Review: Pixar in a box Tutorial by Khan Academy

Pixar is a box’ is an excellent tutorial at Khan Academy developed in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. It is about some of the Math concepts that we learn in school and how they apply to making animated movies. The content is meant for secondary school students (and above Smile).

Tutorial sketches a broad outline of the pipeline for producing animation, with each lesson digging deeper into a particular concept and its Mathematics.

1- Environment Modeling talks about representing curves (parabolic curves) using three points, rather than equations. It is more intuitive to work with three control points while designing and animating curves. This knowledge about curves is applied to create grass blade. A lot of grass blades are put together with randomness and animation offsets to create a natural looking grass field.

2- Character Modeling describes how polygons are used to start modeling shapes and subdivision algorithm is used to smoothen out the edges. 2D sketch of Human hand is designed using this technique without much effort. The crux of the lesson is the mathematics of subdivision and its application in 2D and 3D.

3- Animation lesson explains the role of Bezier curve in representing animation. A realistic bouncing ball animation is created in hands-on exercise.

4- Crowds are created by joining a number of parts in various combinations.  Lesson explores the concepts of permutations and apply it to calculating the number of possible combinations.

5- Sets & Staging deals with placing characters in the environment. Environment contains various objects which are placed around in the scene after scaling and rotating them as required. The lesson explains the mathematics behind these geometric transformations.

6- Rendering is a particularly exciting lesson which brings out the complexity of the whole process. While rendering we have to determine the color of each pixel in a frame taking into account all the light sources, camera position, all objects in the scene and how each object reflects or refracts light. This is done by casting rays out of the light sources and bouncing them off various surfaces. Diffuse and Specular properties of a surface determine how light will be reflected by it.

‘‘Pixar in a box’ is highly recommended as a fun way to learn.

Pixar in a box

Completed ‘HTML5 Game Development’ course from Udacity

I have been taking Massively Open Online Courses at Coursera, but this is the first one at Udacity. The two platforms take different approaches… Coursera is more like a virtual classroom while Udacity feels like a very well designed interactive tutorial. Udacity is self-paced with very short video clips interspersed with questions and quick programming assignments. On the other hand, courses at Coursera start at specific dates and the assignments have deadlines. All students of a batch enroll in the class at the same time and discuss same topics on forums as the course progresses. This gives a more real university classroom like structure to Coursera.

The ‘HTML5 Game Development’ course teaches basic skills to get started with 2D game development. It does that by going through techniques and tools that were used to develop GRITS. GRITS can be downloaded from here. The overall quality of the course could be improved, particularly the grader bugs in some of the assignments were frustrating. Still I had a good time, mainly because Udacity as a platform is great and going by the posts in discussion forums, rest of the computer science courses at Udacity have excellent content. I would be hooked on Udacity for some time 🙂

Following are the tools used or recommended during the course:

Creating Sprite Sheets http://www.codeandweb.com/texturepacker
Map Editor http://www.mapeditor.org/ (Tiled)
Physics Engine http://box2d.org/
Audio Editor http://www.goldwave.com/

HTML5 Game Development - Udacity-page-001

Reached “Design – All Star” in design .toolbox

"All Star - Design" @ .toolbox

.toolbox is a really fun environment to learn basic design concepts as well as the fundamentals of creating Silverlight applications using Expression Studio. Today, I finished both the tracks (i.e. principles and scenarios) and achieved all 15 badges. The high quality tutorials and evaluations, and a very nice theme make it really enjoyable. Check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/design/toolbox/

Fundamentals of Designing

Microsoft has developed an amazing e-learning website called .toolbox for creating Silverlight applications using Expression Studio. The site focuses on design aspects rather than development. Being a developer, I am always intrigued by design tools like Flash, Blend and Photoshop and want to improve my design skills.  So I have started going through the tutorials on .toolbox, they are very high quality and fun to follow.

I finished the introductory lecture on design fundamentals by Robby Ingebretsen. Following are my notes in a mind map format.

Design Principles

Here is the mind map file for above image which can be opened in FreeMind. After downloading the file, you will have to change the extension to .mm for viewing it in FreeMind.