I arrived in Seattle shortly after spring quarter ended. I was the first of three summer interns to arrive. The others are going to arrive in about a week. I spent the first week looking around and familiarizing myself with things. I walked around the campus and learned where things were, where I would be working, meeting the people I would be working with. I also spent some time walking around the University District. The University District is the area around the campus that isn't technically part of the campus. It's where the main bookstore, off campus housing, and many shops are. The campus itself is very beautiful. I spent most of the week reading several papers on different research projects that are currently ongoing. My mentor does a lot of work with object recognition. I was given my choice of projects to work on after reading the materials about each of them. During this time my mentor discovered my interest in animation. It was decided that I would do a project that combines both Animation and Computer Vision.
I live in Cleveland, OH. I've taken trips and flown to different places several times but this is the first time I've been anywhere by myself and had to do all the planning for the trip myself. This is probably one of the most major challenges for me personally that I've ever faced. It was a real learning and growing experience for me. I'm very glad that I did it, I think it has made me a stronger person. It's something that I've avoided up until now, but now that I've done it I know that I can do it. It's given me a confidence in myself that will carry over into other things.
The next week I had more meetings about what I was going to be doing. I met the professor who teaches animation and talked with her for a bit. I also met with her teaching assistant who spent sometime showing me how to use Maya. Maya is a software package that is one of the top programs that animators use. Watching him use the program and it's fairly complicated interface was kind of intimidating, there is so much to learn. The college I attend doesn't have a course on animation so I haven't done much with it but it's something I've always been interested in learning. I once learned a bit about animation from a course I took but we only spent about a week on it. I'm very glad I've been given this opportunity and excited to make the most of it. I was given a book that contains different projects to do in order to learn to use Maya. I will be working on it on my own, though there will be someone available if I have any questions.
This week the other two summer students arrived. Dong-Hui is another DMP student like me, she's also participated in the DMP program once before. Marta is a visiting scholar, she's a Ph. D. student from Spain. They are both going to be working on different projects but it's good to have them here because we're all new to the area and in similar situations. They're sort of sharing the experience and I can talk to them. Dong-Hui and I went walking around the area and had dinner at a local restaurant. It was fun talking to her about various different topics. It was also an interesting experience because there's only one other girl taking computer science courses at my school and she's a year or two under me so I don't see her at all. I am very glad I got a chance to talk with Dong-Hui it was a very unique experience for me.
By now everyone who is working on a summer project is here and they've had a chance to decide what they want to work on. This week we had the first meeting where everyone got together to discuss the projects they're working on, what they've done so far, what they're going to be working on, and any difficulties they've been having. The meetings are a time when people can get caught up on what other people have been up to and if they're stuck they can get some help and advice on how to solve their difficulties. I don't necessarily have a lot to contribute because I'm only working on a minor aside to one of the projects. My mentor suggested that I attend the meetings anyway for the learning experience. The meeting was very interesting, I got to hear people talk about all the projects that I read the papers were written. Also, the experience of the meeting itself was a good one, I've never been to anything like it. I go to a small college and we don't do much research in our department. I like the atmosphere and the learning thou I'm not certain I want to go into research for the rest of my life.
I finally got out and started exploring Seattle. I rent a room in a house with many other people who rent rooms as well, there are about 20 of us. When some of them found out that I hadn't rally been anywhere other than the general area that we live in they decided they had to take me out and show me around. The first place we went is called Gas Works Park. At first it doesn't look like anything special, we drove up some back road an there was a big hill. You walk up the hill ad there is the most amazing view of down town Seattle. You're looking across Union Bay at the downtown and the sky scrappers are all lit. In another direction is a hill that reminds me of the country side of Switzerland except more modern. The bridges that go across the river are lit up and white. The view was absolutely amazing, I wish I had had a camera at the time. After we hung out there for awhile we drove around Seattle and they pointed out interesting places. Seattle is an absolutely gorgeous city.
