Make your own TV channel

Make your own TV channel

Educational Youtube-style projects are quickly becoming a popular way to incorporate creative technologies into curricular and extra-curricular activities, and it’s easier than you may think to set up your own channel. 

There are many companies offering schools the equipment, platforms and training required to create a multimedia broadcasting station that allows users to upload content for viewing and rating by students and teachers. Sites are completely customisable to each school, from the colours and branding to security levels so that only those with a valid username and password have access.

One school using this technology to great effect is Wildern School in Southampton. Katie Broadribb, a teacher at Wildern, spoke at BETT about how the school was looking for a way in which they could develop an innovative project they called ‘EduTube’ – a safe and secure website where the students could upload video, audio and photography to share with fellow students. Wildern were winners of the Becta Best Whole School (Secondary) award in 2007, and had received funding from DCSF’s Innovation Unit to develop this idea as part of a project to bring web 2.0 technologies to schools.

Displaying students’ creative talents

Wildern School enlisted the help of Trilby Multimedia’s ‘Trilby TV’ platform and, in 2007, set up Wildern TV. The site acts as a platform for the students to display their creative talents and also helps to develop students’ (and teachers’) understanding of ICT, media skills, team work and real world issues encountered in the creative industries, such as copyright and funding.

Trilby TV is a fully managed system; the Trilby team take care of any hardware or software issues. When it comes to website content and moderation, the school has the freedom to decide on the best approach. Wildern School decided that Wildern TV was to be a site for the students by the students, and so set up an extra-curricular group called ‘The Wildern Moderators’ who decided what could or could not be uploaded.  Training was given to the moderators by local production companies and regional TV & Radio stations. The students also formed a separate extra-curricular group called ‘The Wildern Producers’, who were all given training in production, lighting, editing and sound.

Engaging students

Since setting up Wildern TV, the school has reported high levels of student engagement and it is even capturing the imagination of disruptive students. It is a platform that anyone in the school can contribute to and its popularity amongst the students means that new content is constantly being submitted.

If you do decide to invest in equipment to set up your own channel, it is important not to leave your teachers in the dark about how to use it. Get everyone involved, from all faculties, and show them how your TV channel can benefit their department. At Wildern School, the students were given a (probably well deserved) inset day, whilst the teachers were split into their subject faculties and set the task of making a film about their own department. This not only taught the teachers how to use the technology, but also demonstrated how fun it can be to make a film; the teachers could now relate to the students’ enthusiasm for multimedia-based projects.

Wildern TV has just reached the end of its first full year of broadcasting and, to celebrate, the school held their very own ‘Wildern Oscars’, a full-on glitzy award ceremony honouring the best films that had been submitted over the course of the year. This could be the start of a great annual tradition at the school and has been well received by the students. With the new incentive to work towards next year’s awards, the standard of film making can only get better.

If you are interested in introducing a project like this to your school, all you need is a dedicated server to run the unique web platform software and store uploaded footage, a suite of powerful machines suitable for video and audio work, and students with a streak of creative flair. If you want to add that little bit extra, why not also look at displaying some plasma screens around your school so that your TV channel can be broadcast throughout the day for all to see? The Apple Macbook and iMac are ideal for producing high quality content in schools. They come pre-installed with Apple’s acclaimed iLife suite, which makes the Mac a movie-making, audio-producing, photo-editing, website-creating, DVD-authoring machine straight out of the box.

To find about more about how to set up your own TV channel, give us a call on 03332 409 333 or email us at learning@Jigsaw24.comFor more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.

Bringing Rendering In-house: The Basic Options

Bringing Rendering In-house: The Basic Options

The most obvious option is to cut out the middle man and build your own dedicated render farm. However, if your performance requirements don’t trump any misgivings you may have about the cost of a dedicated farm, it’s not the only option you have…

A number of render management applications don’t necessarily require dedicated hardware for their render nodes. When a rendering job is submitted these applications can also allow you to utilise the power of your existing workstations and servers, particularly when they’re not busy. This is a great compromise.

Distributed rendering on the computers you already have also helps counter a group of related arguments that are often raised against having an in-house render farm (other than the initial cost) – that a typical office, which is home to, say, 30 workstations, is busy enough already. Or perhaps the server rack is close to being fully populated, so there’s nowhere to put a slew of new hardware.

