Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Will it Blend?

Downtime between shows. Which means spending as much of it as possible with paying work. I've got some installation work at one theater, maintenance stuff for another. With a little props work for a friend on the side.

And I'd like to put some more Poser content in my online store. I need to model more efficiently. Knowing how to make a contiguous welded mesh was good training for the kind of models that are required for 3d printing, and they do render more nicely, but I need to use prims and detached planes more. If nothing else, those are easier to UV map.

I'm also thinking using less geometry, more texture mapping. Doing it all in the geometry is show-off stuff but there isn't that much need in the Poserverse for "Hero" props (borrowing a term from the film business, aka, the highly-detailed and fully-functional prop used for close-up shots).

And more than anything else, dump Carrara. So I'm pushing to get over the hump of the learning curve now and start working in Blender instead. It has a tool set I'd gladly pay for: but price is not the primary reason to go with shareware. The reason is that shareware is based on being open. Full communication, sharing. Commercial software is in the business of hide the flaws (in fact, actively stifle criticism), sell the flash (saddling otherwise plausible software with flashy tricks designed only to pull in new customers), and hooking the fish; keep selling upgrades, keep promising bug fixes, and of course keep the file formats proprietary so the customer faces losing all their own work if they try to switch.

Here's the dialog for bug fixes on Carrara:

"I've got a bug to report."
"Which version?"
"We aren't supporting 6.0 anymore. Buy the upgrade to 7.0 -- 20% off of what you'd pay for the full version -- and we'll talk."
"Okay. I just upgraded. Bug is still there."
"Well, don't expect us to fix it in 7.0; that's already released. Look for it in the 7.5 release."
"Is that a free patch?"
"Of course not! We're selling it as if it was a full version number.  $500 if you own 7.0, $500 if you own 6.0, $500 if you own 5.0, and $550 if you never owned the software before."
"Okay...I waited for the 7.5 and installed it.  My bug is still there."
"What bug?"
"The bug I filed back in 6.0!"
"We don't keep records of old bugs. We've made a whole bunch of changes to parts of the software that probably have nothing to do with that bug, but who knows? So we're starting from scratch with bugs filed on the 7.0"
"Which will be addressed in...?
"8.0, of course!  What would you expect?  So can we expect a check from you?  Pre-order is only $800, or $780 if you never owned any software from us before, because we're always trying to attract new suckers."

Unfortunately, 3d software is the home dimension of alien GUI; each application is written as if by someone who never saw a computer program before, and each is utterly different. So the learning curve is huge. And us Mac users are on the bad part of the curve these days, since the gamer force behind modern PCs has made triple-button scroll mice the default there (and a grudging add-on to Macs). And you need all those buttons to navigate smoothly whilst manipulating objects in 3d space.

My own set of compromises is a two-button track-ball and various levels of keyboard re-mapping (sometimes through third-party aps). I'm tempted to add one of the USB-native family of AVRs to the mix and create my own third and fourth and fifth button. Fortunately, Blender is one of the more accommodating 3d aps out there to what they consider non-standard pointing devices (aka, anything other than a Windows mouse).

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