Monday, December 12, 2011

Immunology concept (actually no)

Tomorrow is critique, so I've (almost) finished this year's assignments. One major project got extended to the first week of January, so I'll be presenting my WIP for that one. I'm pretty happy with it so far, so it looks okay as a pseudo-final. Still lots to do though.

The project was to work with an immunology professor on one of their research topics and illustrate the science using Illustrator for either a textbook figure, or a magazine spread, or a presentation slide, or something like that. I still need to wait and see if this information is published yet, so I can't post my concept work. I will definitely be sharing it soon.

I can post my final project for Textbook Illustration. Describe and illustrate a pathology. I chose appendicitis, for obvious reasons. Here we go:

Click for the embiggen (I think the etymology is in the vein of embolden). One image in carbon dust, and two in pen and ink. I'm happier with the pen and ink stuff if I'm honest with myself, even though it took a fraction of the time.

Looking forward to Christmas! Flying home in a few days. Then back in January for Surgical Illustration, Communication Technologies (yeah!), History of Medical Illustration, and I think another course, but Calender isn't loading right now. So yeah, looking forward to that too. This has definitely been the best semester of school ever. And that includes kindergarten. No, actually it doesn't, because I only remember like 3 events in kindergarten so it's not a fair comparison.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some more pen and ink

Really busy this week, so I'm just going to dump a couple images and let you sort it out. Three points if anyone can figure out my final textbook illustration project topic (not too hard) and ten points if anyone knows the name of the point in the second image.

More projects in the works! Will update again soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pharynx and larynx

After a certain period of frustration, and some tedious and nerve-wracking work, I finally finished the second rendering (here rendering means adding tonal value to a line drawing or sketch) for the textbook illustration course. That parenthetical reminds me of "A Series of Unfortunate Events". "A word which here means that I put some text in parentheses."

The frustration was due to not knowing where and how to use the contour lines required for this medium, but after help from the professor, some trials and plenty of eraser (all the rendering is done in pencil first), I managed something that I'm actually quite pleased with. The nerve-wracking part was due to not being able to Ctrl+Z a shaky pen stroke. It is possible to erase the ink with a mechanical eraser (like a dentist drill) but not that easy and not many times. Luckily I didn't make any huge blunders, and I tweaked a couple things in photoshop after. Not perfect by any means, but it puts the pen and ink I did as one of my portfolio pieces to shame (I never posted it I hope). Yeah, for the portfolio piece, I don't think I did any pencil tests... anyway, best not to dwell on it. Onwards and upwards.

Then I did some labelling in Illustrator again. I cut back on the number of labels from the original labelled drawing. The major failing of this piece in my opinion is the lack of real focus. Is it supposed to be a figure of the pharynx, the oral cavity, the brain, the dural folds, the arteries of the brain? Anyway, it's not going to be used for didactic purposes, but it's still good to be mindful of what the piece is intended for and what kind of audience it has.

Any more news? Nothing major... back to Illustrator I suppose. I need to learn about opacity masks and stuff.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

From brachioradialis to bezier curves

Well it's been long enough since I posted an update. On Thursday I had my second and final bellringer exam for first year med anatomy. It went well enough I suppose, but I'm so glad it's done. I was counting down the days even when I needed more time to study. But now that we are all experts on the contents of the carpal tunnel (tendons of flexor digitorum profundus, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor pollicis longus, and the median nerve, I believe... just showing off) we get to hop on the computers and start learning some digital tools. From now until Christmas will be a crash course in Illustrator. I've dabbled in Illustrator a bit, but I'm really looking forward to getting my teeth into some challenging stuff. Everything so far has been challenging and there is ZERO indication that the rest of the program will be any different.

The first mini-assignment was to get familiar with the pen tool, which always causes newcomers some headaches (I'm no exception). I traced the liver I did previously (as you can see below), as you can see above.

I finished inking (or penning, I guess... not sure what the difference is, since I used pigma pens) the sagittal section of the head. I'll label it in Illustrator and then post it here soon after. Even the traditional illustration is teaching me some handy digital techniques, including scanning different media to get the best quality for printing etc.

The other benefit to having anatomy done is now I can listen to music while I work (too hard when trying to memorize). Have been enjoying albums on Rdio from Neverending White Lights, Florence + the Machine, Evanescence, Jars of Clay, Hannah Georgas, annnd the Muppets (Green album).


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Liver, labelled

First textbook illustration image complete!

Some explanation may be in order. This is a liver. It is an inferior view, which doesn't mean it's not a great view, it means that it's flipped up and you are looking at the underside. If you rotated this out of your screen so that the round end (the fundus) of the gallbladder was facing you, that's how the liver would appear in someone standing in front of you facing you (which is the anatomical norm). That's why the "right lobe" is on the left of the screen. The medium is carbon dust, which I mentioned previously. It was more challenging than I thought to get the proper effect, but I'd like to try it again with more informed expectations on how the medium responds. I'm pretty satisfied with how it turned out, but it's nothing compared to a lot of the stunning works by my classmates. I scanned it, brought it into photoshop, tweaked the levels, erased out the surrounding data, placed it in illustrator, and added the labels.

I'm looking forward to doing a lot more in illustrator; it seems like a pretty powerful program and I'm just starting to explore the more basic uses. I actually managed to troubleshoot an annoying issue I was having, which is always satisfying. In the process I found this funny comment: "This seems to be over-designed. Why isn't painting here as simple and creative as painting in photoshop?" ... uhhh... it's not photoshop. It's not a painting program. That's why there's photoshop and illustrator.

