Animation Blender 3D Tutorials and Resources

Blender Network Rendering: Revisited – Prism

Almost 10 years ago I built a small basement render farm with a few spare PCs to speed up renders. However, planning and pre-production ended up being far more difficult than rendering. Since I’ve returned to animation I’ve mostly been working in 2D, which is far less render intensive, but a recent 3D project revived my research into ways to use multiple systems to speed up Blender output. The first option I tried, Prism, ended up not being a system manager, as Blender’s previous Network Render panel was, but an entire pipeline manager with some helpful render options built in.

Installing Prism on Windows 10 was mostly straightforward, download from the site, run the .exe install, add your name when it asks, start a project, and in Prism Settings -> DCC apps add Blender. (Reading the manual is definitely recommended.) A few important notes:

  1. Read the manual, saying it again. This is an entire pipeline manager, by it’s nature, it can’t be simple.
  2. When setting up a project, put it in a syncing app such as Dropbox, Creative Cloud Files, or a Network Drive. You probably already have project files syncing but having the pipelines open right away on 2 systems was immediately satisfying.
  3. I had trouble with the Blender 2.8.3 connection not installing a Python Library. I installed Prism to Program Files (x86) instead of the default /prism directory which may cause permissions issues. To remedy this, I manually downloaded the install .zip and copied the Python 3.7 libs into the /prism/pythonlibs/python37. It will still probably bring up the install prompt in Blender, let it run, after that should work. (The auto-install prompted in Blender would present a permissions error.)
  4. Speaking of permissions, Windows smartshield complains from install to each run. Not much to do here but be aware.

After adding a project, the power comes in when going into the assets, or shots, adding a scene, then creating multiple render or playblast tasks. From there the render tasks can run on the machine of choice. While it’s helpful to have multiple CPUs or GPUs tied in together handing off tasks, this management immediately can help even single shot projects by allowing for multiple output settings and a tracker for those tasks.

Oh, and the same folks have a Renderfarm Manager named Pandora. I think that’s what I meant to download.

Hunger and Homelessness: A Personal Education

Income and Poverty: A brief perspective on correlations

A quick note on time. Keeping up with weekly, even bi-weekly, articles with complete research, examination, and a focused conclusion is proving difficult. That said, to keep the habit and education going, I’m going to introduce some short perspectives which look into recent news or focused glimpse of a bigger topic to be expanded on later.

Last week the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty report came out with largely positive highlights showing income increasing across the board for all Americans and a decrease in Poverty. While there is a wealth of data in the full report that deserves a complete look, a key takeaway is the decrease in the poverty rate quote, “The official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, down 1.2 percentage points from 14.8 percent in 2014.”

Drawing correlations between rates and services is difficult, one of the reasons I’m exploring these issues, but there are 2 services and a few numbers to quickly show in relation to this rate.

  1. The Philadelphia Housing Authority Section 8 Waiting List is closed and, at last opening, it received 54,000 applications where 2,500 vouchers become available each year. Estimates are that it will take at least 10 years to clear the list (citation needed on the timeline but more information available here.)
  2. Broad Street Ministry provides mailing addresses for 3,000 people currently and has served over 7,000 people since it’s creation less than 8 years ago. As a comparison, the last point in time count had Philadelphia’s homeless count at 6,112. Broad Street likely has more numbers around how many access it services but the mailing service provides a good “quick look.”
  3. Most directly, Philadelphia’s poverty and deep poverty rates have barely changed, especially in comparison to the national numbers. Poverty hovering around 26-28% and deep poverty around 12.2-12.9%. [2013 article, 2014 article, and 2015 report.]

Both the housing waitlist and the growing applications for Broad Street’s mail service are both correlated to Philadelphia’s poverty rate in some way. In turn, Philadelphia’s rate then correlates to the national rate. But how can we know track the changing need for these services? What has stopped our poverty rate from falling with the rest of the country?