I spent this week, and some of last week, working on and finishing up the first practice project in the book I was given to help me learn to use Maya. The project was to animate a ball bouncing through a ring of fire. The book took you through the process step by step and taught you Maya's interface at the same time. As with anything new there were some frustrating parts when I didn't quite get it, but if you sit there and struggle through it you learn it better than if it was easy. I'm very much enjoying learning about animation and hope to make the most of this opportunity. I haven't done much this week other than work on this project. It was really cool though when I was finished that I got to watch an animation that I made, even if it was small and simple.
It's amazing the coincidences there are in life. I found out that my best friend from high school is living out here. I had lost track of her over the years. She went into the Navy and we drifted apart, I lost her phone number and she changed phones anyway. Then all of a sudden she called me out of the blue. Neither of us had known the other was here, our friends and family back up put it together and called us. It was very nice that I got to go out with her and see her again. She live across Puget Sound near Bremerton so it's not too far away. We went downtown, it's the first time I've been downtown instead of driving around it. We went in one of the malls, saw a movie, had dinner, and walked around downtown. It is a great place to walk around, there are many things to do and see. The city is very nice, it's not like many other cities, it's more laid back. I saw Pike's Place Market for the first time, it wasn't open so I'll definitely have to go back. I like the variety and the diversity here. Seattle really is a great place.
This week I worked on my second project from the book I am using to learn Maya. It's not the second project in the book, but I was told that these two projects would be the most useful. In the exercise I am working on now you create a NURBS spaceship and a polygon spaceship. I'm enjoying what I'm learning, though it's more challenging than I ever expected it would be. Most of the challenge comes from the fact that there's so much to learn and remember. I was told that what I'm trying to learn in these short ten weeks is taught in a year long class at this University. There are multiple different ways to do everything in Maya and it's difficult to keep it all straight. Maya is also capable of doing a lot of different things. This is what makes Maya a very good program, but at the same time it also makes it difficult to learn. Mostly what you need to become good at it after you know the basics is a lot of practice.
This weekend my mentor had a barbeque at her house for all of her students and their families. It was really fun to get to meet everyone in a non-work setting. I also got to meet more people that I've never met because I don't work with them. My mentor does Electrical Engineering (EE) as well as Computer Science & Engineering so some of her students were from EE as well. It was fun to have the chance to actually talk to everyone that I've met somewhere other than a meeting or through email. One person in particular who has not attended our meetings drove me home so that I would not have to take the bus. On the way home we talked about his project and I'm very excited to get to see it.
I finished up the second project this week. While working on both of these projects I realized that the books tell you how to put different pieces of the project together. They tell you where to click and what menu to chose to obtain a certain effect. This is very effective in reaching you the interface and how Maya works. What it doesn't teach you is why you chose what you're choosing. It doesn't really teach you how to animate. You don't learn what the best way to do something is or why something may or may not work in a particular situation. When this occurred to me I asked if there was anything that I could read that would teach me these things. The book that was recommended to me is called the Illusion of Life, it was written by two of Disney's top animators. I was told that this book is considered to be the animators bible. Amazon was having a sale at the time so I also got a book on animation by the director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I spent the rest of this week reading.
This week there was a heat wave and the temperature was in the 90s.Where I come from that's normal in the summer but I've been here long enough that I've gotten used to Seattle's comparatively mild weather. To make matters worse my room is in what is essentially the attic, and it's always 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the house. Fortunately for me this weekend one of my roommates invited all of us to her family's lake house. The house is a cabin on the edge of a huge private lake. There's a dock that also acts like a deck that you can sit on. They have two boats so we went boating, tubing, and wake boarding, not to mention swimming. It was my roommate, her sister, and about 20 of their friends. Their parents left later on in the evening and we all had a huge party. It was tons of fun.
