January 27, 2022

How to make your boring animations more exciting


After I finish a piece of art I always make one of those spin around animations (I think they are sometimes called turntable animations). The basic idea is that you take a 3d model and rotate a camera around it 360 degrees so you can see all sides of it. While these animations might show the model they are also really boring to look at. For example this SpaceX Starship rocket I made for Tesla Simulator looks like this (nothing interesting is going on here - yawn!):

The other day I was watching an art critique stream on Twitch where DiNusty, who's a game industry professional, went through works by artists and gave them suggestions on how to improve them. One of the art pieces he reviewed was a video of a game asset. What he said was that he really liked that the game asset moved, which is much more interesting to look at. So I've decided to from now on always add some movement or effects to all of my spin around animations.

I usually make those spin around animations in Blender. Adding movement in Blender is really complicated because I don't have much experience of it. But I have experience from Unity so I know how to make movements and effects like fire in Unity. So from now on I will make all spin around animations in Unity - not Blender - unless of course they are high poly models you can't import into Unity. Why not? The models are for Unity anyway so why not show how they look in Unity?

After some research I came to the conclusion that the easiest way to make a spin around camera animation in Unity is by using Cinemachine. I had no experience from Cinemachine so I had to learn it but it was kinda easy - you just import the Cinemachine package. Then you add a Dolly Camera with Track to your scene, and then you animate the camera to move along the track how many spins around the model you need. To make a video of the animation you can use Unity's Recorder package.  

So what effects can you add to make your boring animations more interesting to watch? One good talk on the subject (it's extra good because it's just 16 minutes long) is a video where they show how to take a very boring game concept and make it more interesting by adding for example camera shake.

I recently made a very boring garbage container game asset for Tesla Simulator. The plan was to make a spin around video of it and put it on YouTube. But who would watch a spin around video of a garbage container? Maybe they would if I added some juice to the animation:

So from now on make sure to juice up your boring animations and get them likes!

January 1, 2022

Books I read in 2021

Each year I write a list of books I read during the year. This is the 2021 list:
  1. Grokking Deep Learning. Someone told me that this would be an easy introduction to Deep Learning. Apparently easy within the AI field means hard. The problem with the book is that includes a lot of uncommented Python code so sometimes it's a little difficult to figure out what's going on. BUT it is including code, which makes it easier to learn the theory of modern Neural Networks, such as CNNs and RNNs. 
  2. Introduction to Neural Networks with Java. Is an "old" book on Neural Networks so the word Deep Learning can't be found. Because of its age it includes Neural Networks that are not so popular today, such as Hopfield Networks and Self-Organizing Maps, but also the traditional Feedforward Network.  
  3. Head First Design Patterns. Design Patterns are common solutions on how to best organize code. Another good book on the topic is Game Programming Patterns which includes some of the same patterns but also other patterns.  
  4. Cryptonomicon. Is a mostly made up story set in both World War 2 and in modern times (~2000s). You should read it if you are interested in code breaking (Alan Turing plays a small role as himself).  
  5. 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi. There's a movie with the same name and if you've seen the movie then the book covers the same events but there are more details added here and there. 
  6. Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun. Biography on the guy responsible for the World War 2 V2 rocket and later the Saturn V rocket that launched the spacecraft that would land on the Moon. 
  7. Saving Bravo: The Greatest Rescue Mission in Navy SEAL History. Tells the story of a very important aircraft navigator who crashed during the Vietnam war. Several people were killed during the rescue attempt, so the book is also trying to answer the question: how many people is it worth to save one man.  
  8. Spitfire Stories: True Tales from Those Who Designed, Maintained and Flew the Iconic Plane
  9. Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics. Is considered a classic book on the topic how cars work. It's easy to read even though you have to translate from the imperial system to the metric system to understand what's going on (unless you are into the imperial system). It was written in 1992 so it's a little outdated (you can't find a single sentence on electric vehicles) but some of the basics never changes, so you should read it before you start reading a more in-depth book.
  10. Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans. If you ever saw the movie Le Mans '66 (aka Ford v Ferrari) with Matt Damon and Christian Bale, you know what this book is about because it inspired the move. I said inspired because the movie took some liberties to change what actually happened.  
  11. I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford. Tells the story of the vehicle company Ford and the man who founded it. It ends where the book "Go Like Hell" takes over.  
  12. Iron Dawn: The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History. Tells the story of two famous, innovative ships that fought a series of shorter battles during the US Civil War. Is also including a shorter biography on a fellow Sweden, John Ericsson, who was the designer of one of the ships.   
  13. The Right Stuff. Tells the story of Americas first astronauts - not the ones who landed on the Moon - but those who flew the first rockets into space, so it ends in the middle of the 1960s. This one was really funny to read because the author has a sense of humor.
  14. Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX. This is a book mostly about the Falcon 1 rocket - the author has squeezed Falcon 9, Starship, self-landing rockets, and astronaut missions into one chapter. The book is not including what Elon Musk was up to before SpaceX, which is good because that story has been told a million times.    
  15. The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey. Tells the story of the Osprey, which is tiltrotor that can land and takeoff vertically like a helicopter and then rotate its propellers to fly faster than a helicopter. It turned out it was tricky to build it (many people died). 
  16. One Soldier's War. Written by a Russian solider who participated in the Chechen wars.
  17. The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World's Greatest Creatures. One of my favorite books is The Elephant Whisperer. The same author has written this book and it's equally good. It tells the story of how the author is trying to save the last of the "Northern white rhinoceros" which despite the name is actually gray.   
  18. First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan