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DeltaEngine

My experiences from the PDC, Los Angeles and Hollywood

by Benjamin Nitschke 18. September 2005 22:00
Warning: This is a very long post with over 60 pictures. Unlike other people I wasn't blogging directly from the PDC or trying to reach the 50 blogs/day rate some other people where trying to archive. If you like massive amount of blog entries from the PDC, check out (mostly people I met there): Eisbaer blog (german), Damir Tomicic (german), ZMan's PDC blog entries (thezbuffer.com), Scobleizer's blog, new entries every 5 minutes, Bonk's blog (winner of Blog my way to the PDC), Don Box's blog or just use google to find more PDC stuff ...

Not enough? Then check out the PDC site for webcasts or Channel 9 for more videos!


Content


Flying to Los Angeles

On saturday 2005-09-10, 04:30 (am) everything started. After just 3 hours of sleep I started my journey waiting for the train to the airport in Hannover.
Btw: I took pictures with 3 different cameras: The first 2 days with the bad camera from the MDA2 I got from my brother, then I used a 4 megapixel camera (too big to carry around all day), and then I used the 1.3 megapixel camera of my new mda pro. For this reason you cannot enlarge the first 5 pictures (and even the small versions look like crap).

Then the waiting began. This is Hannover airport, where I met Gerald Himmelein from the german c't magazine (heise), who was also flying to the PDC.

While waiting and playing with the MDA2, I took also a picture of my ticket. Very interessting, isn't it?

Arrived at Amsterdam after less than 1 hour of flight, we got prepared for the next long flight (nearly 12 hours to L.A.). The EMEA@PDC team arrived too and helped us out with the next tickets. I began to understand that this isn't the first time microsoft hosted such an event. It was very professional and enjoyable.

I also met Dirk Primbs and Barbara Steiger from microsoft, who made this all possible and a bunch of other invited people (scroll up for some of their blogs). After another 3 hours of waiting and chatting our plane with ONLY PDC attendees (crazy, isn't it?) was ready to take us to L.A.
But not so fast! We were waiting at the entry gate while the Americans noticed they hadn't checked us yet, so everyone had to move out and go in again for the security check (which took almost 1 hour, the plane had to wait too). I have no picture of that, instead I'm going to show you a picture of some travelers at Amsterdam airport ^^

Ok, our plane lift off and we were on the way to the USA flying over Greenland (in german: Groenland), which was very beautiful looking from above.
The first 2 pictures are from Greenland, the thrid one is from the Rocky Mountains in the USA.
Btw: From now on you can click on the images.

After 12 hours of flying around and almost 20 hours traveling in total we arived at our hotel in L.A. (Renaissance Hollywood), which was very impressive.

After checking in there was 1-2 hours to relax and then the first welcome party started. It wasn't very crowded, I suspect some people decided to sleep instead of going to this welcome party.
After the party and a couple of beers I was still feeling very good and decided to make a trip through Hollywood and took some pictures (see Hollywood). Then finally I went to sleep and was exited for the next day.


The Convention Center for the PDC

The next day (sunday) we drove to the Convention Center to register us for the PDC. Getting to know the big city Los Angeles (population: 9 mio) was quite nice. I also want to mention that I really like the way the traffic signs are done, most signs are very simple and explain everything you have to do unlike here in germany where you have to learn every single sign at traffic school.

We could see the impressive Skyline every day from the bus, which picked us up from our Hotel in Hollywood and drove us to the Convention Center in the city.

After 30-60 minutes, depending on the traffic we reached the Convention Center every day. It is quite big, but Microsoft managed to fill it out. After the keynote each day there where about 10 sessions running in parallel every 1.5 hours.

And this is the front with the big welcome sign. The second picture shows a nice lens flare effect (good render engine there in L.A.), the thrid is from the inside.


Disneyland ^^

The real conference started Tuesday, 2005-09-13. Sunday and Monday only pre-conference sessions started, thus there was some time to be a regular tourist. Sunday I went with some press guys to Disneyland and Monday I went into the city and walked around in L.A., especially Hollywood (see next sections).
Sorry about the picture quality again, this day I took all pictures with the MDA2 again (0.5 megapixel only).
The first picture shows the tram to disneyland entrance. The second picture shows the way into the California Action Park we choosed instead of the traditional Disneyland part.

Sadly the big roller coaster was in maintenance and repair. But the rest of the park was great and a lot of fun, we did visit most of the major attractions.

I took some other pictures, but since the quality isn't very good I won't bother posting them. After 6 hours in the park we left in the evening. It was still sunny and hot and overall a nice day. The weather is L.A. is just great all the time. Again, there is some lens flare effect, but the overglow was way too strong. I think the real world render engine might need some tweaking.


The power failure

The next day (Monday, 2005-09-12) I went to downtown L.A. and took some pictures. I bought a nice chicken sandwich and right in the second I wanted to take my first bite the power went out. Not only in the current store I was in, but in whole L.A. Even the metro trains went offline, all traffic lights went out, etc.
This first picture was taken 1 mile (omg, I start using miles now) south of downtown L.A.

Getting from point A to B is very easy in L.A., streets are named 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. vertically and meaningful names horizontally. I didn't see much of downtown because it is so big. I guess the big shopping centers are located outside of downtown (unlike here in germany, where most of them are directly in the center of a city).

Here you can see the streets of L.A. and a fire truck (yeah, looks a little bit oldschool).

After wandering around for 1-2 hours I got something to eat. But just in the second I was about to bite into my chicken sandwitch, the power went out. After finishing my lunch I went outside and continued to take pictures.

While the power was out, more and more people where beginning to fill the streets. The metro trains didn't work either and even traffic lights went out. Most people began to panic and began to use their cellphones until the providers couldn't handle it anymore. Some people even spoke about the terror warning that some al qaeda member did a day ago and maybe this had something to do with that. As you can read here (NY times), a couple of hours later everything calmed down and went back to normal.
Still, it was very exiting to be there at that time and even in this uncertain situation the americans were very calm and friendly. The trafic did run almost as smooth as with the trafic lights on and pedestrians (like me) could walk over the big streets after waiting for a short while to get some cars through.

Can you see that woman at the end of the tunnel and tell me if she was taking a picture of me while I was taking a picture of her at the same time? Who knows ...

I left downdown and took a bus back to the hotel after walking out of the city and took some pictures of nice big buildings in L.A. Even without electricity skyscraper are still very impressive and are designed beautifully.


PDC

Tuesday, 2005-09-13 the first PDC day began and the famous Bill Gates gave a nice welcome keynote to us developers at the PDC. This is Room A, where all the keynotes where given. Sponsors like AMD, hp, ATI, intel, ca, etc. where all over the place.

After a short introduction Bill Gates came onto the stage and told us how important developers are (we developers like to hear that as often as possible). Then he showed a really cool movie he made with the Napoleon Dynamite guy, it was hilarious (sadly it isn't in the online webcast).

I took also some pictures of Anders Hejlsberg, Don Box and other guys from Microsoft, but it seems I zoomed in too much and the pictures got very bad.
On the first picture you can see Anders Hejlsberg, on the second picture he is demonstrating some cool new feature together with Don Box.

These were the key points on the PDC, I won't go into detail on them, click on them for more info or read more informative sites than my stupid blog ^^

At this point I would like to say that I was very impressed by the professionality of the convention and the great support of microsoft and the session speakers. It was cool to meet people like Andy Dunn (ZMan, thezbuffer.com) and Rico Mariani (the CLR performance guy) to speak with them about my graphics engine and performance in .NET 2.0. Also talks from Anders Hejlsberg and CLR team guys were very informative.

Back to my stupid pictures, here are 2 from the Convention Center. I didn't take much pics there and almost none in the sessions because I was listening and concentrating and I don't think conference rooms or lesser known speakers are any exiting ^^

And two more pics of people. In the second one you can see people surfing around, wifi (called wlan in germany) was everywhere and very useful. Especially for my new MDA pro I accuired there from i-mate :)

And here is a bonus picture with me in it. No, I'm not somewhere on that street, I'm directly in the front. Still don't see me? I'm holding a camera and I'm shooting a photo!


Hollywood

As soon as I arrived at the hotel I started to take some pictures of Hollywood L.A. from the 12th floor where my room was located.

I could even see the famous "Hollywood sign" on the hills of Hollywood directly from my hotel room.

Zooming is great fun. Lets see how much I can zoom in on that advertisement there ...

