Thursday, December 25, 2008

Press Release: Axiotron at Macworld 2009

El Segundo, California based Axiotron Incorporated, makers of the award winning Modbook has just posted a press release regarding the upcoming MACWORLD CONFERENCE in San Francisco, California.  The Modbook is being re-introduced with new enhancements in functionality and drawing capability as well as new hardware improvements, especially with Bluetooth technology.

The official press release is HERE.  I'll be there on Wednesday, January 7th to do presentations on illustration and storyboarding and how the Modbook impacts my workflow.  Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Macworld Conference 2009

I've been invited by AXIOTRON to do on-site Modbook demos at their booth during the annual MACWORLD CONFERENCE in San Francisco. The conference and expo features the state of the art in the world of Apple and it's computers and devices. For a Mac user, this is equivalent to going to Comic-Con where you can get a first look on the latest products.

The conference runs January 5th to 9th, 2009 at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. I'll be there on Wednesday, January 7th for the whole day at the Axiotron Booth. Check back here for a full report and pictures.  

If you're attending and want to say hello, Axiotron is at booth 502.

Click HERE for more info on Macworld Conference.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Recent Sketches

It's been a while since I posted here so I thought I'd put up some recent drawings.  These where done on Adobe Photoshop using a modified grease pencil at 80 percent opacity and 100 percent flow.  Shape dynamics are set to pen pressure at a minimum diameter of 1 pixel.  All other presets are turned off except for noise and other dynamics.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Comic-Con 2008 Modbook Recap

Another Comic-Con has come and gone and for this year's convention, I had the pleasure of having my Axiotron Modbook with me.  

The common questions asked of visitors at my table where "What's that?" and "That's a Macintosh?"  "How different is it from a Wacom Cintiq?"  Many have already heard of the Modbook which means the word of mouth has gone around.   But an equal amount of people where completely surprised by it.  They had no idea such a device existed.  

Obviously many where eager to try out the Modbook for themselves and I was more than happy to oblige them.  For all of you thinking about getting one and are on the fence, drawing on it is the only real way to know.  Of course you already know where I come out on that.

I'm awaiting word on when and where Axiotron will be doing the next demo.  (Hopefully somewhere at SIGGRAPH 2008 in Los Angeles this month)  Otherwise, feel free to flag me down if you see me walking down the street.....

More pictures from San Diego are HERE on my Comic-Con recap on Random Anomalies.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Modbook at San Diego Comic-Con '08

If you are in the Southern California area and would like to see the Modbook in action, I'll be doing some sketching using my Modbook during this week's San Diego Comic-Con.  Go to Exhibitor Table G4 to check it out.  I can also fill you in on the making of my new sketchbook ALTERNATING CURRENTS

Product brochures will also be available at my table courtesy of the fine folks at Axiotron. Hope to see you there...

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Modbook Payoff

One of my main reasons for upgrading to a digital workstation is streamlining my process, both with my story art and self-publishing endeavors.

With my latest sketchbook ALTERNATING CURRENTS, the Modbook enabled me to illustrate and assemble the project in half the time. Though the book features traditional drawings, it is predominantly digital which reduced the amount of scanning resulting in decreased production time.

Of course there is the contention that the book looks too digital and less traditional.  This is simply one way of doing things and if one puts in the time, those digital creations are on par with their traditional counterparts.   

In the end, programs like Photoshop, Painter and Sketchbook Pro are merely tools just like Oils, pastels and watercolors.  The intangible will always be the artist.  

The sketchbook debuts at this summer's San Diego COMIC-CON.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Accessory Update: iRizer & Folding Keyboard

It took a while but I finally received two products I purchased in February from MATIAS: The iRizer notebook stand and the Folding USB Keyboard.

The iRizer has been available for a while now but the Macintosh version of the folding keyboard was delayed and they didn't want to ship the items separately. The iRizer was exactly what I thought it was going to be. A portable, lightweight stand for everyday use. I had reservations because the maximum tilt angle was only 50 degrees which may not be enough to view the screen directly. But I am happy to report that at normal table height, I had no problem viewing the screen at all. (This stand is intended to hold a normal laptop so the maximum 50 degree angle would be at the extreme) The iRizer is made out of hard plastic and easy to carry and assemble. And since it disassembles flat, it's pretty easy to slip in a laptop case.

I wasn't sure what I would be getting with the Matias Folding Keyboard. All the product photos looked very good but like anything you buy over the internet, it's a roll of the dice in terms of actual quality. Once again I am happy to report that THIS KEYBOARD IS PRETTY AWESOME! The great thing about it is that you're not sacrificing functionality at all. It is a full sized keyboard. What you gain in space and weight in a mini-keyboard, you give up in functionality but that is not the case with this product.

