Tadaa! G jumps off a tree

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Like a muppet, I again added more than one complication with my next attempt at animation. I’ve kept the PitchiPoy Rigify script, but spent some time bulking my figure model up to match the older child, and adjusting the rigging and edge loops for improved deformation (I think it’s improved, although it’s certainly not 100%).

Bald figfure standing on a logThe biggest new feature, though, is: HAIR! My subject was not impressed that she’s still bald, so I thought I’d just quickly build a simple, non-deforming “hat” of hair.

What I quickly did was to get frustrated with my attempts to build hair, and out of curiosity turned to tutorials on creating locks of hair with Bézier curves. Kent Trammell has a good CGCookie tutorial up on YouTube that has everything you need. I spent far too much time for the result, but certainly learned from the experience!

Another detail I couldn’t help adding was some “soft-body” physics simulation for the ponytail. At this point it’s rudimentary.

I felt as though my animation learning curve plateaued a bit on this one; I thought it would be an easy clip to bash out because so much of it is just arm rotations, but that motion had a lot of subtle individual motions in it that I couldn’t help chasing, and they really need more polish to really get across.

Now I know how to pin a jellylike ponytail on a donkey, though (even if I haven’t quite got the parameters tuned on the soft-body modifier).

I’ve made some notes on the animation workflow, over at chrisnicoll.net.

Second animation in Blender

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I have a video of the kids doing some interpretive dance to The Fox, and it’s packed with comedy gold. It also has a lot of variation in movements, good to study. Here’s an artist’s interpretation of how a few seconds of that went.

This time I corrected one of the errors I made in my first animation attempt: I chose a much shorter sequence to animate. I made plenty of new misjudgments to counter that, though. I should have thrown together a character mesh and let it deform however it wanted to; instead I let myself get distracted in trying to understand the flow of edges. With moderate success.

I also spent some time putting the action in a room with a TV and other objects, and making lamps. I’d planned to leave the couch as a rectangular prism, but this was annoying one of my kids. I should have told her to be happy she has a real couch to jump off of in real life and to leave my virtual boxcouch alone. But instead, I modelled a couch. Luckily for me, she isn’t feeling claustrophobic about that windowless room. Windows and curtains are not on my immediate list of things to practice in Blender.

After all that I was able to get down to work moving the character around. I don’t know if I really convincingly captured the near-miss with the desktop, but it makes me laugh, so I’m reasonably happy. Yes, the toes are still poking into the floor occasionally. Just imagine there’s a carpet there, with a really high pile.

I wrote a little more about the rigging, specifically the foot controls in the PitchiPoy version of the Rigify script.


A review of Logitech’s G610 mechanical keyboard

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I splurged on a mechanical “gaming” keyboard for our family desktop computer: a Logitech G610 with Cherry MX Red switches.

Its predecessor, a Cherry low-profile membrane keyboard, had lasted years, but some keys were becoming unreliable due to mysterious crunchiness beneath. I have removed keycaps in the past for cleaning, but replacing them properly on the scissors-style plastic clips is a questionable proposition.

I don’t game. The kids play some web games and Minecraft. I’m reasonably nostalgic for old-fashioned mechanical keyboards (which I used as a matter of course in the old days when that was what a keyboard was), although I’ve typed high volumes on various lower-profile keyboards and they can be fine as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had two Cherry-branded keyboards, neither of which had Cherry MX switches.

What I would call a poor keyboard would be something really budget-constrained like that on Asus’ original eeePC (2007?) or Acer’s Aspire Switch (2014) (which was the last thing I found time to blog about, and whose keyboard was not very responsive from the beginning, but which at least never really deteriorated despite a couple of coding-intensive years, unlike my wrists!).

The computer attached to the G610 is a Linux box, so no Logitech software is available to program it.


  • Keycaps are removable. If something gets under there, I can pull the key and clean it out. There are fairly large gaps for things like crumbs to fit through, though. Nominally, there should be no crumbs near my computer but it does not seem to be the empirical case.
  • I like the white backlighting. I find the minimum brightness nice night and day (and I don’t generally have the lights off).
  • But, because the backlight LED is at the top of each key, the alternate character (accessed with SHIFT) is printed on the lower half of the keycap instead of the top. If the LED has to be up there for functional reasons (does it?) I would have preferred the alternative solution of setting the two characters side-by-side.
  • The Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock indicators are not dimmable, so when the keys are dimmed (or unlit), the indicator LEDs are irritatingly bright. I have an idea of putting polyimide tape over for a warm amber glow, but that’s not exactly elegant. These should really just follow the brightness chosen by the user for all the other lights.

  • The LEDs default to a slow wave rolling across the keyboard on boot. Idling, that’s cute. I don’t know who would find it tolerable during use. Without Logitech’s software, on each reboot I have to hit the brightness key + 0 to get it to settle down to a constant backlight — and then set the brightness.
  • The caps lock indicator LED can get confused and indicate the wrong state. This has been mentioned in reviews of the keyboard. One reviewer said removing the Logitech software had solved the problem. I never had the Logitech software installed as I’m on Linux.
  • Possibly related: sometimes it behaves as if the shift key is permanently held down – mouse functions are changed, keypresses are shifted. It may be more complicated than that. The key itself doesn’t get stuck. Twice, I have solved the problem by literally mashing my hands around on the keys for awhile. Does this indicate the issue may be an intentional mode with a key combination to toggle it? Dunno, but I don’t have a use for it.
  • The Cherry Red switches have some lateral wobble which is unsettling at the moment. Don’t know if it’s good or bad for typinng in the long run.
  • Actuation force is so small that it bothers me a bit. The Red switches don’t give a tactile clue as to how far is far enough to activate a key. It’s generally not very far. As a result, I’m finding it very easy to inadvertently push the space bar or “a” (on which apparently I sometimes lightly rest a finger on) as it can register with very little movement.aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Maybe the Brown switches, with the “bump” sensation, would mitigate my issues. I haven’t tried them.
  • There’s quite a lot of noise even without clicky switches, particularly the rattle of the space bar, but all the keys make noise when they move laterally, when they bottom out, and when they top out on rebound.
  • After three months, I find I’m still sloppy with the tall keys, hitting extra ones on the way to the one I’m aiming for. I suspect I may have done this with other mechanical keyboards in the distant past, but that the keys were less likely to register a light brush than these are.
  • No one else in the family likes this keyboard. They’d all prefer chiclets and find the tall mechanical keys aggravating.

I really want to like this keyboard, and I kind of do, even though it’s not really logical given that I make more errors using it than I did with my previous one. White backlighting, removable keycaps, dedicated media keys (scoff away), volume roller… all good things for me. But when I finally give in and order an ISO-layout keyboard, it’s not going to be another Logitech G610.