After CGO … …

Now that CGOverdrive is all over and done with, Sacha and Andy could relax and enjoy Singapore a bit. Its Sacha first time in Singapore and Andy’s second time (the last time Andy was here was quite a few years back). One thing they do have in common is they have never tried durian!! As they wanted to enjoy a more local experience, I thought I will get my family together and show them how I spend my weekend. However, couple with the fact that I do also want to show Sacha and Andy around Singapore, my family weekend is modified slightly to include more interesting areas where usually, as locals, had taken for granted.

What I left out in yesterday’s blog is that I gave them a challenge. As its their first MRT experience, I assigned them to meet me at the Outram Park MRT station at 10:00hr. Its an easy challenge and the guys did not let me down. Better yet, they arrived at 09:30hr while I reached there 10mins later. Unfortunately, I forget to inform them not to have breakfast as we will be having brunch with my family.

Dim Sum for brunch is what I ordered for today. Sacha and Andy is quite good at using their chopsticks. So much so that they could have a chopstick fight over peanuts … … just kidding. Its comical nonetheless to see two Caucasians showing off their chopstick-fu. Andy is the better skilled one.

Andy vs Sacha

We brought them around China Town and visited the oldest Hindu temple at Pagoda Street, Sri Mariamman Temple. There is an Indian wedding reception there and we were invited to try some of their dessert. Next stop, we went to the new Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located at … (drum roll) … Sago Street!! (For those of you who did not catch the joke, Sago is Sacha’s web identity and its the combination of the first two letters of his first and last name). Sacha is so tickled by it that he pose for a picture under the street sign (Unfortunately I don’t have the photos with me, hope he could one day share it in his blog or something). The temple visit is a very different change in atmosphere. It is like suddenly we were moved from hustle and bustle to silence and tranquility. During the visit, we talked a little about Buddhism and the differences between exoteric and esoteric forms of practices.

After visiting the temple, we took a short break and went for a refreshing Sugar Cane with Lemon drink. Next up, its time for durians. I was concern about whether they would be able to handle it as even some locals find it stinky and smelly. Fortunately, they were up for the challenge and did not find it too pungent. Andy said that it almost feels like eating onions, it stinks too but its okay. They neither like it nor dislike it, its just another fruit to them. I have to confess that I suck at picking durian and this particular one I picked is not very sweet.

Andy\'s first durian

Sacha\'s first durian

Once we are done with the durians, we proceeded to take a bus and visited the Malay Heritage Center. Andy seem to like what he saw at the Malay Heritage Center and took time to read some of the text and study the display. By the time we finished, we were all hungry so we went for food. I ordered them each a piece of Roti Prata with egg and Teh-Halia (Ginger Tea) with ice for drinks. When we finished we were all getting sleepy as we have been walking a lot. We chat a little more and talked a little bit about Siggraph Asia, Project Apricot and Project Durian. Its about 17:00hr when we got back to their hotel and bid them farewell.

I sincerely hope that they have enjoyed my little informal tour of Singapore and pray for the best in whatever they choose to undertake. Furthermore, I hope to see them again soon and more importantly, I pray that all Blender user around the world could meet up together at Siggraph Asia 2008 at the end of this year to bond and share our knowledge and expertise.

— 2008/June/21

CGOverdrive 2008 – Last Day

Well… … here we are, the last day of CGOverdrive 2008 and it ended with a presentation by not one but two Blender speaker — Sacha and Andy. The host of CGOverdrive calls the conference as the “Blender sandwich” as the entire 4 day conference started with Blender as the keynote on day one and now it ends with Blender. The presentation was refreshing as its the first time I saw two presenter presenting a common topic on stage in CGOverdrive. The overall feeling is like as if two friends who had went through months of intense hardship but have forgotten what had happened now have a casual get-together trying to remember what they did during those “tough times” over coffee and sandwiches. It is as if I am watching a drama unfold instead of watching a presentation and I find it hard that they have planned it that way but it turned out that way anyway. Unfortunately photography was not allowed during the presentation so I could not take photos of them in action. Compared to the other conferences, its much more entertaining.

The Making of Big Buck Bunny

Andy and Sacha also brought along with them some BBB DVD which they gave as prizes at the end of their presentation if the audience could answer their question which in the end cut back the Q&A session or maybe its more like a reverse Q&A where instead of the audience asking question, its the presenters. Once the prizes are out and the conference officially ended, audiences swamp to the stage for more autograph and photo taking.

