Adobe always has awesome and powerful products and my hesitancy with it is more about their business model. Some time ago, Adobe went to the monthly fee price, and if you signed up for all of Adobe’s products in Canada, with the Cyber Monday deal that knocks a bunch off the cost, it is still $40 US a month, or about $52 a month/$600 a year. That’s pretty freakin’ steep. Now, maybe that doesn’t seem fair, because that’s ALL of Adobe together. Except here’s the kicker…while LightRoom and Photoshop are uber powerful, they are way more complexity than I want for my simple photography needs. InDesign for page layout might be nice, but again, overkill. Illustrator would be a nice-to-have as would Premiere for video editing. Even Acrobat Pro would come in handy from time to time. I could probably find a use for Spark, InDesign, and Audition too.
But none of them are “must-haves”, not like MS Office for instance. If Adobe dropped it to $100 a year, I’d say sign me up. At $600 a year? Yeah, no.
But I can license them separately if I find one I like, and Adobe has three products on my list — Flash, After Effects and Character Animator. While lots of people still use Flash even in 2020, it’s being phased out for website use and not generally recommended much anymore, so easily dropped.
AfterEffects is more about motion graphics in general, so not really what I want either.
Which leaves Character Animator.
1. Character Animator ($$$$$)
I downloaded ACA with their free 7 day trial and it seemed pretty powerful at first. It has some stock “puppets” to work with, including some anamorphic characters (monsters, etc.) and humans (man, woman, ninja). So some good stock characters.
I did a couple of tutorials and the interface is not particularly compelling for me. One of the features, quite common I know, is that you can use your own webcam and microphone to animate the character. So, for example, if I move my head side to side, or bob around, the characters head moves too. Equally, I can record my voice over the character and it will (in theory) lip sync to my words. Not very accurately, but a pseudo replica of my movements.
Which is okay, but not compelling to me. I closed out, checked some stuff back in email, did a couple more things, and went to go back to it. It wouldn’t load. Total crash. Okay, shut down, reboot? Nope, won’t load. I’m not sold on it, and it is more expensive than most because of the subscription model, so I’ll just uninstall it.
Nope. It insists on loading the Creative Cloud tool (CC) first, and it keeps hanging. The help page says reinstall. Why would I reinstall just to uninstall? Sigh. I eventually had to download ANOTHER uninstaller to get the first uninstaller to work. Nice.
And to be honest, this is one of the things I hate most about Adobe products. When I’ve used their Lightroom, for example, it didn’t just help me manage my files, it started doing a whole bunch of changes to folders and subfolders and meta data so that nothing else would be able to manage it either. That’s not an option I accept, particularly when I have other tools with better interfaces for some functions.
Okay, all of Adobe is definitely off the table. Too bad.
I’m looking for some simple but decent animation software and I have a curated list of 41 to consider.
7. Autodesk Maya ($$$$$)
One technique to finding stuff that is a bit higher-quality is to look at courses that people teach on the various learning platforms. One of the “popular ones” is called Autodesk Maya, and it is both big and powerful. There are lots of professional training options out there. Why? Because the software is expensive — $1215 a YEAR on sale — and people who have that kind of cash are likely in the business and either them or their work will pay for the training. I’m willing to pay for an animation package, sure, but not that much. Pass.
32. Synfig ($$$$$)
Synfig Studio is donation-ware, so I can try it out for free. I actually don’t care if the software is free, I am willing to pay if it does what I want and reduces my pain overhead. The software advertises that it has vector tweening (transformation in steps), layers and filters, and bones (skeleton overlaps to your artwork so you can make something move). I don’t know what I’ll need yet, but I’m willing to try it.
I was able to follow a basic tutorial to create a “Knight Rider” / Cylon look to a moving red circle on a black rectangle as the background and I created a robot image with clip art but added flashing lights.
Relatively straightforward, i managed to make it work. But perhaps a little more movement oriented and less stock art than I want. It was supposed to come with a bunch of examples, but if it did, I couldn’t find them.
I’ve wanted the ability to create some basic animation for a project I have in mind. It isn’t revolutionary, more fun, I just would really like to be able to do some animated images, etc. The closest I could describe it is somewhere between a comic book and a comic strip. Perhaps adding a third area for a meme where this would sit between all three points or at the centre of a tri-part Venn diagram. 🙂 And since I recently upgraded my home computer for a COVID world, I’m good to go!
I’ve had it on my mind for awhile. Way back when Jacob was in kindergarten, one of his teachers was married to a professional animator. I thought, “What a perfect person to ask!” If someone wanted to do basic animation at home, wasn’t a drawing superstar couldn’t draw at all, and wanted to use potentially stock characters to create some simple animated posters for example, or potentially at some point, some short animated videos in 2D, what would be a good beginner software to play with? He didn’t have a suggestion.
