Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Adobe in Venezuela

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This morning I learned that Adobe is cutting off all subscription services in Venezuela.  This is apparently to comply with Executive Order 13884, which requires US companies to stop doing business in Venezuela.  I find this highly disturbing.

Now if you are a regular reader here, you know already that I am not a fan of the new subscription based model for Adobe, or other working software.  But it never once occurred to me that by government order, you could just wipe out the industry standard set of tools for an entire country like that.  We’ve basically just weaponized the lousy subscription model that so many companies are using now.  And this feels especially dangerous in this case with so much important communication coming through Adobe’s software.  When local media covers a story, they often use Adobe products to put it together and get it out there.  When non-profits need to promote a message, they often use things like Illustrator and In-Design.  I personally work for a publisher and we rely on Adobe all the time.  It’s unfathomable to me what would happen if we were to suddenly lose access to it.

And yes, as if the Venezuelan people haven’t had enough to contend with of late, now an entire industry is being stripped of their tools.  Even if they learn new ones, most international jobs will be out of reach without access to that industry standard.  Also, many individual artists use services like Behance to promote their work and Adobe’s cloud storage to keep files.  They are now faced with having to find somewhere else for all of that or lose their work completely.

So far I haven’t heard about other software doing the same, but if Adobe is doing this to comply with U.S. law, it stands to reason that other companies will make the same choice, or spend the next years in court.

And just to kick that extra bit of sand in the wound, they aren’t even refunding the money Venezuelans have already paid for the services they are now being denied.  According to Adobe, to refund customers would not comply with ceasing all activity there.  Sure seems to me like they could get to that now before the 28th when they officially cut service.

This is just such a mess.

adobe memo

Written by Sara

October 8th, 2019 at 8:23 am

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Halloween Skeletons

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It’s that time of year again, where all the anatomy buffs out there get to snidely critique the realism of the gore in all the new movies, and think about what people would look like if the cheap decoration skeletons were accurate. For me, it’s often the animal skeletons that include ears that bug me.  They do it, so they can emote a little, and so everyone knows the dog from the cat and whatnot, but just no, the skeletons don’t have ears like that!  And yet other departures from reality don’t bother me at all.  What can I say?  I guess I care about skeletons.

Written by Sara

October 2nd, 2019 at 10:31 pm

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The Ecliptic

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For the past year, maybe year and a half now, I’ve been making a lot of these astronomy animations for Macmillan. I really enjoy them. Most of the topics just lend themselves so well to 3D animation.  Some of them wind up being really interesting math puzzles, and you even discover very real things just playing with the settings sometimes.

In this particular animation, we wanted to show students the ecliptic, but we wanted to be able to show it to them before introducing the concept of the celestial sphere.  Most textbooks reference the celestial sphere in defining the ecliptic, so already we had this complication in how we were going to come at this.

I was also pretty challenged by the idea of how can we come from an out of orbit view into a view within orbit.  When I’m building these, I find myself setting up a lot of nulls within nulls within nulls to define different movements (orbit, rotation, angle…)  I have found that putting a camera in different levels of these nulls can be really revealing.  And in this case, I was able to go from a static camera which shared the exact position of a camera in orbit at a particular frame, so that I could switch from one camera to the next and move from that wider view into a closer view of Earth that follows it’s orbit without breaking continuity.

Fun fact: By putting the camera in a different null earlier on, I actually accidentally stumbled into a nice visualization for the analemma.  If your camera is in orbit with the Earth, and always pointed toward the sun, you can see the poles on Earth wobble toward and away from the sun, as the constant angle of the axis faces along the same XYZ coordinate in it’s orbit.  But that was a little distracting for this one.

For this one, it made more sense to go with keeping the camera on a fixed side of Earth and letting the light appear to orbit around it, even though it was actually the Earth and camera in a null orbiting the light the whole time.  This wound up being perfect for showing that transition from a heliocentric view to a geocentric one.  The illusion was already there.  And setting up a mini sun in perfect sync was easy enough.

And then, because we wanted to reference the background stars, and the zodiac constellations are literally the constellations along the ecliptic, we got to pull that in as well.  We used the spring zodiac constellations, and at first I messed this up, but when the south pole is oriented toward the sun, that’s our winter, and when the north pole is oriented toward the sun, that’s our summer, and you can see in this view that we are moving from winter to summer, so the sun would be passing through Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries.

I get better at these, the more of them that we do.  So much of astronomy just comes down to objects in motion, at vast distances, and how things look differently from different perspectives.  It’s a fun subject, and so well suited to 3D animation.

