via UPS!) a big box full of data books and datasheets for everything closely related, and a checkoff order sheet for free samples of a lot of it; Motorola sent — a one-page price list. Guess which one got used for most of the private and small-company design efforts of the day!

Yee Haw!

Had acres and acres of Intel docco provided gratis (also learned a lot from it) and rows and rows of TI semi references, but nary a Motorola.


Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 20, 2011, 7:13 pm

Gah! Your discombobulated chicken head thing is giving me the heebie-jeebies. It’s like the cyber version of that distressing chicken head that one woman found in her order of Micky D’s fries. Just to share the distress:


Man I am so jealous. Where I live if I want a deep fried chicken head it’s a special and Micky D’s charges me a buck more. I bet she groffled on that thing like it was Mardi Gras.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 20, 2011, 8:18 pm

If it’s any consolation, DG, it creeps me out, too.

Comment from JeffS
Time: February 21, 2011, 2:19 am

Motorola hasn’t lost their “value pricing” attitude, Ric. Their communications equipment remains the most expensive gear that money can buy.

Oh, and if you want to program, say, their handheld radios? Hey, presto!, pay out the wazoo for the special gear to do so, and you can.

I was so tickled to see their notice that they were going to splash their Globalstar satellite network, because it was so expensive, so limited, and so unreliable that no one would pay their outrageous rates to use that service. Great idea, lousy implemenation.

Alas, Congress stepped in to save the network, and it’s still out there, bunches of satellites whizzing around the planet, all with Motorola chips on board, those that haven’t been replaced over the years. What a pity.

Comment from Frit
Time: February 21, 2011, 2:52 am

Just a quick note to say I got my e-mail from Messiah Studios! *Happy Ferret Dancing™!* Mr. Dragon was delighted when I told him I’d gotten him a professional rendering engine to go with his 3DMax modeling program. Heee!

Hey Argentium G. Tiger, I will admit off the top that AW is rather expensive. But I’m expecting my laptop to last me at least a decade, which is why I was willing to pay for the maxed out version. As for building a computer for your daughter, you might find that AW is too expensive, but researching the components and combos they use can be helpful, at any rate. Good luck with that! 🙂

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 5:56 am

Just got my messiah:Studio 5 working. The instructions are crap, but the process is straightforward if a little less automated than what we’re used to nowadays. For those who got confused (this is mainly Windows, which I have):

1) Download the appropriate version (win32, win64, or Mac) from

2) Decide where you want it. THIS IS IMPORTANT because it’s highly interlocked. I can’t tell if it’ll die if you upgrade your OS or not, but it might. If you’re just playing, putting it on your hard drive is good enough. If you mean to use it even somewhat seriously, go get a 32 or 64 gig thumbdrive, stick it in, and clear out the cruft.

3) Install it (double-click the .msi file you downloaded, for Windows users; launch the installable on Macs)

4) Try to run it. It will give an error message. Acknowledge. (Not “cancel”!)

5) It will pop up a requester box. Use the select button to pop up your drive tree, and choose the drive you want to use. It has to be the root of a partition; for Win users, that means it has a letter-colon identifier (“C:”) No folders/subdirectories need apply.

6) It will generate an ID string. Copy the string with the mouse.

7) Go to the email you got. Click the link to open the license server. You have to do this because the link contains the validation that you bought the software.

8) Paste the ID (from step 6) into the “Client ID” box and push the “Generate License” button.

9) Copy and highlight the entire contents of the box. It’s important you don’t miss anything.

10) Open a text editor (Notepad, e.g.) and paste the license text (from step 9) into it.

11) Save the result as messiah_license.txt in the root (not a folder/subdirectory) of the drive you chose in step 2 and entered in the software in step 5.

12) Try again to run messiah. It works!


Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 6:01 am


In step 3 — the installer will ask where you want to put the executable installation. The default is the C: drive. If you want to run it from the thumbdrive, edit the path string. Windows doesn’t mind, but you might have to start it by chasing down the executable instead of using the nice shortcut, if you have other thumbdrives or some other reason for letting Windows shuffle the drive letters.


Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 6:06 am


In step 2 — if you’re using a thumbdrive, GIVE IT A LABEL (“Name”) before continuing.


Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 21, 2011, 7:48 am

So essentially, Ric, you’re telling us that the entire development team for this product need their thumbs broken with hammers? I’ve built dozens of live production LAMP webservers which required less jumping through flaming hoops than this. It’s a frickin’ app for making dancing chicken heads. Anything more complex than ‘click on the icon to install’ is retarded.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 2:22 pm

Thanks for that, Ric. I wondered why everyone on the pmG forums was referring to thumb drives.

Apparently, if you license your copy to a thumb drive, you can sell it. Worth remembering if you bought a $1K program for $40.

On the other hand, if your thumb drive breaks or gets stolen, you’re stuffed, apparently.

I got my license notification too, incidentally. But I’m so consumed trying to learn Blender and Sculptris that I don’t know when I’ll get around to adding Messiah:Studio to the mix.

Also, I’ve been hanging out in the Sculptris forum, which is a sub-topic of the ZBrush forums. Now I want ZBrush with a terrible longing. See here or here or here or pretty much anywhere in the Gallery threads to learn the reason why.

$699. There comes a point where I earn some money doing this shit, right?

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 4:09 pm

Not a problem, Stoaty. After I’d waded through all that (making some lucky guesses along the way) I thought it might be useful.