Which seems weird to me. If you ask photographers what to use for their processing or file management, they’ll tell you “experts use…” and “beginners use…” or “there are some free ones like …”. Ask coders, stats, business, writers, etc. a similar question, and you get a full litany. They often have VERY definite views about software options to work in. To the point where it’s like confronting a bear suddenly…back away slowly, don’t show fear, don’t run.
But I don’t see that with animators. I’ve even asked in Reddit channels, and got no take-up. If you ask a more specific question like “what can I do on a tablet”, they’ll tell you apps, but not ones that say what you can do for x or y. Not universally, of course, but often enough that I feel like I’m asking something weird, like “If I wanted to go to the moon, which car would I buy?”.
To be honest, I’m basically looking for the animation equivalent of clip art. A step up, a little more complicated, but I’m not talking advanced animation. And so, because I want to work on this in the new year, I’m doing a deeper search for animation software. Heck, maybe even something on sale for Black Friday weekend. Let’s see what I find.
41 programs to try
If that sounds like a lot of programs to try, well, it is. But I’m not against learning as I go and trying things out.
Adobe Character Animator
Animate CC (Formerly Flash)
Aurora 3D Animation Maker
Crazy Talk Animator 3 / Cartoon Animator 4
DigiCel FlipBook (note that the free version includes watermark)
I have this meme that I saw a number of years ago. I forget the exact wording, but it is something like “I try to be a warm, caring, relaxed human being, comfortable in my surroundings and at peace with the world. Except for spiders, DEATH TO SPIDERS!”. What I really like about it, other than the spider deaths, is the idea that no matter how “at one” you are with the universe, some things are likely to piss you off. For me, it was a number of things today that didn’t exactly piss me off, but they affected me enough to respond aggressively when normally I wouldn’t.
This will take a bit of vague wording to protect certain identities, but someone had pushed to be part of something that’s going on at work. We didn’t have an option for it, I found an alternative for her with someone else who was kind of doing us a favour and helping her at the same time, all good. A “success”, or so I thought. It didn’t turn out the way she expected or thought at least it should. So, early today, she went back criticizing the group that helped her, they didn’t do this or that, it should have obviously been this way or that, yada yada yada. And on a good day, I like to think that I will try to see the other person’s situation, accept that I don’t know all that is going on, blah blah blah. Which I can do okay, right up until that person decides that their problem is now someone else’s problem and it’s an excuse to be a jackass.
That I’m not okay with. That’s the mark of a bully. And I am perfectly okay treating bullies like the f***ing wastes of skin that they are, and I sometimes have no off switch for that…I will go 0 to nuclear and may not stop until the person is radioactive dust. 99% of the time I can keep my temper in check, but the 1% where I might lose it? It is almost always dealing with someone who is wielding power badly because they feel like it. So, today I started to write a strong reply, could deal with it that way, and instead I decided to go evil. I don’t do it often, I find it offensive and manipulative, but I chose to send them a sh** sandwich.
If you don’t know what a sh** sandwich is, it basically is an extremely passive aggressive email or letter that gives the other person NO room to go anywhere in their response because you are being TOTALLY FRIENDLY in your tone while feeding them the sh** sandwich that they pretty much have no option but to swallow and say thank you. I had lots of smiley faces and well wishes for a great afternoon, and offers to help them out in any of the three options I could offer, all of which would require them to swallow some sh** to accept. They know what you’re really saying, but if they try to call you on it, they just end up looking like a turd. It is the complete opposite of transparency or even civil discourse. As expected, they chose the option that they absolutely didn’t want to agree to but was the one that would make them look the least ridiculous.
I haven’t used that technique in almost 12 years because I find it offensive. I don’t mean offensive in the sense of its use is offending to people, I mean that relying on it is an offense to integrity. It violates almost every principle I have in dealing with people except one — dealing with people who are bullies. Now, I know this person has issues. Or to quote a recent meme, they may even have the whole subscription. Doesn’t matter. Someone did them a favour, they didn’t quite understand how it worked, got ticked off with the result, and basically dumped it back to the person like a steaming pile of turd. I played patty cake with a disposable shovel, made it look pretty, and served it back to them. Problem solved. Moved on.
Later today, a close friend posted something that I find a really stupid meme for someone of any knowledge of business and economics about how evil Amazon supposedly is. Most of the people who comment on Amazon are full of sh**, and I don’t care. Certain people love the “buy local” mantra, and think it explains capitalism in some way, virtue checks in another, and because I know why they think that, it doesn’t bother me. Educating them won’t help. It’s the same with Walmart. Or Costco. Or any of the disrupting chains. Anyway, I decided to engage, and when they doubled down even further, I gave a rant with a lot more context than I would normally. I normally smile and ignore it, but I tend to speak my truths with friends, and stupid attempts to badly explain economics or business rankle me.
