Friday, April 27, 2007

An Interview with Skel - On-duty for 15 days

The earth is symbolised by sand. We are showing sand falling from a hand. Then another person shreds his sweat. That is water. Then someone lights the torch and fire comes out of it. We show houses and buildings blown away by wind to show air. All of them are coming towards each other in the form of hands and joining together. In the middle lies our college emblem. And then its rising with all the elements in it. MCET. We must include all kinds of sound effects from vrooooooooom...... zoooooooom... ddddddddddddddaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam............... boooooooooooom....... doooooooooooooooooommmmm... It will shake the whole auditorium. Everyone will be thrilled. Then the emblem blasts off and then we show the centenary function emblem. Another sound effect like kaboooooooom... dooooooooom... follows. Then we slowly reduce the volume and start the function.

This is what our friend Rupesh told us when we asked him an idea for the multimedia presentation for the centenary function.

I just nodded and went back to room. When I reached the room, Anoop was very happy with his greatest achievement in Maya. He was now able to make a ball hit a wooden plank and then fell down. But he was upset suddenly. He forgot to place the floor. So the ball went on to fall forever. I just compared our current achievement and Rupesh's idea. The time we learn to animate sand, the centenary celebration of our vice chairman would arrive. So we decided to use Rupesh's idea in the future and decided to stick to something simple for that year. Many ideas were discussed like "Showing an animated person from each department working in the lab; mechanical student working on lathe, Electronics student working with CRO and IT student working on internet cables(God knows why) and computer student working on (what else) computers. All the images then combine together to (you are correct) form the college emblem which... (of course) blasts off to show (absolutely) centenary function emblem." Though the idea seemed very interesting, we kept it aside for our HOD's cenetenary function.

[+/-] Specialis Revelio

After a long discussion which took four on-duty days and browsing hundreds of websites from the data center, as time became a major constraint, we finalised upon animating only one person for the show. The script was not created as no one knew what was the story which was because no one knew what we could really do. Even then we started with our task of picking the crew. Seriously, I was overwhelmed by the response I got from the class showing their interest in 3d animations. I thought the success of our 1 minute intro to our Technical Symposium was behind their motivations. But I was proved wrong that the real reason was the 1 month on duty we got for that techincal symposium. But after a big confusion on deciding who will be on the team, we got the list of 10 persons who will be on-duty though how many of the 10 would really be animating the characters was a big question. It got answered on the 5th day when we finalised on an interview between a 3d character and a real human. The answer was 5/10 which included myself, Gokul, Anoop and Naveen.(I know I am missing the fifth person). But he was a visiting professor to the team similar to the college classes. He even stayed in Muthu's house for few days reasoning it as "Story discussion". We are still not sure with whom he was discussing the story and what the story was about. Only thing was he gave us with a script which was really good. So the answer of 5/10 holds good.

The next task was to do the real work. Animate. The time frame of the show went to atleast 5 mins which means we need to make 5 X 60 X 30 = 90000 frames of animation. The infrastructure was provided by our HOD which includes three Pentium 4 systems with 1 GB RAM and high speed internet provided in the data center itself. The next 10 days was a wonderful time as we were utilising the on-duty time perfectly. The day times were used for sleeping and eating. And sometimes to meet new people who are also roaming around in on-duty. Anoop of course didnt went to meet new people. As for myself and Gokul, lets just say we were clicking the mouse most of the time. The night was when we really worked. Rupesh would make use of his complete right brain in making creative ideas for the show and preferred to invent creative ideas while dreaming. And for that, he was in sleep most of the time. We called him as more dedicated person than anyone else around.

When we decided upon the action sequences for our character, we tried to apply them to the 3d character. This is where our whole idea of character animation changed. If you think Rajini diving over the villians is a big task, making a 3d character wave his hands is a much difficult task. All the bones have to be adjusted on the screen to make sure the character waves the hands properly. Our first try turned up as if the character's bones are broken. The second one was much scarier than before. Only the wrist was shaking with the elbow stiff. It took two days to make our character "skel" say Hi to the crowd. And then we have to make our character take his hat off. This was more difficult than saying hi. Dont ask me why the character being a skeleton had to wear a hat. We did not give him any other dress. Atleast no one complained about it. He was just a skeleton. Gokul and Naveen took up this hard task and they went on practising with the tools by imitating the action in real. They would move their hands and try to understand the bones that should be moved and at what times to make the action sequence. Even the finger bones has to be animated to make sure he removes his hat only after the fingers hold it.

