A full circle

img_0851.jpgIn 2007 I bumped into this free and open source 3D animation software Blender. It was one of my colleague Malathy Baru who told me about this since I was an animator. I did download and install, however I gave up very soon owing to a bizarre looking interface which was not allowing me to interact properly.  Worst was the object selection which is ‘right click’ in Blender, instead of the conventional practice of left click.

In 2008-2009 three passionate students (Karan Mulchandani, Priyam Mukhopadhyay, and Gokul Menon) came to me. They wanted to do  their undergraduate project in animation with me. I wanted to work in Blender, however did not have enough interest since I was alone. I challenged the students to learn basics of Blender in a weeks time and then come to me. To my surprise they did and as promised I had to guide their undergraduate project.

img_0845.jpgWe decided will explore Blender since it was looking interesting now. We did a project which conventionally would not have fit into the definition because we created a video  showing the scientific experiment of ammonia fountain. We also teamed up to create series of workshops to teach and popularise this wonderful software Blender.

Along with the initial set of three students and subsequent batches of students which kept on coming as a result of this first project we made it a practice to conduct workshops for Blender popularisation in colleges. Live just came in a full circle yesterday when two of my students conducted a full fledged Blender workshop for over 30 students at Raisoni University near Nagpur.

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The two students: Rohan Bang and Shubham Mundara used the videos available on the IIT Bombay X course. They added lots of hands on  on sessions for the benefit of the students.  The workshop was an instant hit and the students just loved the software.

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Rare opportunity!

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On 8th Nov, I had an excellent opportunity to share the podium along with none other than Padmashree Dr. Deepak Phatak. It was a webinar hosted by the Government of India as a prelude to the forthcoming global conference. The topic of the webinar was: accessible ICT, and Prof. Pathak had requested me to share my experience of interventions we had created recently in this domain.

I have presented to projects which I have work recently on. The first one is an animated tutor for learning Indian Sign Language (ISL) called as Fingerspelling. Five Summer intern students (Romeo, Tejas, Bhuvanesh, Suchismita, and Nitin who mentored them) worked relentlessly to create this useful intervention. Apart from the animation and the interactivity which goes in the creation of the application the students also visited a school where hearing and speech impaired students tested our product and found it useful. Please use the following links to know more about this app:

Online version | Downloadable version | Report

I also spoke about another interesting project I’m part of. It is a science popularisation and adoption initiative using ICT. We have chosen the pioneering work by Prof. Arvind Gupta (IUCAA, Pune). The team at Kintel Inc, led by Ashay Sahasrabudhe has created 50 videos using ISL. Jidnyasa Trust (Thane) has designed workshops for the faculty members of the special schools explaining the process of adopting these videos in the classrooms. Since, the final production is underway, I will provide the links soon.

Please share these projects with others so that they can access them.

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Birthday gift

img_9459.jpgWhen I first heard about Amazon Echo, I wasn’t sure of it’s usability and utility. However, it struck me, when I realised that Kaumudi’s birthday coincides with the release date of Echo in India, and I knew, it could be the best gift for her.

I placed the pre-order in Diwali, and was waiting for it to arrive for Nov 4th. Amazon didn’t disappoint at all, and the Echo was delivered right on 2nd Nov. I unpacked and set it up so that it was fully functional on 4th!IMG_9475

Now, some review: Echo is an amazing piece of technology, which gives a glimpse of what is coming up in future! It is a audio controlled device, where almost all settings can be controlled without moving from your seat! Just say ‘Alexa’, and the lights on the top  ring will start illuminating, and settle down, exactly in your direction! You then say the command, and Echo will immediately follow it. I am pleasantly surprised by the audio sensitivity of the microphones, and the lexicon for the India specific words.

We tried to test it by using words such as, ‘Geet Ramayan, Kishori Amonkar, and Bhajan’, and Echo doesn’t disappoint you! It DOES NOT support Indian language per se, however it can understand almost all Indian words. What amazed me was the pronunciation of Indian words, which is very natural as compared to many other auto readers such as Siri, Google, or Cortana.

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Kaumudi is still in the experimental mode adjusting with her new companion: Alexa, however, I can see that they will make a good pair!

Kaumudi just cannot think of working without a music track playing in the background, and Echo will provide it, without disturbing her hands, involved in creating the drawings! Happy Birthday Kaumudi!

 

Uncommon feat of a Common man: Dr Vilas Padhye

A year back, I got a call from my cousin, that a filmmaker needs to talk to me about a film on the topic of ‘Save the Tigers’. It turns out to be Dr. Vilas Padhye, a professor of psychology who is a passionate wildlife lover. He had written, and composed a song explaining a story of a tiger cub: Bobby. Dr. Padhye’s daughter and his son recorded this poem, and the impact was touching!

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We were quite sure to use animation as a visual medium, however the question was to get a team for this project, who can devote the kind of time it requires. I was a big fan of the awesome trio from Weybec Studios: Pratik SolankiNita Ravalji, and Niyal Parmar. I asked them, and they jumped in with equal amount of passion for the film! Apart from the important cause of the film, I was extremely happy for another reason.

The technology platform was decided as Blender. Thus, this film is probably the first Indian 3D animated music video created using Blender.

As an evangelist of this software, I am proud to invite you all to have a look at the finished product to be released soon!

The production was at a slow pace, however, the team was constantly working on perfecting every look, motion, and angle to provide the finesse. This passion for perfection is evident in the final product, and I am sure you all will agree with me, that this is one of the best animated videos produced in India, by Indians. I am happy to see that the project is ready for the launch now, and the look seems promising! Have a look at the trailor released this week, and keep yourself updated by visiting their site: www.letssavebobby.com, and also on their Facebook page.

As mentioned in the promo, it is indeed:

An initiative by a common man,
and his family, and friends, and friends’ friends,
and their friends, and more friends…

Let us be their friends, and join hands to make this message reach to billions!!