Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Molecular Monday Mornings in Maya - and an Announcement

I've started a new series of Maya tutorials on YouTube. I'm not sure how long it'll last, but the first two installments are about using Molecular Maya to work with macromolecular structures.

The first deals with the challenge of importing very large molecular weight structures.

The second is more visually interesting, because we get to render some beautiful atoms.

The main problem I anticipate will prevent me from continuing this series is the fact that I have a NEW JOB! That's right, I will soon be leaving the academic world for the first time since I was a wee tot, and entering the... industry sector? That doesn't quite sound like the right term, but in any case, I will be joining the fine AXS studio. I may have mentioned them quite a while ago on this same blog. I will be employed as a 3D Biomedical Technical Artist, which means I'll get to work in Maya on the things I most enjoy creating.

So how might this prevent future tutorials? Well, so far I've used an educational license for tutorials that I've had access to through my institutional affiliation. But after I leave, I expect I will occasionally get a monthly license for freelance jobs, but mostly I may not have Maya at home. Which is very sad. Maybe an anonymous benefactor could finance a continued subscription for my home use. Anyone?

This also reminds me that I should post some of the freelance work that I've done over the past year. How remiss of me.

Thanks for reading (and watching),

Monday, August 15, 2016

Website refresh

The new incarnation of my Biocinematics portfolio site and resource hub is now live (and has been for a few weeks), but in the business of conferences, holidays, and just getting the site pseudo-ready, my blog has been neglected. No longer! Perhaps. You may notice that the blog look has also been refreshed, and I aim to post more regular updates here again as I wrap up some old projects and start new ones.

Get to the site by clicking in any number of places, see if you can find some of them. One is here: http://www.biocinematics.com/

And speaking of conferences, here is my conference presentation on Molecular Visualization.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Well... it's been a while. Probably the longest gap in posting in the history of this blog, if you don't count the somewhat inane (albeit fun!) previous post.

Why? Well the primary reason is because I've been planning a new website. My old site (http://bmc.erin.utoronto.ca/~stuart/) is "long in the tooth", was designed as a student site, and the school server it is hosted on is likely going to be shut down in the coming months.

So, I've been trying to get a new site up and running (with a quantum of success so far) on Squarespace. You can check out the "coming soon" splash page: https://biocinematics.squarespace.com/
Or maybe the site will already be live when you click through the link, in which case, yay!

Squarespace has a reasonably robust blog system, so I was thinking that I would migrate this blogger blog to the new framework and continue posting from there. I tried a test import and everything went very smoothly. It went so smoothly in fact, that I didn't want to mess things up by creating new posts on the "old" platform which would need to be migrated on top of the original import. So I stopped posting here. But I also haven't progressed to far with getting the new site fully functional. Hence the silence.


Now, however, I've come to the realization that I really do like this blogger platform. It is familiar and functional and I've got so many stats, links, search rankings, etc. tied to this platform, that I would likely be taking a step backwards in visibility if I made the switch.

So, I plan to stick with this platform, keeping the updates coming, while I continue getting the new site up. I want to do a bit of a cosmetic facelift on this blog once the styling for the new site has been established, to keep things looking cohesive.

So, what about that render up there? I've been totally sold on a relatively new render engine called Redshift. It's fast and fun and suits my needs quite well. Check back in a bit for some new work using this renderer.

Thanks for reading and for enduring the silence! Or at least, for not forgetting about me.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How to Play Wiki-Jumping

Happy Birthday Wikipedia!

I came up with a fun little game about five years ago that involves two people, at least three minutes of spare time, and Wikipedia. I do recognize that others have independently arrived at the same or similar concepts, very likely before I did, so I'm not claiming any true originality, though I'm fairly sure I didn't hear about Wiki-Jumping prior to my idea. In fact I've come to see that Wikiracing is fairly established, and while that destroys any claim to fame I may have on the matter, it also validates my opinion that it is pretty good fun. Here is my version of the game and rules.

The game is simple. Decide who will pick the start subject and who will pick the target/destination subject. Then each player thinks of a subject (thing, concept, person, animal, event, place) that is likely to be a wikipedia page. They simultaneously announce their subjects and both players navigate to the start subject page. On the command of "GO", the two players start clicking on in-page links, with the goal of arriving at the target page. The first person to arrive at the destination subject wins. Then spend an enjoyable minute clicking the back button to show each other your traversals.