Also, this week I got some upgrades for my computer. Reminds me of that classic Matrix line... "Upgrades." Yeah, anyway. Now I gots me some 12GB RAM, and a backup HDD that's actually the same size as my data drive, so it won't overfill like it's been threatening to. Don't know if you remember this fun post:, but this time, I managed to switch out a hard drive without completely disassembling the entire computer. It was still a pain, since you can't bring the HDD through the front of the case, and the cables created a really tight space but much more manageable than last time. Installing the RAM was a breeze. Six sticks of RAM in a computer makes me geek out, can't help it.

Oh yeah, and as I was messing around inside the computer, it sunk home just how close I was to having a pile of debris instead of a functional computer after this: I didn't take any more pictures because it's hard to get a true perspective on it, but once you start thinking "this is supposed to line up with that" or "that piece of steel should be behind that piece of steel" it gets pretty funny. Seriously laughable (you can use that oxymoron sometime, it's a free one). Parts of the motherboard chassis are literally 1-2 cm out of alignment. Parts of it... not the whole thing... so I don't know where the stress is going. It struck me that the case must have acted as a helmet, absorbing the brunt of whatever insane shock the system got. *sigh* I'm hoping that survival = survival, and not a shortened lifespan of certain components.

Well, I should get back to studying. As much as I enjoy the illustration parts of the program so far (especially finally getting to do some digital stuff, as simple as it looks), the vast majority of my time is required by anatomy. Got an embryology exam on Tues and the second bellringer a couple weeks after that, so I really gotta get stuck into it (I think that's a British expression?).

Notice I put the image at the top so people who don't like reading can just look and leave. How considerate.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surfing with the Alien Review

Surfing with the Alien (Vol. I) is an organic modelling tutorial from by Jason Edwards.

Banner from
Right up front, the final verdict (cause the full review is admittedly lengthy):
This modelling tutorial is well structured and presented and, while not for beginners to Maya, is great for people who are reasonably new to organic modelling. The vertex tweaking and topology adjustments could have used more verbal explanation, but the UV mapping sections were very helpful and surprisingly painless.

A couple notes about software and structure:
I completed this tutorial using Maya 2012 student version. The tutorial was created using Maya 2011, however I suspect much earlier versions of Maya could handle this tutorial no problem. There were few if any modelling tools or commands used that are new additions to Maya, although the UI is a bit different and may cause some confusion if you are following the tutorial using Maya 2009 or earlier. There are now two other volumes in the Surfing with the Alien series dealing with texturing, detailing in zbrush, and rigging. This review just deals with the first volume, i.e. modelling and UV mapping.

The tutorial is about 10 hrs long and is split into 16 logically defined chapters, each 30-45 minutes long. It includes image planes for the alien (but not the surfboard) along with a scene file showing the final model posed on the surfboard. The video files are quite sizable and the whole thing weighs in at over 2GB. Just something to keep in mind if you are bandwith limited.

And my thoughts on the tutorial:

The tutorial starts off with setting up image planes, which is good because knowing how to do this properly shouldn't always be assumed. From there, things get moving fast. I like to work on the project at the same time as the tutorial is playing on my second monitor. My ideal situation would be to have to pause the video rarely and rewind never. While I could almost keep up in general, pausing on occasion, I have to start off by saying that this tutorial is not meant for people new to Maya, 3D, or modelling. Although the suggested level stated on is beginner, I think this is overly optimistic. Many tools and commands are used without being introduced (wireframe and shaded modes, extruding, inserting edge loops, split poly, working in the outliner and channel box). Explaining these basics would be tedious for people familiar with modelling, but would be necessary for a beginner. So if you don't yet know the difference between insert edge loop and split poly, this isn't the tutorial for you. (Note: In 2012 they've done some messing around with the split poly tool. I thought they'd changed it to “interactive split tool”, but it turns out they've kept the original functionality and added more in the new interactive split tool – either tool will work fine for custom splitting).

Having said that, for an intermediate user or someone who is comfortable at hard-surface modelling and wants to give organics a try, this is a great tutorial for that. The shapes are very roughly blocked out to start, and Jay gives good advice and uses a variety of tools to work efficiently and smoothly. Again, this progresses at a rapid pace, and I think it would be nice to have the instructor stop every now and again, take stock of what we have so far, what features the existing edge loops will define, and how to expect them to evolve as the form takes shape.

The fingers seemed to take shape quickly and simply. The edge flow of the arm and hand is clear and informative. After showing how to shape the thumb, Jay leaves the viewer to finish shaping the other fingers. This makes sense, however, it does mean that you shouldn't expect a final product in the 10 hours it takes to view the tutorial. Even if you are able to model and keep up while the tutorial is playing (which is it's own challenge as I mentioned), some "homework" is required.

I should add a note here about selecting modelling tools. Jay has a custom shelf that he uses. If you aren't familiar with where the commonly used tools are, a) maybe start with a more introductory tutorial, b) check the mesh and edit mesh menus, c) check the maya docs, d) use the find menu help tool, or e) ask the friendly folks over at I personally like to use marking menus to select common tools and commands. Again, in different versions of Maya, Autodesk likes to change the names of tools and menus, so either look in the docs, or head over to simplymaya and ask politely.

Jay gives plenty of good general advice on production quality models, common pitfalls, things people tend to forget, and has a good sense of humor. He doesn't gloss over errors, instead works through the troubleshooting and provides the solution, albeit sometimes without much explanation.

