Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Terry Crowley

Terry Crowley has retired from Microsoft

He has been busy writing up advice and articles on large scale software design.

Start here:  (You won't regret it.)

Read the references and the people he cites. It is well worth the time.

Thanks Terry!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fixing Star Wars

Fixing Star Wars The Force Awakens

Having just seen Star Wars The Force Awakens, I would have to agree with people that say the movie "just happens."  With that said and in the interest of not wasting everyone's time, I just want to make a few recommendations to turn the movie into a spectacular movie on the order of Empire Strikes Back.

1) Cut the early dialog about Kylo Ren being Han Solo and Leia's son. It takes away from the mystique and it feels like a truly forced two-handed spoon-feeding to the audience, with shovel.

2) Cut the scenes with the supreme leader. They are unnecessary. Like those that were later added by Lucas to the remade originals, it detracts from the power of Kylo Ren and again subjugates men to a half-dead emperor. It is intriguing to have an emperor pulling the strings behind the scenes, but there is no intrigue if he is shown instructing people directly at every step rather than spinning the web.

3) Change the scene where Kylo Ren interrogates Rey. Kylo Ren keeps his helmet on and is cut off in his interrogation by some other event, perhaps feeling the rebels on the planet. The original scene weakens Ren. Imagine having Darth Vader remove his helmet every three scenes in the original Star Wars or in Empire, what a let down that would have been.  Also showing Rey strong enough to resist Ren at this point it like jumping Luke from Tatooine to the end of Jedi in one scene.

4) Rey does not show her powers early. Cut her escape from the shackles and instead have Finn save her.  This scene takes away from the big reveal of the force in Rey. Instead, in this case Finn could use his knowledge of the sanitation system to get to her and to lead her to safety.

5) Cut the Rey lightsaber dream crap and instead have Finn pick it up as the only weapon he finds while searching for a blaster again, this time in Maz Kanata's basement, when the stormtroopers arrive.

6) Change the Han Solo death scene into an event where Han Solo has to cross the bridge to get out of the Planet Death Star and he is blocked by Kylo Ren.  Han gets stabbed and then removes the helmet of Kylo Ren and says "I'm sorry. My Son." Then Han drops into the abyss and pushes the detonator on the way down. Chewie, Rey and Finn witness the death from a distance and beat feat. (This is the only time when Ren has his helmet removed, only for an instant, and he never ever talks without it on.)

7) Change the Kylo Ren scene in the snow with Rey. Instead of Rey, Finn has an epic lightsaber battle with Ren, Jedi versus the former storm trooper, where Finn holds his own until Ren uses his power or just bests Finn, cutting him down the back.  - This is important - Then when Ren reaches out his hand to pull the light saber, it flies past to Rey's hand. (Holding off with any show of the force by Rey until then.)  The ground then separates from the planet falling apart with Ren separated from Rey and Finn. Chewie then flies in the Falcon to whisk the pair to safety.

8) Cut the final reveal of Skywalker, and end it with the man in a cloak or just with Rey leaving with Chewie on her way.

9) Shorten the talking to grandpa scene and just show Darth Vaders mask in Ren's place and Ren saying "I will finish what you started."

Kylo Ren as a Darth Vader type entity has been ruined completely, turning what could have been an powerful, menacing and mysterious character, into a whiner.

The big reveal of Rey's use of the force should be the the lightsaber flying past Ren and into her hand. Using this as Rey's only use of the force would be a truly dynamic and emotional relief scene that would have the audience on their feet.

Finn as an everyman who can handle a lightsaber who nearly holds his own with the powerful Ren would cement him as the bad ass Han Solo replacement that he should be. The parallel would be Luke Skywalker seeing Obi Wan Kenobi killed, but in this case it is the everyman and not the Jedi that carries the day.

This is just my two cents.

I would like to say that the CGI in this movie is incredibly well done. Also I could not imagine the incredible trial by committee that J.J. Abrams had to endure to reboot such an iconic movie series.

Friday, September 26, 2014

New Age Recorder - like Atomos Shogun with built in NLE and shoot to track list

New Age Recorder - like Atomos Shogun but with a built in Non-Linear Editor and shoot to track list

Why not create a recorder that records right into a timeline? (I used the Atomos Shogun as a possible example, because these guys make great stuff and might be able to do it.)

