I'm a computer graphics programmer who occasionally still makes art.

Dave Pagurek @Pahgawk

Age 28, Male


Toronto, Canada

Joined on 2/8/09

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Pahgawk's News

Posted by Pahgawk - August 21st, 2023

If you're in the Toronto area, consider coming this Saturday to Creative Code Toronto! It's a monthly-ish meetup I run for people who make art with code. We have a very liberal definition of both art and code, and also we have free pizza.

Sometimes we have an open mic show-and-tell of cool stuff people are working on, but this time we have some talks! Here's what you're going to be seeing:


Jordanne Chan is a creative technologist, generative artist and STEAM educator who specializes in guiding both children and adults in workshops across Toronto's maker communities. Embracing the Geocities spirit, she passionately combines disciplines to ignite interest in creative coding, digital fabrication, and more.


Varun Vachhar is a DX Engineer at Chromatic and a contributor to Storybook. He specialize in component-driven development, design systems and generative art.


This one is me! Outside of Newgrounds I'm a graphics developer at Butter, a creative-code-powered video and motion graphics editor, and a developer for WebGL mode in p5.js.

If you're at all interested in making visuals with code, consider coming to the event! We've got a meetup here: https://www.meetup.com/creative-code-toronto/events/295383685/?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=share-btn_savedevents_share_modal&utm_source=link



Posted by Pahgawk - July 22nd, 2023

It looks like the last time I posted something here was in 2020! It's been a while, Newgrounds. So why am I back again?

Short version

I'm back because I made a new video:

Long version

I live in Toronto now! The last time I posted, I was living in Vancouver working on a master's degree in computer graphics. I had hinted at this in the last life update, but I was struggling a lot with the lifestyle required by academia--I learned a lot, but the management style applied a lot of pressure, there wasn't the autonomy (or respect for time) that I would want long term, and I suppose I wanted to work on things for a different sort of audience than for other researchers. An opportunity came up to work on a startup halfway through my degree. I started working on it alongside my thesis, I graduated, and now I'm doing that full time.


A screenshot from my thesis: given a sketchy drawing, my algorithm computed the stroke that a bundle of lines together represented, allowing one to edit a whole set of lines through just the controls of the "centerline." It's cool but requires a licensed quadratic solver in order to run, so it's not super practical to integrate into actual animation software unfortunately.

The startup is tiny, just three of us. We're working on building in-browser animation software for motion graphics. Initially, this is aimed at small businesses who need to make video content; we're trying to squeeze as much value and interesting motion as we can out of whatever assets one has lying around. The longer term goal ties in with the creative coding community: there are so many interesting visuals and animations being made with code (think of the credits sequence of The Queen's Gambit by beesandbombs) and we hope to be a platform to let that community combine their work with a more traditional video editor. I could go anywhere to work on this, but one of the developers lives in Toronto and I have some friends there, so I moved back East.


Using a component in our motion graphics editor.

Although our animation software is still in private beta (for now ūüĎÄ), I've already been able to connect more with animators and graphics people than I could where I was before. We're using p5.js as a general-purpose JavaScript graphics library for developers to use, and we're investing a lot of time contributing to the library and its community. I personally have been putting a lot of time into its WebGL tools. The recent 1.7.0 release allows one to easily use framebuffer layers, letting you make stuff like this sketch, which uses 120 layers to time-offset each row of pixels to make your webcam look wiggly.


Turns out a lot of my computer graphics work involves getting stuff to wiggle.

Another part of that community-building process has been the creation of Creative Code Toronto, a meetup for creative people who use code to make art. So far we've run it like a show-and-tell for creative code projects. In August we're going to run two more with different formats: a work session and a talks session, so stay tuned for that!

One of the Toronto creative coders I met through this was none other than Newgrounds's own ninjamuffin99, which was kind of like meeting a celebrity! In any case, it got me thinking about Newgrounds again. I'm super happy to hear that this community, which was so instrumental in my becoming who I am now, is still alive and thriving. I was taking some time off this month for a vacation anyway, so I took the opportunity to go back to my roots a bit and make another animation. The result is the one at the top of this post.


Unrelated, but doing this also made me realize that tablets with a screen are cool and all but awful for my posture since I now look down rather than forward while drawing. I bought a stand for my tablet between starting and finishing this cartoon.

