Posted In:Tech | Greyscalegorilla
A back-and-forth journey to find the perfect new displays for 3D artists and motion designers.
If you think shopping for new PC is difficult, try shopping for a new computer display.
I’ve been rocking two displays for quite some time now, one NEC PA271w-bk as my main and a ViewSonic VP2780-4K for 4K reference. I knew my displays were starting to show their age and it was time to upgrade, but deep down inside I was dreading the process.
My first inclination was to check out the NEC website, only to find out that the newest version of my current monitor didn’t have many new features other than LED backlighting. After quickly being overwhelmed by the amount of options, I decided to see what I could find locally.
I drove to a MicroCenter and discovered the Dell U3818DW, which was a 38″ widescreen monitor with a resolution of 3840×1600 and a PPI of 110 for $899. It seemed like it could be the perfect monitor to replace my two. I quickly looked it over and decided the price was right, so I bought one.
I lugged this beast home and quickly set it up. The screen was even in terms of color and lighting and after staring at it closely for a few minutes I determined there were no dead pixels. With much excitement I went right into Cinema 4D and completely redesigned my layout so that I could take full advantage of such awesome screen real estate. Everything was working great. Read More
Early 2018 has brought about tons of new products, major rendering announcements, and much more to discuss. Let’s dive in.
Most developers and companies announce their new products and updates in Q1. This year, it was a big year for 3D designers and video game developers. We saw some big updates on rendering. Let’s take a look at all the big announcements so far this year. Also, be sure to download the free tools from Greyscalegorilla, and well as some beta downloads from third-party renderers down below.
Real-Time Rendering is Changing the Design Landscape + Free Unreal Studio Beta
In this great piece on CG Society, you can take a look at the work of Unreal Studio in terms of these real-time renders.
“73 percent of respondents stated that real-time rendering is important to their workflows, suggesting a major shift towards modern rendering engines is already well underway. Unreal Engine was cited as the most popular real-time engine among respondents who aren’t already using it in their design pipeline.”
NVIDIA, Unreal Engine, and the Future of Ray Tracing
Earlier this month, Epic Games, NVIDIA, and ILMxLAB released a Star Wars short showing off real-time ray tracing in Unreal Engine. Lighting is moved around the scene interactively, and the shadows and reflections render in real time.
You can dive much deeper into ray tracing over on the NVIDIA blog, where they show off their API and pipeline.
Engadget dives a little deeper into ray-tracing with this breakdown video, which is definitely worth a watch. Chris Schodt also touches on tesselation, shaders, occlusion, and mapping to achieve nearly photo-realistic renders.
You can read more about this video on Engadget.
For an even more in-depth dive into ray tracing, you must listen to the GPU Technology Conference panel with founders, lead engineers, and supervisors at Pixar, Blur Studio, Autodesk, Otoy, Redshift, Epic Games, Chaos Group, Isotropix, and NVIDIA.
Free Tools, Models, and Scene Files from Greyscalegorilla
At NAB, we compiled many of our free downloads from over the years, as well as some of the files we presented at the Maxon booth this year.
Autodesk announces Arnold 5.1 and Arnold GPU Updates
The Arnold 5.1 update brings users adaptive sampling, a new toon shader, denoising solutions, and more. The company also updates us on bringing Arnold to the GPU.
First, let’s check out this Arnold 5.1 video from Autodesk.
The Arnold video features Chad Ashley’s work with the new toon shader. You can see some of his final renders on his Instagram account.
Here’s a glance at his proton pack from the Happy Toolbox model pack.
And another with some shading tests from the new toon shader.
You can read more about the 5.1 update on the Autodesk site.
As for the GPU, there was much to be said in the update and demo you can watch here from the GPU Technology Conference.
Otoy Octane 4
In more rendering news, Otoy recently announced OctaneRender 4. Octane 4 introduces AI light, AI scene, AI denoiser, and out of core geometry.
You can read more about Octane 4 here, and if you have a V3 license you can download this build, which Otoy has also released a list of current issues.
The newest tool from Greyscalegorilla, GorrillaCam allows you to add natural handshake and organic movement to your Cinema 4D camera.
Think of GorillaCam as a filter that you attach to your original camera. You feed GorillaCam a pre-animated (or still) camera and that becomes the “reference” camera. That way you are free to add as much overshoot, smooth, and shake as you like without destroying your original camera.
GorillaCam was recently used by designer Ash Thorp in his latest piece for Nike. We had a chance to talk to him about the project, and you can read the full Ash Thorp interview here. You can read more or buy GorillaCam in the GSG store.
Renderman XPU Update
Pixar announced that RenderMan XPU is currently in active development, with a release planned after the delivery of RenderMan 22.
“The RenderMan XPU project is addressing the challenge of rendering Pixar-scale production assets on systems with a mix of CPU and GPU capabilities. From a single set of assets, RenderMan XPU produces film-quality renderings by seamlessly using all available compute cores concurrently. RenderMan XPU is a single renderer that can operate on a variety of systems, from render farm machines with mid-range CPUs only all the way up to workstations or servers having many-core CPUs and multiple extreme GPUs.”