The background song was none than "Kaaka Kaaka" special "Uyirin Uyirae" song which we would have run for atleast a thousand times and by the time, we were done with the animations, I became sick of hearing that song completely that I am not able to hear it ever again. After 15 days of on-duty spent, we finalized everything. I gave voice to Skel and Rupesh would be the real person on stage to interview the 3d character. Skel would do Rajini style "ithu epadi iruku", ogle at the girls, take off his head along with the hat, fly like Neo from "The Matrix" and would even say "Poyeaaaa poooooo" like Sadha in Jeyam.

Thanks to Naveen and Gokul who did most of the animations, the character came to live though not at the centenary functions but at the computer lab class in Virtual Class Room. And at the end of the show, Guru commented "Be happy that we didnt get the chance on the centenary function".

An honest comment though. It wasnt as good as we expected at the start. But it gave on-duty for 15 days with high speed internet in the best systems available in college. And whats more, it helped Rupesh to avoid coming late to the classes.

No skeletons were harmed in the making of this movie except the animator's hands.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Honey! I would never lie* to you

Thats true. We all say lies. But I dont lie big. I will do it little by little. So you see, I can never be called a big liar unless she sums it up. But there is even a book on that. "Why men lie and women cry". The guy who wrote that book should have read my mind for sure. It was all about me and a little about her too. My answer to his book is simple.
"Men lie because women would cry if they dont.
Women cry because they easily find out when men lie."
So you see it all falls around women and their crying. Seriously men had nothing to do that. Thats what I claimed till she threw a fork at me. I just hope that she thought it was a spoon. Anyway, the doctor said that my puncture wound will heal in few days and advised me not to get in the middle of a dart game.

Now I think you know the reason why I lie. Only a little though. But the biggest problem is that I am so good at telling lies that sometimes I would think they are true and act according to that. For example, when I told her that I couldnt meet her at the coffee day because I was having a sprain in my leg, the next day I went to the doctor to look after my leg and he charged me 5000 bucks for testing his new cash picking machines called xrays and scans and told me that it I am just imaging things. He was right ike a doctor in that.

So here I was again driving my bike to see her in coffee day and I remember I am late for 15 mins because of the traffic jam though I see not even a bread slice where there can be jam. It was like everyone is in hiome watching mega serials. So I reached there 16 mins late according to my time. but then she was sitting staring at the empty cappachino cup that might break if she stares a little longer. Anyway it wont as I saved it as her stare turned to me. I thought I would get burnt. I should have let the cup break.
"You are 30 mins late". she bit her lip.
"No. I am just 16 mins late. And if I remember my mention about the traffic, I am just 1 min late"
"You called me half an hour back. Do you want to see the call records in my mobile"
Damn. I should invent some virus to delete the call records when the call ends. Something like Mission Impossible movies. The message will self destruct in 15 secs and she would not have any proof that I am late. But now she have.
So I had to put a little lie. "Oh is it. Oh! look! my watch stopped. It must have stopped when the other bike hit me while moving in the traffic."
"Thats bad. Are you hurt?" she was suddenly caring. That was great. But I had to keep the rhythm. Nothing much. Just a little scratch on my hands..... and my index finger too."
"Oh! I am sorry. Let me take a look" She took my hand and I gave a little "ouch". She looked at me if I am a kid crying out of pain and then kissed my hand.
Man, I should have told something more. May be a guy punched me down. yeah. And then I fell right on the road with my face down.
But then she wouldnt have touched me at all.
"Where is your watch?" she asked.
"I must have forgotten in my house" My mind still trying to invent some places where I got hurt.
"What?" she yelled.
Thats when I came back to reality. I am going to get hurt everywhere. So I had to put up some little lie there.
"Yeah! I left the watch you gifted me in my house. I didnt want to put it in this traffice you know. Something might happen and it might stop"
"... like today?" she added. She was hinting something.
"Yeah! like toda.....y." Thats when it hit me and to avoid being hit, I added a pinch.
"I was wearing the one that my colleagues gifted for my birthday"
"So what happened to it?"
"It stopped. I told you that before".
Now she was getting irritated. "I thought it stopped running. But I didnt think it stopped walking with your hand!"
Her sense of humor is always great. Especially when she is angry and I am in danger.
I wondered how much she know why I was late. She cant be knowing that there was no traffic all the way. And definitely she doesnt know that I was in cricket ground all day which according to her is a waste of time from the time India lost against Pakistan. May be she doesnot know anything. So I added a little more.
"May be. It must have fallen when I had the accident back there"
She wasnt buying it. I know something was amiss with my little lies. Something disconnected.
"Then how come you told me that your watch stopped working".