In the spirit of open source, I had initially started this in Blender. I contributed some code to Blender last year to help improve the gap closing algorithm in Blender's fill bucket, but I ran into some more issues with it this time around, so for now I've gone back to good ol' Flash CS6. (I can't update my old laptop or else that version will stop working--I guess I have to fix the Blender fill bucket by the time that laptop finally bites the dust.) In any case, it was fun to go work the way I used to for a bit.

Going forward

I can't promise I'm going to do any more of these any time soon. While fun, I've definitely got my hands full with other stuff, so I'll probably disappear for another year or so before releasing another.

I have been busy with other stuff, though!

There's an annual conference on April Fools for dank academic CS papers. This year I made a paper on how to fit jeans to any shape:

I used to work at Figma, and recently my former colleagues and I just got a patent approved for smart selection, a feature I worked on. So I guess I'm legally an inventor now?


Ok, that's all for now. I'm going to go to the Toronto Newgrounds meetup at the end of the month, so I hope to see some of you there!




Posted by Pahgawk - August 19th, 2020

I have a new video out again, the first thing longer than a minute that I've made in 7(!!!) years:

Also maybe relevant: I have a tiny behind-the-scenes into the art style. To summarize: draw using the pen tool, and after filling in your colours, enable Edit Multiple Frames, select all your drawings, and remove the stroke colour.

Now that that's out of the way... it seems I have a habit of disappearing for a year or more and then popping up again. This time feels different because I guess everything's changed? Here's what's happened between a year ago and March:

  • I moved to Vancouver and started my master's in computer graphics
  • I finished all the courses for my degree and did a sizable chunk of the work on a paper (more on this ūüĒú hopefully! It's about assisting in line art cleanup)
  • I performed a live cover of Shake It Off that was low quality but high effort and a lot of fun (this crosses off a bucket list item)
  • I finally replaced my old Wacom Bamboo from 2008 (just because I realized that XP-Pen has on-screen tablets a lot cheaper than I expected them to be. 2008 Bamboo still works just fine!)

And then obviously the pandemic hit after that. Some things that have changed between March and now:

  • We did an online edition of TerribleHack where we pretended to be an awful new VR conferencing company
  • I did a lot more work on the paper and also decided that I probably don't want to have a career doing this, so after this degree I'm going to take the (thankfully many) learnings from all this and do non-academic graphics work. Luckily there is a market for this, and the expertise beyond regular software engineering that it demands is now something I can say I have with more confidence
  • I got back into drawing regularly and recording music (also on NG here now) and remembered how nice all that is
  • I realized it's a lot more fun to animate when there's no deadline and it's just done to relax (not even a self-imposed "I want this done before the next school term starts")

So I think I'm going to be regularly booking time to animate now, if only just to make sure I don't accidentally work 12+ hours a day on my actual work. Because I'm intentionally doing it slowly and for fun, that also means I'm not going to regularly have a lot of finished stuff to show. But that's alright, I feel like that only matters if you're trying to Make It Big and I think that would negate all the benefits I'm getting from this new setup.

I've also come across a job opportunity for after I graduate that would involve working remotely. A year ago I'm not sure I would have seriously considered it, but now it's like, I need to be good at that lifestyle regardless, so maybe it's best to just lean into it. It would also give me the flexibility to not move again, if that feels right, or to maybe move somewhere where there are actually other people I know for once. It's a weird feeling committing to never having an office to go back to at some vague point in the future, though. Does anyone do this? How's your experience been?

So that's where I'm at now.

Let me know what you all are up to! I've been awful at keeping touch and I do seriously want to know; if you send me links to videos and stuff I will watch them! And also I'm happy to help out with any graphics programming stuff anyone could use some help with.


Posted by Pahgawk - March 15th, 2019

What do you want to improve in your animation workflow?

Hello Newgrounds! It's been a while. I've been focusing on programming for a while now, and I've recently accepted an offer to start grad school at the University of British Columbia in the fall. While I haven't been actively making animations any more, I've kind of come full circle, and my work in computer science is now directly related to animation again. Specifically, I'm interested in how better software can help individual, independent artists make the higher quality animations, and I want to get some of your ideas to help guide this research!

To give a sense of the sorts of things I've been looking into, let me talk a bit about my undergrad thesis. It's about procedural modelling, which is when you make a program of some kind that generates 3D models with random variations. This is useful when you want to make something that would be too tedious to do entirely by hand, like a forest or a cityscape. The idea is that you can just specify the pattern, and the computer can make a bunch of examples following the pattern. If making a program to solve this problem sounds like it's still a lot of effort, you're right! It is! And I've been trying to make incremental progress towards lowering that effort.

