Edmonton Tourist: The Science Behind Pixar

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Anyone who knows me well has a sense that I am an animation fan, specifically, a Disney/Pixar fan. I spent hours in my youth drawing and creating. I had originally wanted to be a Disney Clean-up Artist. A Clean-Up Artist removes all the extra lines to reveal a polished image. It is more creative than you think and much more involved than having an eraser,

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You know its Woody and Buzz, but the Clean-Up hasn’t happened yet. 

For reasons that coincide with what I refer to as the Dark Times, I didn’t get out of Edmonton, never mind finding my way to Los Angeles. However, that didn’t change how I felt about the artistry of animation. The level of detail is always what pulled me in. From my first moment on Main Street in Disneyland to searching for Easter Eggs hidden in movies, I enjoy all of it. So when my son came home back in November and said, “We just saw The Science of Pixar at Telus World of Science (TWOS). I think you will love it.”

 

He was not wrong.

I had planned to go to Bon Ton Bakery with every other Edmontonian on Saturday. TWOS is down the street, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to go! Bon Ton had a line outside in the dark waiting to get in, happily, I arrived at 9:03 am after the doors opened but the wait was going to be about 30 minutes.

 

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I enjoy the politeness and the information of this sign. Thank you TWOS for having a cheeky sign I can relate to.

 

Baked goods in hand, I left for TWOS and decided I would not go see it if there were a million kids, I would plan on going on the Adult Only night. I wanted to be able to take my time and thoroughly experience it. I can’t do that when I am letting kids try stuff.

We walked into the foyer and we were the only people there. The place was empty. The first day of Christmas break and the building was full of staff and a handful of visitors.

The cost was $30 per person (ish- it was actually a little less) The recommend 1.5 hours to go through the exhibit. I agree. To fully experience it, you need to watch all the videos and try out the interactive parts. I found this fascinating.

The first part was the introduction video. It had a cameo of John Lasseter, I am not going to lie, his shenanigans have left a dark mark for me on Pixar. But his abuse of power does not negate his creative brilliance. Then I think, there are other brilliant people in this world and maybe it is their time to shine. At any rate, I entered with mix feelings.

The exhibit has the following steps of an animated CG film:

  • Modeling
  • Rigging
  • Surfaces
  • Sets & Cameras
  • Animation
  • Simulation
  • Lighting
  • Rendering

I participated and at every section and watched every video interaction. I was blown away by the level of detail that goes into each frame.

Modeling was the least interesting for me yet it was fascinating at the same time!

It takes place after the storyboards and character development. The clay models are used to scan and get the image into the computer program so it can be animated.

Rigging was next, this step gives movement to that character, it makes all the parts move, from facial expressions to limbs moving.

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Surfaces add texture, it makes McQueen shiny and Mator rusty, Skully furry and Mike smooth. Such an involved process!

Sets and Cameras, where to put the camera determines the look of the set. This was facinating. IMG_8357

Animation, I basically learned it is all stop motion on a very advanced level. I gave it a try with the Pixar lamp and learned I do not have the patience for 26+ movements per second. I took a video of it and the lamp moved in a choppy motion. Although to be fair, I didn’t have the time to really do it justice,  it was super finicky.

The Simulation was all physics. Trying to get curly hair or fur to move the way it does, in reality, was a series of equations that simulated springs. Thinking about how to achieve the end result. Problem-solving at its finest!

Lighting was cool, I played with sets and sun levels, turning on and off interior lights. possibilities were endless…

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Rendering blew my mind away. It basically is a mathematical equation for colouring each pixel. The guy based his math on the hydrogen bomb equation and won an Oscar for it.

This exhibit gave me my Disney fix. I hadn’t been since January 2016 and it doesn’t look like I am going anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I am not fascinated by it all. I enjoyed wandering around and looking at the artist’s renditions. People are crazy talented and I  admire their ability.

Is it for kids? Sure kids will find it fun, but it isn’t a playroom. there are buttons to push and characters they will recognize. I think kids over 8 will get more out of it but the science and math involved will be out of range.

If you are an animation fan, Pixar or Disney fan, then this is a must-see when it gets to your neighborhood. Right now it is touring in Edmonton until January 7th and is also at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. It was developed by the Boston Museum of Science and Pixar. When it comes to your city, go see it!

