Saturday, 27 September 2014

Cloudy outlook



Cloud this….cloud that…..SaaS, IaaS, PaaS……most of you have by now come across the above words in one article, blog, magazine or whatever source of information somewhere. Today I want to give you a brief primer on what the cloud is and what it means for you as a 3d artist. First off I will start with a very basic example……Most of us usually cook our own food at home whenever we want to eat….you just take your sufuria, boil some hot water mix the hot water with some flour and stir till it’s solid enough to be Ugali, fry some eggs on the side and voila!!Dinner is served. On the other hand there are some cases whereby for one reason or another you choose to order food from a hotel/café/restaurant….watu wa terrific Tuesday’s wapi nduru!!!The café will buy the ingredients and do all the cooking and even deliver the food right to your house.
This two examples above illustrate the basic concept that underlies cloud computing. In the first case one does everything on their own in this case 3D modelling, rendering e.t.c on their own computer while in the cloud based scenario all this is done on the cloud using the other parties resources.

If you have ever used Gmail, Yahoo mail, the omnipresent Google apps then you have been experiencing cloud services but you just never knew it. As far as graphic design and content creation is concerned, I am yet to use any of the cloud 3D products on the cloud hence cannot really provide the best advice on whether one should consider them to the traditional setup but I can provide you a glimpse of what it may feel like. I came across the site below clara.io that I believe you can test out to see if indeed you may one day get to fully migrate to working in the cloud.I liked how the site required very minimal input before you could test the service.
The rough guide below illustrates how to go about it.
1.Visit the site clara.io and register yourself.I  used a fictitious account(username: testing,email:testing@loresho.com plus a random password) for this as you can see below:NB:Please ensure your password is not less than 6 characters

Click on 'Start Editing' and let it load

2.You will land on a page similar to the one below.When you click on the 'User account section' on the top right you can see we are already logged in so no confirmation emails or stuff like that are required before we can access the system.The packages on offer are also listed below and the pricing seems rather fair too.Anyway,moving on...
3.Click on the 'Scenes' tab and you will be directed to the following window.After a lengthy deliberation 0.01 seconds that is,I decided I would use an existing scene in their library rather than start from scratch.

4.I picked a car from the list.The "Marussia B2" to be exact.(I don't know why it never showed up in the screenshot below).After picking your car just click your way to the main scene as the following steps show.




5.You should eventually end up in a scene similar to the one below from where you can now explore on your own.


I'm not sure whether it was my computer,browser or the internet but my experience was not very smooth. I have 4gb memory and a very basic graphics card on the laptop I was using a 1Mbps connection (124KBps if you like).I got the javascript message below



after a few minutes of meddling around, my patience ran out and I moved on to other "important matters"…..wow that masked dragon rider following Hiccup and toothless under clouds looks so cool…..ahem!!So that’s how my first cloud experience went. PLEASE NOTE THIS WAS DONE ON SHORT NOTICE WITH A "BAD FOR 3D LAPTOP" SO IT DOES NOT REPRESENT THE CLOUD EXPERIENCE. Try it out and let me know what you think.If you have used any of the available subscription services/cloud, whether from Adobe,Autodesk or other 3D related companies let me know how it went.Godspeed animators!

PS:Sorry guys, I haven’t been able to post for quite a while,I have other non 3D projects that have been eating up my time.

Monday, 29 July 2013


2013 FILM CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION HELD AT THE KICC
The Kenya Film Commission finally held the animation expo on the 21st and the 22nd of June 2013 at the KICC.

The event had been scheduled to take place earlier but it was not so due to some hiccups.
I was unable to attend on the first day,being a work day hence I had other commitments. However on the 22nd at around 11pm I was there.I was in the company of my uncle who was quite interested in finding out more about what this 'animation thing' is all about

First of all,KICC is a large conference complex and being a weekend another event The 11th Exhibition by Kenyan Universities organized by the Commission for University education was taking place in the Courtyard.I believe it would have been better if the KFC had chosen to stage the event outdoors I.e KICC's Comesa grounds or even the courtyard as this would have also captured the large crowd that attended the CUE event.

Having attended the last two animation festivals at Sarit Centre and Prestige Plaza,I found the venue-Tsavo hall which is in the basement a bit 'depressing' to speak.Visitors were encouraged to register before proceeding to the conference and we did so.Some of the companies that showed up for the conference include Rift 3D,FatBoy Animations,Airpress Communications,Tsunami Studios,Anto Dezigns,NewBreed Academy of Digital Arts,Nairobi Institute of Technology,Multimedia University among others.


Newbreed Academy which was started by Andrew Kaggia was busy marketing their courses which are competitively priced compared to other colleges.

Fatboy Animations(the team behind the Faiba animation)and who have been making news of late with their popular Safaricom adverts were also present.Working with Safaricom has been keeping them busy of late.



