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Unread 03-09-2003, 02:11 PM
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A joke they called Regional Animation Competitions

I feel that I have to share this. I’m not sure how many teams here were at Richmond regional, but for those of you who hadn’t been there – here is how it went.

Our animation group arrives on Friday, full of hopes, and receives a voting ballot for the animation judging. Soon enough we are able to find the spot where animations are played, and guess what? It is located in the pits area, the noise level is above anything that the small TV placed there can produce, and the best part of all – you HAVE TO WEAR goggles in there! The feeling was that they were just hiding away the whole animation competition.

But that was only the beginning. We look through the loop of animations played and see that our animation is COMPLETELY screwed up by grainy artifacts, flashing white screens and color shifts. The whole thing is painful to watch. It is 8:30, and we start running around the competition area trying to find someone to talk to. Turns out – there is no one there right now who knows about animation at all, “but if you wait till 10:00 someone will show up”. We nervously wait till 10:00… nobody there… 10:15… still nobody… 10:25… finally, a lady comes saying that she is going to run the judging, but she is not actually an Autodesk representative, - just a volunteer helping out (the real representative had said that he couldn’t come so they quickly needed to find someone else).

We explain our situation, and ask if we could show our REAL animation on a laptop (luckily I’ve brought a CD with our animations on it). She agrees, and we spend another 30 minutes running around to find a laptop that could play our animation. (640x480 high quality mpeg is not something our control group’s laptop could run). Finally we are set, and there are some team judges starting to come to the table.

Judging. No one knows when the real judging began. Nor even the fact that there was animation judging was ever announced. There were a TV and a laptop sitting through 10:40 to 2:30 and teams just randomly came and judged. The TV was so small, that only one team could judge at a time, with a small line waiting for their turn. And yes, we had to sit by the laptop, embarrassingly explain to the teams that we are not crazy, and we did not originally have the seizure-inducing flashes on our animation, and would they please watch our animation on the laptop, and not on the TV? Most did… I know of at least 2 that didn’t…

Now for the scoring itself. Each team was given a ballot with team numbers, and rubrics listed for each: “Content”, “Creativity”, “Technical Execution”. So you had to fill out the numerical scores for each animation, say “30/40” content, “23/40” creativity, “15/20” execution. There are so many wrongs with this system, that I’ll need a list to mention them.

- Can someone think of a more subjective scoring system than this? I can’t. Every single team had different ideas of what the rubrics really were, and what appropriate scoring ranges would be.
- The final score for each team were AVERAGED – you don’t want your team to lose? Just give low scores to your competition!
- There are 25 animations – judging all of them takes 40+ minutes. Your scoring “scale” will inevitably shift during the process, which means that first 5 teams played are judged on a scale completely different than the last 5.
- Again, looking through all animations takes at least half hour. With the pressure from the teams waiting in line, it is next to impossible to spend appropriate time for judging each animation. Many teams just rushed through the scoring, not really thinking about the points.
- With all of the numerical scores that should have been added, averaged, etc. I can bet there were calculating mistakes during the scoring, they probably didn’t make much difference in the end, but the fact of their presence is still pretty sad.

The system was horrible without doubts. Implementation was even worse. Soon enough we found that there were teams whose animation was on the tape, but whose numbers were not on scoring sheets. There were opposites – they were on scoring sheets, but animation was missing on the tape. There were even worse cases, when the animation was on the tape, but title screen was cut off, making it impossible to identify and score it. Most of the teams who got screwed up like this were not even scored, automatically loosing. And some of them were pretty good too.

Continuing ranting about the tape. Artifacts – ours was not the only one covered with flashes, but by far the most artifacted on the tape. There were others with minor flashing (which nevertheless killed any possible good impression from viewing the uncorrupted parts) and graining. The best artifact I’ve seen – the “Low Battery” message that got recorded over team 21’s animation (actually I’m not sure about this one – if it was original part of animation, I take this back, but it really didn’t look like it should have been there. We’ll need someone from team 21 to clarify that) But that’s not all – the order in which animations were recorded was pretty “interesting” too. I haven’t noticed any discernable logic behind it – it was random at best. And there were duplicates on the tape! Some of the animations were recorded twice per loop! Why? Only Autodesk knows…

The last thing – could someone please, please explain me why did Autodesk divide the whole thing in conferences?? All of the conference animations get judged at regional, but only the teams who actually submitted to this regional can win! What do they do with the scores for the rest of the teams? Throw them out? Or what?

Finally, the award ceremony. For the first time we actually hear something said out loudly about the animation award. We nervously wait, still with some hopes of winning – we know that at least 2 out of about 6 teams that judged had seen the wrong animation, but we still have hopes. No luck on this one, winner being team 343.We know, that now its too late to argue about anything, but we still want to see if we are one of the two runner-ups that get to go to national championship for the animations. According to the rules: “The scores will be available immediately after the award ceremony”. Yeah, right – only there wasn’t anyone there who knew anything about the scores, and the most we heard is that Autodesk still haven’t decided if they want to release them right now.

