Incredible morphable facial model

I hate blogs where they post a single video clip and expect the viewer to just watch with little to no idea of what they’re about to watch. You’re just expected to give up a few minutes of your life by trusting that you have the same sense of humor or intrigue as the offer. I’m going to be better than 99% of the blogs out there and going to describe for you what you’ll be watching if you decide to click play on the video below.

A research lab in Germany has developed a software engine that, after taking 200 3D scans of human faces, can scan a single 2D picture or photograph, and will generate a very realistic 3D model which can be used to synthesize the movement of the face for speech or expression changes. It is remarkably realistic, and I can’t wait to see it’s application in movies and other moving mediums.

UPDATE (August 10, 2007): There have been advancements made to his software collection. Read about them here.

Esselfortium – A Terrible Flood: Great road trip tunes

Esselfortium - A Terrible FloodTruth be told, when I was approached by Michael Mancuso a.k.a Esselfortium to review his upcoming CD “A Terrible Flood”, with his description of it being “electronic; some downtempo, some drum’n’bass, some IDMish stuff, and some things in between”, I was apprehensive — no, not apprehensive — I was a bit nervous that I was going to be subjected to 60 minutes of the same FruityLoops drum line, with one or two synth lines layered over top; you know, the usual whenever someone on the internet produces “IDM”. Call it prejudiced, but I’ve spoken with probably 20 internet-based “IDM producers” and my God, it was all the exact same: they created one little line in some audio production program, called it a masterpiece, and decided to unleash the horrors upon my ears. Oh, and all this while refusing to take any criticisms about their so-called “art.”

As I contemplated listening to this album, I weighed the pros and cons of being able to hear for the next month. On one hand, I wouldn’t be able to hear my girlfriend; on the other, I wouldn’t be able to hear my girlfriend. [Editor’s Note: No, seriously Sarah, that’s just a joke. Calm down. OK, please put away the knife.] Throwing caution to the wind, I made the decision to queue up one song. If I wasn’t either deaf or filled with rage after listening to one song, I would fulfill his request and review the entire thing.

Completely at random (I closed my eyes, and pointed to one of the songs on my screen), “The Airport” was chosen as my sample track. Repetitive drum line? Nope. Annoying as hell synth line assaulting my ears? Nada. Rather catchy intro? Surprisingly, yes!

Maybe I won’t have to cry myself to sleep tonight, after all.

This breakbeat-laced song was incredibly pleasing, and almost had a video game feel, but held back just enough to not make me want to find my Super Nintendo and bust out my mad StarFox moves. (Thank God.) The only downfall of the entire song (and this is a very minor nitpick, which may in fact be fixed in the final version of the track1) is that the 50’s-based sound bytes that are sprinkled throughout seem to be drowned out by the bass drum at times, so it’s rather hard to hear everything they say. Otherwise, definite thumbs up!

The next song that I loaded into my media player was “Nälpordyh”, a quick 36 second interlude which brings to mind pictures of a very tranquil lake, early in the morning, as the sun is rising; sitting on the edge of the water, watching everything come alive as the day restarts. I should note for the attentive reader, that the title is actually “Hydroplän” in reverse which is fitting, as the entire song sounds as if it was being played backwards.

Directly following “Nälpordyh”, is “Kaianide”, another great melody layed over a very heavy breakbeat. As strange as it is to say, even with the most distorted synths (the good kind) on the entire album, for some reason it also feels like the most organic. I’m not sure if he intended it that way, but it just seems to be earthy; almost tribal in nature.

Getting closer to the end of the disc, “Urban Rainforest” has a great atmosphere to it; you can almost feel the rain falling down on you, as you contemplate why your girlfriend just told you she didn’t love you anymore. It’s emotional, and downtrodden, but curiously cleansing at the same time; quite a different song from the rest of the album — all of the other songs seem rather upbeat or if not upbeat, perhaps a bit aggressive — this one is unique in that it’s almost defeatist in nature.

All in all, while I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of my favorite albums of all time, considering I’ve never really listened to this kind of music before (in large quantities, anyways) I was quite impressed and will be adding it to my Zune. If you like melodies, breakbeats, emotion, or all 3, check this one out — you’ll be happy you spent the money.

Artist’s Website | [CD is still in post-production; no purchase link at the moment]

1 – The copy of the CD that I received as review material is still in post-production phase. As such, there may be a few differences between my copy and the final product.

What the hell am I doing?

