some seriously interesting trends in there

Sony World Photo Awards 2017 – the “Open” section, which means not just for those who get paid for photography.

Let me get it off my chest first: I’m not happy that one of the winning entries from Russia features a small child in model getup. If you ask me, children should not be dragged into anything resembling showbiz, the whole glamorous lifestyle and all. Never. Period. But – it’s a quality shot. It’s just that the model should’ve been way older.

Thanks for bearing with me. Rant over.

So, the trends. It seems that we’re really getting to the point where photography is content with not being “photorealistic” – you can see how much most of these entries have been processed. HDR is the norm, coupled with unorthodox editing that, for example, leaves a natural sky/sea background almost uniform white (look at the photo with all the birds). The compositions are purely decorative – the object/subject doesn’t have to be recognisable much anymore, supposing there is an identifiable subject at all. And when there is one, these are most often portrayed as hanging in a sort of vacuum (like those birds, again, but it’s not just them). Even in “street” photography, subjects aren’t always grounded in their environment. They’re elevated to some Platonic sort of existence.


the music in this one is totally horrid…

…so thank designers for the mute button, but most of the tips are damn interesting – for any artist actually. I’m not a photographer.

There’s one, though… I’m not fond of the flat light that those ring lights give. It’s almost as bad as using a flash. You get zero definition in a face this way. I’ve seen people sell light rigs like that in 3D stores, and I don’t get it.

amazing 1996 Russian animated short

“A kingly game” – it has no dialogue, so everyone should be able to enjoy it regardless of their native language.

I generally dislike that sort of animations – the music does tend to get annoying, and the message behind them is often schmaltzy and trite, but this one has class IMO. It’s almost like a trailer for an expansive series… but it’s just this, a whimsical standalone.

not impressed at all

I liked Barbies. As many post-Soviet female kids did here. We never thought we had to “look like Barbies”, certainly no more than we had to “look like” any other type of doll we had. Here’s an example of what Soviet dolls were like.

I always thought, though, that Barbie herself was the least attractive and least creatively designed one out of the whole family. I still have my Mermaid Skipper and a handful of “Barbie’s Li’l Friends” somewhere… now those were da bomb. Those photos I found off the web don’t really do them justice. I’ll try to take better ones whenever I find my dolls.

And looking at those new body molds, it seems that poor Barbie is just becoming uglier. I don’t mind the idea of those new body shapes, but the way they are designed is kinda meh. Very imbalanced and even less realistic than the 90s Barbie bodies used to be.

And there is no “athletic plus size” (“Amazon”? whatevah, longtime readers will know what I mean) Barbie either.


my adventures with DRM

I once bought a digital copy of Morrowind GOTY in a very good sale off some very legit and established website. Turned out it had Impulse DRM that prevented using the script extender, without which essential community mods won’t run.
I fumed a bit and got myself a Steam account (I used to think it was EVIL). But at least there were enough Beth sales as good as that one or even better, so I had my non-crippled MW GOTY soon enough.
Oh yeah – I’d had The Guild II series off the first website, too. But one day the servers just stopped connecting – Russia wasn’t officially off the list, but the timeouts were murderous.
Y’know, I came across another legit established website where I bought the Renaissance version of the game in a crazy sale. In a form I could back up non-encrypted (still using that same installer actually).
I also bought the original Assassin’s Creed in another crazy sale to check it out.
Flash forward to my Win8 machine… that refused to run the Ubisoft online activation.
I fumed a bit, but it’s not a game I play that often… so I waited a bit longer and got the director’s cut edition from GOG (where I’d long had an account for the sake of legitimately replaying all the oldies I played in the 90s, when I had them installed off very questionable media… and all those I didn’t play as well).
Oh yeah… in a yet another crazy sale on GOG I got an extra copy of The Guild II: Renaissance. Just in case.

I actually lost count of how much stuff I bought off GOG in those sales.

Including a yet another MW GOTY.

And I know I will not regret it – because GOG means the DRM-free revolution and unprecedented work ethics otherwise.