When we arrived to competitions on Friday we had really high hopes for winning. And if there were no artifacts (which were definitely Autodesk’s fault – we have submitted our entry in Intel Indeo which fits perfectly under the rules, and we tested it for compatibility on numerous machines with different operating systems), it would have probably been so. And many of the teams that had actually seen the uncorrupted version had agreed with that. Our visual quality was nullified by Autodesk’s incompetence in transferring the video to VHS, and our sound track was thrown away by the noises in the pit area. Even if we had some chance with presenting our real animation on laptop – that was destroyed too, by the utter disorganization of the whole animation competition and the judging in particular.

But its not just about the scoring or judging. What I find the most sad is the whole attitude FIRST has toward the animation award. They didn’t bother to take time and write rules that make sense, find a decent place for judging, inform the public of even the presence of such award, - they didn’t even bother to look at the tape they prepared for the judging! I’m sure that if ANY official had seen it, it would not make its way to the regional.

In case any of the FIRST officials are reading this – here is a list of my suggestions for regional animation awards:

- The animations should not be played on a small TV in the farthest corner of the pits. Teams worked hard on their entries and it would be fair to recognize their effort – set up an LCD projector so that everyone can see it!
- The judging should take place in a separate, quiet, room, where the animations should be played off an LCD projector from a computer – not a VHS tape – this will remove 9/10 of the visual problems.
- The time of the judging should be announced so that everyone can hear it! Why do volunteers need to run through the pits asking if their team representatives had already judged?
- I know it is late to change the scoring system, but still few things can be made to make it at least somewhat more objective. Before judging, teams should re-read the rules, to see what rubrics are composed of. Also, more specific guidelines should be given for the points system – for example: 20/40 – average, 30/40 – very good, 35/40 – exceptional and so on.
- The scores should be posted somewhere immediately after the awards ceremony. And not only posted, but announced where they are.

Now that we are screwed, I don’t know where our entry will end up. Anyways, I wish luck to all of the teams on the upcoming regionals, and that FIRST would do something so that our story will not repeat.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 03:51 PM
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I was wicked annoyed with the animation competition at NH Regional. It was no better than richmond, judging in the noisy pits. And during the awards cermony they didn't even show the winning animation. I also was under the impression that they would announce 3 winners from the division, and they only announced 1, and it was from a team not even there. The least they could do was show the winning animation.

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Unread 03-09-2003, 05:42 PM
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I was also at VCU, but I did not enter the animation there... still I'm agreeing with the above post. The conditions were horrible... I don't think there was any sound, and if there was, it was inaudible over the announcers and music. Animation was barely even spoken about at all during the actual competition either... hopefully FIRST will strive to correct this mistake. Animation is getting bigger, and FIRST is recognizing that, but what they did at VCU is totally unacceptable. The least that could have been done was to set aside a small room where 10-20 people could have been in a classroom setting to watch the animations. Hopefully the Arizona regional's will be better than this.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 05:48 PM
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I suspect that FIRST will take into account the opinions of team animators like the ones posted here nad will make marked improvements to the process.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 07:20 PM
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I just found it unbearable.

For every minute I spent enjoying the actual competition at VCU, there were at least ten minutes Lev, Steve and I were scrambling around the floor in absolute panic. The other guys maintained a relatively calm outward appearance, but I could tell they were all as nerve-racked and angry as I was. Lev did an amazing job understating the nightmare that competition was.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 07:50 PM
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On a side note..
the 'Low-battery' in Combbat's (21) animation WAS intentional. Their animation was of someone holding a video camera, taping a marionet puppet show with only 30 seconds of battery time left. The low battery flash came on and they cut.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 08:06 PM
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Quote:
the 'Low-battery' in Combbat's (21) animation WAS intentional. Their animation was of someone holding a video camera, taping a marionet puppet show with only 30 seconds of battery time left. The low battery flash came on and they cut.
I take my words about it back then... I just didn't understand it when i saw it. With so many screw-ups on the tape it looked like the most probable thing. (Very realistic "Low Battery" effect, by the way )

Last edited by Lev : 03-09-2003 at 08:09 PM.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 08:12 PM
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Sadness

Ahh, the horror stories continue. I know for a fact that our team did not even bother to submit an animation entry for this year, due to the frustration with last years complete lack of attention to the award. I worked on the Chairman's award last year, and i helped with the audio mastering for our animation, which did not even get heard in the pitiful exhibition environment. If anyone from FIRST reads this i hope that they take heed, teams work very hard on this animation, only to be repeatedly disappointed with its lack of recognition. If you are going to continue to hold this as an award category, please give it the respect it deserves; otherwise other teams will become as disenchanted as we have.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 08:12 PM
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I told him it was intentional. Though there was no way to hear that there were 30 seconds left. It was a tad bit too loud in the pit.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 08:31 PM
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I wasn't at a regional this weekend, but I do have some input.