It's hard to describe a procedure that creates random instances of an object (such as a tree) without sometimes generating ones that look really bad (imagine one with all the branches off to one side.) It's easier to have a more relaxed generating program, but then search through the models it can make to find the good ones. My project lets artists sketch some rough curves that they want their model to look like, and a 3D model following the curves is picked in almost real time. Here's what it feels like to use:


I wrote a longer article about this if you're curious about how procedural modelling works and where this fits in. Granted, writing the program to generate tree models still isn't the easiest thing in the world, but at least once you have one, I hope a tool like this would let you tweak and sculpt in a more natural way with the immediate feedback you've come to expect from your creative tools.

So I want to know what parts of your animation workflow, both in 2D and 3D, you think could use better software. Here's a dump of ideas I have so far:

From my own experience in 2D, the most time consuming part is just drawing every frame of character animation, but that's also the most fun part and maybe the part that gives the medium its characteristic feel, so I'm not sure that automatic in-betweening is the best use of my effort. Coming in second place is perhaps colouring and shading. Filling in outlines quickly isn't super flashy, but it's the sort of thing that could be automated and would probably save people a lot of time. Going beyond that, though, we could maybe do more than just flat shading. Flat shading and cel shading, while both respectable styles, were both introduced because they're efficient for humans to do. When we aren't using a human, we have the opportunity introduce more intelligent fill tools that explore different styles, possibly aware of lighting, or automatically texturing based on some examples you provide. Maybe the computer could also help add details like fabric wrinkles, so you can just focus on drawing the broader shapes. In all cases, this wouldn't replace a human artist, but would instead be another tool in the artist's toolbox. I think things like this are the most useful when you can tweak and interact with the results and you aren't just handed a final copy from some AI.

A lot of the things I focus on in 3D tend to be related to modelling of complex scenes, because that's something I find myself slowed down on compared to 2D. I wish I had more ways to quickly sketch and lay out a scene. My undergrad work might be helpful, but it still takes a lot of effort to create model generating programs, so perhaps another area of focus could be in creating a model generator based on a few hand created examples.

What do you you all think? Let's discuss in the comments! (Also if you're in the Vancouver region in the fall and feel like testing out stuff related to this, let me know!)

Life updates

Thanks for reading this far! I've been away from Newgrounds for a while, so if you're curious, here's what I've been up to.

Last summer, for a computer graphics class, I made a short animation based on a Debussy piano piece. I didn't upload it here because it's really just a small, unassuming video. The thing that took up all my time was the fact that it's actually just a C++ program I wrote that rendered the whole thing. This means that any keyframed animation had to be typed out without an interface, effects like water ripples had to be calculated mathematically, and the movement and bounces of light reaching the virtual camera had to be programmed. I also didn't have as much time to optimize it as more mature renderers have had, so to cut down on render time, it's not full HD and it's only 12fps. I've written about the more technical aspects if you want to learn more.

I spent some time recently working at Figma on some projects like the smart selection tool so that working with designs with grids and lists can be a little easier. I'm back in school again for a while now, but I find I've just been using Figma in place of Illustrator these days. The rate of improvement is great and also it's free for students! Maybe check it out if you ever find yourself needing to design something.

I run this thing at the University of Waterloo called Terriblehack where we work on shitty projects. It just happened this past Sunday. I made a little space simulator, but where the Earth is flat.

I also have a "band" that consists of me and whoever I live with at the time, and we record shitty cover songs. We're called Don't Cross Me and our gang sign in the cross product right-hand rule. We've got a SoundCloud if you want to experience our music. We're hoping to maybe do another song this weekend (Boulevard of Broken Dreams, anyone?)


Posted by Pahgawk - June 8th, 2017

Recently I went about making a 3D renderer (specifically, a raytracer.) Before researching, it seemed like a daunting task, shrouded in the promise of complicated math and a variety subtle, deeply-hidden bugs. As it turns out, there is a fair amount of linear algebra, and it is hard to tell if your glass rendering is weird or if glass itself is just weird. That said, the core concepts are more accessible than I thought they would be. Having used a 3D rendering system before as an artist, I found it particularly interesting seeing how it worked from the inside, and I thought maybe the joint artist/programmer community of Newgrounds might find it interesting too.