And finally, I got really annoyed tonight at three companies just doing business badly, and it has nothing really to do with COVID.
First and foremost is a company that makes one of the plugins I use. They’ve had a problem that has plagued members / users for months, and despite the fact that we pay for support, paid members haven’t got any more support than free users. Which is nada. They have not figured out what the problem is. Nor how to fix it. Which was fine. Except 3 months ago, I FIGURED IT OUT, or at least figured out where the bug is. Kind of like a diagnostic for a car…it might be 20 different problems, but if you can narrow it down to the carburetor, you know there are limited ways to fix the limited ways it can be causing the problem. So I messaged them when it stopped working after an update this week. Nicely, but more or less, “WTF?”. I am way far away from ever using a sh** sandwich with them, but I opened the ticket, lowered previous ratings for their performance feedback, and got their attention quickly. Only to find out they have no solution. They haven’t for over six months. Even 3m after I found the bug. At first, I thought it was a different problem. So I repeated the steps I had done before, and voila, it solved it again. It’s a simple ordering problem. If you run plugin 1 and plugin 2, everything works. If you update plugin 2, it stops. If you disable plugin 1, rerun #2, reactivate plugin 1, it all works again. I told them that 3m ago, I’m 95% positive it is a simple file permission problem, but they don’t know how to fix it. Why am I paying for tech support when I have to resolve conflicts that are hurting hundreds if not thousands of users? (The big plugin has over 800K+ users!). I felt like a crankypants complaining, but come on, if *I* can solve it with my limited skills and knowledge, surely they could have done it months ago? And don’t call them Shirley!
Secondly, I was cleaning up an email folder I call “Financial – Pending” and generally it is stuff that I have ordered. When it arrives, I will sometimes but not always move the email confirmation to another folder for Financial – Done. A digital archive folder. But until I confirm I have them, I don’t move them. I don’t always do it right away though, so every few weeks, I go through and tidy up. This time through, I realized it has been a whole month since I followed up on a t-shirt order.
I’m a bit of a sucker for astronomy-related t-shirts, they just help me stay in touch with my hobby, and I ordered three back at the start of October as part of a sale that was on. One came in about 3 weeks. A cute little shirt I like that has a picture of an animated version of Pluto, and it says, “That’s OK Pluto. I’m not a planet either”. Two other ones didn’t arrive. I checked the tracking after 3 weeks and it was really weird. Supposedly one of the other 2 shirts was coming from the same place as the one I got from the US. I don’t know why it didn’t get bundled together, but what do I know? The other one was coming from somewhere in Europe and hadn’t been printed or shipped yet. It said on the website, it might take an extra 5 days or so, but if you haven’t received tracking info in 3 weeks, contact us. It was close to 4w so I reached out. They basically said, “Oops, sorry, COVID delivery delays”. It didn’t look like it was a COVID delay in the normal sense, one of them hadn’t even been printed out and the other came from a place in the US really fast — just by itself, no friend in tow.
It is now a month later, so I checked all the shipping again. Well, it SAYS they both have shipped. One supposedly even arrived in Canada a month ago. Then? Radio silence. The other is just confused. Soooo, I followed up again. They replied and said, “COVID delays”. I replied and said, “Umm, no, you said that a month ago. It is now 2m from when I ordered.” Their reply came back from the tier 2 people, or at least a T2 sounding position, to say, “Actually, looking at your tracking now, it appears your shirts have been lost in transit”. Really? Cuz I’m pretty sure I have one of them. Their solution was to file a claim. Which I did. For the two missing shirts, which they can reprint for me, probably. No rush, just want them eventually. And I got my claim receipt. They are reprinting all 3? WTF? I wrote back, they said, “Yeah, it’s with claims now, all good.” I give up on correcting them. Maybe I’ll get another shirt out of it.
Finally, tonight, something I ordered yesterday for a Xmas present sent me the receipt overnight. A smallish company in the US. The address I put in, the info I confirmed, is NOT what it says on the invoice. On the invoice, it lists my country as US, instead of Canada. Minor, but I just wanted to confirm it would come to Canada — the province info is there, we have a different postal code, it is very clearly NOT an American address. So I followed up with them to say, “Will it be okay?” and their response was the typical “Send them to the website T1 response”. Except that wasn’t my question. They told me how to go in and change my address, which was NOT what I wanted to do. It was RIGHT in the system where I needed to put in info, it was NOT right on their invoice. So I replied, gave them a low rating on their performance feedback indicator (some places that really matters), pointed out that was NOT my question, and instantly I got a much different response. She went in and edited the invoice address, it hadn’t shipped yet (supposedly) and it was all good, with a confirmation to me. Okay, I’ll count that one as done.