The lack of explanation is probably my main criticism of the tutorial. Since I work through at the same time as the video is playing, I really appreciate a running commentary on what is happening. This is present in large part, but often the audio is limited to “we'll grab this and move it around here.” Instead of "just move this there and give that a tweak" I would prefer the instructor to give things names (preferably using anotomical terms) or be a bit more specific about the verbal instructions (e.g. we'll pull the bridge of the nose a bit further out, or we'll push back the corners of the mouth). The head especially would benefit from that, because it was hard to anticipate which edge loops would be pulled out from the face and which would be pushed in to provide the desired contours. Even looking at the video, it's often difficult to see exactly what is being selected, so something like “grab the third innermost edge loop of the mouth” would go a long way in my opinion. To be fair, the commentary is very decent in places, but ideally, clear and anatomically based verbal guidelines throughout each chapter would be excellent.

The shaping sections get a bit tedious, being mostly vertex pushing, as the author acknowledges. Of course you can fast forward some bits and try to do the shaping on your own, however, I wouldn't recommend that for myself at least, because I would struggle trying to deduce the occasional topology adjustment and re-routing of edge loops that does happen. In fact, it can be tricky to work out exactly how Jay is modifying the topology, since my piece looked slightly different based on how I tweaked the vertices, and sometimes it's necessary to stop and puzzle out independently how to get the same topology.

Jay sometimes uses a custom script called spin-faces. You can find this on, or do it manually which shouldn't be hard. However, in Maya 2012 there is now “spin edge forward” and “spin edge backward” under the edit mesh menu which does the same thing (just select the edge to rotate instead of the faces as Jay does).

After the alien was complete, it was fun to create some accessories, including clothes, jewellery, and a surfboard. Some different modelling techniques are introduced, including creative use of some non-linear deformers. Unfortunately the surfboard image planes don't seem to be included in the supplied files, but since the object is pretty simple, I didn't struggle with not having the reference (yes, it was part of the tutorial to put fins on top of the sufboard too; it is an alien after all).

The UV mapping for me was a highlight of the tutorial. UVing gets a bad rap, but under Jay's direction, it's not as tedious as you'd expect. Jay goes over helpful troubleshooting tips and solutions and workflow improvements. Like modelling the fingers, Jay leaves it to the viewer to UV the legs and feet since it's the same process as arms and legs.

There seems to be a bug near the end of part 15 where the audio continues but the video quits. I've contacted an admin at Simply Maya, and if it's not a problem on my computer's end, I'm sure it will get sorted out in no time. I've always had great success with the people over at Simply Maya.

Though there were times while following the tutorial that were frustrating or tedious and ultimately I wasn't that happy with how my alien's face turned out (it's my fault that it's kinda noobish looking), often I was reminded how fun it is to model in Maya, and I'm rather pleased with the final product as a whole. I'd recommend this tutorial to any intermediate modeller as excellent project-based training for organic modelling.

Thanks to Jay and Simply Maya!

P.P.S. (Personal Plug Script) If you're visiting from Simply Maya, welcome to my blog! I hope you stick around and check out some of my personal and biomedical projects.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sketch 3/3

Here's the last of the three linear sketches I did for textbook illustration.

My prof returned it with the critique that the dentition needed work, so I tried to improve the accuracy of the teeth on this one. I also finished labelling them, which was kind of fun. The toughest part was figuring out what to label (not enough room to label every tiny detail) and fitting the lines in so they were at least slightly evenly spaced. I get the impression that it would be ten times easier on a computer (we're going to be doing some Illustrator labelling next week). Not that it would be faster on a computer, but that I could gratify my perfectionist tendencies with tweaks and endless rearrangements. I could do that with pencil, but the eraser would eat through the paper eventually, so I had to be satisfied with an imperfect but decent (I hope) result.

I also took the first bellringer exam for anatomy on Tuesday which was tough but reasonable. I feel pretty good about it, so hopefully the mark I get reflects that too. It's kind of an insane method of taking a test; once you finish the last question, you hand it in and you don't get to go back to anything before. Sure, if you have a few spare seconds here or there, you can try to flip back and wrap your head around a question that you weren't 100% sure on, but there's not a ton of room for that; you gotta get it right off the bat.

Rdio. I started a 1-week trial today, and I'm sold already. It's crazy to have all the music (legally) that you could ever want to listen to at your fingertips. Most of the time I'm listening to music, it's at the computer, so it makes sense for me, but with certain subscriptions you can sync stuff to your phone for offline mobile listening. They've got a fantastic selection too... old stuff like Queen, Simon & Garfunkle, Beach Boys; new indie stuff like Mother Mother, Tegan & Sara, Young the Giant, Awolnation; Christian stuff like Starfield, Switchfoot, Relient K... there's only a few things that aren't available that I've seen, and it's usually something obvious like the Beatles who have real issues with music licensing, or a really obscure Australian group (although Temper Trap is there!). And for those that are using Grooveshark, it has waaay better navigation and UI and selection and it's so much easier to build a collection and playlists. And I'm not sure Grooveshark is totally above board. It's a lot easier to discover new stuff too; I've already scrolled through all the top charts and some recommendations (and for once the top listened albums aren't completely full of nauseating pop and R&B). Anyway, we'll see if I still enjoy it in a few days time, or if there's a nasty catch.

