GNOME apps in three dimensional space

The release of GNOME 3.14 is getting closer and closer and I’m trying my best to have the a video ready for release. The manuscript is still open for revision but is at its final stages. Voice-over should finish around next week or so. And in the meantime I am testing a new workflow in Blender.

Alexander Larsson sent me a Chromebook Pixel a few weeks ago. What is really cool about a Pixel for me, is  its 2560x1700px screen. All my source material for the GNOME 3.14 release video can now recorded in high resolution. That opens up some cool animation possibilities.

vlcsnap-2014-09-09-07h12m12s213The picture below is a snapshot from a video, which as you might notice is very high resolution.  This is all possible thanks to GNOME’s Hi-DPI support (which rocks!).  What you can see in the background, is a very green wallpaper. That’s a virtual “green screen” which I will remove from the video material afterwards with Blender (see below).

09-09 green-screenAnd now is where the magic happens. Because the video is so high resolution, it means I can import the video as a texture onto an animatable plane in 3D space.  On low resolution video this would turn the video into a blurry mess, but the high resolution video looks unaffected.  It means I get some new animation possibilities. The screenshot below is a demonstration.

09-09 crazy effects

..I’m definitely excited to make this release video. :)

 

GNOME documentation video is out

The GNOME Documentation Video has now been released on youtube and as a download (Ogg Theora + Vorbis). This is something I have been waiting for since I finished working on it a few weeks ago. A big thanks to Karen for providing a great voice-over for the second time! Translated subtitles are not online just yet for the video, but should come within the next few days (thanks to pmkovar and claude  for setting this up!).

YouTube Preview Image

I’m looking forward to see the response from the community. I read every comment made and try to collect and direct them to the right people.

Next upcoming GNOME video from me would be the 3.14 Release Video. Since the release date is approaching I’m already working on the manuscript and hopefully I can send it off to Karen soon for voice-over. Alexander Larsson was also kind enough to send over one of GNOME’s Chromebook Pixels I had signed up for. Provided that I can get Fedora 21 with 3.13 installed on it, I might be able to record video in a 2560×1700 resolution. This has some technical advantages like green-screening video and throwing it into Blender’s 3D space and other crazy things ( woohoo!).

In the meantime I’m also messing around with some design for Polari and a GNOME flyer I intend to hand out to the new students at my university.  I’m predicting September to be a busy but fun month.

Post-GUADEC

I have now made my way home with a lot news to bring you about my experiences at GUADEC 2014.

Promotional Videos

I gave a lighting talk! I showed briefly the steps to go through when making promotional videos and gave a sneak peak of the soon-to-be-released documentation video. I also had a good talk with Petr about translating video subtitles. This had lead to a git repository called “video-subtitles” in which I’ll upload subtitles for the translation team to translate. The last days of GUADEC I began to work on some animation templates for recycling and I plan to expand this collection. During the conference I received a lot of positive remarks on the 3.12 release video. It makes me very happy that so many people appreciate the promotional videos! I’m definitely motivated to do more.
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An idea for a future promotional video: A passive repeatable video which can run on computer screens at GNOME booths during conferences. Original Image by Tobias Muellner.

GNOMEs Website

Karen’s talk inspired me to do some design concepts for our website. I made a mockup for our donation page and for “Getting involved”. During the Engagement BoF we discussed how these pages and the front page could be improved. Allan, Fabiana and Andreas began working on a mockup for the front page on the whiteboard, structuring the information based on importance. Hopefully we’ll begin to see site improvements within the coming months.
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My proposed concept design for “Getting Involved”. Note that the concept represents my own personal idea, not the consensus of the engagement team.

Avatar Designigng

Before I left I was working a bit on the design of the generated avatars as they needed revision. I updated the tentative design with a second revision, simplifying them a bit. I asked Allan for feedback and he began a journey to find a more suiting font to write the generated initials with than the one I had found. The tricky part in this is to find a suiting font which also has a large coverage of unicode characters, for free. I had to leave before Allan settled on any final font, though, but I heard that him and Garett worked further on the revamping the font and colors.
mockup-empathy
My initial generated avatar proposal, which since then has been revamped by Allan and Garret in terms of font, colors and style.

Volunteering

I made some great experiences while volunteering at GUADEC. I was volunteering Friday, Saturday and partly Sunday as backup. I have also volunteered for doing video editing of the GUADEC talks in collaboration with Alexander Franke, so expect to see them up on guadec.org soon! GUADEC was a great opportunity to meet other members and friends of the GNOME community. I met a lot of interns while volunteering and met many other new faces when going for dinner in the Strasbourg. I also had a chance to meet with designers from gnome-design and members of the engagement team. The venue was located very centrally in Strasbourg with many restaurants, bars and shops nearby. Furthermore, the GUADEC organizers had organized events in the evenings such as a picnic and playing snooker.