Our team was one of the teams lucky enough to have a place to go watch the regionals via NASA sat video feed. Back at motorola, we used it to watch the whole competition. I was really kinda upset that during the awards ceremony, which was all I was able to watch about animations, they only announced ONE winner. They didnt announce the runner-ups AND they didnt show the winning animation. Team 1038 at the cleveland regional obviously did a good enough job to win and should be recognized by having their animation shown to the audience and to all of us joining in around the country. I STILL have no idea what team 1038's animation looks like!

Why does it seem animaiton is ALWAYs an after thought with FIRST? If they dont recognize it as something worthy of this whole competition, then they shouldn't continue to announce it and have teams of students working feverously to get it done. I mean, com'n! The rules this year made little sense and were very misleading and I still have NO IDEA what the prizes this year are! Last year, a laptop was given out along with copies of 3ds. Somehow...with the lack of a commitment to a prize...(taking a stab in the dark here mind you) I'm guessing the winner will get a pat on the back and be sent back the bleechers. Somehow, I think my efforts will be more so focused to the robot next year...(however, I'll be here helping out everybody who needs 3ds help juss as I did this year, because thats the true "grasiously professional" thing to do..unlike the way animation appears to be running this year.)

All I, as well as the other teams here ask, is that a little more "Grasious Professionalism" be applied to the animation comeptition.


And Lev, I feel sooo bad for you man, you all had a technically excellent animation, I still have yet to see many of the others, as Ive been here in Florida still. I won't have a chance to view the animation judging system until UCF (19-22) and Chicago (27-29) but you can bet I'll post here when that time comes.

Good luck to all the animators out there! Try not to give up hope though...If we band togther and keep at it, something will have to change eventually.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 10:03 PM
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Thanks to the animation teams

Hey all animation people out there, I just wanted to say thank you for putting so much effort towards the outstanding final products as they really compliment the robot competition itself. It was most enjoyable to watch the animations in the theater at the VCU team party (although I agree it was difficult to watch them at the regional itself), and, hehe, great job to the team that showed the robot flying off the ramp to the moon - love the flapping wings! I also wanted to express my sympathy for you all having to deal with cruddy conditions and appologize for my team invading the autodesk space at the VCU regional if that contributed to the problem. A special commendation to Lev, Steve, and Larissa, the core animation team for 116. We're all proud of what you turned out and were betting the most on winning Visualization out of all the things we went for this year! I, too, hope FIRST will take these comments into consideration for next year. For the past three seasons I've wondered why they don't show the winning submissions for this and chairman's award at the regionals, but this year's situation kinda tops all that.
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Unread 03-09-2003, 10:08 PM
Matt Haberland Matt Haberland is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lev
I take my words about it back then... I just didn't understand it when i saw it. With so many screw-ups on the tape it looked like the most probable thing. (Very realistic "Low Battery" effect, by the way )
I, too, was confused by that until I saw it again at the Team Party. Why? I couldn't hear the sound at the regional. It seems to me that they could have shown them up where all the exhibits were. That way teams wouldn't get in the way physically and it's a lot less noisy.
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Unread 03-10-2003, 06:41 AM
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Hmmmm. I understand completely. I had trouble watching them at Cleveland and I had problems with who won. The animation was supposed to be about what FIRST meant to us. Everyone there that I saw did nothing dealing with that and just made fancy animation. It was cool and well done but it didn't follow the guidelines to begin with and it rind of annoyed me. They give you a topic to animate about people....can we stick with it please??????
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Unread 03-10-2003, 06:49 AM
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personally I'm shocked...plain shocked. Now my team dosen't go to a regional until the last two (midwest and west michigan) but from listening to the crap that went on already...something has to change. Most of us didn't spend week sitting in front of a computer in a dark room at 3 in the moring to have our animation judging in a PIT! Sooooo...Here's what we can try to do. I think that if the teams take it upon themselves to make this a better competition...it will. We're emailing autodesk right now and offering our help at the West Michigan regional...I know that there are plenty of rooms there. Our team might be able to bring a projector or something. But I think it's safe to say....first+animation=joke. Anyone that wants to help just reply here.

Also what were the awards?
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Unread 03-10-2003, 07:24 AM
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While it is very easy to beat on FIRST for their indifference to the animation competition (and I'm one of it's biggest critics) it must be said that this is a step in the right direction. Now we have to encourage FIRST to take more steps to make it better.
If you look at the early FIRST competitions it is light years from what it is now. There is no reason why the animation cannot become that as well but it is up to us to keep the pressure on FIRST to make the improvements so they don't just think they've dine enough and the animation competition is OK the way it is now. Keep voicing your opinions and also give suggestions on how to improve the competition so FIRST can see that it is a possibility.
We devserve this, because we work just as hard as any of the kids and engineers who work on the robot.
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