I spent most of this week reading. The Illusion of life is an absolutely huge book. It's almost 500 pages, hard back, and a bigger size than the average book. It makes the book physically hard to read because it's so heavy your neck starts to hurt after awhile. Other than that the book is really good. It tells about how Disney was formed and how everyone learned what made animation good and made it work and what made it not work. It teaches the principals of animation that they learned through trial and error but are now standard today. All the stuff in the book is about animation in general, it applies to hand drawn animation as well as computer animation. It talks about how to make a character look real and move realistically as well as how to set up scenes, and other things. I've learned a great deal from it and I think that it will benefit by project.
I didn't do much this week, I spent the weekdays even after work hours reading and this weekend I mostly just hung out around the house and relaxed. I did go to University Village, it's this little shopping plaza that I was taken to once but didn't know how to get back to. It's really neat, its got all these shops that sell a variety of things and a lot of restaurants. It's a nice place to wander around for an afternoon. I also forgot to mention in a previous journal that I did end up going back to Pike's Market. That place is so cool, they sell fresh fruits and veggies, fish, flowers, handmade trinkets, clothes, and just everything you could think of. It's really neat.
This week I began to work on my project. I didn't realize how difficult it would be to start a project from scratch with absolutely no guidance or direction except what I want the final result to look like. I made several attempts at making the model in both NURBS and polygons. It's a lot harder than it looks when you're watching someone else do it and it's a bit bumbling. After several failed attempts at making a model I decided that I needed help and contacted the animation lab assistant. I'm still waiting to hear back from him. I n the meantime I went back to the library and got another book so that I could keep learning and not waste any valuable time.
I've been hanging out with the housemates a bit more, not really doing anything fancy just sitting around on the porch and in the kitchen talking. Many of them are into politics and the election is all over the place. There's a serious effort to get people to vote going down. I'm glad they're into it and they're this excited but I have to draw the line at being badgered at to register 5 times as I walk down the street. Not everything is just sitting around. Sitting around is not the only thing I've been doing though. It's good to have friends who know where all the cool, out of the way places are, like the pool hall, resale shops, and the best pizza on the face of the planet. There are definitely things to be said for living in a city. I like it a lot but it also makes you realize how difficult it is to meet people when you don't have somewhere to do it like a dorm or the school cafeteria. I have a feeling I'm going to move around a lot before I find where I want to settle down.
I found out that both the lab assistant and the animation professor are no longer on campus and are not going to be for the remainder of time that I have to spend in Seattle. Needless to say it's a bit frustrating because this is the time when I most need the help. My mentor has contacted some people who she thinks might be able to help me but it turns out that they either can't or they aren't around. I attempted to find a model online so that I could still do the videos even if I couldn't make the model myself. Unfortunately you have to pay for all the useful models and the instructions on how to make your own are too advanced for me. The only thing left to do is to go back to the hook and see what I can come up with. I went to Borders and bought another book that takes a different approach to learning Maya. I've been working with it but I'm doubtful I'm doing to be able to finish the project in time.
This weekend I took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island to go visit my friend from high school. The view of the city from the sound is absolutely fantastic and I really wish I had taken a camera with me. Bainbridge Island isn't particularly interesting since there's not much to do but her house is really nice, there's a hot tub and a nice yard. We sat around and talked and watched movies. It was good to get to hand out like we used to do. The next morning we went to the mall and I got new pants and a hair out. My hair was halfway down my back and I was sick off it. I also got new pants because I lost weight! Overall I had fun but it was sad because I realize how much both of us have changed and we're nowhere as close as we once were.
I've been continuing to learn Maya even knowing that there's no way my project will be completed on time. I'm enjoying what I'm learning but there’s also a sense of disappointment in not being able to finish the goals that were set out for me to accomplish. Sadly there isn't much more to say other than that I plan to continue to work on it when I'm back at home. I think though, that if I could do this again I would do something that my mentor could help me with even if I was less interested in it. I think I would have learned more and I might have completed it and not feel like such a failure.
This last week in Seattle was both good and bad. I'm ready to go home but at the same time I'm doing to miss all the new friends I've made. I'm not doing anything except trying to spend time with my friends and get everything together that I need to go home. I am such a wart, I'm always worried that I'm going to forget something or do something wrong that I can't really think past it.