This is my first cooking post, so don't bother digging back for more recipes.
Ingredients: (base amounts on number of servings, don't overdo it)
very fresh duck and/or chicken eggs (~2.5 per serving)
butter, olive oil
kosher salt, fresh black pepper, fresh thyme
fresh forest mushrooms
medium-firm french cow/goat cheese (e.g. Chaubier)
frisée or other delicious greens
1 firm, ripe Bosc pear
fresh rosemary sausages
champagne & orange juice
Budget 45 minutes for 2-6 people. Keep in mind that each omelet takes about 3 minutes which will add time for large groups. (Unless you have two omelet pans and can run them simultaneously... I can't!)
It's mushroom season in Oregon and I lucked out at Pastaworks. The mushroom I found was called Cauliflower, it was the size of half a basketball and looked like a translucent coral reef, or maybe a bouquet of cooked noodles. I had to tear off a large chunk, and spend quite a while cleaning the pine needles and dirt out of the many folds. For me it smelled like memories: although it was lighter in color, this was a near match to the ones Mom used to pick in Idaho when I was about 3 years old and she was toting me around in a backpack. Those were darker in color and a little woodier, but I've always remembered the smell, which was very similar. This was a birthday breakfast for her, and she said they smelled "like Spring."
It was great to talk with Paul Schuback, who was being honored at the show and had a nice Oregonian article (Northwest exhibit celebrates instrument-maker Paul Schuback's half-century career). He was beaming. I'd been so disappointed when he shut down his violin luthier shop about 10 years ago, but was happy to learn he is back in the saddle and looking to expand into a new space. He's even talking about a combo space that could support music and luthier classes as well as live performances and community events. It's a great idea, and would really cement Paul as a Portland institution. I certainly remember his wonderful shop on Powell fondly from my days studying at the Music Center when I was a kid here. I also had the pleasure of meeting his first apprentice, who said he started in 1971, and had worked with the guy who restored the classic gibsons in my photo gallery.
I've been toiling in the video player mines again, upgrading animoto's player to a new design that supports HD and resolution switching. Our player was originally based on the popular Jeroen Wigering Media Player, but has been branched and rewritten 101 times since. Still, the architecture of that player was solid enough way back when that it's more or less still intact at some level.
Check out this animoto of our crew partying in the sun last summer, a nice pick-me-up for an ugly slushy February.
A remarkable piece of research from university labs in Vermont has cut the length of time for robots to learn to walk on their own from hours to just a few minutes by asking them to learn to crawl first.
Perhaps it's atypical to send empty POSTs (is it?), but on a recent project we were simply leaving the contents for later until we'd proven that Flash could properly send headers. There are a number of header types that the player blocks, clearly listed in the URLRequestHeader docs, however we couldn't figure out why non-blocked and custom headers were failing to send at all. It was not a security issue, our crossdomain.xml was temporarily changed to include allow-http-request-headers-from domain="*" headers="*" secure="false". (For testing only, that's certainly not recommended for deployment!)
After lots of hair-pulling, hand-wringing and tooth-gnashing we realized: you have to include data in your POST or Flash Player simply discards all of your headers! Flash Player bug? Or just one more annoying, undocumented idiosyncrasy? Anyway I hope this post saves someone else some of the time our team lost today.
(By the way, I highly recommend the Charles Debugging Proxy which provides a really nice detailed look at network requests and responses.)
I'm no expert in professional-grade motion blur, but the FilmStrip library for Flash has let me toy around with it a little. I noticed that when both a scene's subjects and its camera are animated, the motion of the camera can impact blurs in sometimes unwanted ways. For example, an object might be moving very fast in one direction, but then if the camera swivels in the opposite direction it can actually reverse the blur of the subject.
As I've described in earlier posts, FilmStrip generates motion blur by generating a series of subframe captures within the real animation flow. If the camera is also animating, this will affect the perspective of the subframes as well as the primary frame. Since allowing the camera to animate normally turned up some unnatural-looking results (like the swivel example I mentioned), the next thing I tried was to entirely cut out camera animation. This had the effect of completely restoring the blurs of the animation subjects, but it also didn't really look natural to the eye. I suppose we've all grown up watching the particular way TV and film cameras capture things that it's pretty ingrained, things either read as fake or natural even if we don't know the exact reasons.
So next I tried an in-between: allowing the camera to animate during subframe captures, but just not as much as it normally would, which looked a lot better. I achieved this by applying a multiplier to the camera animation. By dampening camera motion during subframe animation, but not cutting it entirely, camera motion can still have some interplay without fully overpowering the blur of the subjects.
I've added a property to the MotionBlurSettings class called cameraBlurPercent, which now defaults to CAMERA_BLUR_NATURAL (0.5), cutting the influence of camera motion in half. Two other constants added to the class, CAMERA_BLUR_NONE (0), CAMERA_BLUR_ABSOLUTE (1) allow you to toggle camera influence based on your particular animation. You can also fine-tune it to another percentage such as 0.25, or do crazy experiments by setting it above 1 to magnify camera motion.
Once again here's my little x-wing clip which I think shows a really natural interplay of camera motion and subject motion. (This MP4 doesn't seem to work in Chrome for Mac, try it in Safari instead.)