Sacha and Fans after conference ended

Andy and Fans after conference ended

After all their fans left, I brought them back to their hotel by one of Singapore’s public transport called the Mass Rapid Transit or MRT. I summed them up how the MRT system functions and how to get around Singapore using it. Once they put their bags back to the hotel, we proceeded back to the MRT and traveled to City Hall station. There I brought them to the Funan IT Mall where they glimpse through prices of various computing products and compared to the Netherlands and Germany, the differences in prices is not a lot.

Next stop, The Esplanade or more commonly known in Singapore as “The Durian”. My wife was supposed to meet up with her friends there with my daughter but it was canceled. So she met up with us instead and We went to Makan Sutra for food such as the Malays’ Satay, BBQ Chicken Wing roasted over charcoal, Chinese Hokkien Mee, Oyster Omelette and Chinese Carrot Cakes (the black sauce version). For drinks, they have coconuts but Andy was not used to it so opted for iced Milk Tea later. Sacha seems to enjoy the coconut juice and he even finishes Andy’s share.

After dinner, we took a slow walk to the Merlion Garden where we took photos of both the Merlion and “The Durian”. Time passes by fast when you have fun, its getting late so we took a bus back to their hotel.

— 2008/June/20

CGOverdrive 2008 – Day 3

I was at CGO at 08:45hr today and there are like only a handful of people. Due to personal matter, I only stayed for the first conference and had to rush out. Character Animation: Traditional Arts and Modern Technology by Paul Wollenzien of Rune Entertainment pretty much hammered into the audience head that story comes first, not technology. As he is also teaching in Sheridan Global (which will open a branch in Singapore end of this year), he often see enthusiastic new comer of 3D who wanted to learn Maya to tell their greatest story ever told only to fail miserably in the end. He cannot emphasize enough that it is the human that is telling a story, not Maya. His best example would be, you not go to a school and said, “Teach me pencil!!”

Technology helps in realizing your story but it does not tells the story. Paul gave a few examples of how when story drives technology everyone wins and when technology drives story it is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen. The audience in the theater or television really do not care if you made it with a pencil or computer, what they care most about is the story. You could have the best quality output but if your story suck then the audience would just look for something else.

Other than the above mentioned conference, I was informed by a friend that two of his friends work is on display at the exhibit. It did not seem to pop out at me that it is their work as it seems to me that all the work at the exhibits feels it is either copying from Pixar, Dreamworks, or (insert your favorite animation studio). They are all great work of art and artistic dim wit like me could only dream about achieving such results. However, looking at so much 3D animation in recent years just kinds of numbs you.

As my schedule is packed for personal matters today, I left around noon and did not get to see Sacha nor Andy. Never fear though because tomorrow is their presentation entitled The Making of Big Buck Bunny by Sacha Goedegebure & Andreas Goralczyk of Blender Institute.

Cheong Hoe Yi — Round Eye Dragon

Cheong Hoe Yi --- Round Eye Dragon

Low Bin Weng — Princess of Flame

Low Bin Weng --- Princess of Fame

— 2008/June/19

CGOverdrive 2008 – Day 2

There were three conferences today but I was only interested in the latter two, which is Character Animation: An Integrated Pipeline by Patrick Beaulieu from Squeezestudio and Seeing Through the Lens of the ‘Camera’ — Visual Effects for Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Transformers and Iron Man by Brian Connor from DAG/ILM, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore. I arrived there around 11:00hr but could not find Sacha or Andy, so I proceeded to register myself for Broadcast Asia and check out some of the exhibits. Its a total tradeshow for equipment manufacturers and software makers. There is a booth that is showcasing Ultra HD television systems which I would have watched it if I have not miss the show time. The resolution of the display is that of 7680×4320, or roughly 32 million pixels!!

Moving along, Panasonic booth showcases their latest Cameras and large 103″ LCD display. The camera booth is most interesting as they have setup a scene with three models chatting in an old fashion diner. A slew of Panasonic professional broadcast cameras were setup in a way to allow the visitors to try out the cameras.

Panasonic Professional Broadcast Cameras

Panasonic 103\

The picture above actually shows three 103″ LCD panel being mounted vertically while being lined up side by side. If you didn’t look carefully, you would have thought the two LCDs on the sides are perfectly back lit movie posters.

Time passes by quickly as you view lots of interesting cool stuff, soon its time to get back to the conference. The conference about character animation pipeline is strictly focus on just the animation part of the pipeline. I took as much notes as I possibly can hoping to later discuss it with my fellow production team when I get back to Malaysia. Once that is done and over with, I found Sacha and Andy standing right outside the conference room wearing the signature Big Buck Bunny T-Shirt. They were sitting in the same conference but could not sit still for too long so they decided to hang out outside the conference room. When someone requested for the BBB DVD, Sacha gave them the DVD which he only brought along an extremely limited quantity. Upon giving it to the person, he highly encourage them to share with as many people as possible and elaborate a little on the content of the DVD and Blender.