Even though school is crunchingly busy, I'm managing to work through the SimplyMaya tutorial I'm reviewing (apologies for it taking sooo long). Should be up on Monday, if everything goes smoothly this weekend.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Textbook Illumastration


This is a photocopy of the second sketch I did off a prosected specimen for Textbook Illustration. This same specimen was the source for an illustration (recognizably similar yet vastly superior to this one here) in Grant's Atlas. Homework for this week is to label photocopies of the sketches. And to transfer one of the sketches to illustration board in preparation for carbon dust. Yeah! After labelling this first sketch, I think I'll change it up a little bit to try and make it clearer on the other sketches. So eventually I'll post up the third sketch, maybe not labelled, or maybe labelled and not labelled. And we'll see the carbon dust turns out and I can post up that too!

Umm... I thought I was going to have a lot to say in this post, but I guess not. Any questions?

Oh yeah, I'm firmly convinced ("convince yourself") that the hypogastric nerves are not solely sympathetic, as certain sources seem to imply, since pelvic splanchnics have branches running superiorly through hypogastric nerves and through the superior hypogastric plexus to provide preganglionic parasympathetic fibres to derivatives of the hindgut along the inferior mesenteric artery. Oh, all this peripheral nervous system stuff is messing with my brain. Literally. HA!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

ROM rant

Well it's been a while since I ranted about anything, so this goes out to the anatomists or physiotherapists or anyone else that follows the nonsensical pattern of rotational axis naming.

First off, there are a few planes that the body can get divided by:
Frontal plane or coronal plane, which is like cutting you down from top to bottom so your face falls off, or rather divides you into a front and a back.
Next up is a transverse or horizontal plane, which, for example, could cut horizontally so you have a top and a bottom half. Incidentally, guillotines do this.
And finally there is a sagittal plane, which cuts to divide left from right, like if you straddled and then fell and sat on a running chainsaw (that's never almost happened to anybody I know *cough*).

If you're still unclear:

So that's all fine, I buy that, it's helpful and reasonable.

Now, someone got it into their head that since some body joints allow motion, we need to describe the motion of the bones and joints in terms of the axes that they rotate around. That's fine too, a shaking head indicating "no" is one example. A straight leg kicking a ball rotates around another axis, and bringing your arm straight out from your side to the left is the third axis. And these axes need names apparently and THIS is where all mathematical reason is discarded.

I'll just say what they are named and then I'll explain why it is just wrong. The frontal axis passes through the body from left to right (like a pencil passed through your ear holes - apologies for the graphic examples, but it's hard to describe planes and axes without describing things passing through the body). The sagittal axis passes through the body from front to back (like when someone pokes you in the chest with their index finger - there, nice and harmless). The final axis comes up with a new word and calls it the longitudinal axis, which when you shake your head "no" is what the head is rotating around (an axis passing from top to bottom). And movement examples of the frontal axis and the sagittal axis would be kicking a ball and lifting your arm out from your side, respectively. Confused? Yeah, and it's totally not my fault. What were they thinking?

Okay, I'll start with the most basic and logical argument against this nonsense naming. An axis exists in ONE dimension. A plane exists in TWO dimensions. ERGO, there are TWO axes that run parallel to a plane, and ONE axis that runs perpendicular to a plane. So, it is NOT possible to unambiguously name an axis after a plane UNLESS that axis runs perpendicular to the plane and NOT parallel to it, which is the case here. According to these preposterous naming conventions, the sagittal axis actually runs parallel to BOTH the sagittal plane AND the transverse plane. The frontal axis runs parallel to the frontal plane AND the transverse plane. The longitudinal axis runs parallel to both the sagittal and frontal planes. Okay, so there's no transverse axis, so theoretically you can't get confused, IF you remember which one the longitudinal axis is, but it still doesn't make sense and it does my head in.

I am forced to think in this manner: Abduction of the arm is rotating around an axis. It is not the longitudinal axis, so it must be either the sagittal or frontal axis. The axis runs parallel to both the coronal and transverse planes. There is neither a coronal nor transverse plane, but the coronal is also known as the frontal, so it must be rotating around the frontal axis. Was I right? Not 100% sure. No, I looked at it again and I'm wrong. Abduction of the arm is rotating around an axis parallel to the transverse and sagittal planes. Ergo sagittal.

I will defer to a mathematical example. If you have a cube that sits in XYZ space, you can take that cube and move it in the XY plane. You can move it in the YZ plane, and also the XZ plane. You can also rotate the cube around each of the X, Y, and Z axes. NOTICE that if you are rotating.... ah never mind. I'm too tired for this.


"/rant" is an internet typing to signify the end of a rant. It's derived from XML as far as I can work out, where any element is terminated by a forward slash followed by the name of the element (in this case the rant) and enclosed in , but I guess were deemed unnecessary for the /rant version.

Have a good week!


P.S. ROM stands for Range of Movement, which is apparently what this stuff is used for.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First Medical Illustration

Well here 'tis, my first bit of medical illustration, for the textbook illustration part of the anatomy course I'm taking at the moment.

It's a (mostly) linear sketch of a saggital section of someone's head. I hope that's self-evident. The bulk of it was drawn from a (slightly distorted) dissected specimen though a lot of the brain bits were taken from a real textbook illustration, cause that section was mostly uninterpretable (mushy) in the real specimen. Unfortunately we haven't learned the head part of the anatomy yet, so some of it is a bit foreign to me and hopefully it's not incorrect (through distortion or misinterpretation) in the drawing.