My Technology Crisis

Breath, Eyes, Memory
Breath, Eyes, Memory (Photo credit: wpwend42)

I am in the middle of a technological crisis.

I was reading Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations by J.M. Bryson. I mostly find this interesting because I love Strategic Planning, well…planning in general. There was a word (Governance) where I knew the meaning but it seemed out of context with the section I was reading. I pressed my finger on the word thinking the dictionary would pop up and give me another meaning that would fit the context.

Expect for one small problem.

My text book is the old fashion paper kind, not an electronic e-reader. The dictionary was never going to appear. Nor could I highlight with my finger and add notes.

I realized I have become one of the converted. This hit home today when my Book club Padawan texted me with a title of the next book. I couldn’t find it for download in Canada. Which is stupid because it is ELECTRONIC – meaning digital, it should be the easiest way to find the book. I looked online for it through my libraries (I have access to the Univeristy of Alberta and MacEwan as well as the City of Edmonton Public Library) and there were no e-copies available.

Do you know what this means? I will have to DRIVE my CAR and go into a STORE hoping they will have the book I want to read. I may perhaps have to drive to a few locations before I find it, well, no I won’t because I will search their data base at the store to find a copy. However, what if I have to order it in? Then it must travel to get to me. Ask me how annoyed I am? If I am going to be searching all of the place for this book, I will CALL the independents first. I HATE PHONE CALLS, why can’t I just text them? I will call local booksellers like Greenwoods or Audrey’s before I hit Chapters and Indigo because A) support independent  B) Chapters doesn’t have an e-book copy so I am punishing them.

I have learned something about me through this process. I prefer to shop online for regular stuff, who are we kidding, all stuff except shoes and handbags, and diamonds. I will buy on line but I prefer the experience of being in the store for those items. Shopping on-line is mostly a great experience for me. I did 99% of my Christmas Shopping at www.thinkgeek.com (by the way, if you are thinking of buying me a gift, I’d like the Tardis Tea Pot) Sure I preferred to buy that stuff for me, but I have raised young geeks who need that stuff too. We are in short supply of geek stores in Edmonton. So on-line it is!

Last week I bought office furniture for my new gig. I loved the process of having it delivered to me, or so I thought. I ordered everything and then sometime today a single chair was delivered to my front yard. Did UPS ring the door bell? No. Did Someone call me to say it was coming? No. Was I home today? YES! All stinking DAY. I wouldn’t know my new chair was in my front yard if I didn’t have to walk my daughter to an event at school tonight. Thanks UPS for the email at 9:00 PM telling me you delivered my chair. I never would have known otherwise. This to me is a shopping on-line FAIL.

I can’t wait to buy a 3D printer. I can order my cool stuff on-line, then print it off in the comfort of my office. I may have to then assemble it but I am great with Swedish Directions, Ikea doesn’t scare me. Anything is better than random items spread all over my lawn. This is why I love E-Books.

You pick the book, download it into my e-reader and start reading INSTANTLY. I LOVE IT. It is part of the reason I have read so many books this year.

I need one of two things to happen to me, I need a bookstore to open up down the street from me OR have every book available in epub format. Let the flaming begin, but my house has way less stuff since I have changed everything to digital format, photos, music, movies, and books. I have freed up rooms of space! I don’t think I am asking for too much…I just want a copy of Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. 

And a dictionary installed into my paper text books.

And a 3D printer.

And a million dollars.

That’s not asking too much.

It’s just not what it use to be

English: iPad 2 with Smart Cover running iMovie.
English: iPad 2 with Smart Cover running iMovie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was at the university today in search of actual books. The kind made from paper, glue and ink. The kind of book you open up and sniff that distinctive smell of book. 

It has been a very long time since I read a paper book. I have become the new generation of reader – ereader. I have to admit, I love it. I love having 500 books on my shelf that I carry in my purse. I love that my carry on for airplane trips was light and had room to bring stuff back. In my bag for my last trip I had my iPad, charger cord, tissue, hand sanitizer, and a pashmina. My iPad had a couple of movies and tv shows loaded on it, my New York Times Crossword puzzle, pdfs for university, photo editing software and 500 photos before my trip, 682 hours of music and my beloved book collection. I felt like Arthur from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All I needed was a towel. I know there are a lot of you who will tell me you love your books and can’t convert. I am not trying to convert you, but I caution you not to close your mind of because books are going the way of the vinyl album, betamax and vhs tapes, cds, typewritters, tube tvs, space shuttles and Concords. This is just the way it is.

