Jing Goodness

Well, I guess it’s true – it doesn’t mean as much to you until you pay for it, right?  I’d been getting awesome help from Techsmith with a Jing Pro acct for over 2 years now, and I’ve LOVED it.  I use it on a daily, if not hour basis ;)  It’s the best tool out there for quickly capturing and sending/storing/saving screen captures (does video capture as well).  I used to use snagit all the time, then when I moved to mac, I had to find something else and Jing came out shortly there after.

Now, after years of begging for freebies, I finally decided that it was well worth the $14.95 to pony up the cash this time.  I use it, I love it and it was time to say thank you to Techsmith, Brooks and Betsy for being so extremely cool and helpful.  If you haven’t tried it, you should definitely install it and give it a go – you’ll be hooked ;)  You can use Jing for free of course, but if you’re a heavy user like me, it’s the best money you’ll spend on a subscription this year.

Finally, a big MASSIVE thank you to Brooks Andrus and Betsy Weber for helping me out these last few years with a pro account – you guys were the best in Toronto at FITC (one of the best conferences ever!) and I look forward to seeing you again when Shawn lets me speak about Unity3D at FITC Conferences :)

Jing History

Copteropolis – Canyon Run

It’s nearly ready!

Copteropolis (was StuntCopter): Coming Soon

I’ve been BUSY!  Between IR5 work and my kids sports, I’ve had very little extra time to work on projects.  However, a little while back, I got the urge to breakout Battlefield 1942 and install the Desert Combat Mod so I could fly the helicopters again!  If you played the game, then you know – it’s helicopter controls were the BEST EVER!!  It took me a month to figure out HOW to fly them because of the rudder controls with pitch/roll combined.  But once a friend of mind showed me, I OWNED EVERYONE.  Even the jets feared me.  I loved flying the helicopters in that game!

Well, I finally snapped and decided I was going to try and recreate the controls and feel and see how hard it was to create that sensation in Unity.  It was definitely a bit of a labor, but I had it dialed in in about a weeks time and it rocks \m/

So, of course, I decided to create a game – StuntCopter!


The Refinery Compound

The story line is that we have a helicopter academy and we’ve secured 2 abandoned locations, so far, for helicopter training: Copteropolis and The Old Refinery Compound.  As a pilot, you’ll have the ability to free fly around both locations and learn how to pilot the helicopters.  Take you’re time as you learn in the slow but sure Huey.  Taking off, landing and turning all sound very simple until you have to work with throttle and rudders along with pitch and roll at the same time!  As you become more comfortable and consistent, move up to T.C.’s chopper of choice -Hughes 500D.  It’s quick, is very touchy with the controls, but can take harder landings because of the height of it’s landing gear, and might be the perfect choice for those more detailed courses.  You’ll also have access to the more recent BO 1o5 helicopter – you may have seen it doing back flips on youtube!  This heli is FAST!  Not as nimble as the 500D, but if you’re looking for flat out speed, this is the copter of choice.

And don’t worry – I put in noob controls so you can fly it with 2 thumbs.  However, you’ll be limited to certain tracks and courses, so you just might want to man up from the beginning and fly with the true controls.

There are 3 competition types:

  1. Rescue:  In Copteropolis, you’ll be trained to locate accidents and air lift victims to the nearest hospital!  The closer you land to the middle of the landing circle, the sooner the victim is loaded and you can fly to the hospital.  How fast can you save everyone?
  2. Race:  In Copteropois and The Refinery Compound you’ll have to race through obstacles to beat your best times.  You’ll be ghost racing against yourself!
  3. Car Chase:  In Copteropolis, you’ll have 2 choices of difficulty for a car chase:  OJ’s bronco (easy), or the Ferrari (difficult).  The goal is to block intersections before the car gets to them to force them up on the freeway down to the either end. You have to master the controls to even think of attempting either vehicle chase!

The game functionality is nearly complete and I’m working on create more levels for ghost racing, but it’s nearly there!  I’ll post about it again once it hits the app store, but I’m also considering releasing it as a web game, so I’ll be posting details about that soon!

[UPDATE] – thanks to someone being more heads up than me, it was discovered that an iPad game called “StuntCopter” has just been released! I’m changing the name and for now, it’ll be “Copteropolis”.  Suggestions are welcome!