Happy Toolbox on Adobe Stock
The whimsical 3D models created by The Happy Toolbox are now available on Adobe Stock. You can individually license a single model for you project needs, or you can bundle up and get the entire pack right here on Greyscalegorilla. Read more about the 3D models on Adobe Stock here.
More articles worth a read:
In addition to all this news, we have a few more pieces and projects you may enjoy.
- Review of LogicKeyboard’s ASTRA C4D scissor-switch keyboard
- Greyscalegorilla 5-Second Projects are Back
- Nick Campbell named StudioDaily 50 Top Creative + Technologist
We test out the backlit Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard from LogicKeyboard. Do you need one on your desk?
So why am I reviewing a keyboard when there are so many other juicy things to talk about in hardware? I guess because this particular item scratched an itch that’s been bothering me for two years.
When I first started learning Cinema 4D, I was coming from Maya and 3ds Max. To get a leg up on the learning curve, I decided to port most of my shortcuts over to C4D so I could get up and running as fast as possible. It was all going swimmingly until I started realizing that in most of my tutorials I would be hitting hotkeys that made complete sense to me in my Maya/Max mindset, but would be utterly confusing to the C4D artists following along.
I recently came across LogicKeyboard’s Cinema 4D ASTRA, a keyboard with specific hotkeys printed on each key. Was this keyboard finally my excuse to ditch my patchwork hotkeys and go legit? I reached out to LogicKeyboard, and they were kind enough to send me a unit to review.
Before we get into it, I think you should know that I’m not a mechanical keyboard enthusiast (though this was not for lack of trying). I purchased a Cherry MX3850 and gave mechanical keyboards a shot. After about a week of the clickety-clack lifestyle, I ended up back at my trusty Apple wired keyboard. Yes, I’m on a PC and I use an Apple keyboard. I’m a sucker for both the form factor and the feel of the Mac keys. I don’t like a lot of travel, and I love how quiet it is. With that in mind, here’s what I thought about this scissor-switch Cinema 4D keyboard.
ASTRA Cinema 4D Keyboard Specs:
- Backlit keys
- Dimmable light with five levels
- Built-in dual USB-ports 2.0
- Scissor-switch keys
- Color-coded labelled shortcut keys with graphical commands
- Compatible with PC and Mac
- Dimensions – 17 5/8” x 6” x 11/4” (446mm x 150mm x 30mm)
- Net weight – 2.1 lbs (950 grams)
- Number of keys – 104 (ANSI version) 105 (ISO version)
- Manufactured for 10.000.000 keystrokes per key
- 1.8 meter cable with separate keyboard and hub connections (avoid interference with USB extenders)
I have to say, I was rather impressed by Logickeyboard’s packaging and overall presentation. A clean well-designed box is always a treat to open. Especially those with magnetic clasps that snap shut. Always satisfying. In addition to the keyboard, it shipped with a disposable cleaning wipe and a transparent silicone keyboard cover.
The keyboard itself was larger than I had expected. A few inches longer and deeper than my Apple keyboard. A bit taller as well. The ASTRA has a dual USB plug, one to plug directly into your machine’s keyboard port, and another USB 3 plug that will turn the keyboard into a USB 3.0 hub.
What immediately drew my attention was all of the useful standard Cinema 4D shortcuts printed on all of the keys. It was like looking into a shortcut menu sitting right under your fingers. The printing on the keys is of high quality and well designed overall. When backlit, the ASTRA has several levels of brightness, but no RGB support. I must note that keys do seem uneven in their translucency.
Once I plugged the ASTRA in, I fired up C4D and I was off and running. I simply had to delete my old shortcuts and switch to the C4D default layout.
Overall, typing on the ASTRA is a reasonably pleasant experience. Key travel and feel was on par with other scissor-switch keyboards I’ve owned. I must say though that the hardware is not what impresses with the ASTRA. The keyboard’s ability to teach me the proper shortcuts in C4D keeps me coming back. It turns out having hotkeys in front of my face and under my fingers is precisely the sort of motivation I needed to legitimize my shortcuts.
I began to transition to the new keys reasonably quickly, and whenever I got stuck a quick glance down would set me straight. I also enjoyed the multiple levels of backlighting. It was helpful to transition to a brighter back when needed. I found myself discovering shortcuts printed on the keys that I had never even known about.
The Not So Good
The biggest problem I had with the ASTRA was the build quality. Several times my right index finger would catch the underside of the “h” key and nearly pop it off. A few other keys also randomly popped off with barely a press. Luckily they could snap right back into place but it was annoying nonetheless.
I personally was not a big fan of the key press feel, which was a bit mushy. My fingers would become fatigued when typing for long periods of time. Its size was not as big of an issue as I had anticipated, but I do wish it were a bit slimmer.
It’s worth mentioning that this keyboard is not easily affordable, with a retail price of $139. At that price, I would have liked to see some dedicated audio controls, or perhaps a slimmer build.