This textbook illustration is the extra graduate component of the anatomy course we get to take. So yes, I'm only taking one course at the moment. However, looking at the schedule for the coming week, there's 25 hours of course (sing.) scheduled, which isn't including the hours (and hours) of studying, prep, and drawing that will need to be done. But I enjoy it, especially the drawing and the embryology. The radiology I keep nearly falling asleep in, mostly cause it's on Friday afternoons.

And I've learned that eventually we'll be doing surgical illustration... yes, in an OR. I think.

(still working on the alien review/tutorial)


Friday, September 9, 2011

After the Rain

I forgot to post this before I left Victoria, so here's the final painting I did for my art lessons. Actually the first canvas I did too, and I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out. Hope you like it.

I know it's not the best presentation (in terms of the hasty background and crop) but hopefully it gets the point across. The weird wigglies you can see in the sky and the road are an artifact of the texture of the canvas upon digital resizing. It goes away if you click for larger.

The long-memoried readers might recall this post:

Yay, it's Friday.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Logitech and Luteinizing Hormone

So, since I was just studying some embryology at the moment, of course I'm going to start a blog post.

First off, I learned a new internet abbreviation. TL;DR - too long; didn't read. That can be used by someone who thought some bit of text was too long and decided it wasn't worth reading. Or it can be used by the author as a disclaimer and is often followed by a summary for those who don't want to read. If you find my blog too verbose, that's fine, your unspoken protest of not reading doesn't bother me; if you write TL;DR in the comments, I'll just assume you didn't finish high school. If you want me to write TL;DR here and then summarize the below, tough. Here's a picture for you:
That's special. (The mushroom represents you in a world where words are too many.)

So now for the text:

I'm into the second week of classes, and the pressure of the information fire hose seems to be backing off a bit, or at least I'm getting more acclimatized to it. I've had some pretty intense experiences so far, with dissection and trauma images... but it's also intriguing and rewarding, when a structure looks the same in situ as it does on the page, or when I'm able to recall a vessel learned last week that relates to a new region of study.

I'm learning to read x-rays (a practical skill in the future? who knows?) and I'm getting a crash course in embryology as I said, which is a ton of new info, worth a grand total of 5% of the mark for this course. The student part of me says, "That's really not worth as much time as it's asking to be invested". The student part of me says, "This is amazing stuff. I'm going to learn as much of the developmental process as I possibly can."

Ummm, but other than the studying, oh yeah lynda and logitech. I'll start with logitech. About, oh, five years ago, I bought a Logitech MX Revolution laser wireless mouse. It's pretty much awesome. So upon moving to Toronto and finding that I couldn't find the USB wireless receiver, I was fair mortified. The mouse survived the move fine, but without the little plastic bit that sticks in the computer, it's useless. In the meantime, I've been using the mouse that came with my Wacom tablet, which is okay, but a bit like using a twig to brush your teeth. I thought about just buying a new mouse, but I really like the MX Revolution, and Logitech doesn't sell it anymore. I looked up replacement receivers, and you can get them for 10 bucks from Logitech, but only if you live in the states. I looked on ebay, but the cheapest was 25-30 bucks including shipping and tax and all, and that's just a bit steep for an imperative bit of plastic and no guarantees it'll work. A google search pointed me to someone who pointed me to the Logitech customer service phone number. I phoned them (yes this story is going somewhere). After a long hold wait (typical) the customer service rep (hereafter referred to as the CSR) told me that my mouse was out of warranty (what? after 5 years?) and that he could send me a free receiver (atypical). So... that's in the mail. Wut wuut.

Alright, for the above paragraph only: TL;DR: I got a free mouse usb thingy.

And... is like digital-tutors or (I'm not sponsored by anyone, so I can freely name competitor sites consecutively) except their maya tutorials are not as extensive as DT or SM, but they have a much much broader base of video tutorials, for software like sketchbook pro, cinema4D, illustrator, flash, premier, after effects, photoshop, facebook, and google. I won't watch the facebook tutorials, it might make me depressed. Umm, so, what about it? Well it so happens that part of my tuition goes towards unlimited premium continual access to all their tutorials. That is so very great. I've already made a long list of the tutorials I want to watch, uppermost in them sketchbook pro (got started on that), cinema 4D (cause my demo trial is ticking away), and illustrator (cause I haven't got a very good foundation in that one yet).

And... simplymaya have generously given me the opportunity to review another of their video tutorials. (See, I can accommodate multiple sources of great digital training) It's only 10 hours long, so I should be able to bang out a review in... a matter of hours. Many hours. Stay tuned for that, simplymaya readers (*crickets*).

Now, let's see, what else has been a-happening. I think that's about it for now; I'd better get back to the embryology. Did you know that the heart starts out as a single tube (essentially a blood vessel) that folds and twists and fuses and grows holes?

Ah, you made it to the bottom. For all the non-TL;DR types out there, here's a different picture:

Aw, a kitty. You can conquer the most intimidating body of text, or the side of a sofa.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scoutin' on Sculptris

So despite the fact that I've got 5 hours of dissection tomorrow, I figured I could take a bit of time this evening and try to get a bit more familiar with the sculptris program. I have to say that it's a very fun program and not very hard to get to grips with. If you've never done any 3D computer stuff, I might dare say this may be the program to start off with. It's got about 9 tools, and a handful of options (brush size, strength) and that's about all you have to deal with. This was my first attempt in an hour or two. You might recognize it as the scout from Team Fortress 2.