Like the iRizer, it's lightweight. As a matter of fact it weighs next to nothing. Yet when you open it up, lay it down and start typing on it, it feels just like a regular keyboard. It has just the right amount of tactile feedback and the keyboard action is smooth and fluid. The construction quality is impressive as well. Extra functions include dedicated buttons for controlling the system volume. (Mute, Volume up and down)

One gripe I have is that they took out the Caps Lock key in lieu of a Fn key. They incorporated this button so certain functions could be used without having to move your hand to reach across the keyboard. So to enable the Caps Lock you have to press Fn then another key. A little irritating when you are in a groove typing.

One question left to answer for both products is durability, especially for the keyboard. I plan to use the keyboard full time either on the go or at home. So we'll see how it fares in the long run. Info including product measurements and such can be found on the sidebar in the accessory links.

Now I've got a portable iMac!

Folding keyboard...Transform!!

Thankfully, assembly of the iRizer requires zero brain power. Just slide the stand in the desired slot/viewing angle and .....
This is at the 50 degree setting
... now that it's done, simply add a Modbook

Even though this angle is tolerable for general use, I suppose ergonomically, it will cause fatigue at some point. I've tried propping up a book at the back end of the stand to increase the angle and it certainly makes it better, however I shouldn't have to explain that this might cause the whole thing to come crashing forward so use your best judgement. Use a Reader's Digest instead of War and Peace.


iRizer Update - 5-6-08

As much as the iRizer works great as an all around stand, it's a little rickety to do a lot of drawing on especially if you have a heavy stroke. If you plan on using your Modbook as your main workstation, the iRizer is probably not for you. A more sturdy stand or monitor arm will work better.

Monday, April 28, 2008

SKETCHBOOK PRO 2009: Inching Forward

I was astounded when I first demo'd Alias' Sketchbook Pro in 2005 at SIGGRAPH on a Wacom Cintiq. This was the future I thought. A true digital drawing platform that delivered realistic tool simulation the likes of which have never been seen. I downloaded a demo and I was hooked. Soon I purchased version 2.0 and over two years, one comic book and numerous sketches and illustrations later, SBP is still a mainstay in my digital process.

In between that time, Alias was acquired by Autodesk and this beloved program was put in limbo with it's future uncertain. Rumors of other companies purchasing SBP where rampant and speculation was that Autodesk was simply going to let the program die. Meanwhile the SBP faithful clamored for so many features to be added to SBP in a hypotethical version 3.0.

The ability to work on multiple windows, blend modes, fill or paintbucket feature, special effects, etc. are just some of the many suggested new features that can make an already great product more powerful.

After downloading and performing trials on Autodesk's attempt at an updated version of SBP, I can safely say that it's been sort of a let down. I guess I was really looking forward to a much more substantial upgrade that what was released.

Basically, the program remains unchanged. ( see Fig 1 and 2 below for the interface comparison) This is a GOOD thing really because had they fooled around with the tool simulation I would have really cried foul, got my cash back and ran back to the loving arms of version 2.0. But thank goodness Autodesk decided not to fix something that wasn't broken.

Okay so what's new? Not a whole lot really. The following are the two most notable new features:

1. PHOTOSHOP PSD INTEGRATION - It's now possible to switch from Photoshop to SBP seamlessly and modify PSD files. SBP even preserves all the original layer information. This is a very big deal because the old alternative was to work with TIFF files. Because SBP's compression is different from Photoshop, layers where automatically flattened when you create TIFF files in SBP and import them to Photoshop. (and vice versa)

2. FLOOD FILL / FLOOD FILL VISIBLE LAYERS - a.k.a - a paintbucket tool. No more enlarging the paintbrush to fill large portions of art with color. Unfortunately these new tools won't work in conjunction with either Select or Lasso Select. Pretty lame in my estimation. So the way it works is the area to be filled must be closed in by a line.

The less notable features? In the LAYER window a thumbnail of each layer is now visible. Instead of writing in the name of a layer, it's now typed in via keyboard. (You can still write the layer name in by selecting this view) And to accomodate the layer thumbnail image, the layer opacity slider has been moved. Honestly these features are either here or there for me. In fact, the old layer interface in SBP 2.o was better. This one looks pretty clunky.

So if I had to grade Autodesk on this version of SBP what would it be? a whopping C+

As much as I am glad that SBP is getting a much needed boost, it falls short of expectations and the new features (mainly the FILL tools) lack any kind of groundbreaking functionality. This felt like "going through the motions" and does not take advantage of the programs unique and innate qualities.

Thankfully for us who have come to rely on Sketchbook Pro, the program still delivers the goods and the additional features are a welcome addition. I hope there's a bit more vision and a whole lot more useful features to be found in the next version of this landmark program.

