VizRT days in Bergen

Had an interesting couple of days over in Bergen at the first of the annual VizRT days gathering of all the experts and interested people. There were people who I’d known over email from around the world and it was really good to be able to meet them in person. Even had breakfast with Ken Tivven, ex Head of TV at CNN. He had some interesting stories and a good view of the future.

There were a number of good talks across the two days, even one from one of my earlier heros, Henning Berg, ex Man United, now a football pundit at TV2. The guys that built Sky Italia adn Sky Germany were there; it was interesting to see their approach to building systems. Reality Check has automated much of their output and they have a minimal number of operational staff, especially using the Mosart media control system. I gave a small talk on the history of VizRT at Sky which seemed to go down reasonably well. I was struck by how many of the companies there are behind the pace in technology terms, even though they are using systems such as VizRT. Pete Lane did a demo of his touch screen plugins and showed some of the Kinect integration that he is developing for the BBC. Very interesting. The media engine talk was an area that we need to look more into. I think we may have an unused licence for this product.

There were also a few companies demonstrating their products. Perceptive Pixel were showing off their monitors; good feel but quite expensive. There was also a small local company that has been doing some testing of a 360 degree camera system. THe recordings are stitched together by post processing the viseo from several cameras and then the viewer may adjust his playback viewpoint from any direction. They had been sponsored by RedBull to jump off cliffs with a wing suit and the video looked fantastic; they also had shots above a town where you couldn’t see the device holding the cameras in the air and more usual shots of race cars where you could look at any of the competitors. Cool.

Sunshine and showers in Bergen, but great views from the restaurant at the top of the cable car and VizRT threw a great party in the evening.

XBox controller with C#

Just testing the interface with an XBox controller for the a Boxing punch counter app, so these are a few notes of what I’m using.

Main drivers for the XBox controller are downloaded from the Microsoft site, I used the 32 bit version with Windows XP and I tested with the wireless version. Under another test with Windows 7, the drivers updated automatically when the wifi section was plugged into the USB port.

I looked at some examples and decided to use the SlimDX open source C# interface, rather than a full XNA library. It’s lightweight and we don’t need all the 3D facilities of the full XNA sdk. We’ll start with that and see how it goes. The SDK details are here, and it may be downloaded here, Runtime for .NET 2.0 28September 2011%29.msi This needs to be installed. It’s a .msi file. They may be producing an update for .Net 4.0 soon, so keep a check.

This is a simple example that works from this guy,

A test with 3D on the Playbook

I decided to have a quick test of the webGL abilities of the Playbook. I have played with the Copperlight software in the past and that showed some promise with its javascript interface to 3D. It has a handy modeller GUI as well. Sadly the webkit browset in the simulator didn’t support webGL. So I moved back to Away3D which I’ve been comfortable with in the past. I’d try Unity, but it would cost some money to do it (unless I could use the 30 day trial? maybe later – they announced their Unity to Flash translator today – so no plugin to download. Must try that).
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Flash Gamers Summit, San Francisco

Adobe realise that there is now a bunch of money to be made in games and this event shows that they have a strong position in the area with the Flash developer community. Lee Brimelow and Thiery Thimbault gave the key note speech. They seem to have stepped back a little in their position on the relationship between Flash and HTML5. Toward the end of last year the story seemed to be that they were best friends. Now it seems as though Adobe have had some time to think. They listed all the benefits of Flash and some of the problems with HTML5; the standards variation, audio, javascript (that Lee likened to AS1 ?) etc. This does have some truth in it. With Flash about to be made available in new tablets, especially the Playbook which has Air built in, the use of Flash to make games is going to be one of the major tools. There’s a big market there and Adobe is pushing hard to be in the middle of it.
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FlashCamp, London

I went over to the Barbican to have a chat about what the major aspects of Adobe Max were; a quick update. I wasn’t sure in the end whether to go, but I’m glad that I did. It gave me a reason to have another look at the Flash Builder update that has just arrived. I have been pushing more Flash free web interfaces since having the iPad and using it to develop interfaces with. It just seems so much cleaner than all that code and project set up in Eclipse, but I was also feeling guilty. I had slipped away from the testing and structure that the Eclipse environment gives and slipped into using the odd bit of notebook or textWrangler to update some of the files. I really need to get back to moving to a path of unit testing and one button deployment with rollback.
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I went on a two day course for Unity3D arranged by Tink at the LFPUG. I have been on a couple of these before and can recommend them; they are usually right on topic and at a price that even a freelancer can afford. This one was no different. Bartek Drozdz was over from Sweden to give the course and he took us from nothing to a small game in two days. It was a fast paced event, so I would suggest students have a go with the software and learn some 3D basics before they get here. We had excellent lunches provided at the local pub, and I can recommend the pint of Blond Witch that I washed it down with.
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VizRT – version 3 update

These are some notes on the Viz v3 update. It was a talk at the Viz offices with Lars Henriksen and Bernd Riedewald; with customers from Alston Elliot, Formula1, Sky, designer techs really.

We had a day or two of talking through the advantages of the latest version of VizRT software and why we should update. Previous versions of Viz3 have had some performance problems, but now that most plugins have been re-written it should be faster than the old version. The database has been re-written and is a complete in-house solution. This should be faster and more efficient; we shall see if this has brought any problems with it. Some of the older plugins have been built in to the new version and there are plans to increase speed by converting to 64-bit version. The transition to Windows 7 will have to come next year, since XP will lose support from Microsoft by the end of 2010.
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