Formal rules:
1) Both subjects should have a single unambiguous wikipedia page. This isn't too hard, but if you choose something like "Chicago", decide on the specific context (e.g. city, band, movie etc.).
2) When playing, you may only click on links within the body of the wikipedia article that link to another wikipedia article. No external links, no sidebar clicks. You MAY use the contents feature, and the See Also section. You may not use Portals.
3) You may not use any search functions. Essentially, you may not use the keyboard.
4) You may not use the back button. If you make an erroneous click, you'll have to find your way back by moving forward.
5) If both players agree find they are stuck in a loop or can't make progress, you may agree to a draw.
6) You may not look at each other's screens during the race, though you may volunteer information (e.g. "I'm at Non-Newtonian fluid!").

I realize that this game may sound boring, nerdy, tedious, or just plain silly, but I guarantee that if you're the least bit competitive and creative, the game can be hilarious, nail-biting, and even fun for spectators. It involves strategy, wits, and of course it's free.

Happy Wiki-Jumping!

PS Having trouble finding some subjects? Try these out:
Golden Gate Bridge to Pi
Sputnik 1 to Sushi
Golden poison frog to the American Declaration of Independence
Abbey Road (album) to Sea level (Bonus challenge: Traverse this in 4 clicks or fewer)

PPS I've been a bit silent on this blog recently, not because I haven't been doing anything, but because I'm in the process of building a new website which will house my blog, and I'm working through migrating this blog over.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Intro to Maya - More Screencasts

Four weeks into the course and there are literally hours of Maya training on YouTube now.
Here's a few of the tutorials:

Thanks for visiting,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Intro to Maya - Course Screencasts

This week I started teaching a Maya course, like the one I taught this past winter, except this is part one of the two. So here we're starting at the very beginning, opening Maya for the first time together.

After this class, the sessions will be much more biomedically focused. I generally start with some concepts, what I call "fiddling with primitives" and then move onto a step-by-step tutorial to create something. I won't post the videos here every week, so subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the latest as the come up each week.

Thanks for visiting,

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The second in the series: Cu-Al-FeCrNi_Au

Medium: ForeverSpin 2.0 tops with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor 1670 Anniversary Ink on Acid-Free Sketch Paper

Monday, August 31, 2015

Element 29

Here's just a bit of fun. Some might call it fine art. I call it Element 29.

Medium: Copper ForeverSpin 2.0 with Noodler's Ink Black on Acid-free Sketch Paper

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wireframe Contour Rendering with Maya 2016 and mental ray

Rendering a contour image in mental ray for Maya has been a nice way to show wireframes on an object. In Maya 2016 the usual method has become somewhat hidden, so I thought I would post a brief update on how to do that.

1) Create a black surface shader and apply it to your geometry
2) In the hypershade, access the shading group (e.g. surfaceShader1SG) and open the mental ray tab in the Attribute Editor (or Hypershade property editor!)
3) Under Contours, check Enable Contour Rendering and adjust the other options as you like
4) In the render settings, make sure mental ray is selected, and go to the Configuration tab
5) Check "Show Advanced Settings" and find the Contours section at the bottom
6) Check "Enable Contour Rendering" and increase the Over-Sample to something like 3
7) Under the "Draw By Property Difference" section, check "Around all poly faces"

Not quite done... you might see a Warning: Contour Rendering is not supported with Unified sampling

8) Go to the Quality tab and check "Show Advanced Settings"
9) Expand the Legacy Options section at the bottom and choose Sampling Mode: Legacy Sampling Mode

Hit render! *phew*

Note that if you are rendering beauty passes or other things, you probably want to use the original Unified Sampling and just create layer overrides for the contour settings. Also make sure that you have unchecked both "Around all poly faces" and "Enable Contour Rendering" for these non-contour passes/layers/renders, because I have had the filter settings be set to Box (1, 1) in the background without my knowledge due to "incompatibility with contour rendering". Just something to be cautious about; not sure if they may have fixed that in this version.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Strange Teapot

I've been learning how to use Pixar's Renderman for shading, lighting, and rendering. I was trying to get a handle on setting up different shading networks, so I decided to go a bit crazy while I figured out how to use various nodes. This was the rather unfortunate result.

I used the Official RenderMan Swatch (aka the renderman teapot) to  play around with. I learned how to work with displacement, bump, blend, and facing ratio nodes, various noise textures, and the layered shader.

Thanks for visiting!