Written by Sara

July 20th, 2019 at 2:08 pm

Pre-Natal MRI Scanning

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A company called iFIND recently came out with a video clip showing off their new scanning technology.  The technology combines traditional MRI with ultrasound to do the scans in a manner that makes it safe for use with pregnant women and is allowing us a clearer look into the womb than we have had before.  And as you can see, it doesn’t just go all a blur when the fetus moves quickly.

This new technology offers both cutting edge diagnostics, and also a strong collection of 3D data sets that we can continue to learn from about fetal development.  They’re even able to check out the chambers of the baby-to-be’s heart.  This is really cool stuff!

Written by Sara

July 1st, 2019 at 11:07 pm

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Recent Works in Paint

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My goodness, it looks like I haven’t updated here for a couple of paintings now.  Well, just now, I finished the 2nd celebrity likeness I’ve ever done.  There is a sad clown with a golden voice, named Puddles, who throws pity parties, and he’s wonderful.  So before going to see him last week, I decided to make a tiny little painting of him and give it to him at the show.  This one took me a few weeks I guess.  I started with the basic lines, and then got to playing with it, and finally had to cut myself off so that I could give it to him.  It was actually really refreshing making a gift this time.  Sometimes I really like doing things like that.

work in progress imagesAnd ultimately, I came out with this…

Puddles the Clown

And then prior to that, I finally finished a piece that I had been working on for months.  This one was called Forces.  It is a bigger canvas, and I had to play with it a lot to get things right.  I like how it ultimately turned out though.

Forces (painting)

Written by Sara

March 24th, 2019 at 10:43 am

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Molecule Rigging

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Some of you reading are familiar with using the epmv plugin within Cinema 4D.  Gary Welsh came up with a workflow for rigging those downloaded molecules to make them dynamic.  I haven’t tried this one myself yet, but it looks really cool.  I wanted the reference for myself, so I thought that I would share it with anyone else reading as well.

If you go to the YouTube page directly, you can even download the .c4d file directly.

Written by Sara

January 25th, 2019 at 7:19 pm

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Creative Cloud

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Well I’ve finally jumped the bridge into having my own personal Creative Cloud subscription with Adobe.  I’ve been giving it a lot of thought though, and this move to mandatory subscription based software really feels like a problem to me.  If you are the type that keeps and updates their software at every upgrade, and right away, then you are exactly the type that is happy with the current model.  It is actually cheaper than following every packaged upgrade was.  But I also feel like they don’t put nearly as much into their upgrades as they used to now.  They don’t have to impress anyone into buying the latest upgrade with their amazing new tools, so they just make a few tweaks here and there, and everyone has to futz with upgrading their machines and try to maintain compatibility with each other on collaborative projects.

And really, compatibility on collaborative projects is the #1 reason for me finally paying into Creative Cloud services.  The last new features that really impressed me in flat image manipulation were Photoshop’s Content Aware fill and Puppet Warp tool, both of which came prior to Creative Cloud.  The video updates on the other hand, have been more substantial.  That has a lot to do with Premiere and After Effects’ abilities to work with codecs that didn’t even exist prior to Creative Cloud.  Also, Premiere has this thing these days where it just recognizes what you’ve put in a timeline and asks if you’d like everything to match that.  And come on, that’s just really nice.  But ultimately, I can still do most of the things that I want to do with my old CS5 software.  I just can’t work with a file that someone sends me that was made in Creative Cloud.  I also can’t open my own files, that I have made in Creative Cloud when I’ve had it supplied through my work.  And that brings me to one of my bigger concerns with Creative Cloud.

I find myself hesitant, even now that I’m paying Adobe all of this money to have access to the Creative Cloud, to use the new shiny software, because it makes my work feel less my own.  I know that if I start a project, I’m only able to get back into it again as long as I continue to pay Adobe for access to Creative Cloud.  If I want to know I can open something later, sometimes I still open things up with my old CS5, because I don’t know if it will always be worth it to keep paying Adobe for their cloud services.  They do have these really nice tools, but it’s also a trap.

Back when I was working odd jobs here and there, I relied heavily on my old software bought under school discounts.  And occasionally you’d land a job that would come with some new software or an upgrade as part of your compensation.  That was when you upgraded.  But there was never a continued monetary commitment to hold on to that software.  You just had it now.  And you could always count on being able to get back in to those old projects.  And if a job wanted you to have better, they either bought it for you, or you decided if you could buy it for yourself.  And if a really impressive upgrade came along, maybe you saved up for a bit and upgraded to get it.  Now, I don’t know what new artists are doing.  I suppose that the ones with family funding have the subscriptions, and the ones without it either sink into debt quickly or just can’t access the tools to do the work.  And I guess that’s always been the case to an extent.  This has always been expensive software.  But there used to be real ins to having it and having the opportunity to practice with it, that weren’t then stripped away, or worse still, charge you fines to break contract and stop paying them (sometimes jobs go bad), or auto fine you if you miss canceling the subscription at the right time.