It's also got a painting module, but I haven't given that a try yet. Maybe tomorrow after I've had my first go at real dissection (yikes...).

I also got 25 likes on facebook, which means that I can reserve the URL and you can now find biocinematics at

This first week has been pretty tiring so far and only ~half done. Phew.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Baseball and costodiaphragmatic recesses

First day of classes done! Five hours of intensive gross anatomy, and I can't really remember terribly much of it at the moment (I had to look up a long name because I couldn't think of any off the top of my head). Actually, I learned a pile today, it'll just take a bit of refreshing to bring it back to the surface. Fairly overwhelming.

But the weekend was fun. Went to a Blue Jays game, which was fun (they lost 12-zip and there was lots of humorous heckling). We also took a trip up the CN tower (until 2009, the tallest freestanding structure in the world... now fifth), and checked out our apartment from the top. There it is!

And what else... I've been playing around with Sculptris too, which is a simpler type version of zbrush or mudbox (bought by pixologic who make zbrush). I like it a lot better than either z or mudbox so far, so I think I'll mess around and see what I can do with it. Hopefully my next post will include some CG, since it's been quite a while. I think this anatomy will be quite the workload, but I'm still clinging to the hope that I'll be able to do some CG concurrently.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving In

Here I am writing from my computer in our new apartment in Toronto...
I got my internets installed yesterday morning, during which the technician spent over an hour going through the [insert ISP here]'s customer service departments over the phone, trying to get a modem authorized for me. At least employee's aren't exempt from the kind of pain those customer service rep's put people through. Anyway, it seems to be working okay right now.

But backing up, a lot's happened in the past several weeks. I was working on that blood vessel animation, and then I realized that I was going to have to pack up my computer until I could get I moved to Toronto, so that's been on hold for obvious reasons. So, I carefully unplugged and labelled all my cables (quick moving tip: you may know to which device all your power cables and other connectors belong to, but it makes things so much faster and easier to put a twist tie around the neatly coiled cable and a simple masking tape label; you're welcome) and spent a long time putting bubble wrap, packing tape, pillows, underwear, and other cushioning materials around my precious computer and monitors. Then I labeled the box FRAGILE all over and the movers came and put everything in a big truck.

So after a few frantic days of packing and cleaning, I got to take some great holiday time at the family cabin. It's the kind of place where there's enough amenities to be really comfortable (running water; toilets that takes your waste a good distance away; grandmothers that really know how to make good food, and nearby concessions that sell nerds and ring pops) but you're far enough away from civilization that you can't hear highways, you can stumble across fantastical toxic mushrooms that no one has either eaten or stepped on yet, and you can go for a swim within 3 minutes of deciding that you want one. Previous to this past visit, I hadn't been there for about 6 years, so it was great to have that time.

In the back of my mind I've always been thinking about preparing more for school, and I've done a number of sketches, mostly focusing on the human figure since that's still somewhat of a weak point for me, and I'm anticipating being required to do some of that this fall (maybe?). I won't post any of those sketches right now, maybe in the future. I've been sort of working through "The Drawing Book" by somebody Blake, which I've found to be really helpful and interesting. There's good instruction and examples, especially for portraiture and figure drawing.

But back to "what I did this summer" (or whatever this post is titled), I travelled back to Victoria and spent some time tying up loose ends and "helping" my wife successfully defend her Master's Thesis in Genetics on Recombinant Expression of N-acetylglucosaminidase (no I didn't have to look that up, yes I paid attention to what she was working on, no I'm not sure if I spelled it right). Yay!

And then we flew to Toronto! Yay! And got the keys to our apartment! Yay! And then we realized that it was really not clean! Yay! So we've spent the last week cleaning first and unpacking second and finding new and used furniture third (but all intermingled too), including a 90 pound desk that we carried home on the subway. Yeah, that was fun... not really. But it's a pretty nice desk, large enough for both my monitors and my printer and scanner and DAC and modem/router and even a shelf above for my speakers and reference books. I might post a picture of my setup on facebook. Whee. Oh yeah, and the other fun thing we did today was dumpster dive for bookshelves. Not joking.

Let me relay the story. So my wife and I found a nice bookshelf on some website that does used items, craigslist or one of those, and it was just a block and a half away and the dimensions were just right. So we went over to the listed second story apartment, thinking we could carry it home together. It turned out to be nice and tall and what we were looking for, but it was really heavy. We paid for it, and decided to carry the removable shelves down to the main floor and come back up for the main shelving unit. I put them in between the double set of doors, inside the building, out of sight of the street, but not behind the locking doors so we could get them without calling up again in case we let ourselves get locked out. Sounds good, right? I went back up, and we came down with the shelving unit not more than two minutes later. The shelves were gone. It was a stomach sinking moment. I went outside and looked left,  right, and even in one of the garbage units in front of the building for the vanished shelves. I couldn't see any culprits. Who steals particle board shelves? At this point, my wife noticed that a stack of mail that was left beside the apartment mailboxes was also gone. Someone stole mail and our shelves? It seemed weird. After some phoning about, we managed to find out that the superintendent of the building had thrown the shelves into the third garbage bin in front of the building. Again, the shelves were there for less than three minutes max. Anyway, I located the shelves, did some quick risk analysis, and fished them out. They look pretty nice sitting over there in the corner, but after two or three chemical washes and a rinse or two, I'll still understand if you don't want to borrow any books from me. I won't elaborate on the other contents of the garbage, so I'll end the story here. I hope our misfortune has afforded you at least some entertainment.