One should realise that in the art of telling lies, you can stack up lies one above the other until it reaches a point at which it will start to collpase* and thats when your girl friend finds out and your lies collpase like a demolished building. And I have reached my point of saturation by that time. One another lie will collapse my enitre stack. But similar to every law that has an asterix(*) attached to it, so do the art of telling lies which states that the collapse can be solved by moving few tiles to the base and starting a new stack out of it.

So I moved a few tiles like keeping the watch at house and got hit by a bike but left the rest in the old stack. To create the base for this stack, I had to create a larger lie.
"Honey! What really happened is that there was no traffic. I actually got stuck in the hospital because my ML met in an accident and I had to give blood. I thought you would be worried if I say the truth"

With that strong base, her face showed pitiful at me and I felt that I will get a kiss again. But her doubtful mind shot again. "Is that your lady ML who fancies you a lot?"
Should I be happy that she thinks that SOMEONE fancies me or should I be alarmed that SHE thinks that? Its a difficult situation. But I maintained the same way. "Dont be silly. She is such a irritating person. You know I hate her all the time. what ever she might think, you know I hate her."

"Then why would someone wear the watch she gifted all the time even when visiting their girl friend?"
"May be to lose it like what happened today".
She bought the perfect lie though she said "You are lying. I know that". She was absolutely right. Actually I can never forgive myself if I lose that black Titan metallic watch which was really cool that I never remove it other than the time visiting her.

"Of course not. I am glad that I didnt wear the watch you gifted honey". I was speaking the truth here. A gold plated watch with gold dials and gold background is not something I dreamt for.

"Yeah!" She looked at me like I have done the most respectful thing in my life and our eyes met. "I love you" she said.

"Me too" I said speaking the truth.
"May be you should take me to visit her. How is she now"

"She is fine. It was just her hand and the index finger". I ran out of lies and was using the old lie again which is a big blunde when you have an intelligent girl beside you. I knew the stack is going to collapse.

Before I could build up a new lie, she pushed me away and threw the coffee cup at me. It hit my left hand and the index finger and it broke... I meant the cup.

I shouted "ouch" which was a true voice. With the realization that I shouted the truth, she came towards me frightened if she had broken my hand and touched it for which I shouted "ouch" but that was another tile on the stack. She was saying sorry repeatedly and took my hand and kissed it. I am not sure why girls think that if they kiss a person's wound, it would stop the pain. The scientists should research on girls' lips because it actually works. I was happy that the cup broke. She insisted that we should go to the hospital though I know it would just be another attempt to give cash for using the doctor's costly toys. And thats when I got the phone call. She took the phone and answered it. When she finished the call, she looked sad and said "Your ML met with an accident it seems. They are asking if you can give blood".

Now I got scared. My lies are turning to truth now. We got to the bike and started driving towards the hospital. My mind was wandering only towards the black Titan metallic watch that I forgot at the cricket ground. May be no one will notice it in the dark. And then it started to rain. The watch isnt waterproof. We got completely wet as we reached the hospital. There was complete traffic all the way and we got stuck for 16 mins in the rain.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

After playing this game for a long time, and which happened to be the best timepass for me here in UK, I wanted to write a review on it. though, this review might be a older one as two more sequels have already been released for this game, this might be a good one to read if you havent played this game before.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Prince of Persia, the classic game of the 80s made a revolution in the gaming industry. The story driven with realistic human figures fighting with swords and the Prince running through the palace which has loose floors and cutting saws really made gaming a serious one for all ages. We always wanted such a beautiful game in the 3d world. But Prince of Persia 3D didnt met the expectations of the gamer as it turned out to be more or less the same Prince in 3D. Also the AI was so bad that you can kill anyone before they take the sword or even see you. With the honor of Prince of Persia led down by this game, it took more than ten years to see its honor and glory restored by Ubisoft with their new Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

Every part of the game is made interesting and new. A new story with a new theme was made and the Prince is not fighting for his love this time, but for his kingdom. The game moves on as a narration by the Prince himself. The story unfolds with an invasion on an Indian Kingdom with the help of a traitor Evil Vizier. After winning the kingdom, a mystic Hourglass and the Indian Princess are taken along with the Maharaja's treasures to the kingdom of Azad, while the Prince keeps the Dagger of Time that he took from the Maharaja's Palace. The eveil Vizier tricks the Prince to unleash the Sands of Time from the hourglass, which changes all his army men and his dad to sand monsters. Only the Prince, Princess of the Indian Kingdom and the Evil Vizier remain unaffected. The Prince joins with the Princess, the unlikely person to help him in his quest of restoring the world back to normal. Does he succeed and does he win the Princess' heart is what the Prince will say in the game as you play. The ending is too interesting that it gives a real movie feeling to it. The game is moved so smoothly that you wont notice the Princess' hatred for the Prince turning slowly to Love.

So is this a normal slash, cut and kill type of action game??? No. This is Prince of Persia. It has well promising set of puzzles in a scenic and beautifu environment. Though most puzzles are easy to solve, some may make you think for a long time. You will have to jump from pole to pole, run along the walls(yes yes, you will be running on the walls), swing bars and ropes, hang on the cliffs and perform acrobatic jumps you never imagined before. The interesting and most wonderful part of the game is the powers of the Dagger of Time. You can rewind back time if you had made any mistakes in the middle of the game. And even the rewinding can be seen as if though rewinding a normal movie. And there are powers like Freeze, which allows you to freeze your enemies so that you can destroy them in a single slash. There are many more powers like Mega freeze and slow motion which you can gain when you move to higher levels. And for fighting, you can use the environments to your advantage. Use the wall to jump to the other side when you are cornered by the enemies, or kick the wall to strike back the enemy. You are in total control of everything you see.

What makes this game more interesting are the dialogues between the Prince and Farah. You can feel the hatred between them in the talks in the beginning of the game and the more caring voice in the course towards the end of the game. Also, Farah exclaiming "Be careful" and "Look back" whenever you are in trouble adds a nice feeling to the game. Only thing you can miss in the game is that you wont be playing as Farah in any part of the game. .

The best part of the story is seen at the end of the game. When the Prince and Farah are trapped in a tomb, Farah tells the magic word 'Kakalukia' to the Prince which she had never told to anyone before. At the end of the game, after the Prince had rewinded the time back before the invasion on the Indian Kingdom, Farah asks his name. The Prince disappointed that she doesnt know him now says "You can call me.... Kalalukia" and leaves. That was really the best ending the game can have.
*********END OF SPOILER**********

The facial expressions are very well made and it reflects their behavior and personality very clearly. The Prince's expression of doubt and anger are very well potrayed throughout the game.

With more than 10 hours of gameplay at the first time and about 8 hours in the subsequent times, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is really the most interesting and revolutionary game as its original. By now, the story has been continued as a triology with two more stories "Warrior Within" and "The Two Thrones" and Sands of Time till stays as the natural favorite for most of the Prince of Persia original fans. A must play game for every gamer.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Struck my heart atlast

My heart rarely speaks out what it feels. However it was hurt, it would not let emotions take over the mind. Many times, people think that I am never serious or sometimes I never care. The truth is I dont feel the pain of my heart often. May be the sensors are weak that I dont understand the pain. I would let even the most sorrowful things pass by. I had been silent when I failed my dreams. I was able to laugh when someone broke my heart. I watched a movie when I know my life will be screwed. Its like acting the wrong way in the wrong time. But it never affected me. I was my usual self.

Thats why, when my heart finally spoke out, it hurts the most. There is a price for giving up something for one another. And its piercing my heart. I am feeling the pain atlast. Its painful not when you are not loved by someone you love. Its painful when someone doesnt trust you when you trust them than anyone else.

I had my lesson for the day. May be my heart will heal. Just not sure whats the medicine for healing. Is it time?

Monday, April 2, 2007

On the stage - Take 1,2....3

The invite was a surprising one for me. I have always been the back stage guy. Or mostly, "beyond-the-stage" guy. Though I have appeared ON the stage many times in school days, they were only for getting the prizes and not to perform any play or dance. On the whole, I have experienced only two times performing ON the stage. So the invititaion to pariticipate in a skit was a very surprising one to me. Add to that, it was for Telugu audience and the few words I know in Telugu are "veluthama" (shall we go) learnt from our car driver; "Batalu" (dresses) from the PG owner in Bangalore; "baavunava" learnt from my friend Viji. And you can add few more words that I picked from my roommates in Charlotte. Now Viswa wants me to perform in a skit infront of a huge telugu audience gathered for Telugu association of Greater Charlotte Area(TAGCA).