My code examples are in Swift because that's what I used to write my renderer, but the concepts are universal. (Also, is there a way to add monospace text to a Newgrounds news post?)


What is 3D rendering, anyway?

We can think of the camera as a 2D rectangle in 3D space. It's like the film of a camera: when a photon hits this rectangle, we see its colour value in the location that it hit the film. The image we get from a camera is a 2D projection of the 3D world onto the rectangle of that piece of film.


You can draw a line from a focal point behind the film to a point on an object. Where that line intersects the film is where the projection of that point in 2D will be.

The end goal of a 3D renderer is to make that 2D image of 3D space.


How does raytracing fit in?

There are plenty of ways you can write a 3D renderer. Some of them are better suited for fast render times for applications like gaming. Others, like raytracing, take longer to compute but can often model reality more realistically. Raytracing can take into account more complicated reflections of light off of other objects, soft shadows, lens blur, and more.

In real life, light is emitted from a source as a photon of a certain colour. It then will travel in a straight line (well, mostly) until it hits something. Then, one of a few things can happen to the photon. It can get reflected in a direction, its path can be bent from refraction, or it can be absorbed by the material. Some of the photons eventually bounce their way to a camera, where they are "recorded."

Raytracing models this behaviour, but in reverse. Photons are cast from the camera, and bounce around the surfaces in a scene until they hit a light source. At that point, the photon's colour is recorded. It would also work if you cast rays from light sources to the camera, like in real life, but this tends to not be as efficient since so many photons just won't reach the camera.


Starting from the focal point and going through a coordinate (x, y) on the film, a ray is cast, which bounces until it hits a light source to find its colour.

So, for each pixel in the image you want to render, here's what we do:

  1. Cast a ray of white light from a pixel
  2. Find the first object the ray intersects with
  3. If it is a light source, multiply the ray's color with the light source's colour to get the pixel colour
  4. Otherwise, reflect, refract or absorb the ray, and go back to step 2 with the resulting ray


Modelling geometry

Here's where some math happens. How do we determine if a ray hits an object? First, let's model a ray. A ray in 3D space can be defined as a direction vector, and a point that it goes through. Both this 3D point and vector can be represented by an (x, y, z) coordinate, but we're actually going to use a 4-vector (x, y, z, w).

Why the extra coordinate? You can certainly use a normal 3-vector, but then it's up to you to keep track of which 3-vector in your program is a point and which is a direction. If you use a 4-vector, though,¬†w = 0¬†implies that it is a direction vector and¬†w = 1¬†implies that it is a point, which makes things work out pretty nicely. If you add a point and a vector, their¬†w¬†coordinates add to¬†1 + 0 = 1, meaning the result is still a point. A vector minus a vector is still a vector, and¬†0 - 0 = 0. A point minus a point is a vector, and¬†1 - 1 = 0. A point plus a point doesn't make sense, which would leave you with a¬†w¬†value of 2, which is also unexpected. When we use transformation matrices later, they Just Work‚ĄĘ with this way of modelling points and vectors (for example, scaling a vector changes its size, and scaling a point does nothing.) It's convenient.

So, we've got this definition of a ray:

  struct Ray {
    let point, direction: Vector4
    let color: Color

Then, for any given point on the film and focal point behind the film, we can cast an initial ray:

  func castRay(from: Vector4, through: Vector4) -> Ray {
    return Ray(
      point: from,
      direction: through - from,
      color: Color(0xFFFFFF) // Start with white light

To see if it intersects with an object, we need an object to model. A sphere is a nice one, since we only need a few small pieces to represent it:

  struct Sphere {
    let center: Vector4
    let radius: Float

We can then make a function pretty easily to check whether or not a ray intersects with a sphere by using the equations given in the Wikipedia article for line-sphere intersections. We can make it return an Intersection (the point of intersection and normal from the surface at that point) if it exists, or nil otherwise. If we have multiple spheres, we want the first one the ray intersects with, so you can iterate through the spheres and take the one that's the shortest distance from the ray origin. Obviously this isn't the most efficient, but works for small scenes:

  struct Intersection {
    let point, normal: Vector4

  func firstIntersection(ray: Ray, spheres: [Sphere]) -> Intersection? {
    return spheres.flatMap{ (sphere: Sphere) -> Intersection? in
      return intersectionBetween(ray: ray, sphere: sphere)
    }.sorted{ (a: Vector4, b: Vector4) -> Bool in
      (a - ray.point).length < (b - ray.point).length