A great roadmap towards a dedicated render farm


Of course, there is nothing to stop you from combining both options. A distributed render farm, based on the computer resources you already have, is an excellent way to start to enjoy the benefits of in-house rendering – the speed, flexibility and cost savings that you’ll accrue – and as time passes you can begin to invest in dedicated render nodes, adding them as you need them, or as the budget becomes available. Who knows? You could even end up generating income by offering rendering services yourself!

In other words, there is nothing to stop you from gradually creating a hybrid system for rendering. Later, you can even invest the money that you’ve saved by rendering in-house in dedicated rendering hardware.

Adding dedicated rendering hardware makes your facilities ever more efficient and quick to turn work around, all of which clearly helps give you a more competitive commercial and creative edge.

Render farm management software

So, there’s software available that manages not only the jobs being submitted but also the servers and workstations on which they’re being rendered.

Client software can be installed on any workstation to make it act as a render node. It gets better though – more advanced render management software, such as Qube!, can even schedule the times when a particular workstation is to act as a render-node.

The productivity of your artists and designers is never compromised.

The benefits of in-house rendering


  • The rendering process is fully integrated into your workflow, making life easier.
  • The time from submission of the job to its completed return should be much shorter, giving you an edge.
  • You can be much more flexible about submitting and changing jobs.
  • The initial investment needn’t break the bank.
  • It’s easy to scale rendering performance upwards as your needs grow.

There is a clear roadmap all the way up to a dedicated rendering resource without having to discard any hardware or migrate to a new rendering method.

Call our team on 03332 409 309. Email us at 3D@Jigsaw24.com. Visit us at Jigsaw24.com.

Bringing Rendering In-House: Further Expansion – a Dedicated Resource

Bringing Rendering In-House: Further Expansion – a Dedicated Resource

As we have already said, many people exploit “quiet time” on their workstations for rendering; they submit frames for rendering either out-of-hours or opportunistically, and this is a great, cost-effective option. However, there are other factors, such as rendering performance, which mean a dedicated render farm may work best:

  • Artists are more creative – When scheduled rendering is not an option (maybe because of tight deadlines and the need to keep the creative process moving) a dedicated render farm won’t draw on the workstations’ processing power or RAM, leaving applications snappy and responsive.
  • Extreme rendering performance – A dedicated render farm is optimised for fast rendering, so the completed job is returned as quickly as possible.
  • Accommodate new projects with ease – The rack-mounted hardware used in dedicated render farms is fully scalable, so if you start a new project you can “scale out” your render farm by adding new render nodes. In an emergency you can also pull in some workstations as additional nodes.
  • Low profile but maximum processor density – There are hardware options that offer thousands of cores per rack, meaning only around two feet by four feet of expensive floor space for a powerful render farm.
  • Protected by server room facilities – Most dedicated render farms can be located alongside other computing facilities and tend to enjoy the protection and security of uninterrupted power, cooling, industrial grade power feed, and restricted physical access. In other words, maximum uptime.
  • Workstations – Regardless of which platform you’ve chosen, whether it be Boxx workstations or Mac Pros, and whether they’re optimised for professional 3D animation or games development and visualisation, a render farm can be assembled to match.
  • Ethernet switches – Connecting the render farm to your workstations, we can recommend options for high performance or close integration with your existing network infrastructure. Gigabit Ethernet is the most common choice today, although 10 Gigabit is available. Leading brands include Cisco, Juniper, HP ProCurve and 3COM.
  • Render nodes – Using rack mounted blade servers it’s straight forward to build a hugely powerful farm. Great choices here include the Boxx RenderBOXX 10200 system or a bespoke HP C-class Blade system.
  • Storage networking – It’s important to identify the right technology for shared back-end storage. The best option for you will depend on your exact workflow. These options include iSCSI, Fibre Channel, FCoE, InfiniBand, and simple NAS over Ethernet. Each has its specific pros and cons that we can cover.
  • Storage – There are some fantastic options for storage. For example, the Isilon IQ series scales performance right up to 20Gb/sec with 3.45TB of shared storage. Even if the numbers are not your thing, the simplicity of management is compelling. For example, more storage can be added, as you need it, without downtime.

