Sunday, April 27, 2008

Handmade 3D

The Freres Hueon (apparently a couple of brothers from Bordeaux, France, but little information is available about them) made a "sweded" remake of the light cycle race in Tron, using cardboard props instead of computer graphics. As a Tron fan, I find this mightily impressive.

I should have a special altar built for Tron, as it is the original source of my deep love for computer graphics. I saw it in 1982 and found it so extraordinary and visually groundbreaking at that time that I sat through two consecutive showings. As we know, Tron was a commercial failure, and CG didn't really made it in the movies until Jurassic Park, 11 years later.

Still, Tron remains interesting in the way the authors took advantage of the limitations of the available technology. More recent movies overestimate the ability of 3D technology, so visual effects that look fantastic when the movie is released look fake and awkward after a few years (if not a few days), with characters deep into the uncanny valley and flat lighting. Tron has some cheesy parts (it was a mainstream Disney movie made in the 80s after all), but the effects, simple as they are, are still very pretty.

The Tron DVD also contains the following tidbit: as 3D was still largely experimental, the companies hired to create the computer graphics used very different technologies. Basically, one used polygons (for the Solar Sailer for instance) while the other used primitives (notably for the Light Cycles). The latter technology gave better, shinier results but with a price: in the DVD, we can hear Syd Mead, the designer hired to create the Cycles, lament the fact that his original smooth, curvy, organic-looking design had to be dumbed down into a bunch of spheres and cylinders... It is amusing that this debate still exists today in the POV-Ray community, where some users make a point of using only script and primitives while others have embraced polygon modelers.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Welcome to my lonely Chinese visitor

I've subscribed to Google Analytics for some time now, and until yesterday, the visitors map for Oyonale looked like this.
Where have the chinese gone?
133 countries (light and dark green on the map) have sent visitors so far. In one month, there were 20 people from Saudi Arabia, 1 from Iraq, 1 from Afghanistan, 134 from Hungary and 9267 from the USA (hello to all of you, dear visitors). So who's missing? Turkmenistan, Burman, Yemen, Oman, Mali, Niger, Chad, Nigeria (which is strange, with all the dead billionaires' wives hailing from Lagos) and a few other African countries. And China. 1.3 billion chinese people can't see my images or read my silly stories. Only people from Hong Kong are free to do so, thanks perhaps to the "one country, two systems" policy. You can verify this using Websitepulse, a site that tests an URL from Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong.
Not that the Chinese government really objects to Oyonale. The Great Firewall of China actually blocks my host's entire IP range. I have other sites hosted by the same ISP that are also invisible to Chinese internet users. It's impossible to know the cause for the ban, of course. Perhaps the Chinese government will relax the Firewall for the Olympics, I don't know.

And yesterday, someone from Beijing broke through the Firewall, my first Chinese visitor. That person visited one page and spent 0 second reading it, so I fear this wasn't a real person. In fact it was probably a bot. Websitepulse still reports that Oyonale is blocked in Beijing and Shanghai. But, whoever you are, Chinese visitor, I salute you.