This week has been bad. Scratch that. It’s been terrible. Between a very extensive project myself and another guy have been working on at work being essentially thrown in the garbage, and taking attitude from nearly everyone I know at some point or other, I just want to crawl into my bed, take a whole lot of drugs and forget that it ever happened.

You see, here at the bank, we’re trying to implement standardized processes within the IT department. Up until now, every technician could just do whatever he/she wanted whenever he/she wanted. There was no way to measure anyone’s effectiveness, and because of that, balls were being dropped left, right, centre, backwards, forwards, triangularly; you name the direction, chances are there was work not getting done.

Enter the new Vice President of IT. “We need to shape up!” he proclaimed, as those of us who had worked in IT outside of Bermuda cheered on. “Let’s get some metrics developed so we can determine who’s actually working, and who’s not!” We all thought that things were finally going to change; we thought things were going to be different.

That was 3 months ago.

Here we are, mid-February, 2007, and not only have we not made almost any progress, but in some respects, we’ve actually taken a few steps back. For example: before I even started, they had a 1 page document outlining the basic differences between Urgent, High, Medium, and Low priority tickets. Now that’s not to say anyone ever followed it, but nonetheless, it existed.

As part of this reorganization, I was put on a team with one other guy, to redesign these outlines; to essentially clarify and specify the exact differences between them, and to define when each of them should be used. We were asked for examples of the different severities (e.g. “main server on fire” would be classified as Urgent, “desktop wallpaper too pink” would be classified as Low), to research and utilize industry standards for the different time requirements (e.g. an Urgent ticket should be acknowledged to the client as being worked on within 15 minutes, and should be completely resolved within 4 hours).

We spent a good two weeks on this document, and after a number of revisions, we finally came up with a final copy that had dozens of examples for each severity, very clear and concise descriptions of the differences between them, and presented it all in a very easy to read spreadsheet. However, after presenting it to him in a meeting with a few other people, we got the impression that he didn’t like it. “Too fucking long,” he tells us. “I can’t fucking digest this, pare it down.” [Editor’s Note: Those are quotes, not exaggerations.]

You’re the goddamn Vice President of IT and 2 pages of documentation is too long? It was at this point that I started to get a bit nervous. This is an industry where some products have manuals that span multiple thousand page volumes, and 2 pages of information is to “too hard to digest”?

After taking out a bit of aggression on a pillow at home that night, I went to work the next day feeling confident that we could get it to his specifications. We had a ton of examples, so we decided the easiest course of action was to remove half of the examples. The ones we’d leave would still give a very clear image of what separated the priorities.

We submit it again, this time a full page lighter, and we are told once again that it’s “too fucking long.” On the back of our copy, he haphazardly draws out a table that was about the same size as a game of tic-tac-toe, and tells us that our next revision better fit within it, or he’ll do it himself.

So for those of you at home not keeping a running tally, let me recap thus far: we started out with a one page document which was jammed pack with information, yet too vague [scrapped], presented a 2 page first official version [scrapped], presented a 1 page revision [scrapped], and now we’re being told that the entirety of our severity ratings better be able to fit on a business card, or the entire IT department will be relying on someone who has apparently never worked in an IT department before to guide them. Are you kidding me?

We went back one last time, pared everything down one more time, being even more liberal in our cutting this time. We removed nearly all of the examples, we reworded every description point into short 3-5 word semi-sentences, and because more and more we were wondering if Mr. VP was in fact a pre-schooler trapped in a 55 year old’s body, we even color coded each different section.

As the guy I was working with has slightly more seniority than me, he presented the latest revision to Mr. Poop-in-a-potty by himself to prevent me taking any heat from it if things went wrong. Unfortunately, this guy has since gone to the Bahamas for the weekend, so I won’t know what happened until Monday. You’ll understand if I’m a bit apprehensive about the whole situation, and you will definitely understand if I don’t expect it to be approved.

I mean, how the hell are we supposed to do both the clarification of severities, which by definition requires more writing, yet bring down the total amount of writing? That, my friends, is the definition of an impossible request. You either bring up the amount of writing to get more and more specific (the right thing to do), or you cut information out so that your puny little wiener brain doesn’t have to think anymore (stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid….)

As you can probably imagine, I am none too happy about the situation, and have daily prayed to God or Buddha or Wile E. Coyote for one of those cartoon Acme anvils to drop out of the sky and compact him into a sheet of paper on the pavement.

A man can dream, can’t he?