I’m rather split overall. I would highly recommend the LogicKeyboard ASTRA for anyone wanting to double down on learning the C4D shortcuts. This is a fantastic learning tool, much more useful than a laminated shortcut cheat sheet (which I’ve had my fair share of over the years).
Though it has a well designed look and appeal, the keyboard itself doesn’t really stand out from other traditional keyboards. If you are a big fan of mechanical or scissor-switch keyboards, you likely won’t be stunned by this device.
So if you are ready to commit to being a hotkey master, this might be worth the price tag. The real question is whether or not it stays on your desk when you’re ready to take the training wheels off. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
You can check out or order the LogicKeyboard Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard here.
Many of you have been asking about my new 12 core mac and if it’s worth it to get that much machine. Well, I screen captured some Cinebench renders to compare the speed of all three of my machines including my new 12 core Mac Pro, my old 8 core Power Mac and my 2 core macbook. This way, you can judge for yourself.
Sure, it’s expensive. But remember, it’s one of the only things I need to do my job other than software, coffee and American Apparel t-shirs. Plus, I only get a new machine every 3 years or so and want to just stay ahead of the curve for a while so I don’t have to worry about it every year. Did I mention that it’s tax deductible? What machine are you running?
Best Of SlideShow
I recently sat down with Peder Norrby, the maker of Trapcode, at his apartment in Stockholm Sweden to talk about how Trapcode got started. He also talks about how Shine was developed by accident and what he thinks of Trapcode’s overwhelming popularity. I REALLY wish we had the cameras on for the beers afterwords as well. We got into a great discussion about how working hard becomes so much more fun when you love what you do. Really great talk with a really great guy! Thanks, Peder!
High Rez: Going for a walk
Low Rez: Making Lunch
I’ve just finished trying out the new Ustream Broadcaster App for the iPhone that allows you to stream LIVE from your iphone though WiFi and 3G and I am impressed! We are officially living in the future. It worked almost flawlessly, letting me sign up quickly with my Ustream account. It allowed me to twitter out a link to let people know I was on and bam… people started showing up. The chat box even shows up in the app so you can read peoples questions. There is also a “Polling” option that allows you to do a quick poll though the app. it even works with 3Gs and 3G phones.
Watch above to see some of the videos that were made with the app. The quality isn’t bad on wifi, but it suffers a bit when using 3G. I tried out the low-rez setting to check out the quality. It’s not that much worse than the hi-rez setting. The bad news though is that it does a center crop to make the video size smaller. This turns the really nice wide angle lens on the 3Gs into a telephoto. Not good for filming yourself at arms length. Lastly, watch your battery! I went out for a walk and it died in about 5 minutes. I only had about 20% battery to begin with, but I can tell that this thing is a battery hog. I should have remembered to bring my new Mophie Juice Pack along with me.
Bravo to Ustream for making a robust, live streaming app that fits in my pocket. I will definitely be using Ustream more often while I’m out and about and traveling this holiday. I just have to make sure I have a full charge.
Get the UStream Broadcaster here.
I came across this wonderful short over at Prolost that was shot with the new Canon 7D. It got me wondering, Where is Nikon’s version of a camera that shoots 1080P? Full frame and a mic input would be nice too.
They are starting to try out video with the new D5000 and the D90, but those don’t shoot 1080P and have very limited video and audio capabilities (11 kHz, Mono? come on!). Seems like Canon realized that video on a DSLR isn’t just a gimmick. When will Nikon do the same?
Many of you have been asking about my Wacom Tablet and how I like it. In this video, I answer all of your questions about the wacom including, “Why did you start using the tablet?” – “How do you like it?” and “How long does it take to get used to?”
We have all seen it, but now it’s my turn. Watch me do that thing where people pull all of their gear out of their camera bag. People always ask what gear I use. Here is a easy way to show you not only all my lenses and accessories, but also talk about some quick tips and how I use each piece of gear.
Nikon D700: My photos taken with the D700.
Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8f Review
Nikkor 85mm D 1.4: Review
Nikkor 50mm 1.4f Review
Nikkor 20mm f2.8
Nikkor 300mm 4.5
Nikkor 55mm Macro
Ray Ring Flash: Review
Nikon SB-600 Flash
Nikon MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack
Lacie Rugged Hard Drive
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW
Nikon MC-36 Multi-Function Remote Cord
Flip Mino HD
In the Buying Mood?
Like something you see? Check out more of my gear and recommend products and gear over at my Gorilla Goods – Amazon Store. Yeah, I get a small cut of anything you purchase, but if you’re gonna buy it anyway, help me support my growing bandwidth bills will ya?
The Yeas: iPod headphones work on the Macbook. I can use the iPod headphone mic to record GSG Casts!
The Woe: Let me tether my iPhone to my laptop, Apple!
Production note: Don’t press the button and talk at the same time. It makes an awful noise and blocks the dialog.
Wow, has this always been available? The Flickr slide show is wonderful and flexible. So easy to use and post. Here are some of my favorite Flickr Sets.