Until then check out the first demo video featuring footage from all 3 competition types:


New Aerial Combat Demo & Tutorial

Well, people often wonder why I tweet so little and why there are such long stretches in between.  The answer is simple enough:  I work.  Well, it’s more complicated than that, I work, I’m headcoach for my son’s football team, my daughter is in both soccer AND volley ball and I’m involved in all of them in some way or another.  That, and I just came off of a really nice game project that took 7 months of my life, and I can’t seem to do social network stuff while working and still be productive.  I don’t know how you all do it!  Anyway, I’d been wanting to do SOMETHING of a blog post just to get back into contributing to the Unity community, and so when I came off this current project, it was my turn to post something on the IR5 blog – YAY!

So, since Unite 11 is starting today and I’d promised to do a demo on this back in 09′ while speaking at Unite 09, I figured it was time to make good on my promise.  I’ve finally put it all together in a very simple, yet flushed out, demo of how I did dog fighting in The Trench Run.

Check out the post, files and demo over at infrared5.com


iMovie eating memory on iPad

I’m posting this because I found zero information about it and I stumbled upon a solution.

Basically, if you try and export your iMovie after you’ve finished creating it in iMovie on the iPad, it might tell you at the very end (after wasting an hour of your time btw) that there isn’t enough memory to do the export.  Dood, how about telling me BEFORE I SPEND ANOTHER HOUR OF MY LIFE WAITING – SOUND LIKE A GOOD IDEA?!?!?  JUST MAYBE.

At any rate, you might find yourself deleting movies, pictures, apps, music – anything to get enough memory to export your project.  Then, you try again.  then AGAIN it tells you STILL don’t have enough memory.  You go back and look and – WTH?  all the memory you’d just cleared is now magically gone – but you have nothing to show for it.

Apparently iMovie has created your masterpiece but needs to copy it to the location you specified (the camera roll) – I’m not totally sure if it’s done or not, and it’s making yet another copy for the move?  or if it truly ran out of space and can’t continue, but has left a pile of mung behind.  Who knows.  But the fact remains that it is still taking up precious disk space without any visible way of deleting it, and you have no idea it even exists!

All you have to do is open the project in iMovie, make a simple change – then change it back, and exit back to the projects menu.  Now check your memory – it magically has re-appeared.  Apparently, making a change causes iMovie to cleanup after itself.

Hope that helps!

Couple of GarageBand/iPad2 experiments

Use a bath towel

So, yeah I got a little side tracked this weekend while doing laundry and kept playing with GarageBand on the iPad. The nice thing about doing laundry is, you’re stuck doing it for the duration, so in between the folding and switching from washer to dryer, you really have a nice chunk of time to mess with the iPad.

I did 2 different songs this time. “Dream Puppet Show” is really a tip of the hat to Dream Theater. The by no means is a master piece, but many of the sections are right out of the DT text book ;) I wanted to see how GarageBand handled odd time signatures, and the quantization with a triplet feel where a quick straight 4 riff was inserted into the rhythm. I also went completely off the tempo in one very short section, then went into a normal straight 4 feel. The results were mixed. The quantization feature is limited in that it’s applied to the recorded section. So if you apply it to a drum part, and that part happens to be what i described above, you’re screwed if you can’t play it straight enough on your own. What you hear in this piece is not quantized in the first half of the song. It’s not bad, and I was able to consistently play the guitar and bass rhythms the same. The drums however, are still not quite where they *could* be to make this thing great. Their much closer than any other drum app on the iPad, but still inconsistent.  The guitar however, was a ton of fun and I was able to use the note bending feature in a realistic way – that ended up being a ton of fun!

Listen: Dream Puppet Show

Listen: Groove

The next piece is called “Groove”, and this one I wanted to open it up and see what it could do. The First half of the song just loops a main drum part that i recorded over 4 bars. It was very very very very very frustrating to get right. With the other songs (Genesis and Dream Puppet Show) the tempo was much slower, and the parts were pretty straight forward. With Groove, the parts were much more intense and notes were much closer together and required accuracy. When I tried playing the 2nd half of the song with the ride (32 bars straight), I had to record the snare, crash and kick separately, then do a pass with the ride. When I tried to do the ride along side the snare, I nearly punched a hole in my iPad or nearly threw it across the room in fury. Not kidding. Finally, I turned on airport mode, killed all applications, restarted the thing and that helped. But the thing that made the most difference was putting it on a bath towel and laying it flat. I know they use the accelerometer to measure sensitivity, so when I was using the cover to prop it up and play or flat on a glass table, I wondered if that was causing the inconsistency with the snare hits. After putting it on the towel I had MUCH better results. Still, there’s plenty room for improvement, but I’m really encouraged at how good it is now. Not great, but very good.