Modelling materials

Once we've found an intersection, we are tasked with bouncing the light ray. How this happens depends on the material the ray intersected with. A material, for our purposes, must be able to take an incoming ray and an intersection and return a bounced ray.

  protocol Material {
    func bounce(ray: Ray, intersection: Intersection) -> Ray

How the ray gets bounced affects what the object looks like. To make shadows, we know that some photons need to get absorbed somehow. Each time a ray is bounced, we can dim the intensity of the light of the outgoing ray a bit (for example, multiply the red, green, and blue fields by 0.7.) The more bounces the light goes through, the darker the colour becomes. If no intersection is found, we can multiply the light colour by some background colour and stop bouncing, as if there is sky in every direction as a source of photons.

If a ray does hit an object, we have to think about what direction we want to bounce the ray in. Reflective materials abide by the tenth grade science class mantra, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. That is to say, if you reflect the incoming ray about the surface normal, you're going to make a mirrorlike material. If instead you choose to reflect the light in a totally random direction, you've diffused the light and mate a matte material (although, make sure you absorb the ray if it is randomly bounced into the inside of the sphere.) A surface that reflects rays but with a little bit of random variation will look like brushed or frosted metal.


The more random variation there is in the bounced ray, the more matte the light on the material looks.


Monte Carlo rendering

You'll notice that the scene looks pretty grainy, specifically around areas that should be blurred. This is because, for each pixel, we randomly bounce a photon around. It's bound to not be quite smooth because of the random variation. To make it smoother, we can simply render each pixel multiple times and average the values. This is an example of a Monte Carlo algorithm. From Wikipedia, a Monte Carlo algorithm "uses random numbers to produce an outcome. Instead of having fixed inputs, probability distributions are assigned to some or all of the inputs." The more averaged samples we take of the image, the closer to an actual "perfect render" we get. The random grains, averaged together, end up looking like a smooth blur.

We can make more complicated materials with this sampling technique by having it, for example, reflect a photon some percent of the time and refract it the rest of the time. Having a higher probability of reflecting at steeper angles is a good way to create realistic-looking glass. You can make glossy materials by having a small probability of reflection and a higher probability of diffusing the light.


Motion blur

Another cool thing we can do using the Monte Carlo technique is create motion blur. In real life, cameras have their shutters open for a real, non-infinitesimal amount of time. The longer the film is exposed to photons, the more photons hit it, and the brighter an image you get. If an object is moving while the film is exposed, photons reflected from all points in time along the object's trajectory will end up on the film, resulting in the object appearing smeared.

We can model this in our raytracer, too. Let's say a sphere moves from point A to point B while our virtual camera shutter is open. For every ray we cast, before we check for intersections between the ray and the sphere, we pick a random point along the object's trajectory for it to be at, and use this version of the object for collisions. We use a different random location for the next ray. After doing enough samples of this, we should end up with a nice blur.

In order to actually implement this, we need to represent the object's motion. A transformation matrixworks well for this purpose. When you multiply a matrix by a vector, you get a different vector. A simple one is the translation matrix:


Applying a translation transformation to a point to produce a new point

The end result is a shifted coordinate. You can also create rotation, stretch, and skew matrices. By multiplying matrices together, you compose the transformations. You can invert a transformation by inverting its transformation matrix.

So, back to our motion blur. The camera shutter is open as an object moves from A to B, and we can represent A and B using transformation matrices. If you want to find a version of an object at a random point on its trajectory to check collisions with, you can interpolate between them:

func randomOnTrajectory(object: Sphere, from: Matrix4, to: Matrix4) -> Sphere { let amount = randomBetween(low: 0, high: 1) let transformation = from*amount + to*(1-amount) return Sphere( center: transformation * object.center, radius: object.radius ) }

That gives you a result like this:


A sphere moving across the x axis while the virtual shutter is open



Because it takes multiple samples to get a good looking result, it would make sense to try to get as much throughput as possible while rendering. The great thing about raytracing is that each sample is calculated completely separately from other samples (there's a technical term for this, and it is, no joke, referred to as "embarassingly parallel".) You can concurrently map by running each sample in a separate thread, and when each is done, reduce by averaging them into a final result.