Sometimes I wonder, if I use these tools my whole life, how much will Adobe make off of me when I die?  How much have they already made on deceased or hospitalized artists?  Calling Adobe isn’t exactly a first priority when a loved one dies, or goes into the ICU.  I had a great aunt who passed away a long time ago, and I remember that when my father was trying to help out with her affairs, he found that AAA had been auto updating her account and charging her.  She didn’t drive for probably her last decade if not longer, but AAA was getting their cut the whole time.

The Adobe products themselves are still really powerful, and I don’t mean to suggest that the company shouldn’t turn a profit on them.  But I’m just not comfortable with the current model.  I hope that it is someday reformed.  If it isn’t, I believe that Adobe will come to find more competition as many artists begin investing in tools that better serve their needs.  But for the meantime, they are still the industry standard.  And what that ultimately means is that life for digital artists comes with this extra expense that you don’t see in most professions and that isn’t necessarily paid back in added income.  And that’s just the way it is right now.  My fear is that more professions will look like this as more companies find ways to get people into subscription contracts for their basic tools.  But my hope is that competition will drive the market to create better options for artists over time.

Written by Sara

November 10th, 2018 at 11:10 am

Tree #11

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I finally finished the new tree painting.  This one has been a bit of a wish for fall as we get through the final slog of all this over 100º weather.

painting of a tree against the moon

Written by Sara

August 26th, 2018 at 12:04 pm

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Making Coils in Illustrator

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Lately I’ve had some work come up that has required illustrating coils using Illustrator.  This is one of those things that has just always been a pain when it comes up.  So finally I took the time to work out a real strategy, rather than just fumble through it like I usually do.  Looking online for advice, I found that a lot of people struggle with this, so I’m going to share what I did with all of you as well.
coils

•  Make an oval.  For my example I went with 200 x 50.

•  Delete one of the side points, so that you have half an oval.

•  Duplicate the half and reflect it or rotate it to the other side.

•  Make one of your sides shorter (in my case, Side A remained 100 x 50, while Side B was shortened to 100 x 30).  Keep both sides the same width for an even coil.

•  If direction is important, you can fuss with reflecting horizontally to keep your line going in the same direction (significant if you’re using gradient lines or arrowheads)

•  Duplicate that and keep lining up the ends however far you want your coil to go.

•  And if you want to make the whole thing one solid line, go to Object > Path > Join.  Voila, now you have one even looking coiled line that you can put a single arrowhead on if you’d like, or cut wherever you’d like to add more arrowheads, or use gradient effects with, or warp as your project’s needs may dictate.

screenshot of pull down menu
It’s one of those things that seems obvious once you do it.  But until you do, or until you see it somewhere, it’s easy to lose a lot of time shaking your fist at the lacking zig zag effect which just won’t give you what you want, or messing around with the spiral tool or arc tool.  Enjoy!

Written by Sara

August 24th, 2018 at 7:38 pm

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The Moon’s Formation

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Today I finally got the go ahead to share one of the astronomy animations of late.  It looks like we may change something about the sun on the first one, but this one is staying as is.  This was definitely the crazier of the two to work on so far.  I don’t really ever get requests to crash things when I’m making bio animations.  So I did a few tests in advance of taking this one on, where I discovered the Voroni Fracture, which is super fun, especially when combined with the push-apart and random effectors.  Unfortunately, by the time we got the textures fully set and introduced a molten core, every scene that used Voroni fractures wound up taking forever to render.  There are spots where I would have liked to do it a few more times to finesse some of that stray space debris and get it just so.  But overall, I learned a lot working on this, and it was fun to try something different.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything fun from work on YouTube.  For a while there, most of my animation work was either going into larger interactives and needed that context to make sense, or was really small, and again best within the context it was being made for.

I’m looking forward to doing more of these.  And when we get things settled with that first one I’d like to show it off too.  It’s less smash and more elegant.  I think it’ll give viewers a good aha moment, and well, that’s my favorite part of working on things like this.  Well, that and the part where the details of my job involve all kinds of cool scientific knowledge.  Really, prior to making this, I don’t believe I’d ever heard this explanation for how our moon formed.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention this awesome find for textures.  I only used them a little in this animation, but I’ve gotten good use out of the textures that are freely available from Solar System Scope.  It’s a lot like taking them directly from NASA, only these folks have already done the work of taking NASA’s telescope images and stitching them together to make a perfect texture for application to a sphere in whatever 3D program you might be using.  It’s really made working on these kinds of images nice.  So big thanks to them, and obviously to NASA.

Written by Sara

July 13th, 2018 at 9:09 pm

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