I had a hard time at the campus book store finding the required reading material needed for my next class. Seriously, those dudes are USELESS. I left empty handed and went to Tim Horton’s to drown my sorrows in a steeped tea (because Timmy’s coffee is VILE) I had my iPad with me and I started to google. I discovered the chapters I needed were available for download. SWEET! Into my ereader they went and now I have the added benefit of highlighting, adding notes and working right from the tablet. I found the other book I needed available at the campus library and now it also is installed on my ereader. The best part is, I don’t have to lug around a heavy bag filled with text books and note pads. I don’t worry about pens without ink or other crud I don’t need.

This was true of my kids this year as well. Both my kids have some sort of electronic device for school. The oldest has a lap top, the youngest a iPad. The youngest uses apps that connect her with the smart boards at school. The notes are available on-line, so time is spent exploring the topic rather than copying copious amounts of notes. They both email in their assignments, communicate with their teachers via email and have access to on-line learning labs. My youngest understands her need for some hands on work and notes so I bought her pens, pencils, a binder and some paper. The oldest didn’t need anything but his laptop and an ereader. His library has ebooks that he downloads on his reader. When the due date is up, they disappear. This is also possible through the public library. The need for text books is also going by the wayside. This style is perfect for my eldest’s learning style. He reads it, he retains it, he discusses it in chat rooms or clusters with his peers. It’s all very appealing to my children to learn this way. If they have their laptop, they have their homework. Things are saved to clouds and flash drives. Gone are the days of “I forgot to bring it home”.

Don’t bother telling me they way you use to learn is better. Things evolve and change. There is a huge debate on texting versus spelling out the entire word. Let me just say if we always did things they way we use to, I would be writing this blog on the walls with a chisel. Embrace change, maybe even marvel at it. Sure it isn’t the same but it opens up blocks of time for other things that expand the mind. Less time on core details opens up more time for extra curricular creativity. This helps my kids explore things I never had the opportunity to try.

Wednesday I have a class that takes place in my home. I will fire up my laptop, don my headset and microphone, and discuss stuff online, live with a visual of what my classmates look like. Technically I don’t have to change out of my pajama bottoms, shoulders up is all they see, so I’ll brush my hair, wash my face and wear a clean shirt. I can sit on my deck if it’s nice out. That’s right, I will be living my high school dream from 1984. I will have class outside in the sunshine on Wednesday at 5:00 pm and get stuff done. Give me wifi and I could be by the pool.

Who do I thank for this? Steve Jobs? Steve Wozniak? Bill Gates? If you ask me, they are worth their weight in gold because THIS is awesome. I don’t have to drive in rush hour to get to my class. I don’t have to pay for parking. I don’t have to pack a lunch. I don’t have to wear socks.

Now, I cannot WAIT for work to go all electronic so I can do it from my lounge chair while soaking up the sun.

Rube Goldberg vs Pez Dispensers

Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin
Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ChatterBox has been working for a while on a group project for science. A Rube Goldberg project ro be more precise. Apparently Rube was this guy who made things complicated. He is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complex gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. Picture Doc from Back To the future and his crazy convoluted way he made toast.

This is what ChatterBox and her friends have to make, only not the toast part – they have to turn on a CD player.

The assignment is to use six simple machines to complete the task. She has a lever, pulley, screw, wedge, wheel, and an incline. I’ve seen it. It looks complicated.

We spent the evening at the Dollarama finding tape, tie downs, dowels, and marbles. We saw every kid her her class there too. The problem with Dollarama is you go for one thing (tape) and leave with stupid stuff you don’t need ( Light Sabre). The music  in the background made me want to dance (Fleetwood Mac – Sing it Stevie!) but ChatterBox wanted to sword fight…. long story short we went looking for dominos.

Can you belive the Dollarama did not have DOMINOS! I KNOW! So we called my mom. My mom has an awesome tickle trunk full of things – she calls it the laundry room, but really it is a storage plaza. Filled with everything that is useful and everything that is not. The not useful stuff is dad’s.