Walking around on Hollywood Blvd is very nice, cinemas like the Kodac Theatre (first picture) or the Chinese Theatre (second picture) looked impressive from the outside but where still very small in contrast to big cinemas like CinemaxX.

Walking from the hotel to the Hollywood Blvd was a long trip (almost 100 meters, or 300 foot), for americans this can almost be a reason to get their car and drive to the destination. Going on the Walk of fame and seeing famous actors not only on the ground, but in real life is very cool. But I was to busy taking pictures noticing anything ^^ Check out the second picture, it is funny.

This guy was very skilled and could play a violin with an empty bottle. Not bad, not bad. I gave him 5 euros and told him that I don't have any dollars yet ^^ (hehe)

The americans are complaining about their high gas prices right now, but in germany we pay almost twice as much and people are not complaining any more. The second picture is the same sence taken back in the hotel. If you put even more lights on it will look exactly like Las Vegas :)

I had way to much fun taking all this pictures (and it took a long time copying and converting all them for this post), but I will stop now posting more pictures. Here is a nice night and day scene for comparison of the lighting and brightness values of the fully supported HDR engine in Hollywood:



Back to europe

Ok, the week is over now and it is time to head back home. On the following picture you can see the EMEA@PDC helpers (I would call them bunnies ^^). On the left side is our bus driver, chilling and stuff.

A final view on the highways of L.A., at some places there were up to 8 tracks in the same direction. After just 30 minutes we reached the big airport LAX.

At the airport we had to wait a long time because the personal is not very quick there and is writing everything down on paper (wtf?). The security checks did also take a long time and were pretty stupid IMO (checking the bags and then noone is allowed to touch them anymore). At least I had time to spot an american flag (finally, how could I miss all the other ones?). The second picture shows all european attendees waiting for the check-in, we spend almost 4 hours at the airport.

Time for take-off. At least this trip would take 2 hours less than from Amsterdam to L.A. (because of winds and the earth rotation I guess).

Here are 2 more pics from the plane. The first one is over the Rocky Mountains and the second one is somewhere over the Utah (but since I have no night vision on my mda camera, you can't see much).

After 9 hours and 30 minutes we saw european land again (well, the plane took a route over scottland too, but we couldn't see anything through the clouds). This is Amsterdam and after waiting a couple more hours for my flight back to Hannover I was finally home and could sleep (after nearly 30 hours of being awake, but thats kinda normal for a game developer like me).

Finally I'd like to say I had a very nice week and thanks to Microsoft and all people performing sessions and helping out at the PDC. It was really a great time. Also greetings to all americans, I like your country, your people, your language and your TV ^^

NormalMapCompressor v1.3 and PDC information

by Benjamin Nitschke 7. September 2005 19:25
I've updated the NormalMapCompressor program for our graphic artists. While the old version 1.2 did help out a lot for normal maps, it did not compress the diffuse and optional height map required for many models.

The new version has a couple of cool new features:

  • Diffuse, Normal and Height maps are supported now and will be converted for you automatically.
  • Simply load new textures with a drag and drop operation: Just drag the diffuse texture file onto the application and the diffuse, the normal (same filename +"Normal") and the height map (+"Height") will be loaded automatically if they exist.
  • The preview can now be expanded and collapsed. Also added Parallax Mapping support for the preview shader :)
  • Much cooler overall look (previews all input textures now) and much more useable tool for artists.

Download NormalMapCompressor v1.3.
Download source code!

Before installing make sure you have DirectX 9.0c and Managed DirectX. I've tested it only with the DirectX August 2005 version (click here to download).

Update 2005-09-08: Fixed bug with saving (directory wasn't used). Works fine now.

Another thing: I'm going to the PDC 2005 in a few days. I've never been in USA and I am very excited! The great Dirk Primbs (Microsoft Developer Evangelist for Germany) invited me. Somehow Microsoft thinks I'm kinda special and invited me there :)

Well, at least I've done Arena Wars, the first commerical .NET game. I will also present our new game using my new engine (first .NET 2.0 game engine optimized for Windows Vista) to a couple of Microsoft DirectX and .NET guys, maybe I manage to impress them ^^

I will try to take some cool pictures there (PDC is in L.A.) and post about my experiences there. I'm very excited!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are own personal opinions and do not represent the companies view.
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