Hunger and Homelessness: A Personal Education

Years in Learning but only the Beginning

Homelessness and Hunger from a Volunteer View

When I first volunteered at Broad Street Ministry I went with far more preconceptions than I realized. Most of all I thought we would just serve a meal, the exchange would be one way but with all the serving finished the volunteers began to sit with our guests, and I did too. This was the first time I sat down, talked to, and had a meal with the homeless and hungry. As we sat and talked, my further preconceptions that there was one, or even a few reasons, how one ends up homeless fell away quickly. The folks I sat with came from many walks of life and some even had homes at the time but were in-between various levels of government and nonprofit support.

I’ve continued volunteering for nearly 8 years and still have only a basic understanding of how people become housing or food insecure, the regular challenges they go through, and what kind of support they can get through various government and nonprofit services. Almost all of my knowledge comes from my time at Broad Street but with a few key experiences outside as well.

While volunteering at Broad Street Ministry, the organization has adapted nearly every month to meet growing and changing needs. The Ministry began with a Sunday after church service meal and then started advocacy around key issues such as Supplemental Security Income (a topic of its own.) Soon after, a Thursday meal called Breaking Bread was added as well, but the biggest shift came when the Sunday meal ended and more meals were added during the week.

By shifting to weekday meals, Broad Street could begin building regular and comprehensive services for guests around these dedicated times. These services include clothing and toiletries, mail services and ID cards, committing to a trauma-informed harm reduction model, each element added thoughtfully as needs arose. For example, the trauma-informed method is essential to creating a welcoming environment that supports the services. This comprehensive structure forms a path that the guests navigated through rather than simply being placed at the back of a line. Getting through different service levels and back into regular housing and work is a job of its own and one that needs coworkers.

Seeing Broad Street adapt their services was educational but, just as my first experience volunteering at a meal, my view was widened again when volunteering at MANNA. MANNA focuses directly on people with AIDS or other nutrition-related illnesses and delivers meals right to them. In this case, we went in and helped prepare the meals to be sent out but didn’t have any interaction with guests. Although I’ve helped serve dozens of meals, we helped prepare hundreds of meals just in one day of one week where preparation is going on continuously, and these meals likely went to completely different guests than those at Broad Street (needs further study.) Both Broad Street and MANNA provide meals but with a different focus and scope.

Between these two experiences, I was starting to see just how complex care is; both the issues that need tackling and how responses have taken shape. It’s difficult to keep volunteering at Broad Street consistent, but I’m keeping it more consistent and starting to learn more. I’ve started to learn some of the policy, history, and politics, that are just beyond the day-to-day work. As a personal education, I’ve begun looking at the history of hunger and homelessness as well as the responses to it. The goal of these posts is to build a firm understanding of the various responses and how they’ve taken shape. Right now, I’m starting with some research of “The Task Force on Homelessness.”

Web Development

Why use SQLite with Laravel

At first, it wasn’t immediately obvious why to use SQLite, over MySQL, with Laravel but a couple good cases have come up.

  1. For AnimaticBuilder, since a robust user database setup isn’t needed just yet, SQLite works great since it’s fast, portable, and easily versioned. Even later, when a user database is needed, individual SQLite databases could be used for sequences.
  2. On Laracasts, folks have pointed out how to use the SQLite as the database for test cases, Here too, the database can continue to be used as a test bed through the development of an app. (Just make sure nothing secure gets saved there.)
Web Development Wordpress

WordPress 4.4 Sidebar Naming

With WordPress 4.4 rolling out a few issues have come up around sidebars and widgets but one fix is not immediately obvious. When adding a sidebar, the naming previously was not case sensitive but it is now. The example below would not work:

 'name'=>'Homepage Widget',
 'description' => 'Main Area on the Homepage',
 'id' => 'homepage',
 'before_widget' => '',
 'after_widget' => '',
<?php if (!dynamic_sidebar('HomePage')) : ?>
<?php endif; ?>

Now, make sure that the sidebar call uses the exact ID.

<?php if (!dynamic_sidebar('homepage')) : ?>
<?php endif; ?>