The way this would work is that there would be a sequence for each scene. You would create video and audio tracks in this sequence for each of the camera angles or required audio and then shoot them in any order you want, just filling in the tracks as you shoot them.

You could then export this whole sequence EDL in Final Cut Pro X format (XML) and most NLEs will be able to load it as a rough cut. (Avid, FCP, Premiere, Smoke)  If you have to re-shoot a take, you could add more video and audio layers and they would all be organized from the beginning and your editor would save a lot of time in post. (What a wicked time saver that would be for 48 hour film people. You can shoot angles for each shoot, (by moving the cursor on the tracks before starting a record) lay them into audio and video tracks for a rough cut - the ability to just record the take on the fly into the timeline as they are shot would be killer. Then you would be able to be ready to go when you get back to edit.) If the recorder (like an Atomos Shogun) had this built in and also the ability to make in and out points on clips (as it does already) and lay those cuts into the sequences manually (in case you forgot to select a scene, etc.) - that again would be killer.

Ok -> workflow example for one scene: See diagram below
3 camera angle scene quick and dirty:
0) create a sequence for scene ONE
1) set up 4 video tracks and 4 audio tracks in the timeline (at time A)
2) select video track one and audio track one
3) record Master shot (Master in diagram)
4) select video track 2 and audio track 2 (at same time A)
5) record over the shoulder one (OTSAB)
6) select video track 3 and audio track 3 (at same time A)
7) record over the shoulder two (OTSBA)
8) select video track 4 (at same time A)
9) shoot cutaway (Cutaway_Ambient S)
10) select audio track 4 (at same time A)
11) record ambient sound (Cutaway_Ambient S)
and like that - you would have that scene it in the can.

(Yes - these would nominally be the same length. I just figured that initial cuts would be rough. You can slide them, cut them and get perfect trimming in the NLE)

This scene would be saved as the sequence for scene one. For scene two you would create a sequence for scene two and do the same sort of workflow. If you wanted to shoot multiple scenes out of sequence - you could create scenes and tracks in scenes as you needed them and fill in the tracks in each scene as you shoot them. For instance, if scene 1-10 had the same location and lighting you might shoot all of the Masters, then all of the over the shoulders, etc. so that you didn't have to change lighting and camera setups too much. In this case you could create sequences for scenes 1-10 and then record the Master for scene ONE in its sequence and then the Master for scene TWO in its sequence, or whatever order you want.

Below is an example for what this might look like interface wise (utilizing the Autodesk Smoke interface).
Note the Scene One and Scene Two sequence tabs. Most NLEs at this point allow you to save these sequences and then load them as clips in the timeline just like any other elements.

When you got to editing you would now have your videos and audio, a set of sequences (one per scene) and a list of sequences (scenes) that can be dropped into the timeline by scene number. This would be so much faster than having to line all that up in post. As you click on the sequences that are placed in the timeline in Smoke it will open the embedded sequences timeline. In this way you can edit each scene as a sequence and then edit the scenes together in the overall master sequence.

How 'bout it?!

The recorder could then use this set of sequences to organize your clips as well. You could double click onto the scene and then on the clip to either hear it or see it played back. Most recorders with a screen can do playback right now and those that don't can playback to an external monitor. The only problem now is that you have to hunt through a pile of files to find the clip you want. You can always name the clips shot 1 take one, etc. , but isn't shooting straight to tracks just so much better? Maybe the files could even be named according to the scene and track name automatically by the software in case your editing software can't read XML files (say it isn't so!), wouldn't that be great.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mirror iPhone display to Glasses or Heads Up Display

Why isn't there a pair of glasses or a heads up display that you can mirror your smartphone display to? Right now I can mirror my computer or iPhone display to my TV, so why not to glasses?

You could type with your hands, but view the display on your glasses.
You would never have to look down to check email, texts, etc.

I am not saying that one cold drive that way, but if people are going to do it anyway we might as well make it safer.

(To take it one step further - when small heads up displays get good enough why have a monitor on a computer at all.  Yes that is a long way off for many reasons.)  or google glass  or sort of, but I think they missed the point. We don't want another interface to learn. We can use one hand on the phone. We just don't want to have to look down.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Solution to a Problem - Online Articles - people don't read the whole thing.

1) Cut out the noise - don't write for the sake of writing or for "content" People will go back to you to feed their "content" addiction and the need to constantly check something electronic, but in the long run your original quality will be lost and people will go away.  (Corollary - Ridiculous number of emails = junk mail- throw them away. If it is important they will call.)

