Getting Photofly Off the Ground

Getting Photofly Off the Ground

I was very excited to see Photofly from Autodesk – this looked like a fantastic way to quickly model objects and buildings using nothing but photographs and the click of a mouse (and time waiting for some computing to be done on some server someplace to figure it all out and stitch it all together).

So I gave it a whirl – I had a ton of photos from India when I was there, where I had shot panoramas of various historic, legendary buildings and places, and I tried uploading them to the system to see what I’d get back. I was genuinely hoping to get something back.

So I clicked the submit button and waited. And waited. I left the computer on overnight. In the morning, I got up and looked at the screen – still nothing. After after a few more tries, I gave up on the thing and uninstalled it. I figured the technology was possibly a little too new to work very well. Months later after I had gone to SIGGRAPH and been invited to join the Autodesk forums on, I found that a lot of other people had had the same problem, made the same assumptions, and had come away empty handed.

Yoda, sitting in the passenger seat of my Fiat 850 Spyder.

Then I found the tips pages, which I could swear weren’t there when Firefly was first announced. Now that I have some guidelines on how to shoot, and what it can really do, I’m going to give it another go. I’m really interested to see if it can generated meshes from sculptures, because I started out in the motion picture business doing molds and makeup effects, and no amount of computer simulation can properly replace real world materials. If I can work in real clay and build my digital models based directly on my own sculptures, I’ll have an outrageous advantage.

I still have the molds from the Yoda replica I and my friends Michael Moore (not the director, a different Michael Moore) and Jeff Farley made in 1985, and I’m wondering if somehow I can get Photofly to recreate something approaching the original, either from the molds, or from the latex puppet we built (which after all these years, I still have).  Making the Yoda replica was a labor of love, and it would be great to bring him back to life.

Now that I have what may pass for working instructions, I may be able to make some progress.

— Gene Turnbow

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That Whole ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ Thing

I think I’m finally beginning to understand it.

When your life is a blur of work and driving to and from work and being so tired from work that you don’t even have the energy to sit up and watch television when you get home – when things you thought were being handled for you aren’t being handled at all and it all winds up on your shoulders anyway – you start to lose the meaning of it all.  Nothing matters anymore look what i found.  You start to wonder why you keep doing it day after day after day with no reward and no purpose, and no joy.

Stop and look around you.  No matter what, that tremendous weight of responsibility you carry is only made worse if you forget who you are, what makes you you and why you started down the road you took in the first place.  If you can’t remember why you started down that road, and you realize it’s taking you to places you no longer want to go, it’s not too late to turn around, go back up the road a piece, and pick a different one.

Better choose – you only get to travel so many roads in your lifetime.  You’d better make each mile count.  And on the way, don’t forget to look around and enjoy the things you enjoy.  You have a right to it.

Look yourself in the mirror every morning and ask yourself, “If I got to choose what I’d be doing today, would I voluntarily choose to do this?”  We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow.  Your lifetime might be ninety years – or only thirty-two years, and only one more day after that.  Your days are the most precious thing you have.

So it’s not idle frivolity to “stop and smell the roses”.  You need to stop and smell the roses once in a while to make sure that the roses are actually still there.  And if they’re not, you need to go find some.

— Gene Turnbow

Beautifuel, Two Years Later

Beautifuel, Two Years Later

My Eagle Talon had decided to commit suicide days before I left on a business trip to India during the month of March of 2008. Blow-by pressurized the cooling system in the car, which manifested by explosively disconnecting the top hose on my radiator. This eventually resulted in the engine seizing up.

So I bought myself a Prius!  It was a 2001 model, not the new one,  but it was a hybrid and I expected to save so much money on the gasoline that it would come pretty close to paying for itself in the savings on fuel every month. I drive quite a ways to work, about 85 miles a day as a round trip, so it adds up pretty fast.

I got rid of the dead car on eBay, and then started driving the new car.

Here’s what I found out about the Prius:

There’s a common and well founded assumption that the mileage advertised by the manufacturer for any given car is pretty much baloney.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the 2001 Prius was supposed to get 50 miles to the gallon, and if you drive the way one drives a hybrid instead of a conventionally powered car, and you have the right tires, and keep them at the right pressure, you can get 50 miles to the gallon on a routine basis!  I was in shock, really.  I’d never had a car that lived up to the hype.  This one does.

Now the down side – repairs are expensive.  You really need to have the dealership do the repairs.  The car is mainly a computer that happens to be street legal.  After two years, I had a problem with the auxiliary battery (not the main one), an air flow meter, and some other engine sensor.  Taken all together, these repairs cost me close to three thousand dollars.  I was past my 100,000 mile mark on the car, too, so no warrantee help for me for most of it.

At length, I needed new tires too.  The special low rolling resistance tires you need to get that 50 miles per gallon turn out to be special order items at most tire shops, and I couldn’t wait around for them.  I needed new tires now, so I took tires that gave me about six miles per gallon less fuel efficiency – but I did the math first.  The special LRR tiles would have cost me so much more than the tires I ended up with that it wouldn’t equal the cost of the gasoline I’d save.

Goodbye, fifty miles per gallon.

Even so, the car still gets about 46 mpg on average, and I drive a lot, so it’s still a pretty substantial benefit.

Then there’s the little things, like loose trim pieces, and a front driver’s side window that’s making groaning noises where it was nearly silent before.  Eventually, I’m thinking to myself, all these little subsystems are going to start breaking, and when a car is this full of electrical and electronic systems, it’s better to sell the thing before that starts happening if you can.  So far I seem to be okay, but if things start really falling off of it, I’ll have to move on to the next car.

The big question about these cars was what happens to the main battery after the warranty runs out, and so far, the answer is nothing.  And if something did, the main battery is made up of a bunch of little cells, not one big monolithic piece. If one goes bad in theory you could replace the bad one.  I haven’t been hit with this so far, and the battery is showing no signs of age after ten years of use.  Frankly, I’m more concerned that the seat cushions will wear out.

— Gene Turnbow