This is one of the companies I would honestly love to work for. But it’s too late.

adventures in Win10

I don’t want to roll back because I’m stubborn. But holy hell do I dislike most of the changes… especially being stuck with that sans-serif font for the interface.

I want hot corners and charms back; I want everything that’s been moved out of the control panel into the ‘parameters’ to be merged back; I want the app screen the Win8 style, not that semi-start-menu (even when expanded, it’s not the same); or at least, I want the search to work properly because hunting down apps by folder names is too dinosaurish and time-consuming.

Okay, the search being basically useless is likely some bug specific to my machine (need to research fixes); but the controls being split up between CP and those ‘parameters’, now that’s crazy.

Other than that, it seems to be okay. I got more BSoDs, though – first in Substance Designer, which was expected cuz Iray, duh. Then in Substance Painter which shouldn’t be Iray-enabled, but I was moving presets around with it open, so maybe that’s the issue. And then one kinda random – but that was DirectX-related apparently, judging by the error message; the Iray-related ones are usually kernel exceptions.

I have since done a lot of driver updating for the whole system, but it looks like it’s the particular GPU that is acting up – GeForce GT 740M, which looks to have become prone to driver-related weirdness resulting in BSoDs and subsequent Code 43s (according to various forums etc).

What I did to DS to minimize the chance of crashing was remove physically all the Iray libraries (bridges included) and set it to use the Intel integrated video. No viewport performance difference, it seems. Actually even Substance Painter can run on integrated video these days.

Overall DS is doing fine on my Win10, same as Blender. I successfully ran water sims in Blender and used Tofusan’s surface replicator script in DS, the latter with the instance limit relaxed (okay, it was ten thousand tiny cones over an organic shape from Sculptris, but ten thousand instanced in a few minutes and rendered in under one)… LAMH didn’t manage to create even a measly hundred instances in a manageable time – I had to force close DS when I got tired of waiting.

I downloaded some Poser freebies that have all sorts of trouble with being saved in DS scenes, but that’s not a Win10 issue, I guess.

I ran into a major freeze with Houdini’s Mantra in PBR mode, but that’s kinda okay because I have just started poking around in the non-commercial edition and thus can be doing very stupid things.

I’m not actually paid for this

But I will keep plugging this little program whenever I can because, well, it’s awesome.

My paranoid self has tried loads of various backup software. They all are okay for backing up a few large files, but when it comes to something like Poser/DS runtime with its thousands of tiny files… it’s a nightmare.

Now, this program does this particular thing truly fast. It slows down on larger files – so if you back up movies or something, you are probably better off with something else. But runtimes… a breeze. Especially when you are just syncing, but it’s faster than anything else even when it’s the first time you back up a folder.

Subfolders are supported, too. Just point it to the content library and to your backup drive. That’s all!

Besides, you don’t have to keep track of a number of presets if you use a lot of different folders: the program is portable and small; it simply installs a copy of itself into your backup folder, so you just run in from there and it has all the paths already specified.

So, would you please check Fast-Backup out, folks. It’s free. There is a Pro version with a couple extra options, but these are just options. The basic functionality is there.

Speaking of specialised software…

…for RPG and fiction, in the free section of ChaoticShiny’s store there is a small program called FaceGen that was born out of a crazy idea I once had =) It’s been out for quite a while, but I never really saw a proper opportunity to promote it a little.

So, the story is as follows: I’ve always had trouble imagining characters “from scratch”, particularly their looks. Even when I am reading someone else’s works, I still “cast” familiar faces into most roles, depending on how well the descriptions fit.

I’ve long wanted to find something that could help push my imagination. There are “character randomisers” in software like Poser, in games like Oblivion, but most of the time, they produce rather unpleasant-looking faces, to put it mildly.

So when I discovered Chaotic Shiny’s random generators and found out that Hannah, the owner, was on the lookout for ideas, something clicked in my mind.

I made the b&w images – separate layers with various face shapes, eye shapes, hairstyles etc, and Hannah wrote clever code that allowed them to randomly combine in colour, even!

If you have ever been stumped by the need to quickly visualise a completely random character, this little program may be for you.


And, of course, there are a lot of other very helpful generators on the Chaotic Shiny website.