How I Blew Up A Planet

Ok, I’m not actually an “Evil Galactic Overlord” who makes it a point to destroy the home planets of those who dare oppose me. What I’m talking about is a cool visual effect that I achieved using Blender, a video editor (in my case, Sony Vegas Pro 8), and my imagination.

This effect has a little bit of a history to it. It all started when I found a tutorial on BlenderGuru.com called Create a Shattered Glass Title Animation by Andrew Price that showed how to take some simple text and make it shatter into hundreds of pieces and thousands of tiny shards. Then when this animation was complete it was reversed in a video editor and a reversed sound of glass breaking added.

The result was a very cool effect that you can see in this video:

Shattered Glass Text Intro from Andrew Price on Vimeo.

Before going further I should note that this will require the latest version of Blender which you can get free at blender.org. He was using version 2.53 which was the current version at the time he made the tutorial. As of this writing Blender 2.56 Beta is current. The old version 2.49b just isn’t going to cut it for this project.

Having seen that video I just had to learn how to do that effect so I took the time to watch the tutorial with Blender running, pausing it frequently to apply what he was showing to my project.

After about two hours of this and some tinkering with settings and materials to suit my own version of the project and another two hours or so to render a video file from it, I ended up with something that looked pretty cool, especially for a first time effort.

I used it in the beginning of this video:

A day or two later I was browsing Blender tutorials on youtube and ran across one called “Easy planet tutorial for blender” that made creating a planet really easy. I found a good planet texture image on the Blender Open Material Repository which is loaded with all sorts of free material textures that you can use in Blender.

With the texture applied I had a very good looking planet. I set my project to 900 frames long and set two keyframes. One at frame 1 and then at frame 900 I rotated the planet on the Z axis 360 degrees and set another keyframe.

Setting the background to show stars the animation that resulted was a planet in space.

Then I got to thinking, “What if I want to blow up the planet?”. Not in reality of course but I’m always looking for cool visual effects that I can use in videos and I just couldn’t pass up this idea.

It turned out to be really easy.

Referring to the shattered glass animation I added an explode modifier and a particle system to the planet object. I set it to start emitting particles at frame 901 and end at frame 905 with a lifetime of 500. I made sure that the particles themselves would not be seen and applied settings very similar to those that were used for the particle settings in the glass project. I also changed the end frame from 900 to 1100.

After a total of about ten or fifteen minutes work, starting with a copy of the planet animation project, and several hours to render the final animation I had an exploding planet. I took this into my video editor and added a bright red flash at the frame the explosion starts and also found a good explosion sound effect and it was ready.

I used it as a key part of the story in the third chapter of a Phat Trek episode that I’ve been making. (This looks particularly good in full screen mode)

I should also point out that BlenderGuru.com is a wealth of tutorials, tips & tricks for doing some exceedingly cool stuff with Blender. I plan to be spending a lot of time on that site for the foreseeable future.

By the way, If you haven’t seen Phat Trek, Here are links to the first two chapters in this story.

Chapter 1 ‘Vendetta’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFf7Z9Gvjk

Chapter 2 ‘Grudge’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_q20594PQw

I plan to be making at least one of these chapters per week. More if I have time and inspiration enough.

[tags]blender, animation, tutorial, explode, planet, visual effect, phat trek[/tags]

Max-Banner-Ads Plugin Problem Fixed

After recently upgrading to WordPress 3.1 I found that trying to open the Max Banner Ads admin page resulted in this error message:

You do not have sufficient permissions to access this page.

My first reaction was “The HELL you say! It’s my blog on my domain. You better effing believe I have sufficient permissions!”

In searching for a solution to this problem I saw several references to checking the wp_options table but no mention of exactly WHAT to look for.

Also, I remember having this problem a few years ago and at that time the answer turned out to be making a change to max-banner-ads.php. I wondered if it was possible that there is a similar edit needed to be compatible with WordPress 3.1 although I couldn’t find any reference to this being the solution in this case. Besides which, I’m NOT a php programmer, I probably couldn’t spot a problem there if it introduced itself.

After a LOT of trial and error I believe I’ve come up with a fix. At least so far it has worked on three blogs without a hitch.

Note: This works for me but I *cannot* guarantee anything, your mileage may vary, make backups first before you try this, if you break your blog trying this it’s not my fault, etc, etc.

Here’s the fix:

1, get the latest version (1.4) of Max Banner Ads
2. Deactivate the plugin on the blog in question
3. In your phpMyAdmin, open the blog’s database and drop these tables from the database

wp_mban_banner
wp_mban_options
wp_mban_zone

4. ftp to your site, change to the wp-content/plugins directory and delete the existing max-banner-ads directory and it’s contents.

5. upload version 1.4 of Max Banner Ads
6. re-activate the plugin

From there it *should* be working again.