As we continue to chit chat about the culture and the what-nots of Asia in general, it somehow started to gather a crowd who wanted pictures and autographs from them. Sacha totally dig the attention while Andy tries to play it cool.

Sacha and Fans

Andy and Fans

I could not let this opportunity pass, so I too requested for a picture. (^_^)

Sacha, Me, Andy

After the photo session, its time for the next conference. As Sacha himself has predicted, he could not sit still for too long. About twenty minutes into the conference he left. About thirty minutes later Andy left too. I continued on till the conference ended for the day. When I went out, Sacha and Andy were mingling with people from the 3Dsense Media School booth (most of them are instructors at the booth doing student recruitment). 3Dsense Media School is also the organization that started CGOverdrive. As more people gathered around them, I said my goodbyes as I have people to fetch at the Airport.

Looking forward to another great day at CGOverdrive tomorrow albeit it will be a very short for me.

— 2008/June/18

CGOverdrive 2008 – Day 1

I finally get to meet Sacha and Andy today at CGOverdrive 2008 in Singapore Expo Hall9.

I arrived there around 11:00hr and started checking out the booths. (I apologize to my viewers as these pictures are badly taken.)

Upon entering, there is Ubisoft.
Ubisoft Recruiting Booth

Moving inside I see CodeMaster showcasing their latest game called GRID.
CodeMaster Booth

And to my left there is Lucas Arts recruiting mainly Singaporeans as part of their agreement with the Singapore government to boost local talents experience.
Lucas Art recruitment booth.

Then there is Double Negative which is also recruiting and once again mainly Singaporeans.
Double Negative recruiting booth

There is even a Shanghai, China company doing recruitment called 2K Games China. The latest BioShock and Civilization was done by them.
2K Games China recruitment booth

There are a bunch of schools there as well but the most interesting one is Nanyang Polytechnic showcasing their F1 simulation. From what I gather, the simulation is based on roads of Singapore that will be used later this year for its first F1 racing.
Nanyang Polytechnic showcasing their F1 Simulation

Finally, the conference is about to start. I enter the conference hall and see Sacha on stage. While he is busy talking to the host, I took a snapshot as no photography is allowed during the presentation. The no media recording rules is highly and strictly enforced. I have people around me being told to erase what they have secretly recorded during the presentation.

Sacha talking to host before the conference starts.

As the host ended his conversation, I went up to Sacha and introduced myself as the coordinator for Blender Birds of a Feather session in Siggraph Asia 2008. Just as I finished introducing myself, Andy popped right behind me. My heart just flipped three loops seeing the “Gods” of Blender and shaking their hands. I wanted to take pictures with them and of them but was politely decline as Sacha is having technical problems (stress) with getting his notebook to work with the projector and Andy is feeling like a zombie as he had just arrive this morning at 06:30hr and has not sleep (trying to beat jet lag and time differences) nor eat (I only found that out much later).

For some reason, there are still technical difficulties even though they changed notebooks and operating systems plus there is something about internet kept breaking up. Upon hearing that, I offered my Dad’s notebook that I have been lugging around. As I am an Open Source advocate, I have all the necessary software installed and just yesterday I just upgraded everything to the latest version. Sacha do a quick test of all his files on my Dad’s computer and everything worked flawlessly ( I was praying really hard!!).

Sacha first showed Big Buck Bunny and moved on to explaining ( from his personal experience) Open Source, Open Content, Creative Commons and how the Ton fits all these pieces together. I was surprise to learn from him that Singapore would finally include Creative Commons as part of the law come end of July this year. Malaysia which is a more backward country already have Creative Commons in their law a few years back.

After the presentation, there were quite a few questions for him during the Q&A session. Many audience were awed by the fact that the entire animation production is done in Blender from modeling all the way to compositing and video editing. More intriguing to the audience is that the entire BBB visual production uses only free software like GIMP and Inkscape. The only visual stuff that is not open source is the DVD creation and mastering.

After Sacha presentation, he was interviewed by a reporter from Animation Xpress and subsequently vaporized as Andy and me could not find him no matter how hard we try. It is during the search that I found out that Andy has not eaten a thing since 04:00hr. So in the end, Andy and me have lunch together at cafe that serves food from Macau. After that we hang out watching some professionally made short film back at CGOverdrive which were terribly slip sync. Finally Andy could not take it anymore and I accompany him to his shuttle bus that brings him back to his hotel.

Once he is up the bus, I work my way back to the MRT and go home. It has been a great day!

— 2008/June/17.