Friday, August 30, 2019

The joys of an antique keyboard

Apple Extended Keyboard (AEK) photo by bujcich
The best tech I’ve bought this year is a keyboard made in 1987.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Apple delivers, mostly

I was wrong! Apple has indeed delivered a cheese grater sequel in the new Mac Pro. It is a tower. With slots. Thank goodness.

I didn't expect Apple to deliver everything I wanted in the new Mac Pro, which would basically be the 2010 Mac Pro with updated specs and the ability to run modern Nvidia cards. I thought maybe I'd get 50% satisfaction, but I'd say Apple gave me more like 70%, which is pretty good! But let's talk about that remaining 30%.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Dreading the new Mac Pro

The unveiling of a new Mac Pro may finally be upon us. In a bout of uncharacteristic frankness and humility, Apple admitted to journalists in April 2017 that it had made a mistake, designing the “trash can” Mac Pro into a “thermal corner.” They said a redesign would be coming in the form of a “modular system” that would take more than a year to ship. It's now been over two years and next week’s WWDC will mark the 6 year anniversary of the loathed cylindrical Mac Pro’s announcement, so it seems likely an unveiling will come Monday morning. I assume Apple wants me to be excited that the long wait is finally over, but instead I am terrified—terrified that Apple will get the Mac Pro wrong again, and that my long relationship and investment in the Mac for professional graphics work has no future.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

ProEXR 2.0

Version 2.0 of ProEXR is now available. The major new addition is support for Cryptomatte in After Effects.

Cryptomatte is a clever improvement over OpenEXR’s ID channels, which have been supported by ProEXR since the beginning, but in practice are rarely used. The problem with an ID channel is that each pixel can only specify a single ID, so small things like antialiasing, motion blur, and depth of field won’t work properly. Using some tricks involving 32-bit float EXR channels and cryptographic hashes, Cryptomatte gives you the ID channels you always wanted, fully functional. Just turn on Cryptomatte in a supported 3D renderer, set up the comps in After Effects using ProEXR AE, select the Cryptomatte effect, and click in your comp to generate perfect mattes for any object(s) you choose.

Since Cryptomatte uses a series of EXR channels to work its magic, developing this plug-in exposed some inefficiencies in the OpenEXR file module, which has now been updated to always cache channels and headers. In extreme cases involving EXR sequences with many channels, the speedup can be as high as 20x. I encourage all multi-channel EXR enthusiasts to replace the plug-in that ships with AE.


Update: More information about this release and Cryptomatte in a ProVideo Coalition article by Chris Zwar!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Apple peaked in 2011

Anyone looking at my desk today could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped into a time machine. An OLED TV and Nintendo Switch on the other side of the room would reassure them this was indeed 2018, but the desk is firmly planted in 2011. There's a MacBook Pro (Early 2011), a Mac Pro (Mid 2010), and an iPhone 4 (released February 2011). Look closer and you'll also see that all three devices are still running operating systems from 2011: Mac OS X Snow Leopard and iOS 5.

Perhaps I'm a Luddite, unable or afraid to upgrade to the current OS versions? Or maybe I'm too poor or cheap to upgrade my hardware, the last time I could afford to do so was during Obama's first term? I assure you that neither of these are the case. In my day job I run a network of Macs running the latest OS. Said job also provides a paycheck that I could use to buy new computers. In fact, those Macs were acquired this calendar year, but they are older models I got through Craigslist. I can and do run newer Mac OS versions inside VMWare or by booting from another partition when necessary. On the iOS side, I have an iPad running a recent iOS. So I'm perfectly familiar with the various Apple OS updates, but I choose to use the 2011 versions instead.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Screw you, Microsoft

This blog has never before veered toward anything that might be considered opinion, but today I am making an exception. With no small amount of chagrin I heard recently that Microsoft had bought GitHub, and so I am now taking my open source projects off GitHub and moving them to GitLab.

I will be the first to admit I'm not completely rational about this. Perhaps a long-ago spurned lover of Barack Obama refused to vote him into office. Ghandi's ex-girlfriend may say he was a jerk. Well, I've been hurt by Microsoft, and if you use computers with any frequency I'd argue you've been hurt as well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Got a new product sold though Mekajiki: RenderGarden. I suppose the tagline sums it up best: it's not a farm, just a little garden. As opposed to full farm management software like Pixar's Tractor, RenderGarden is just a couple of scripts. But it's cheap and easy, letting you get a little After Effects render farm garden going in minutes.

A big benefit of using RenderGarden vs. the AE render queue is that you can run multiple render processes simultaneously, even on a single computer. If After Effects were fully multi-threaded this would not be much help, but in AE's current state RenderGarden can often double or triple rendering speeds, meanwhile leaving After Effects available for you to continue working.

Programs like Tractor have a centralized database of their various render tasks. A hack used by RenderGarden is that the filesystem itself is the database, with the priority of the various jobs controlled by their place in your drive's hierarchy, their status determined by naming conventions. This system isn't as bullet-proof as Tractor, but it's simple, cheap, and works for small-scale users and teams looking for a little render farm functionality.