Noise (my) examples:  
- reviews of equipment written by those who have never used the item. They just read the brochure
- "reviews" of movies and items that are really advertisements
- FYI emails
- Tweets
- 2hr movies that would have been great at 90 mins
- many textbooks

2) Write like a screenplay - efficient - fewer and better words

3) Intelligence is only PowerPoint deep. In the military we found that people who saw a PowerPoint presentation and rattled off "facts" tried to play themselves off as having a full understanding of the subject. We called them PowerPoint Rangers.
- People are reading very little and tweeting or forwarding the article to others who "might be interested" - to seem more intelligent.
- A good article is so rare as is in depth investigative reporting.
- We have become "experts" on things that we have never seen, used, or done

In a world governed by ads and clicks - we need to push back and find the real gems out there and make sure people who are hungry get them - and read them. Don't sell out for ads. Integrity. Choose your words carefully.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Safari or Firefox with Top and Bottom Tab bars

Safari or Firefox with Top and Bottom Tab bars

When we think we often follow several trains of thought at once. When we search online there are many times when I have two trains of searching.

The top tab bar is one train of thought. The bottom is the second. It is like having two separate Safari or Firefox window, but they are both up at once. You can split them apart if you want.


Also - the ability to save chains of tabs. This would be handy for those searches that you never quite finish or that you have to go back to. (Podcasts or instructional videos - one leads to another, Equipment reviews - one leads to another, you get the point)

Why Design?

Ok - Let's start with WHY?

Short answer - to push things forward.

True Story - Three Displays. That was me. My original design for display layout is was exactly what is now the Navy Common Display System(CDS). Look it up! Mine looked almost exactly the same, except that the desktop was wood since 3D Studio could render wood grains like no tomorrow and grey objects looked flat.

It is funny that the biggest impact that I have had on the world so far is the way that I set my rendering workstation form 1991-1996. It carried on into my designs.

I was working for the Navy. I was designing the latest and greatest Combat Information Center for the Next Generation Surface Combatant.  At that time the main displays were the AN/UYQ-21 and something that looked like the older version of the AN/UYQ-70. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) had been paid a significant amount of money over the years to come up with a workstation design. The system that they had come up with looked like the Star Trek the Next Generation workstations with one main display and one off to the side.

Well - to keep it short, my workstation consisted of 3 displays(and 3 separate computers). I was using 3D Studio from the Yost Group at the time. It is now 3dsMax from Autodesk. The display on the left was the computer that was doing my rendering. It produced data(the rendered images) for my animation. The middle display (and computer) was what what I was currently working on, usually the latest graphical element in my design. This computer had the biggest monitor and the best graphics so that I could see what I was working on. At the time there were no LCD screens. We had a huge flat screen Nanao for the middle monitor. The third machine to the right was where I kept my notes and archived all of the backups and images that I might need for the rendering. I moved the files between the three machines on Bernoulli drives. We were between 90mb and 150mb bernoullis by the time I left the Navy.

Well the way that I worked carried on into the way I set up my workstation. I wish that I had pictures of my original design, but what I do have are the later designs that were part of the same presentation for the "Next Generation Surface Combatant" from the American Society of Naval Engineers(ASNE) conference in 1995. There were several Labs built based on my original designs. I still have copies of that, but since it is still used I can't show them here. There is an online reference to the work and someone else's look at my workstation here:   on page 784. On page 785 is a much less exciting (much much less) of my original CIC layout. I found one of the renders from the video here and I have posted the back page from it below

Well this workstation was copied and studied for years apparently. It mades it's way into the Aegis training center and many different named workstations over the years. DD X, DDG-51,  DD 1000
My work was done between 1991-1998, but the original drawing was a wooded version of Navy Common Display System(CDS). Jose and Trish can verify ;)
My original drawing - prior to the 3D renders

The new CDS (Common Display System)
The 3D renders literally looked exactly like the above CDS, just with a wooden looking console.

Ah and now Lego has caught on.

Lego Dispatch Center - Dispatch Console


I plan to put up designs that I believe will be useful.  If they in any way inspire you -Take them and run with them!

The idea is to build ideas and share ideas. If you want to share - please do. If someone wants to help build a site that it free and free of ads that is dedicated to creative design content and not just writing for the sake of content - please contact me and we can set that up.