The only downside is that all of your previous banner settings WILL be gone and you’ll have to set them up all over again.

On the other hand, if it’s working, who cares? Once you have your urls and images ready, setting up MBP is a breeze and shouldn’t take more than an hour at the very outside.

Meanwhile, because I believe this problem was largely caused by incompatibilities that resulted from a WordPress “upgrade”, the next time I apply such an upgrade I’m going to do it on a test blog first and make sure that all my plugins work before deploying it on my actual blogs!

[tags]wordpress, upgrade, 3.1, maxblogpress, max blog press, max banner ads, permissions, error, admin, mpb admin, fix, how to fix, fix mpb, fix max banner, fix mpb plugin, banner ads, rotator, banner ad rotator, banner plugin, plugin error, phpmyadmin, database, drop tables, drop db tables[/tags]

Desperation Is A Bowl Of Beans

That’s right. When you’ve run out of money long before you run out of month and the cupboards are bare, it’s time to break out that two pound bag of pinto beans that you’ve been trying to avoid using for months.

[tags]beans, pinto beans, beans recipe, pot of beans, chili seasoning, desperation, got nothing else[/tags]

Four Weight Loss Tips

Here’s some basic weight loss tips that will get you started. Remember that it is important to be consistent with your nutrition and training if you’re going to reach your goal. If you have difficulty you can get help from a personal trainer to get a program going tailored to you for optimum results.

You can also consider using a fat burning supplement to aid you in burning more fat during workouts. These supplements are usually a caffeine based product that helps speed up the metabolism and also contain amino acids (carnitine) which aid fat burning.

Tip 1 – Eliminate junk food.

This is self explanatory. MOST junk foods don’t have any nutritional value to speak of and are just converted to fat. This should really be number one on the list of things to do in order to get the fat burning off. A “cheat meal” once every week or so is okay, IF you keep it reasonable and don’t go overboard.

Tip 2 – Reduce (preferably eliminate) alcohol intake.

Alcohol is a massive issue when it comes to weight loss. It’s not just the calories. The alcohol itself causes the body to store fat, reducing muscle mass as it dehydrates the muscles and sends the body into shock and causes the body to store fat.

You don’t necessarily have to give it up completely, at least reduce how much you’re drinking to a bare minimum. Most days should be alcohol free days. When you do drink, don’t binge and make it a point to drink water between each alcohol drink.

Tip 3 – Increase cardio.

Get on the treadmill! It’s best to do 20 minutes or so AFTER a weight training session because this is when you are in the best fat burning mode of the day. Any longer than 20 minutes or so will cause the body to start burning muscle tissue. Many experts recommend that you should only do “high intensity training” . . . 1 minute as fast as you can and then 1 minute of walking or rest.

Tip 4 – Reduce calories and carbs.

Reduce the amount of calories you are consuming by about 500 calories per day. Try to keep your carbs low (but not ultra low) and your protein up to keep muscle mass.

[tags]weight loss, losing weight, weight loss tips[/tags]

Windows XP Tip: How To Upgrade Your Flash Player

Adobe has released Flash Player v10.1.53.64.

If you have Flash Player installed (most people do), be sure to get the update. It is expected to be more secure, put less of a load on your system and more capable.

Some of the new features include:

  • Hardware acceleration
  • Custom filters and effects
  • 3D effects
  • Dynamic sound generation
  • APIs for file upload and download
  • Advanced text support

This version does not yet have 64-bit browser support and it does not support hardware-accelerated decoding on Mac OS X. This is because Apple has only opened up their API for hardware-accelerated video decoding in April of this year. Because of this the version of the Flash Player with this feature is still in beta testing and should be released later this year.

How to Upgrade to this latest version.

First, verify what version you have installed already. The easiest
way is to go to this url in your web browser:

http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/

There will be a “version information” box on that page which tells you what version you have. If it is not “10,1,53,64” then you need to upgrade.

With your web browser shut down, go to control panel and open up the
add remove programs applet.

When the list populates, find the entry labled “Adobe Flash Player xx
Plugin” (where xx will be a version number, probably 9 or 10)
click the “remove” button to uninstall the old player.

Next, start your browser and download the version of Flash for your browser:

Flash Player for IE:
http://fpdownload.adobe.com/get/flashplayer/current/install_flash_player_ax.exe

Flash Player for Non-IE browser (Firefox, Opera, etc):
http://fpdownload.adobe.com/get/flashplayer/current/install_flash_player.exe

Remember where you save it, when it’s done shut down the browser.

Run the installer you just downloaded. When it is done you can
re-start your browser and the new flash will be available

Go to http://www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/ again and check the
version you have installed. It should now say you have “You have
version 10,1,53,64 installed”

If so, you’re done.

[tags]flash, flash player, upgrade, new version, adobe flash player, new features, security, hardware accelleration, how to upgrade, how to, tutorial, walkthrough[/tags]