Now I am exhausted. It is nice to be home again and I am bringing a lot of experiences with me. I’ve put faces on a lot of names I only have encountered in IRC. I’ll probably be sending a mail or pinging one or two of you in the coming weeks. A big hug goes to GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me. Thank you!

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I’m also going!

I am going to GUADEC and it will be a first timer. GNOME Foundation has been kind enough to sponsor me and I’d like to thank them for doing so. It will be an adventure for me for sure!

What’s happening

I’ll let most things flow, but there is a few things I have in mind for GUADEC:

    • I’ll be volunteering as runner and session chair on at least Sunday, Monday and probably more.
    • I’ll be participating in Engagement’s Birds of a Feather session.
    • I plan to perform a lighting talk around these promotional videos I tinker with.

Most importantly I’ll be meeting a lot of people, both new and known. It will be interesting, inspiring and motivating. A nice learning opportunity I’d say.

07-24-badgs

Social Circle: Improving social interaction at social events

A month ago my group’s semesterproject ended and with extremely positive feedback. At the 2nd semester Medialogy study me and six other students have been working on Social Circle, a question-based game where players can get to know each other and have fun.

Link to A/V Production of Social Circle (YouTube)

Particularly interesting was the different topics within media technology I got to work with in relation to Social Circle. Working with the user through a contextual inquiry was insightful and inspired a lot of designs which we kept testing and improving. This project also gave me a hands-on experience with programming the virtual interface in Processing using Eclipse. I really enjoyed working with the interaction design and visuals. Organizing the semesterproject was also less of a hassle for me this time but I plan to continue exploring different tools for this.

07-16 SocialCircleElectronics
First semester introduced us to programming using Processing and Eclipse, second semester introduced us to electronics prototyping via Arduino.

The prototype we created of the designed solution, is composed of an Arduino controlling six player boards with voting buttons and LEDs which it reads. The Arduino is connected to a virtual interface showed on a 19″ screen in the middle of the table. Players receive harmless question such as “Which player would be the best superhero?” and everyone then place a vote on each other using the player boards. Votes are then revealed and points are given to the agreeing majority. If players votes indicate disagreement, a discussion round is started where players have to persuade each other to vote differently.

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Final prototype used to evaluate the game design’s ability to let players socialize.

This semester has stirred my curiosity about designing interaction, which I plan to stimulate by working with the GNOME Design Team. Another long-term goal for me is to learn more about programming graphical user interfaces, particularly using GTK 3 as well as on the web. First I have a promotional video to finish and a GNOME conference to attend to, however. Looking forward to both!

GNOME documentation video: status and experiences

Title: Promotional Video about GNOMEs Documentation
Started: April 21st 2014
Deadline: July 26th 2014
Status: All animations finished, first draft rendered and being revised.

status-visualized.

Today I reached a new milestone. The last animations has been finished and I can now render out a full-fledged video about GNOME’s documentation efforts.

07-07overview

60-70% of the 1:48 minute long video consist of animation (the purple blocks) with a few screencasts here and there (blue blocks) This is because I’ve used this project as a learning opportunity for animating. This also means that the video contains some experiments in terms of style, mixing 2D and 3D, color and silhouettes in various ways.

This project was also an opportunity for me to learn how to organize myself within Blender. I’ve gained some nice experiences under the way:

– All scenes are named with a number in front, and all objects & materials of each scene are named with the scenes number. A camera in the “01_intro” scene would be called “01_Camera”. This makes it easy to filter the items in Blender’s dropdown lists (just search for the scene number).

07-07-dropdown-list

– All scenes are kept in one blender file. All external files are kept in sub-folders next to the blender file with self-explanatory names.

07-07-file-structure

– All animations are rendered to PNG and their folder inside “Animation” is called the same as the scene they were rendered from.

– All generic tools, templates and master scenes use “00” in front of their name so they always appear in the top.

07-07-tools

– Common RGB colors and textures can be shared across scenes through node groups if they re-occur. They are then easily changeable and easy to add to any new scene when needed.

07-07-node-groups

This means I’m starting the process of revision. I’ll be looking through the video, fix bugs, holes, glitches and send it around for feedback on the timing, sound and animations. Loooking forward to show this project, nice, clean and polished.

Revamping GNOME’s default avatars

One day while hanging around at the #gnome-design IRC channel, Allan Day made me aware of the fact that default avatars in GNOME could use a revamp. Sounded like a nice adventure, so I began following an exciting yet challenging path, aiming to find the treasure that is good avatar conceptual design.

my-login
A typical example of a context which these default avatars would appear in.

First step for the conceptual design was to define an avatar’s purpose based on the context which the avatar(s) would appear in (see figure above). My main thoughts were that:

  • An avatar should be unique to each user, to make the user distinguishable from other users on the system.
  • The avatar is the only colorful asset on the grey background.
  • The default avatar should be formal and personal at the same time, to fit on everything from your laptop at home to your workstation at work.

