Motion Capture Stage

Ryan stands at 5’9”, but once we’re done with him, he’ll be 36 feet tall and made out of stone.
Mindfire is the only location in the area to have a fully functioning motion capture stage, and Ryan is acting as a rock monster for our latest commercial. He’s dressed in the suit that’s outfitted with the active markers. We’re very excited to see what the final outcome will be.
The amazing thing about motion capture is how we can have the entire world, and universe, at our fingertips. This rock monster we’re creating, if we wanted it to take down Tokyo, we could with a few clicks of the mouse. If we wanted it to destroy a Sphinx, we could.
These are the same techniques used to make movies like Lord of The Rings. In those films, Andy Serkis was transformed into the character Gollum using motion capture technology, similar to what we have here in Wichita. More recently, Johnny Depp acted out his entire roll on a motion capture stage in the film Rango.
Video game developers also use the same motion capture technology to make their animation appear more lifelike, having athletes and martial artists mimic their moves on motion capture stages.
Our students are helping us out with this commercial we’re making, working as assistant directors and grips. This experience of working closely with professionals is one of the most exciting aspects of being part of Bethany College @ Mindfire Academy. They’re gaining knowledge both in and out of the classroom, and you can really tell they’re just soaking up the knowledge like a sponge.
This summer, we’re opening up our doors to high school kids so they can get a jump start on their college education. There’s little doubt they’ll be far ahead of their peers once the summer is over.

Canon C500 Camera Review

Motion Capture Filmmaking: Are Computer-Generated Actors the Future Of Hollywood?

Blackmagic’s Production Camera 4K gets full size Cinema Sensor

Blackmagic, which will be announcing both a Pocket Cinema Camera and this, its Production Camera 4K. We’re fairly sure that this will sit above its Cinema Camera, offering a bigger Super 35 sensor, global shutter and Thunderbolt connector alongside the SSD recorder, touchscreen LCD and EF lens mount we found on last year’s model. The camera is expected to be available for $3,995 — low enough to make even the most ardent of DSLR fans think twice.

ImageBlackmagics Production Camera 4K gets full size sensor, $3,995 pricetag

Cinema 4d for Students

New T5i Camera from Canon

Canon releases the EOS Rebel T5i with a new kit lens featuring stepping motor technology. First questions first, will you be crossgrading from Nikon for this camera? Probably not, Might you update your EOS Rebel T4i? Only if you like the insignia to advance one digit, however, if you are looking for a new DSLR with exceptional quality and functionality from a trusted manufacturer, the EOS Rebel T5i is an excellent choice.

Open Source Alternatives – 3D Animation and Game Design

During my talk at iConnect iLearn 2011, I promised a list of open source tools for 3D Animation and Game Design. The tools listed below are not all technically open source (more on that later), but are free to use in a non-commercial environment, such as your classroom.

I once again stuck with tools that I knew worked, and worked well. There are many image manipulation and game design programs, but these are the best in their class, rivaling programs that cost thousands of dollars per seat! (OSX, Linux, Windows) (OSX, Linux, Windows)
* Unity (OSX, Windows)
* Unreal Development (Windows)

If you have any questions about these pieces of software, or have any to add, please feel free to comment here or hit me up on Twitter (@mfa_josh)!

* Neither Unity 3D or the Unreal Development Kit are what we would think of as being open source, though they are both available for free for non-commercial use. If a student releases a project commercially, they simply have to get the proper license to cover the project. Though a project can be built in the environment with no license being obtained, allowing students the ability to work on a game that may never be released, but allowing them to release it in the future in they choose to do so.

Stop Consuming, Start Creating!

con·sume verb \kən-ˈsüm\: to utilize as a customer

cre·ate verb \krē-ˈāt\: to produce through imaginative skill

Technology is weaving it’s way into our educational environments little by little. As a whole, I see this as a positive thing. Today’s society is connected to technology in a way that no one could have imagined. It only makes sense to bring these technologies into the classroom, engaging students in (what is hopefully) a meaningful conversation. But, what are our students doing with these new technologies?