Going further

After implementing everything so far, there is still plenty that you can add. For example, most 3D models aren't made from spheres, so it would be helpful to be able to render polygonal meshes. By jittering the angle of each ray cast slightly, you can make a nice depth of field effect where objects closer and further from the camera than a focal lenth appear more blurred. You can try rendering gaseous volumes rather than just solids. You can subdivide the space in front of the camera so that you don't have to check collisions with every object on the screen.

The code for the raytracer I wrote is available on GitHub for reference, although it is also still a work in progress. It's incredibly rewarding to write programs like this where the feedback is so visual, so I encourage you to try it yourself too! I hope the topics I've covered so far are enough to shed light on what goes into raytracing. Pun intended, of course.

Posted by Pahgawk - April 4th, 2017

Hello again, it's been a while! I made an animation for the first time in a few years:

So how did I arrive here? Why did this take so long?

Well, let's go back to high school. After finishing NATA in 2013, I was pretty burnt out. I was also bogged down with work, stressed, and depressed. In 2014 I was graduating high school and starting university, so I started making another animation about that process of moving on. I was setting out to make a coming of age story as someone who hadn't really gone through that process yet myself. I wanted the scope to be larger than something I'd make in a month for NATA, too, so it was larger and more ambitious than I was used to. Needless to say, I never finished it. I think I have the source files lying around somewhere so maybe one day I'll come back to it, after revamping the story. But it's unlikely.

I went to the University of Waterloo for software engineering. I've made posts on here before about programming, so it's nothing new that that's something I have a lot of interest in. It took a while to get into the flow of university life, though. Although I like what I do, programming took up all of my time. My university program is a little weird. It's a five-year program where every four months, we alternate between a school term and a term interning at a company. We don't get summers off. In order to get the sorts of work experience I wanted, I had to (and also wanted to) spend a lot of my time improving my programming skills. I think I've come a long way, and I've made a lot of things I'm proud of. My end goal is to bring computing back to the arts at some point, so I've been doing some computer graphics stuff recently. I made a raytracing 3d renderer that can do stuff like focal blur and motion blur, so that was a big learning experience. Recently I also made a thing where you put in a midi file and it plays All Star to the tune of the midi as a project for TerribleHack, a hackathon I helped start in Waterloo where you take a terrible idea and make it. I've worked at Shopify, Athos, and Remind so far, and I'm going to be working at Google in Mountain View this summer. I've been busy, clearly.

It took a while, but I'm at a point again where I tihnk my life is in pretty good shape. I'm feeling better than I have in a long time, I'm doing stuff that I love, and I'm working with great people. Part of having your life in order seems to be getting a bit of free time. I sort of stopped posting it to Newgrounds, but I haven't stopped making music this whole time (maybe I'll start uploading those again.) I also make crappy, sarcastic cover songs with my roommates every term. And, recently, I started making animations again.

I've made small looping animations as jokes with friends, but I hadn't really made anything significant (defined, to me, as "longer than 30 seconds and with sound maybe") until recently. I'm taking a public speaking course to get an English credit, and we had to make a video essay for one assignment, so I ended up making this:

What can I say, I liked the feeling of making things. So I tasked myself with making an actual animation again. I tried to keep the scope small to make sure I'd actually finish, and the animation I released today was the result. Interestingly, my animatino style changed a bit. At first I thought my drawings were shakier, but I've come to realize that that isn't entirely true. In the past, I'd have a separate layer for the heads of characters, where I would drag around the same drawing on top of the frame-by-frame animated body. This way, the shape of the head barely ever changes, and it doesn't look shaky. Now, I don't like the feeling of dividing everything up into a million layers and making everything pristine, so I generally have one layer per character and I redraw everything. So my animation isn't any shakier than before, but since it's all being redrawn, including the head, it visually looks a bit shakier. Which is alright, it's a looser style, and I think it allows for freer acting.

I also learned you can import video into Ableton Live so you can sync up sound to video. If you use Ableton and don't use it to score your movies, I highly recommend it. I feel like I've been doing audio editing in the dark ages up until now.

Anyway, don't expect things from me too frequently, but I don't think I'll be gone for as long this time. Animation is a big part of my identity and I'm glad to be back.

- Dave

Posted by Pahgawk - July 31st, 2015

Hey guys, turns out this weekend is a long weekend for me, so that means you have until Sunday night to send in entries for the Sarcastic Body Language Collab. 

Rules are here: 


Posted by Pahgawk - July 17th, 2015

UPDATE: deadline is August 1st. I promise I will get the deadline right the first time next time!