Dad and mom do not share the same decorating taste, so Dad gets the laundry room. My dad collects cool stuff, like bobble heads, cowboy art, waterguns, superman stuff, and Pez machines. He has easily 1000 Pez machines ranging from Ariel to Zorro. He has them all filled with candy, lined up on special shelves,  labeled and arranged into sets. For example, there is a Pixar set, Star Trek, and even a Justice League set. He even hired a gal to come in and dust them every week (that would be his granddaughter). I like to go and just look. It is like being in a Pez museum. Every time I go to peek, I discover a new collection. Todays new one was the Hello Kitty set. He has people calling him all the time “Dad, I am at 7-11 and found the 3 Stooges Pez, do you have those?” “Hang on and let me check…yes I do, but thanks for checking for me!”

We all seem to have a vested interest in his Pez collection. What makes me think is, would a Pez dispenser be considered a Rube Goldberg machine? Have you ever tried to fill one full of candy? It isn’t simple. It IS easier to just eat candy out of the package. So is it? Tell me what you think.

My Arch Nemesis is…Photocopier.

Today was one of those technological disaster days. The Fax, the Phone, the Internet and the Photocopier all kicked me in the shin today, spit on my shoe and laughed in my face. Oh yeah? Well I don’t like you very much either technology!!

In my workplace we work in teams. Each of us has a specific strength. When one person is away, the rest of us miss them terribly! My strengths are techno evil genius, and bossy boots. I need to clarify the techno evil genius. As far as technology goes, I am the one who does not fear it. I am very familiar with it because I will stand up to technology and laugh in its face. I refuse to let it think it is smarter than me. If it cheeks me, I will unplug it. Shortly there after it is sorry and we are friends once again.

Today was one of those days that it needed to avenge its pride. There it was taunting me and teasing me, generally making me feel bullied. It knew my side kick was away.

Every superhero/evil genius has a side kick, Batman and Robin, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and even Dr. Evil and Mini Me. My side kick or partner in crime, broke her leg 14 days ago and I miss her terribly. In her absence arrived this amazing creature who could easily be  Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow from Ironman 2 except for one small very minor detail, technology scares her. She is the first to admit she is a magnet for techno disaster. 14 days later, the office technology decided to test her prowess. She has an abundance of it in every aspect except techno wizardry. Everything, except the electric pencil sharpener decided to put the Black Widow to the test. She battled valiantly, but in the end she didn’t win. She came to get me.

The phone, fax and internet was an easy fix, I am a whiz when it comes to these forms. The photocopier is another story, it is my partner’s area of expertise.  Everyone sat around at lunch looking at this beast saying things like “to bad your partner in crime wasn’t here” and “I guess we won’t be using it for a while”.  Thanks for the vote of confidence people!

I rolled up my sleeves and stood before the photocopier. I assumed the super hero stance, you know the one, hands on hips, feet shoulder width apart, steely gaze emitting from eyes. I was showing Photocopier who was boss. Then it spit on my shoe and mocked me. HOW DARE IT! It was flashing mumbo jumbo and tips on how to fixed it. I was tricked into listening to it. Photocopier, you are a liar! You weren’t trying to help me, you wanted to thwart me! I wasn’t going to stand for your taunting any longer. So as all Service Techs will ask you, Did you turn off the main power switch at the back of the machine and unplug it? YES I DID Service Tech! I am not your average amateur! I left Photocopier defenseless as I went back to my real job of not being a techno wizard. HA HA Photocopier, are you scared now sitting alone in the dark waiting for someone to save you in the morning?

I really hope my partner finds out she does not need surgery tomorrow. I really hope she comes back while I am on vacation. If she has to be away longer I fear the technology will rise up against my team and create a chaos that may leave them literally in the dark.

As part of my Tourist journey, I need to be courageous in the face of technology. Keeping up with changes and embracing the new. I need to be current for my sake, for my career and for my offspring. I never want to be the adult where the offspring pat me on the head and say here mom, let me fix it. So to achieve that goal I need to start with two things: I need a good sleep and extra Euros. I need to sleep to face Photocopier and teach it a lesson. I need the Euros to buy more chocolate for my team.

Until we meet tomorrow Photocopier!