Let's see... oh of course. Once I connected panel 6 to mid-support 13 using screws 57 and 48, I started getting my computer system set up on my nice new desk (yes, new, straight from a factory in south-east asia). The labeled cables were very helpful, and I manged to get everything together without too much trouble (except I still can't find the wireless dongle for my mouse, so I'm stuck using the mouse that came with my tablet for now... where can it have gone?). Not too much trouble that is, (using another exception because there were in fact multiple exceptions to the "not too much trouble") except for my rather expensive, and rather necessary for much work, much communication, and other entertainment and hobby type things I plan on doing. Wait, that wasn't a complete sentence. Except for my COMPUTER!! The one that was labeled fragile? The movers did this to the box:

And inside the box, they managed to do this to the case:

The pictures aren't really in focus, but in this last one, you can see the steel side of the case is totally warped and bent off the tabs holding it on. In the second pic, the other side of the case, the top part of the side of the case is about 1 cm off the back, with the screw still embedded. I couldn't put the screw back on after I opened it up.

Keep in mind, this was surrounded by the inch-sized-bubble bubble wrap and pillows on either side, and other quilts and clothes and oh yeah underwear. This case was made by Lian Li, which, if you'll care to do a small amount of research and find out, build somewhat high-end, rather sturdy construction cases. In truth, I'm not all that concerned about the case, but the only I could think that would warp the whole case and knock all the front covers askew is a massive shock, which I don't need to tell you wouldn't bode well for the internals.

Did I back up my computer before the move? Yeah, of course, and I left the backup drive in Victoria. Oh no, wait, it's somehow appeared in another box. Hmmm... I really hope that box didn't get dropped off the back of the truck too (just guessing here). So, with a small amount of trepidation, I booted up my compy... and everything went as hoped! Apparently the Lian Li cases have rubber grommets that hold the hard drives for anti-vibration, so maybe that helped with whatever shocks were subjected to it. All's well that ends well, but can I say, if you want to move across canada, do not use Across Canada Van Lines Inc. They were terrible in basically every single interaction we had with them (and there were a lot of phone calls and emails). We're still trying to file a claim for damaged furniture and also get a receipt for what we paid.

Anyway, that's probably enough about me and my moving escapades.
I've got orientation on Thursday; very much looking forward to it. I'll post about how that goes.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blood vessels

I started working on a smallish project. According to Eric Keller, every animator has to do a blood cell animation at some point in time, so this is my shot at it. I'm practicing up on some dynamics. The density isn't right yet. I'm not sure how accurate I want to get the biology, since that will probably result in millions upon millions of RBCs. I'll do some calculations, figure out what kind of vessel this will be, and go from there.

The geometry is very simple. I tried to add some randomness to the vessel and the red blood cells. I'm also using procedural textures to see how realistic I can get with ramps and noise.
I haven't touched the lighting yet; that will make a big difference. Eventually I think I'll have a large WBC travelling through and the camera will track on that. Nothing too original, but like I quoted above, everybody's gotta do one ;)


Sunday, July 10, 2011

A whirlwind trip and reader input!

I think a small update post is necessary. It's Sunday, and tomorrow will be my first real day off work. For the past three years, I've been working as a bioinformatician at the University of Victoria. Some of the research I've been involved in you can find here. I was happy to hear that another manuscript I co-primary-authored was just accepted. As great as this work experience has been, what with the massive number of things I've learned and the great people I've been able to collaborate with, I'm now looking ahead to the future.

Last week I got on a flight to Toronto to undertake the stressful and challenging task of finding a place to live for August. After looking at a number of places (with ceilings shorter than me, a sketchy neighborhood, a building with no laundry, etc.), on day 2 of 3 I found an apartment in a great location, for not too much money (still small and expensive), and squeaked in an application through high demand. I also got my student card, and wandered around the amazing UofT St. George's campus. I'm so looking forward to studying there. It will be an experience and a half.
This week, amongst the organizing and packing, I'm hoping to put some full days of CG and drawing. Of course I will have plenty of opportunity to do the practicing while I'm in the program, but I want to get as far as I can in these moments of "free time".

So... this is the interactive portion. Along with tutorials and that sort of thing, I want to produce another ~30 second short this summer. What should it be about? I'd like to hear some ideas. Anything will do... toss out some ideas. I've got loads of ideas jotted down, enough to keep me busy for years to come, but I thought it would be fun to have reader input. Rules: 30 seconds means it can't be an epic feature length saga. Write your ca-razy ideas (a phrase, a theme, a premise, whatever) on my facebook page or in the comments here, or tweet @biocinematics. If there's enough ideas, I may put a poll up, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

June sketches 05

It seems to be July now, so Happy Canada Day everyone. A couple final sketches I thought I'd share:

This is a campfire off a photo; I found it pretty tricky to sketch flame... it's not a simple form, even to get the impression.

And this creature head's obviously from my imagination; I just kept adding features as I went. Kind of an interesting result.

So looking back on the month: 25 pencil sketches, 2 maya "sketches", and a zbrush doodle... totalling 28 sketches in a month of 30 days. Not too bad, considering there were also 4 graduations, a wedding, and a funeral... and a week and a half of a nasty virus or something.