Hey guys, a round of NATA just finished, that means it's time for a new collab!

The theme this time is body language: try to have a character show some emotion without giving them any recognizable facial features! Here's mine, for reference:


The deadline will tentatively be set for the 1st, with the possibility of extension (tell me if you need more time!)

The usual rules:

  • Anyone can join, even if you're not part of NATA!
  • The Flash project is 720x405, 24fps (although if you make yours at any 16:9 ratio, we can scale it)
  • You don't have to use Flash either. As long as it's the right size and frame rate, you can just send me a video file.¬†Don't worry about conversion, I'll handle that (but in case you really want to, I convert to 720x406 flv. It doesn't seem to like having an odd number of pixels in the height.)
  • If you send me a .swf,¬†do not use MovieClips with nested animations or filters¬†as they won't import. Graphics are fine.
  • If you send me a .fla, then MovieClips work.
  • In general, try to avoid filters like blurs and glows. On the menu page with all of the animations, those in particular are expensive and slow things down. If you really need them though, we can export a video and use that without any issue.
  • We don't use sound (the collab has background music and also all of the entries are shown together on the menu.)
  • Aim for a short animation or loop less than 15 seconds (this is more of a guideline than a rule)

Here's our last collab for reference.

Posted by Pahgawk - June 27th, 2015

TL;DR turns out you can use Swivel from the command line, but it doesn't let you change the starting frame that way, so I tried to patch it in myself.

You probably know of and have used Newgrounds's swf to video converter, Swivel. It's a really fantastic tool and is really the only acceptable tool for converting Flash videos. So that is why I wanted to use it when presented with the task of downloading all the NATA entries and converting them all to video.

When presented with a task like this, there is a lot of repetitive process involved, so I like to try to automate things. Perl is my tool of choice to do web scraping and automation, and I figured I'd throw in a system call to run Swivel on the downloaded swf files that I scrape from Newgrounds.

The thing is, Swivel doesn't claim to be usable from the command line. It doesn't say so anywhere on the wiki page. But I noticed that if you run it, followed by the name of a file, it will convert it using the default settings:

$ Swivel file.swf

I wondered if maybe Swivel actually did have a command line API, but just an undocumented one. To find out, a used a Flash decompiler and took a look at bin/Swivel.swf from the Swivel installation directory. It turns out that if you want to use Swivel from the command line, you have a few different flags you can set:

$ Swivel file.swf -s 1280x720
Set the output width and height

$ Swivel file.swf -vb 1.5m
$ Swivel file.swf -vb 256k
Set the video bitrate

$ Swivel file.swf -ab 1.5m
$ Swivel file.swf -ab 256k
Set the audio bitrate

$ Swivel file.swf -sm letterbox
$ Swivel file.swf -sm crop
$ Swivel file.swf -sm stretch
Set the video scale mode

$ Swivel file.swf -a none
$ Swivel file.swf -a swf
$ Swivel file.swf -a audio.mp3
Set the audio for the exported video (No audio, audio from the swf, or an external file)

$ Swivel file.swf -o converted.mp4
Set the output file

$ Swivel file.swf -t
Set transparent background

This is all really helpful stuff. However, I also needed to be able to set the start frame. My script goes and downloads videos from Newgrounds with the NATA round tag (like "nata2015open"), and swfs uploaded to Newgrounds all have preloaders. This causes the conversions to hang when being run through the command line. So, I set out on a mission to add the feature in to Swivel.

The trouble is, when you decompile an swf file, you don't get actionscript, you get bytecode.

For example, here's a simple script:

var test = [1, 2, 3]

Here it is in AVM2 instructions:

findproperty      test //nameIndex = 7
pushbyte          1
pushbyte          2
pushbyte          3
newarray          [3]
setproperty       test //nameIndex = 7
findpropstrict    trace //nameIndex = 8
findpropstrict    test //nameIndex = 9
getproperty       test //nameIndex = 9
getproperty       length //nameIndex = 10
callproplex       trace (1) //nameIndex = 8

In case you're not familiar with the general concept of how programming languages and assemblers work, here's a brief overview. Your computer doesn't automatically understand ActionScript. In fact, it doesn't really understand any normal programming language, even low level ones like C. Your computer reads Assembly, or basically, a bunch of hexadecimal numbers, where each one corresponds to a specific command. All other languages get turned into Assembly in some way or another, where some languages are separated by more degrees than others (scripting languages like Python or ActionScript sit at a higher level than something like C.)