A fun little side project of mine has been to write a rendering utility for Flash called FilmStrip. It lets you process a Flash 2D or Papervision3D animated scene into a filmic-looking frame sequence with natural motion-blur, that can then be converted into real video. The motion blur that I'm talking about here is not basic horizontal/vertical 'box' blur, it's created by drawing a series of subframes of the actual animation within each frame capture, so that blurs follow the trajectory and exact shape of the subjects very realistically. Filmic motion blur can be simulated in other ways but this is the easiest and most common, and can yield movie-camera-like results.
To achieve the most natural-looking blurs in complex scenes, FilmStrip blurs each object individually. By default the captureMode property of a FilmStrip is set to EACH_OBJECT. Under the hood this gets a lot more involved than the alternative mode WHOLE_SCENE, which recaptures the entire frame for each blur subframe. There are some very distinct differences and advantages to each that I'll describe here.
"Each Object" Mode
First, let's take a look at a frame generated using object-based blur:
You'll notice that the blurs of the two dice are totally independent of one another and actually overlap pretty nicely. You can even see the blur on the back one through the blur on the front one. I'm pretty amazed that Flash can produce such a high-quality result.
Aside: So why are there hard edges? Well, FilmStrip currently only animates blur subframes either before or after the primary frame, which often leaves portions of the primary frame's edges exposed as the blur pulls back across the object. A 'leading' or 'trailing' blur like this can look pretty good in motion, but I eventually hope to add a blur-both-ways or 'shutter angle' option.
In object mode, we can calculate a generalized delta value for each die's motion and then apply a different number of subframes to each one. This is great because processing power ends up allocated to the portions that need it the most in each frame. Fast-moving objects can draw many subframes, while ones with little motion can simply be captured once. In fact, I was surprised to find that in many cases object mode is actually quite a bit more efficient than frame mode, because of that ability to vary the number of captures per object.
Frame or "Whole Scene" Mode
Now let's take a look at a sequence of frame-based blurs. For this sequence I set the capture to use a fixed 12 subframes, and I exaggerated their visibility to clarify the next point. Look closely (click each image to enlarge it), and you'll see some strange problems where the dice actually seem to be partially intersecting each other as well as the green table surface:
Why does this happen? It's easiest to understand if you visualize a stack of old-fashioned animation cels with the dice painted on plastic transparencies. To build one frame in the object-based capture mode, we would paint a cel showing die 1, then stack a number of additional die 1 cels on top of it to simulate the motion blur, then on top of that stack we'd do the same thing for die2. (That is, blur subframes are localized to the z-depth of each object.) But in frame-based mode we've drawn both dice onto a cel, then laid another cel containing both dice over that, and so on. What happens is that when objects are moving in different directions, the overlapping of those objects reveals new areas of the dice edges on each cel, resulting in a sort of interwoven pattern. (Z-depths of all objects in the scene are repeated cyclically.)
Keep in mind that for the sake of this example I've increased subframe opacity and spread using the FilmStrip settings peakAlpha and subframeDuration. When subframes are blended back more and the final video is in motion, this z-depth problem is normally not noticeable. So unless you're worried about stills from the final video looking completely correct, frame-based blur can look pretty good.
Erring toward quality, for now
SInce this is just old-fashioned, single-threaded, non-GPU-capable ActionScript, all we have to work with is a sequential series of steps, including actually updating the animation many times per frame to simulate a blur. This results in object mode sometimes beating frame mode for efficiency, although full-frame mode is still a heck of a lot simpler.
I stuck with object-based blur to create a short video snippet of a classic John Grden xwing fighter being nailed by a laser beam and really like how it cleanly separates the content:
I decided to make object blur the default setting to err toward quality over speed, figuring that if FilmStrip were ever actually used, it would be to pre-render portions of a Flash scene to video, since it's nowhere near realtime rendering. I've made similar decisions at other points, such as deciding to make FilmStrip tween-engine-agnostic (you can plug it into TweenLite, Tweener, etc. pretty easily), whereas if it were being built for speed it would probably include its own custom animation system.
For the time being, FilmStrip provides a nice simple way to tinker with rendering and see some of the complexities involved in seemingly simple things like motion blur.
I'd been admiring those Flip video cameras and can now proudly say I nabbed one in a company costume contest -- Thanks, Animoto! Competition was tough: a Duff Man who came complete with branded cans velcroed to his belt, and a hilarious take on the company president's dog Bruce Lee featuring a hand-made head-to-toe fur suit, a cone of shame, and even a miniature replica of the other office dog clinging to him. Too funny. In the year I've been with them, Animoto has thrown us a ton of amazing karaoke parties (one of which involved a fast exit when things got a little out of control), outrageous bowling parties, and dinners at Mario Batali joints -- what a great place to work!
But while I did bag this contest and one other - a company chili cookoff a few months ago - I was severely trounced by our ass-kicking CTO Nate at our 80's night party. Nate can pretty much never be topped for his outrageous Webby Award acceptance speech leveraging the same getup. Rock on, Animotos, and thanks again!
(PS: Keyboard cat has now also entered the Wired costume contest on Facebook. Vote here!)