If you look forward to possibly selling it, I’d recommend doing the whole installation, program files and all, on the thumbdrive, not just the license. Watch out for the OS issues, though — the installation advice says you can use a different machine with the same operating system, a broad hint than an OS upgrade or change may break the DRM and make the program unusable.

I’m a lot more tolerant than David Gillies, probably because I have long experience with “one man band” software — programs written by a single person or a small, intensively interested team, and intended for a relatively small market. I used to install and service a ‘way-high-end scanner, and its installation routine was distinctly related to messiah’s. Their thumbs don’t need to be actually broken, David. Lingering soreness that twinges when they hit the spacebar is enough 🙂

The software itself shows distinct traces of the same phenomenon. They’ve tried hard, and done an admirable job, in getting most CPU cycles and screen refreshes devoted to the task at hand, i.e. getting the rendering and animation to work smoothly. As a byproduct the button legends go away from time to time, making using the software reminiscent of typing class, blank keyboards and all. If you do much with it they’ll become reflexes anyway, and one reflex will be the mouse gestures needed to get the labels back — there always is one, though they differ from phase to phase. I haven’t done much with it, but the button thing also hints that the software may have another symptom of small-group development: a particular sequence in which things have to be done, with skipping ahead then going back to fill in causing problems.

All in all, though, I’m just as pleased with this as I am with Sculptris — these are people who know what they’re doing, they just tend to skip over things in their quest to git ‘er done, and don’t have all those boring configuration control bureaucrats to fuss with. One hint: The program does work in XP, but you’ll be much happier running it on Win7, and as with any really intensive graphics, on a machine more powerful than you can realistically afford.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 4:37 pm

Yeah, 3D animation was one of the first intensive, real-world applications to use distributed computing in a big way. Even back in my day, they were setting up huge “render farms” to raytrace frames of animation.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 4:48 pm

I am totally loving Sculptris, by the way. The controls are so simple and so intuitive, you just FLY through them after a while.

And have you tried applying textures? Shiny plastic or silver? To think it’s rendering that on the fly just blows my mind.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 4:59 pm

This is what I’m talking about:

And these aren’t renders. It’s doing this in realtime — you can grab the model and turn it and the reflections move over the surface.

I haven’t even gotten to customizing anything or brushes or material painting.

God, on my new computer, this program is so sweet I could just crawl into it and never come out. Which is basically what I did all weekend.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 5:14 pm

Yeah, Sculptris is brilliant. The only thing I’d suggest is support of break lines, which can really cut the polygon count down on intricate features. I’d also like to be able to turn the reflected half off and on, to make working around the seam a little easier.

What blows me away is generating new polygons to support intricate features. The system needs work — all too often it ends up with multiply-connected ones, which are gonna give trouble later — but watching it re-do the mesh while pushing or pulling is just incredible. This, I might add, on a five-year-old XP machine with only a gig of memory. You must practically feel like you’re pushing that object around with your fingers.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 5:17 pm

“Only a gig of memory”. Hmph. Flashbacks to Spacewar on the PDP-8, lashup vector generator, 16K of memory, and all. In the snow. Uphill both ways.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 5:31 pm

Oh, it’s just stunning on this machine. Once I’ve internalized the keyboard shortcuts…yeah, it really is like poking Play Doh.

Yeah, I wish it had a few traditional mesh tools for tweaking individual vertices and boolean shapes and stuff. My first stoat model, I made a terrible mathematical anomaly on it that I can’t fix. I’d love to be able to lop it off, but I haven’t found a way.

Seriously, folks. It’s free and it’s incredibly simple. If you liked making ashtrays at Summber camp, you’ll love this thing.

Comment from Mono The Elderish
Time: February 21, 2011, 7:51 pm

Just wondering, how’d you get the tree/sky reflection on the shiny cat thing?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 21, 2011, 7:52 pm

Ric Locke – does it actually need a 32 or 64 thumbdrive, or is that just space for a comfort zone?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 21, 2011, 8:06 pm

It’s one of the sample textures, Mono. Click the ball labeled “material” at the top of the screen, then click whichever one you want. You can customize them, too, but I want to build some stuff first.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: February 21, 2011, 9:20 pm

I already have waaaay too many ways to waste my time around here, but I do love those kitties!

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 9:40 pm

Comfort zone, UB. Expanded and installed it’s a bit under 100 meg, so very likely 4 gig would be entirely adequate. It doesn’t appear to squirrel extra data away, either.


Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 21, 2011, 9:45 pm

Of course, I’m flashing back to advice I got (and passed on) about buying graphics-capable computers back when they were first becoming possible: scrape together everything you can from the budget, robbing Peter and Paul both as necessary, until you have defined the absolute maximum you can spend for a computer without taking up bank robbery or running for political office.

Then double it.


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 21, 2011, 9:46 pm

Thanks! I’m currently shopping for a variety of stuff and was going to add one to my list for Her Stoatiness.. until I saw the price of 64GB drives 😉

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: February 21, 2011, 10:09 pm

So go with an e-SATA external drive then…

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: February 22, 2011, 2:58 am

Ric: That does not necessarily work any more. If you’re heavily into gaming, you may get it right that way. However, the 6-core chips cost SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than the fastest 4-core chips (~$800 in West Pondia). And gaming will indeed benefit from high-end discrete graphics in SLI or Crossfire mode, but other applications MAY not. It is fairly easy to blow north of $10K on a machine that will get easily beaten in graphics processing by one costing less than $2K. Again, the MOST important thing is to understand WHAT you want to do with your new toy and then get the pieces parts that will play best for that application. Unless, of course, you just REALLY want to help the toy manufacturers pay for their next yacht or supercar…

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