Normally on all of those things I am more measured. Today I was more inclined to not hold back. I didn’t do it because I was tired or anything, or upset, or whatever. I did it because it felt appropriate today. Some of that is residual COVID dampenings, some of that is just age, some of it is just I get tired of being a doormat sometimes even if I think I’m trying to be nice. If the old Shiva inside shows through PolyWogg from time to time, I’m okay with that…one of my favorite phrases from my high school days came back to me today…The clean phrase was “take a flyer”; the NSFW version was to “take a flying f*** on a rolling doughnut”. Poetry it wasn’t.
Today I chose to be a cranky-pants. Maybe when I’m older I shall wear purple too.
Most of the time, clearing snow wouldn’t be a choice. If you have a car, and you have a driveway, and you live in Canada, that snow has to be cleared somehow, right? Lots of people opt for the $250-$600 a year options for a company to hopefully come clear your driveway. A friend has an option for a guy with a plow on his pickup, small operation, $250 a year. Except it scrapes the driveway and mine ain’t necessarily perfectly smooth. That might not end well. Another guy I know is paying close to $600 but he’s farther out, with a longer drive.
I have a small driveway. And a snowblower. Normally that’s a good combo, or at least good enough. The variables tonight were not particularly in my favour:
It’s the first time this year clearing the snow. Which means I haven’t dug out the electrical cord to start it, some other stuff was kind of blocking in the snowblower, my garage is a disaster, etc. I was not “snow-ready” for clearing, okay? 🙂 Heck, the tires on the snowblower aren’t even fully inflated, although it did give me a bit more traction, so not a total hardship.
It was not, in fact, the first snowfall…that happened a couple of days ago, I was really busy and no need to go out, so I didn’t clear it. That is ALWAYS a recipe for future pain. The snow and rain today meant the end of the driveway was a bunch of hard packed wet crap that was really hard to dig into and clear. Every time I fail to clear on Day 1, it pretty much ends badly. But I was busy and lazy, never a good combo.
My garage is in disarray so that means my car is not in the garage, it’s in the driveway. Ergo, I have to clear it off too; ergo, I also have to clear around it so that I can back it out; ergo, I can’t do a very efficient back and forth clearing of the whole driveway in one go because I have to alter my patterns. Combined with the fact I needed to clear the end first that was frozen, and I had to spend a LOT of time working at areas that I normally wouldn’t do all at once (easier to do about 8-inches of the end with a glancing/passing tranche of the snowblower).
I am feeling really out of shape. I’ve been a couch potato for six months 52 years and it really showed tonight. Because of the frozen bits, plus getting setup, it took me almost an hour to do a small driveway, with a lot of pushing and wiggling it to get it to “bite” into the snow chunks. I crushed some with my feet, some with an ice chopper, some with the snowblower. But using the snowblower is not completely “exercise-free”. I stopped at the 20m and 40m marks just for a breather, plus I wish it was about six inches taller for the handles, my back is not a big fan of the height. I thought I was fine afterwards, tired but fine, and then my BP jacked for a bit and I had to lie down. “When I regained consciousness…”(*) two hours later, I had missed dinner. I felt fine, but clearing snow with a snowblower wiped me out for 2 hours? Greaaaaat.
* As an aside, that referenced phrase is from Dave Broadfoot from his Sergeant Renfrew character on the Royal Canadian Air Farce. I included TWO references to that in my Canadian trivia for work today and the players were NOT pleased. I thought their disdain was hilarious. I’ll write about it more in a later post.
The ironic thing about not clearing until tonight was that Andrea originally had an appointment this afternoon. For some reason, it wasn’t showing in either of my online or work calendars the way it normally would, and so I didn’t know about it at all. And I was thinking I would clear this morning before work. Hah! I wouldn’t have got very far, it would have been even more frozen then. I’m better organized for the next fall, and if it doesn’t happen for a week, I should have the car out of the way at least. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, Andrea had to cancel her appointment for her own reasons, so I was off the early-morning hook.
And yet…with the fact that I’m not going anywhere, nor having to take Andrea anywhere today, it was actually a “choice” to clear the snow or not. That is not a good recipe for maintaining healthy attitudes towards winter, but if we’re not going out, why clear? Because if I don’t clear, then we CAN’T go out. I know, I know. Just tell my body that at 8:00 a.m. some morning when I have to go out and clear the snow before work, on a day when I’m not commuting ANYWHERE. ‘Tis a crazy year.