So what's up for July? Well, I have to find a place to live in Toronto, pack up and move; I'm finishing up at my job of 3 years; I'm going to be spending some time relaxing and holidaying with family; but I'm hoping to have some solid full days of learning more Maya and also brushing up on some anatomy and the human form before my program starts in late August.

You can keep tabs on me on twitter or facebook or here, and feel free to comment here or on my facebook wall.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

June sketches 04

A few more sketches. June is drawing to a close, and I feel really good about all the sketching I've done. It's been good learning, though I'm wanting to spend some more time in Maya soon.

I was sitting through an awards ceremony, and I felt inspired to reproduce the backs of people's heads.

This is obviously some guy running down a road wearing a suit (from my imagination). The hands are a bit funny; not sure I've ever seen someone run like that.

And finally a fire hydrant that I was sketching, got bored with, and decided to light on fire (the lighting on fire was in my imagination).

And in case you haven't visited my Facebook page yet, you might be interested to know that there's a couple of "facebook exclusive" images there. Oooh. But not to worry, all the major stuff will be posted here (and there).


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June sketches 03

Continuing on with more sketches... it's pretty fun to sketch while watching TV or whatever, a good habit to get into I suppose (the sketching, not the TV... or computer-streaming-foreign-television). Anyway.

I can freely admit that this is not my foot. It is a representation of my foot, which may or may not have accurate proportions. Don't judge my foot based on this sketch.

This is some kind of plant I conceived. I'd be interested to hear what a botonist would classify this as. "Just plain wrong" in all likelihood. At least it has stamen. Stamen. Which is an anagram of T' seman. Yeah, that didn't work.

And finally, a portrait. This was a nice-looking young Ugandan guy; I apologize to him for not doing his likeness justice.

It's interesting how the scanner reads in the values... it picks up a slightly different feel than on paper.

Thanks for viewing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June sketches 02

I'm a little behind on my sketching, I missed yesterday (and today) due to various celebrations. Of three siblings, there's three graduations (university and high school) and I just got back from a wedding rehearsal (cousin-in-law)... so I have excuses. But I'll double up on some days so I catch up.
Here's a couple recentish ones.
 From a photograph I took in Uganda

This one started out as car from my imagination, and it ended up in a Cars style... nothing on Pixar obviously, but I thought it was a bit more fun than a boring ol' regular car.

I still need very approximately 17 "likes" on facebook ( in order to secure my coveted so I'm hoping you can help me out :)

Getting closer to finishing my acrylic painting at art lessons... only two more to go, unfortunately. Then I'm on my own again with respect to IRL artwork (IRL = in real life... haha) until September.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Social" networking

So... after a three year absence from facebook, I bit the bullet, and Biocinematics now has an official facebook page. I also signed up for twitter (@Biocinematics). Am I a fan of facebook? Pretty much no. Am I a fan of Twitter? Not really. Heck, I don't even have a cellphone. So why bother with these things?

Well, partly because even though I have serious reservations with constant "connectedness", it is kinda fun. And part of it is because even though I don't have a personal facebook page, most people do, and many people find it easier to follow a twitter feed than a real blog... so why not use other (more popular) media to share things? I still very much plan on using this blog as the main location for all major updates and project progress. However, it may be handy to share shorter bits of info or links using twitter, or to have a different kind of community with facebook.

And probably the biggest part of it is that if I plan on using the internet for work (especially freelancing), networking, distribution, and "self-promotion" may play a big role, so keeping up to date with social media trends is part of my education, as strange as it may sound.

Regardless of all this introspection, it'll be fun to figure out how each of these formats plays a role both in my personal projects and in my masters degree, which is rapidly approaching. Wait, that sounded like more introspection.

Like me! Follow me! Subscribe, retweet, share! Click all those buttons that validate my existence! Make sure I spend all my time updating statuses and cross-linking everything I've ever done! Lest I realize that it's more important to work on projects!

Okay, I'm hoping this will be the last "misc" post for a while. Once June is over, I'm hoping to start another short project; although I'll be wrapped up in finding housing, packing, moving, getting immunized against cadaver germs, I'm still planning on getting some good chunks of Maya time in.

Oh yeah, and Cinema 4D (a homolog of Maya) is part of the BMC curriculum (notice the difference between BMC [Biomedical Communications] and BCM [Biocinematics]), so I want to get a trial and gain familiarity with the program this summer too. And Zbrush. And lots more drawing...

Two more weeks of work; my current real job, that is!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Mobile version

Blogger just informed me that I can use a new mobile version of this blog for people that view the interwebs on their cellular telephones. What a future we live in! I suppose that's why we have an upswing in cellphone size trends, so they can fit the internet in there too.

All that to say, if you visit on your iDroid device, you'll get a slightly less pretty and substantially more functional format.

Go Canucks!


June sketches 01

Alright, so I managed to get around to scanning all the sketches I've done in the past ~6 months... and here are four from June, as I'm continuing on with my personal challenge to do at least one sketch (or sculpt, see below, please don't see below). So far so good (please don't see below). Actually, this first sketch was done late May, but I'll throw it in, because I think it's not a bad hand study.

And oh my goodness, could this be the sketch that the below sculpt was based on? It hardly seems possible.

And here's old Bogart himself. Apparently there was a girl's night on, watching Casablanca, and I happened to be in the room. I missed most of the plot, but that's okay.

Yeah, for the observant folks in the crowd, those last two were done on the same day. I swear, I've been doing (at least) one every day... and here's the last one for now... it seems to make my wife smile... me, I just looked on the internets and this thing seemed to be everywhere.