After some experimentation and a bit of discussion on #gnome-design, I came up with the idea of utilizing the great symbolic footer-art seen in GNOME on the web, to create a default set of avatars that could meet these criteria. The avatars’ personal yet simple and clean look makes for a nice balance to fit in both personal and formal contexts in my opinion. The picture below displays the majority of the avatar motives (colors not final). More information can be found on the design page for avatars.

system-avatars-example
More avatars can be found at the design page for GNOME avatars.

Based on this, Allan Day came up with a design of an avatar chooser (it rocks!). The picture below is one out of six interfaces which the avatar chooser consists of.

avatar-chooser
Source: /gnome-design-team/gnome-mockups/avatar-chooser/ by Allan Day

Next up I’ll be focusing on the default avatars for Empathy, which for now will follow a more ‘generated’ approach. However, most of my time still goes towards the documentation video. More on that in a future blog post of mine.

Hello Planet

I’m Bastian Ilsø, nice to meet you. I am a 2nd semester Medialogy student who use and participate in GNOME. You can mostly find me as “bastianilso” on #engagement and on #gnome-design at GimpNet IRC.

a-picture-of-me
Picture of me by Jakub Steiner. Scribus, AAU, Blender, Gimp, WordPress and Linux logos are used for identification only.

My most visible contribution so far has been the GNOME 3.12 release video. Since then, I have decided that promotional videos is something I want to continue doing and I currently have one in the works.

This blog is mostly going to be about GNOME. The GNOME project is awesome. It opens a door for me to get behind the scenes and learn. However, much of what I learn and blog about can also be applied in a wider context.

I’m definitely looking forward to meet the rest of the planet at GUADEC 2014. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your daily reading at Planet GNOME as much as I do!

Testing Grounds

Title: Promotional Video about GNOMEs Documentation
Started: April 21st 2014
Deadline: July 26th 2014
Status: voice-over done, recording video material, brainstorming animations.

status-visualized.

The GNOME Documentation Video marks my 2nd video for GNOME and I expect it to be finished before GUADEC. Currently, I am writing down notes, sketching ideas and recording some video. The picture below is my current timeline in Blender’s VSE (red are video recording notes, blue are animation notes).

Status-May-25th

Having notes in the timeline is super flexible for me because I like to work a little bit on everything and revising the design over and over. I expect to have 5-6 layers of material, starting from audio, notes and sketches, to video-recorded material/animations and finally transitions and sound effects.

This time I am spending more time tinkering with various workflows, exploring Blender’s various capabilities and finding the best way I can use the tools I have available. Concretely this means that I am moving much of the work previously done in the compositor into 3D space (cycles) or the VSE. My aim with this is to utilize blender’s real-time rendering as much as possible, so I don’t have to pre-render parts of the video when I make changes. I am also taking Jakub Steiner’s advice and trying to keep everything within one file which I am trying to keep tidy.

Thanks to Karen Sandler who provided me with a great voice-over. It is super motivating to work on a video like this when you have a high-quality crisp voice to work with. Looking forward to be showing off some initial work soon.

GNOME Docs Exposure

Talking with kittykat on IRC, made me realize that there might be a need to give the GNOME Documentation more exposure than it currently has. From what I have read on the internet, there haven’t been any comment or feedback on the documentation and I think that is a shame.

It kinda makes sense why there hasn’t to me though. What do you think when you hear “Digital Documentation”? This is what comes to mind for me:
engaging-user-in-our-docs-w98-mainhelp
Source: DREW University, Introduction to Windows 98

Good old Windows 98. Every time I opened Windows Help, I sure never did find what I was looking for. It has essentially lowered my expectations for getting offline help at all (whether this is true for anyone else is beyond my knowledge though). Which is quite problematic, because just look at that GNOME Help. It’s a true beauty and we have a whole docs team working hard on it.
engaging-user-in-our-docs-gnome-help

How can we help it?

I see two things that can be done here. First of all, I think it is important that the apps which the documentation team writes documentation for, need to show their gratitude once in a while. When a user is praising an app he is praising the whole experience, including the work that GNOME Design has done and what the Docs team has done and any libraries that may lay ground for the apps existence. Saying thanks can be easy to forget, but hopefully we can help each other remember.

Now, the second way we can improve the visibility of our documentation I think, could be through communication performed by GNOME Engagement. It could be an article published on the GNOME frontpage and spread through social media, centering on Help as a tool for users to discover how to use GNOME. More ambitiously, it could be a minute-long video with a visualising the role of Help as a component in the gnomiverse, and how you can use it as a tool to get started with a new app. Again, the video should be promoted through social media to ensure that it reaches some users.

Sounds like I should go back to the drawing table now and look into opportunities for this. Feedback and comments are welcome!