In the end, I think I’ll actually be able to put ideas down with the iPad for the first time ever. I’ve always just fired up the mixer, played my kit, recorded some guitar, you know – the old fashion way ;) But considering I’ve put out 3 solid ideas in the past few days, I’d say this actually has a future in music and not just some toy to lower the learning curve for kids who lack the self control to learn how to play a musical instrument.

Wish list so far:

1.  Quantize “selection” – allow me to select a region of recording and select the quantization type

2.  Add a china and a splash cymbal – please.

3.  Allow merging of channels

4.  Let me name my sections – “section A” is a little hard to keep straight

5.  Put Pan over in the mixer controls

6.  Group channel faders – so I can lock the bass/guitar/keys together and move one slider – they would remain relatively the same volume to each other.

7.  Volume and pan throughout the mix – for final mix, I’ve been playing it from the headphone jack into the computer and mixing live for things like fades, solos etc

8.  Assign 1 sound to the entire snare – the areas are a bit small for people who have bigger fingers than Alvin.

9.  Give the option to *not* use the sensitivity per drum/cymbol/keyboard etc.  Sometimes, when i hit the note, I really just want it full blast ;)

10.  Give the ability to move higher up on the guitar neck in Notes mode with no scale selected.

11.  Show the notes on the fret board when a scale is selected.

12.  Allow for setting stomp boxes per recorded piece.  It’s a bit annoying to have to decide whether or not you want it for the entire song on the one guitar.

GarageBand, iPad and Me

Well, as soon as I saw the GarageBand video for the iPad and them bending strings on a virtual guitar and bragging about sensitivity on the drums/piano, I knew I was going to loose an evening playing with this thing!

GarageBand Mix view of "Genesis"

It didn’t take me long to figure out the layout and controls and the fact that you had to add “sections” to create a tune.  Yes, you can wax poetic and just open it up and play for as long as you like, but it really does make sense to take your composition section by section, especially if you plan to re-use any of your performances later in the tune.  The sliders work fairly well for adjusting volume, and pan is located in a sub panel you access from the top right.  You can also add basic effects that are good enough for doing a scratch track version of your master piece.  You can mute and solo a given track as well as play along with a click.

Listen: Genesis by John Grden

The quantize feature is rather nice and works per-track as well.  Keep the stuff you want sloppy, sloppy, and the neat stuff… neat.  In saying that, the drums worked decently well.  Certainly better than most of the drum machines i’ve downloaded from the app store.  Most of their shortcomings have to do with response time – the more notes you attempt, the slower the response.  And most are just behind the beat you’re playing most of the time anyway – seriously, all of them are like that.  The drums in GarageBand do not lag behind and even go the extra mile in giving you “sensitivity”.  If you listen closely to the song I’ve posted (Genesis), you can hear the soft ghost 8th notes on the floor tom followed by louder accents on the 2 higher toms.  I was actually pleased at how I moved from “oh nice, it doesn’t lag” to “I can actually emulate ‘everybody wants some!’ by Van Halen”.  Why did I pick that song?  I don’t know, but the toms sounded like it and I could play accents, so it was an easy fit.  On top of that, one nice – and very obvious feature – was how the kick drum fires when you hit the crash cymbal.  I have to laugh – it’s one of those “duh” moments and you wonder why nobody else tried doing that.

Stand Up Bass

Another thing I was really happy with was the Stand up Bass play and the Acoustic Guitar picking.  I was able to come up with a nice pattern for the chorus that fits in the background really nicely and if you didn’t know better, you’d figure it was a real guitar – really very nicely done.  The stand up bass was great – I’ve always loved fret-less bass sound and I was able to slide notes and practice good intonation with this thing!  You might hear some of the notes not quite square on the money, but hey – that’s what I would argue as something that makes this feel real rather than digitally baked.

Finally I added some strings and then decided to add some ethnic drums behind the main drums.  So, I played the drums with my fingers on the desk right next to the iPad and put a “Bullhorn” effect on the recording – sounds like a really dead animal skin stretch across a birch Indian drum shell – no?

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at the final result and I definitely had a alot of fun putting it together.  I’ve got a ton of music apps on my iPad and have used them as instruments on real recordings, but anytime I tried to record on the iPad or sequence anything, it sucked.  I went in thinking this wouldn’t be much different, but I’m happy to report that someone over at Apple does know a thing or two about UI, User experience and music.  And holy crap, $5?  Seriously, it’s the best $5 you’ll spend as a musician on the iPad.  By far.


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