Saturday, October 27, 2012

Back in the old days, us aspiring filmmakers didn't do a lot of CG, as in any.  We shot stuff that was made of real stuff that we had to make.  We saved up our $2 allowance and bought -- who am I kidding, I couldn't afford anything on that.

We didn't make avi's or mov's or any of that stuff.  We didn't record on digital video, or any of that stuff, because we didn't have computers.

For us amateurs, there was 16 mm and super 8 mm, film, not super 8 video, that came along later.
For us poor amateurs, there was just super 8.  There was also a regular 8 mm film, but that was just slightly ahead of my time.  The 'advantages' of super 8, was that it came in a cartridge that protected the film from accidental exposure to light.  The reality of it for us fx goons, was that you couldn't take the film out and rewind it and do multiple exposures.

My old camera in those days did have a few things going for it ,though, that made it kinda cool.  It could shoot 1 frame at a time, which was great for stop motion.  And it could do an adequate slow motion, which was 30 frames per second, instead of the regular 18 frames per second.  So basically, I was one of those kids who built model kits and put firecrackers in them and blew them up, but all for a good reason of course, for my art.

Special fx film-making in those days covered a lot of disciplines:  model making, airbrushing, painting, sculpting, casting, and all that.  The one place I always got stuck was on anything mechanical.  Basically, I could build a model and a miniature set, but I'd always get stuck photographing things, because I couldn't work out the mechanics of moving the cameras and models around.  Apparently, mechanics is 10% skill and 90% money.  It costs to build stuff out of stuff.

So basically, these days the tables have turned.  Almost everything is done on a computer.  It doesn't cost anything to hit that 'make it move' button.  What it does cost, is time, and energy, and learning, and yeah, sometimes you got to buy the software, but think of what the developer had to go through to start with nothing and make that software.  That's us guys.  The guys who couldn't quite get their little films done.  So we spent our adult lives building the tools that others could use.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Average frames to reduce noise

A little used feature hidden in the window/utilities menu, Average frames to reduce noise, was written back when I was working on Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog.
The show was shot on 16mm film.  We had to create background plates to composite CG creatures in front of, and the still frames from the shows footage was often very noise.
Therefore, we merged 5-10 frames together to reduce the noise and create a cleaner plate.  Hence the feature.
Basically, just load in an avi clip, go to the first frame you want to use, select the utility, and tell it how many frames you want to merge.  Before that, I was using "another product" to load in each frame individually into layers, setting their opacity for each layer, and merging them.  The whole process tool a while.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Windows 8

We've been quietly optimizing our software for the last 2 years for the type of hardware we expect to see Windows 8 running on, namely tablets with modest processors and storage space.

Windows 8 features a new API for tablet interaction, called Metro.  It is completely unrelated to the desktop.  It allows interaction with gesture based interfaces and is based on a clear type structure, with content taking priority over interface "chrome".  Metro applications can only be sold through the Microsoft store, and they take a percentage off the top.

Windows 8 also runs desktop software as usual.  We are still a desktop application.  However touch interaction is fully supported.  We've spend most of our Windows 8 time working on performance, however.  We want to be "The choice" for tablets.

It's an old adage, but still true.  If you want great performace, don't develope on the highest end hardware you can buy.  Develope on lowest end stuff you can find.  If you run great on that, the high end stuff will be smoking fast.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


It's a hassle these days finding the right price range for you product.

On the one hand, Photoshop is selling for around $1000, and Painter at under $300.  On the other hand, Artrage has a free version and I think, a $35 dollar version.

When we were selling for $89, a price I was comfortable with for a number of years, they all called us bargain-basement.  That gets old after a while.  And, you don't have a lot of headroom to do sales.  What can you do?  30% off was about it.

Our free version hasn't been updated in a long time, since 2004.  We thought about a new free version, but I haven't had the where-withal to actually write it.  A free version can help you, but it can also hurt you terribly.  If users have what they need, they have no reason to buy.

We bantered back and forth on what the new price of Howler would be and neither one of us really got what we wanted.  Later, we lowered the price to $135, which we figured was "just out of the bargain basement."

Lately, other free products have been putting pressure on us as well.  We've run some specials, like half price, but the same people who won't buy at $135, won't buy at $69.

Windows 8 is about to be released in a week or so.  We've been quietly optimizing the code for the last 2 years to run well on the type of hardware we expect to see running Windows 8, which could be everything from low power tablets to desktops that flip down into a tabletop experience.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I am working on a new website that is aimed more at professionals in the areas of CG animation and filmmaking.  The new site will include more information about the features related to those fields, while will likely remain geared more to a general audience.  It is almost complete and will be found on

A am offering a few copies of Howler 8 today at half price to cover the costs of the website.  That offer can be found over on

I'd like to renew our domain at, because we've had it for quite a while.  It's been mostly my personal site for the last few years, but it started out as a combined site for my professional and personal information, my resume, and all the stuff about my 2 novels about squirrels.  That's where the "squirreldome" came from.

I also want to add a site at Wix, because they make doing flash stuff fairly easy.