The table below shows some examples of the amount of storage that you may require:

10 minute long footage (14400 frames total, 3 passes) = 43200 images

Resolution       Open Exr File size     Total size of project files

1920 x 1080     30MB (per image)       1296000MB
1280 x 720       14MB (per image)

604800MB
640 x 480          5MB (per image)         216000MB

rendering workflow diagram

Points for Diagram:

A)  An artist clicks the render option in his 3D application and is immediately free to continue with his design work. The job passes to the Supervisor node of the render farm.

B)  The supervisor node breaks the animated sequence into frames and allocates them to specific render nodes.

C)  The render nodes pull files they require from high-speed shared storage and process the frames.

D)  Now complete, the rendered sequence is pulled together and made available to the artist.

Call our team on 03332 409 309. Email us at 3D@Jigsaw24.com. Visit us at Jigsaw24.com.

RS control standards explained

RS control standards explained

What are they? What do they do? What are they for? All three are forms of electronic equipment control communications. They are usually connected via 9 pin “D” connectors although RS-232 can also be found on 3 pin audio type mini jack connectors. Note, any form of electronic path needs 2 wires to complete a circuit.

RS-232

This is, in its basic form, a 3 wire system. The signal wires are Transmit (TX) Receive (RX) and ground (screen, earth or common are other terms used).

The ground is the common return path for both TX and RX. There are other signals that can be connected on the “D” connectors. Unfortunately there seems to be as many different RS-232 standards as there are manufacturers of equipment!

This is an unbalanced system and maximum cable length allowed varies but is no more than 50 ft. It is the most common of the three standards.

RS-422

This is a balanced 5 wire system version of RS-232. The signal wires are TX+, TX-, RX+, RX-. The ground connection plays no part in the signal path. The maximum cable length is 4000 ft.

This system is widely used in broadcasting to connect VCRs, vision mixers, non linear editing systems, transmission management systems etc.

RS-485

This is a modified version of RS-422 and allows multi-point control of equipment with the cables looping in and out of each item of equipment. A unique control code is allotted to each item of equipment. This system reduces cable costs.

To find out more, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com.

An industry view: The true benefits of Revit Architecture

An industry view: The true benefits of Revit Architecture

Introducing Autodesk Revit to your workflow might seem like a lot of hard work, but after the initial learning period you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it; its intuitive approach to building design will improve your efficiency and turnover, and you’ll get the results you want with far less effort. Here, we look at a couple of the key benefits.

Scheduling

Revit allows the collation of building objects and entities within a model (such as doors, walls, and windows) to be dynamic, instantly updated and intelligently managed. Creating schedules of objects, materials and areas is one of most time-consuming and painful processes during tendering and construction. It also leaves a large margin for error and means any changes that are required take a long time and often result in starting work again!

In Revit, all elements hold editable physical properties such as materials, dimensions, internal/external locations, etc. This is what sets Revit apart from other CAD programs; because the schedule is linked to geometric model objects, you can use it to locate and change object types and properties. It doesn’t matter in which view you change or add an object; it is automatically updated in all views, allowing you more time to do what you do best – designing!

When you create a new schedule, you can select and format a number of varied options; this lets you organise, filter and define the data to display within the schedule. The schedule is then instantly created in a clearly formatted spreadsheet, including text and numerical values. The image below shows an example of a door schedule in a project. As you can see from the two views, when a door type is selected in the schedule it is highlighted in red on the plan. This is helpful when you have a large project and it is easy to lose a door’s location!

industry view 1

Drawing/sheet set-ups

The fantastic thing when you work in Revit is that some of your views are being created as a by-product of the design itself. For example, when drawing in plan view your elevations are parametrically created at the same time to reflect exactly what is being drawn. This includes all windows, doors and elements inserted. This saves a lot of time in contrast to traditional CAD methods, where elevations will need to be created from scratch and transferred from the plan views.

The same can be said for section views. By simply using the section tool you can select the location, orientation and extents of a section view. Revit will automatically process all objects that are cut through and all objects that may be seen within the view, ensuring nothing is missed (in contrast to traditional CAD methods). This is incredibly powerful, particularly when working within tight timeframes and with demanding design teams/sub-contractors. In real terms the benefits can be seen most clearly when working with, for example, a window manufacturer; he may require a section through a window that isn’t covered by your existing sheet sets. By using Revit’s section tool, you can create, publish and share this section within 10 minutes, whereas with traditional 2D CAD this could take up to half a day!

industry view 2

Call the CAD team on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@jigsaw24.com with any related questions – we’re always happy to advise.

Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Creating stereoscopic images in 3ds Max

Stereoscopic images have been around for years now and are an ever-popular aspect of visualisation and film, featuring in the recent box-office hit Beowulf.

Stereoscopic images are used to create 3D images that give the illusion of depth.

They work by filming the same point of focus from two points, two inches apart. Using traditional cinematography it can be really tricky to set up two cameras focused  on exactly the same point. However it can be done very simply in 3D applications such as 3ds Max 2008 and then imported into any scene.

We’ve come up with a quick workflow that illustrates how to set up cameras and helpers and add them to your scene to create stunning stereoscopic animations.

PLEASE NOTE:

This walkthrough will presume that you have an understanding of how to create basic objects, move and rotate them, and also how to navigate around the Create and Modify tabs in 3ds Max 2008+.

Firstly, we need to set up the correct unit scheme for our blank scene. To do this, select Customize->Unit Setup from the menu and set this to US Standard, Fractional Inches. It is easier to set this up now so when you place the cameras  they will be exactly 2 inches apart – you can always change back to your preferred unit setup.

positioning cameras in 3ds Max

The next step is to place our first target camera into the scene. For now it doesn’t matter where the target is pointing as we’re going to add helpers to control the camera later. Once the camera is in, select the Move tool and set the co-ordinates of the camera to 0,0,0. Then select the target and set the X to 60 and Y/Z to 0.

Select the camera again. This time we’re going to change the Y co-ordinate to 1. Now make a clone of that camera by pressing the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V which will give you a dialogue box asking you if you would like to create a Copy, Instance or Reference. In this case we want a copy. Then click ok. As we already have the new camera selected, change the Y co-ordinate to -1. You have now created two cameras that are 2 inches apart from each other.

Creating a stereo rig in 3ds Max

We’re now going to add the helper objects that will allow us to move and control the camera/target. This will make your life easier when trying to set up the camera view in your scenes.

What we want is to set up an object from which we can control the camera completely, while also keeping the cameras’ focus on the same point.

The best way to do this is to create a 3D spline that surrounds the cameras, which is easy to grab and manoeuvre.

Firstly, let’s draw a Circle Spline on the scene with a radius of 3 inches, and set the co-ordinates to 0,0,0 so that it sits around the two cameras.

circle splines in 3ds Max

Next, create an Instance of the spline by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V, and rotate it 90 degrees on the X-axis.

Repeat this process till you have made circles with the following co-ordinates:

1. 0,0,0
2. 90,0,0
3. 0,90,0
4. 90,0,45
5. 90,0,-45

Now that we have our circles, convert one of them to an editable spline (right click one of the circles, and select Convert to Editable Spline) and from the Modifier tab select Attach Mult to attach all the splines together.

attaching splines in 3ds Max

At this point, I would recommend that you change the colour of the spline to blue, purely to have some consistency with the 3ds Max colour scheme, as blue is associated with cameras.

changing colour schemes in 3ds max

Next we need to link both the cameras to this control object. Select both the cameras either by holding CTRL and clicking on them, or by using the keyboard shortcut H to bring up the Scene Selection window.

The problem with this is that if we move the camera around, the target stays locked in its place, which means the angle of the cameras will not generate the correct image – the target needs to be directly in front of the two cameras. This can easily be solved by adding a helper object.

From the panels on the right-hand side, select the Helpers tab and drop in a Point helper. Again, change the colour to blue.

using helper tools in 3ds max

Use the Align tool to centre the helper into the camera targets and, using the same method as before, link the two targets to the helper.

linking targets in 3ds max

You can now quickly check that when you move the helper both the targets move, and also that if you move the camera helper, the cameras move. Link the point helper to the control object and we’re done!

Part 2 coming soon…
We will add this camera rig to your own 3D scene and show you how to composite the images for your final render….

For further tips and advice call the 3D team on 03332 409 309 or email 3D@jigsaw24.com. Visit our website Jigsaw24.com