The truth is lanuage was not the only problem for me. Consider my only two experiences that I have performed on the stage. The first one was the play I did during my 9th standard in School and second was during the third year in my college days. They didnt make me an overnight star.(I never was a star is another story)

Let me tell about my first experience. It was a fairy tale of a boy and a girl who were left behind in the forest by their father and step mother. Though for few days, they find their way back to home by dropping pebbles to identify the path, one day they would get lost when the boy drops bread crumbs instead of pebbles on the way and were eaten by the crow. Stranded in the dark forest, they stumle upon a witch's house, who feeds the boy very well, but makes the girl to work hard. but it was revealed that the witch's plan is to eat the chubby boy by cooking in the cauldron. The intelligent kids trick the witch to fall into the cauldron and return back to their father who was feeling sad to follow his wife's cruel instructions. And they lived happily ever after. Such a nice story it was and I acted as the father of the kids, and had only the closing dialogue of the play "Children, I am glad you both are safe. Lets live together happily".

If the first experience is not enough to prove my talent, listen to my second experience. I took the challenge in linguistics by acting in a Tamil play in college. Though there are rumors that the only reason I got this role was beause I was the class representative and the drama crew needed me to be with them to get their attendance class, I would say I was picked up specifically for that role(for no good reason). I acted as a Police constable who would get the bribe from Kabali, a chota sized thief hiding behind Dabali, a BADA sized thief and would lie "Sir! Kabali Dabali pinnadi illa sir"(Sir! Kabali is not behind Dabali) to the Police inspetor. That was the only dialogue for me. The worst part is Kabali would rob me when I was talking to the inspector. So I lost the bribe too.

With such lower experiences on the stage, it was really surprising that he asked me if I can act in a skit and added that its a mime and there would be no dialogues at all. When I agreed and made the contract for "Free Dinner", I started imagining the level of my role. Though I did not want to be the Saviour of the world, I just did not want to end up as hen-pecked husband or a constable who gets pickpocketed. To my happiness, Viswa told that I would be coming to the house tired after work and he would be the servant. Wow. I am the master of the house and I have a servant too. That looked interesting. But he broke my heart by saying that I would get drunk and wont notice that it was my servant mimicing infront of me like a mirror. Atleast I was in my proper senses during my previous roles.

As the contract was made already and I did not want to leave the "Free Dinner", we prepared for the skit. The background music was created using Windows Movie maker, Microsoft's lame copy of iMovie in an hour and we practiced only once. Viswa was so confident that I wont be needing more than one trial of the skit. I was so confident that I will make him the scapegoat if things go bad which he didnt know even now because it didnt go bad. Oops. I threw the ending already. Anyway, after little preparation, we went to the function and gave only his name for the skit. I was very careful from the start itself. The time went on and we enjoyed watching the dances and songs by kids. As the time flew fast, the organizer realised that there will be no time for our show. Though I know that the audience would be disappointed not to watch our skit, I was generous and told the organizers to cancel our skit if needed. And if Viswa wasnt there, I would have succeeded in escaping from the skit and would have written a post "How I almost made to the skit!". He persuaded the organizers to make ours the last one of the day and he would not have the "Free dinner" arranged. I really didnt want to leave the "Free dinner". But my words went deaf as we were given the last slot of the show and there was no "Free dinner" for anyone.

However, the show went really well and I was even able to hear some cheers and claps from the crowd. Everything went fine except the scene in which I should see the white hair on the servant's head and think it is mine. I have to cut my hair after that scene. Thats when I realised we did not bring scissors. Viswa was murmuring "White hair" all the time while I skipped the scene not sure how to cut the imaginary white hair without scissors. It was after the show he told that I could have just plucked the hair with my hand. Obviously, I got involved so much that I behaved completely like a drunk not able to think even how to pluck my hair.

How much I wished that I should have given my name when there were full cheers from the crowd especially from the girls and everyone went around Viswa while I stood like a stranger. All because of my smart safety precautions.