So, ActionScript doesn't compile directly to Assembly, but it compiles to something called byte code, which essentially serves the same purpose. Rather than read commands directly into the CPU, commands get read into the ActionScript Virtual Machine. The way AVM2 reads in commands is very similar to how Assembly works: Each command name maps directly to a hexadecimal number, which represents a simple command to execute.

There are no if statements, but there are markers in the code and you can use the "jump" keyword to go to different ones depending on if conditions are met. Instead of running functions with inline parameters like addNumbers(1, 2), you push the parameters to the stack (pushbyte 1, pushbyte 2) and then call the function specifying how many things there are in the stack meant as parameters (callproperty addNumbers 2). It's not the most intuitive thing to work in, but it works.

I essentially wanted to add in one line of code to start recording on frame 2:

swivelJob.duration = RecordingDuration.frameRange(2, swivelJob.duration.params[1]);

Here's what that ended up being:

findpropstrict    swivelJob //nameIndex = 7
getproperty       swivelJob //nameIndex = 7
findpropstrict    RecordingDuration //nameIndex = 9
getproperty       RecordingDuration //nameIndex = 9
pushbyte          2
findpropstrict    swivelJob //nameIndex = 7
getproperty       swivelJob //nameIndex = 7
getproperty       duration //nameIndex = 8
getproperty       params //nameIndex = 11
pushbyte          1
getproperty       null //nameIndex = 12
callproperty      frameRange (2) //nameIndex = 10
setproperty       duration //nameIndex = 8
kill              2

Because this is all pretty new to me and lends itself to a very awkward workflow, I basically just added in that code block without any conditionals: in my patched version of Swivel, if you run a conversion from the command line, it always assumes that it should start on the second frame. Ideally, I'd make it so there are extra command line flags you could set to specify the start and end frames (for example, -sf and -ef), but this is all I have done for now.

If you want to try it out, you can download the patched swf here. Rename it to just Swivel.swf and put it in your Swivel installation folder /bin (so, on Windows, that'd end up being C:/Program Files/Swivel/bin). It's a good idea to back up your original Swivel.swf first, but if all else fails, you can redownload the original here.

If enough people would find it useful, I might consider going and actually adding in the feature fully. Or, if any of the Newgrounds staff feel like open-sourcing the ActionScript source, that'd make it really easy to add the feature in, so I'd gladly go and do it! Understandably they might not want their source public though.

So yeah, that's what I've been doing in my spare time for the past few days!

Although the entirety of the NATA scraper isn't done yet, you can follow its progress on GitHub if you're so inclined.

Posted by Pahgawk - June 18th, 2015

Update: I forgot that there was less time between rounds this year, so I'm extending the deadline until Sunday the 5th.


Hey guys, so in between rounds of the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation, we organize these massive collaborations called the Sarcastic Collabs. Here's one from last year for reference. And with the first round of NATA drawing to a close, it's time for the first one of this year!

The theme is Inanimate Objects.

That means taking things that don't usually move or have any emotions and giving them life. Think Pixar's Luxo Jr or the teapots and kitchenware in Beauty and the Beast. Here's my entry:


There are a few rules:

  • Anyone can join, even if you're not part of NATA!
  • The Flash project is 720x405, 24fps (although if you make yours at any 16:9 ratio, we can scale it)
  • You don't have to use Flash either. As long as it's the right size and frame rate, you can just send me a video file.¬†Don't worry about conversion, I'll handle that (but in case you really want to, I convert to 720x406 flv. It doesn't seem to like having an odd number of pixels in the height.)
  • If you send me a .swf,¬†do not use MovieClips or filters¬†as they won't import. Graphics are fine.
  • If you send me a .fla, then MovieClips work.
  • In general, try to avoid filters like blurs and glows. On the menu page with all of the animations, those in particular are expensive and slow things down. If you really need them though, we can export a video and use that without any issue.
  • We don't use sound (the collab has background music and also all of the entries are shown together on the menu.)
  • Aim for a short animation or loop less than 15 seconds (this is more of a guideline than a rule)

And that's it! PM me your entries via Dumping Grounds link or something and I'll add you to the collab! Tentative deadline is the evening of Sunday the 27th.

Also, let me know if you want to make the preloader art for the collab!