The Tsunami stand was one of the most active stands at the Conference.Tsunami studio is a 'new' company made up of 3 different studios-Shout Huge,Andromeda Music and Kenyan Noir.The Tsunami crew were very lively and having their booth near the entrance did not hurt.A member of the Tsunami crew Ben Gicheru informed us that they were in the process of making a bi-weekly comic Kevo,which they would be turning into an animated motion comic too.


Elite digital solutions were also present.The company is one of the main sources of original Apple products and they had several on display.In addition they are authorized adobe resellers and the team at the conference was busy trying to convince me and other conference attendees to move with the times and adopt Adobe's cloud solution 'Adobe Creative Cloud for teams'.Now I'm yet to test it out but considering the erratic,expensive and slow Internet speeds that we have,i believe it will be quite a while before any local company adopts a full cloud based solution.

Rift 3D were seeking exposure of their upcoming project,a short scifi animation.Check out the trailer.


Local institutions offering animation courses were also present-NIT and Multimedia University.Isaac Wasilwa a student from Multimedia University(and part of the team that animated the Njoroge music video) was the one who gave us insight into how the courses at Multimedia University are.
Airpress communications representative Martin 'Marto' gave us brief glimpse of what they do best.The company has done several TV idents for local stations and are preparing one for a local TV station seeking to rebrand.
These are the highlights of  the 2013 National Film Conference and Exhibition 2013 'Animation expo 2013'.As for now,polish those poses,animate those faces and see you in the next conference.




THE AITEC BROADCAST FILM AND MUSIC EVENT HELD AT THE KICC ON THE 26th-27th of JUNE 2013


It seems animation practitioners are getting more and more recognition these days with two events being held in the last few weeks each having sections for the animation industry with the Aitcec broadcast and film event being the most recent.KICC was the place to be
Various animation studios were present to showcase their animation work on the floor
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Tsunami studios
Anto dezigns-Have finished their first 3D animated short titled Makmende 2 begins.

The film is available from at Ksh 150 which is fair considering the effort it took to produce.

Aitec organised a 'roundtable discussion' too as part of the 'AITEC broadcast and film event' conference.The round-table was moderated by Ms Mundu Mwara,a regular face in the local animation industry.The panelists were
Gatumia Gatumia-Recon Digital
Andrew Kaggia-Digitall Definitions
Harto Macharia-Tsunami studios
Ngendo Mukii-(Go team ladies!!)

The round-table conference was not really well attended though with around 70 people in total showing up for the talk that lasted for one and a half hours.
The talk kicked of on a high note with attendees being treated to a visual feast of the panelists show-reels.
Ngendo Mukii whose recent short animation Yellow Fever is doing well was quite clear on why she had made the animation.

Ng'endo Mukii's Yellow Fever animation trailer
 According to Ngendo she was wondering 'Why do we as African Women do so many things to ourselves to look European e.g no female TV presenter has natural hair.This sends a message to the viewers on standards of beauty which are judged according to non African standards'

The quest for socially conscious animation was exemplified by Andrew Kaggias animation 'Wageuzi' which has featured in Kalasha,ZIFF and even on CNN giving Andrew great exposure. Andrew says that after releasing the animation and it went 'viral' three Kenyan politicians approached him at different times seeking to persuade him to create a similar animation although in this case each of them emerging as the 'winner'.
In addition there was concern expressed that the quality of animation graduates being created by our colleges are not really employable as they have sub-standard skills.This is one of the reasons that Recon Digital chose to train its own apprentices before employing them.

One of the participants encouraged people who would like to be animators/are pursuing animation to get their stuff out there e.g through Vimeo,Youtube and even Behance.The aim of this is to get the exposure and criticism that is necessary to help an animator/CG artist to take their art to the next level.

Gatumia who is the founder of Recon Digital also encouraged those seeking to start animation studios to get legal and professional in their operations as soon as possible e.g pay your taxes,get the necessary licenses e.t.c to prevent future hurdles that may return to haunt you.Gatumia was also categorical that the Association of Animation Artistes Kenya still has a long way to go before it becomes the force it should be.There is need for more people to take up animation-and not just as a hobby but as an income generating profession.Once the numbers are there,the association will be better placed economic wise to help develop the industry to global standards.All in all it was a great event and lets hope the best is yet to come.








Monday, 22 April 2013

VIDEO GAMES IN KENYA

Video games have evolved from the days of the Atari to today’s sleek Xboxes,Wii’s and quad core smart phones which spot more processing power than the original ‘mainframes/supercomputers’. The evolution has not only been technology wise…financially video games have also become some of the most profitable entertainment products with games such as call of duty and grand theft auto estimated to have grossed more than 1 billion dollars each(imagine being given 80 billion Kenya shillings!!Compare that with Safaricom's investments/profitability and you’ll see that video games are just the ish!!).It was therefore to be expected that Kenya would soon join this industry hoping to get a piece of the pie that everyone seems to be digging into. Being the ICT powerhouse (arguably) in the region has its benefits such as the availability of skilled labour, availability of fast Internet e.t.c enabling online collaborations and research and more importantly giving exposure to the IT savvy generation,  growing rapidly in Kenya are some of the pillars that are shaping this industry.