Are they simply consuming? Are they only reading blogs, tweets and status updates, watching videos and playing games? Or, are we connecting them in a way that we tap into the creative potential in each of them? Are we making sure they are creating as much as they consume?

I’m calling this “the new 1:1 ratio.” No longer can we be satisfied that our students each have a laptop or iPad all their own (we can’t allow these new technologies to turn into simple “digital textbooks”). Our students need to utilize these tools to create! Building their own blogs, interacting on Twitter and updating a class Facebook page are a start…

Now let’s take that a step further… What if we let them create a new video for every one they watch (i.e. creating video responses to those posted by students at other schools), or produce new levels to video games they love?

Will we challenge our students to create the video games of the future, write and record the next great symphony, produce the next hit film?

The potential to learn while in the process of creating is endless. Not only will we teach them to think creatively, but we will teach them to dig deeper and engage in the larger conversation.

In my opinion, this the only way to approach education for this new generation of students. We can help shape the future by equipping our students with the skills to innovate in this new digital culture… It’s time for a creative revolution!

This is the first in a series of posts I’m planning on this topic. Please comment here or on Twitter (@mfa_josh).

Open Source Alternatives – Audio Production


As you well know, high-end technology and limited budgets don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But, for those of us that are advocates for integrating technology into educational environments, we run into tight (non-existent) budgets. Couple that with high expectations from students and we’re stuck trying to figure out how to deliver the software needed for meaningful content creation, without a pile of cash on hand.

As an Avid Certified Instructor, and advocate for Pro Tools software in general, I want to at least be fair and say that their pricing structure is one of the best I’ve seen. For $295 a student can purchase Pro Tools 9, with no software limitations, and has access to free updates for four years!

On the other hand, for schools that want a 1 to 1 ratio for their students, $295 per seat can get expensive fast!

The wonderful thing about this current technological age, is the sheer volume of open source software. This software is free to use and many times offers the same quality experience as the products we pay so much for! I’ve come up with a list of four pieces of software that I have used (and enjoy using). These have not replaced Pro Tools for me, but they do a great job in teaching the concepts and allowing students to have the same software at home without them illegally downloading a cracked version. (OSX, Linux) (OSX, Linux, Windows)
Linux Multimedia (OSX, Linux, Windows) (OSX, Linux, Windows)

What other open source music software are you using?

Where else are you using open source software?

Turning Point Learning Center Visit

Yesterday, Mark, Colby and I took a quick one day trip to visit Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, KS. TPLC is a K – 8 charter school with a 5th – 8th grade Face to Face program along with an online virtual school. The school also has 1:1 MacBooks for their students (which automatically makes it cooler than 99% of the schools I’ve been too)! The mission of TPLC is as follows:

The mission of Turning Point Learning Center is to create a community environment that recognizes all learners as individuals and as members of the greater community. Staff and students are viewed as continuous learners; each is challenged to grow within not only the academic, but also the social spheres of our expanding, 21st century global society.

The school was wonderful to visit, and the staff and kids were very welcoming and nice enough to let us sit in on classes and even snap a few pictures.

One thing that stuck out at me during the visit was the way these students interacted with one another. The kids were working in groups in the classes that I visited and each sat at tables with a MacBook and took the time to write up a contract when starting a new project. I overheard students divvying up the roles in the project, setting up their expectations and generally working better together than many adults I know!

After observing in the morning we were able to chat with the kids about what we’re doing at Mindfire and doing a Q&A session about our industries. These kids had tons of questions, and were digging deeper into the processes of 3D Animation and Recording Arts than many high schoolers I talk to!

Okay, so enough about how great this school is (though it is really, really great), if you’re interested in what TPLC is doing check out their website!

Also, you can follow them on Twitter and check them out on Facebook.

Until next time,
The Mindfire Crew

Learn to Create, to Entertain, to Inspire - MindFire Academy