One of the first if not the first video games that came out of Kenya is Adventures of Nyangi created around 2006-2007,by Wesley Kiriiny who at that time owned a company by the name Griwamgrafix.It is a  3D action-adventure video game where the main character, Nyangi, has to find some rare African artifacts.The game may lack the high end looks that commercial games like GTA have,considering it was a one man show hence sacrifices had to be made in some areas. The fact that makes the game stand out is that Kiiriny, created the game engine that powered Adventures of Nyangi.Today Wesley and a Ghananian partner,Eyram Tawia currently run Leti Games located at East legon in Accra, the capital of Ghana.What we admire about  Leti games is that it is a global team.The two main partners are from different countries(Kenya and Ghana) and they came together to try and develop something from Africa and are succeeding.The two recently presented a talk on "The Emerging Landscape of African Game Development" at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Wesley led the way and today a few other game companies have started in Kenya.One of the teams that is exploring this ‘new frontier’ for Kenyans is University of Games who just released Election Thief an Android based video game a few weeks ago-March 2nd just before the General elections held on March 4 at the PAWA 254 Hub,Nairobi.
Election thief game poster

The University of Games comprises of brothers Brian (Lead Programmer) and Blaise Kinyua (Marketing), Joseph Kariuki (Project Manager) and Herbert Kimacia (Artist).Brian Kinyua was able to secure funding/seed money from the Kenya ICT Board 'Tandaa' round 2 grant.Using these funds Brian brought together the rest of the team and formed University of Games.
As the name suggests Election Thief's plot was inspired by the 2007 disputed elections that resulted in post election violence.The game,which is free, challenges users to track down and chase a bad guy who has stolen some votes during the presidential elections by playing the character Omu in the game.UoG also has web based games on their website that anyone can play so do check it out.

Ma3racer video game poster

Another force in the local games development industry is Planet Rackus made up of Joe Murithi Njeru - Business Development,Roger Tenenmberger - 3D/ Motion Designer,Fred Kioko - Producer and Jimmy Gitonga - Content Developer.The Nairobi-based mobile game development company launched its racing game Ma3Racer,and last year won the entertainment category plus overall in PivotEast(mobile startups pitching competition) 2012. The free game is currently available at Nokia’s Ovistore and an Android version is currently in the works.


Pamoja mtaani video game

HomeBoyz animation were also involved in a video game project with WarnerBros/Virtual Heroes Inc back in 2008-2009.The project's deliverable was the video game called Pamoja Mtaani.I'm not sure if the game really did reach and have an effect on the intended target but it was a good start.The game even won Warner Bros an award in the core competence category in June 24, 2009, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC) presented their 2009 Business Excellence Awards to eight standard-setting companies, including Warner Bros., for their innovative programs working to combat global disease.


However the rate at which the industry is developing is quite slow which may be attributed to several factors beyond the scope of this article.Some of the things which may need to be addressed to accelerate the industry include setting up of specific courses and even colleges that will be focusing on training Multimedia artists,CG artists and Game programmers among other related professionals. In addition professionals and scholars who have done mathematics/electronics/engineering/physics e.t.c will also be required if we are to create high quality stuff for the market. Their knowledge will be invaluable in creating new tools/adopting new tools and techniques as necessary and leading in Research and Development. Not only that, our Government will also need to give incentives to local developers/game creation companies to stimulate growth and attract talent from other countries which will enable knowledge sharing, technology transfer among other benefits. Matters such as piracy and copyright protection will also need to be looked into to ensure that they are not a bottleneck to local content developers seeking to bring their games into the market. The Kenyan citizens will also need to play their role by buying the products and contributing to the success of such ventures in any way they can.Maybe the Jubilee coalition should start by having the computers that will be distributed to primary school students preinstalled with the open source Blender 3D for a start. Basically it is a whole new eco-system that will need to exist for the industry to have an impact and contribute to economic and social development as it should and companies such as University of Games,Planet Rackus and Homeboyz have taken the lead in that direction.

The next big, chart topping, block buster, fanatic attracting and purely awesome video game may just come out from Kenya so for readers outside our physical borders watch this space!!As for our brothers and sisters in Kenya keep up the spirit and always remember…You are the industry!


Onto other news:
This years animation festival is set to take place in 9.30am - 4.30pm, Friday 10th May -Saturday 11thMay 2013.However unlike previous years the lead/main organisers Kenya Film Commission will be hosting it together with a one-day National Film Conference,we'll know what it's all about exactly on that day.So get your stuff ready,prepare your Sunday best clothes(yes toa ile jeans ya black ulipewa Christmas) and make sure on that day ume Toklezea.
2013 film and animation expo Nairobi,Kenya