Fig. 1 - The old Alias SBP version 2.o interface

Fig. 2 - The new SBP 2009 interface. Not much has changed.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 2009

It's been a long time coming but the much clamored-for update for the phenomenal digital sketch program SKETCHBOOK PRO is finally available for purchase.

I paid $90 for the downloadable upgrade from Alias' version 2.0. Now called SKETCHBOOK PRO 2009, it has some new features including the ability to import and modify Photoshop PSD files. Expect a full review soon on a separate post.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fun with Color

While in Ventura, California recently I painted part of a hillside using Sketchbook Pro. I imported the the image to Photoshop for color correction and added some texture. It was an impromptu situation so the framing was not optimum. I had to tug and stretch the image in Photoshop to fit in a square, so unfortunately the image looks a bit cropped. Otherwise I was happy with the outcome.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Modbook at Drawing Class

I took my Modbook to a costumed gesture drawing class at work for the first time and it performed beautifully. I also tried tilting the tablet upright and sketching in "Portrait" mode and discovered some quirks along the way.

While upright and drawing using Sketchbook Pro I found that the digitizer behaved erratically and the pen would lose it's alignment in certain spots of the screen. But for the most part it behaved well enough to sketch.

For more details regarding the Modbook's debut in drawing class and complete collage of poses, click HERE for my companion post on Random Anomalies.


When I mentioned that I worked in Portrait mode, I should clarify that this meant physically tilting the Modbook upright and sketching while the tablet is set at the default "Landscape" mode. Right now Mac OS 10.4 does not provide for tilting the screen upright, but it certainly does not stop any user from drawing or noting with the screen tilted upright. (You can simply rotate the resulting graphic in Photoshop afterwards)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Settling In

Five weeks after receiving my Modbook, It's finally assimilated itself into my daily routine. For a while I was still switching back and forth between the Modbook and my old 12 inch G4 Powerbook as the tablet and I went through the honeymoon phase.

Now, it's part of my professional and personal life. At work it's become indispensable as my primary note taking and sketching device especially at meetings and brainstorm sessions. I lug it everywhere else as a digital sketchbook and diary.

My urgent plan is to use my Modbook as my main presentation tool at work, either integrating with, or completely bypassing my company work station. I simply port in to a monitor via mini-DVI and use Adobe Bridge with the Apple remote to pitch my storyboards. (probably with an assist from MIRA)

I'm eager to explore and implement this set-up and i'll report back here as to the result.

But for now it's been smooth sailing for the Modbook.


I'm still waiting on word regarding the shipment of the MATIAS iRizer and FOLDING KEYBOARD I ordered around 2 1/2 weeks ago. The Keyboard was supposed to be released around now so I am hoping to be notified soon. (hopefullly....)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Accessory Update: Ergotron LX Desk Mount

The box from arrived today with my order of the ERGOTRON LX DESK MOUNT and needless to say, I was anticipating getting home tonight to try it out.

The specs said that the LX is definitely made of metal but I wasn't really sure what kind and how heavy it was. Lifting the box to needed some flexing of the muscles. Without opening it I was getting an idea how durable the LX might be.

Upon opening the box, I was wading through a whole maze of packaging. From it I could make out spare parts, plastic baggies filled with all sorts of screws and hardware. Pretty intimidating. I'm already telling myself that this could be a late evening sipping coffee while figuring out which end is which.

Amazingly, there is really nothing to the LX. I installed it in about 15 minutes and my Modbook was sitting in it in about 25. There are four major parts: The table mounting post, 1 connecting arm, 1 forearm and the laptop mounting tray. For my initial set up I only installed the forearm that connects to the mounting tray. My art table is not that big and it's a cheapo at that. It's already a little rickety so the less hardware, the better. This whole post was created with the Modbook mounted with a USB keyboard attached. (An ADESSO mini Mac keyboard) And speaking of the mounting tray. I was kind of curious how it works and the kind of mobility it gets. I was doubly curious how it actually secures a laptop while it's mounted. The answer? The tray (which you have to attach out of the box) is mounted on a swivel head with a counter weighed spring so when you remove your laptop, the whole tray swings up. It's designed to accept the weight of a laptop up to 11 pounds.

And what about all that hardware? The LX was designed to fulfill many needs so depending on the situation, there are extra screws, fastening clips and several sizes of hex screw drivers for modifying your set up. So basically I ended up not using most of the hardware. (for now)

I read all the available reviews for the LX before my purchase so I can compare notes. I'll likely be updating on this accessory the more I use it. For now IT ABSOLUTELY WORKS GREAT. Seeing my Modbook freely suspended and mounted on the LX side by side with my WACOM CINTIQ is just overwhelming. My ideal set up is now a reality.

All the LX info is around this blog especially the sidebar.

Now check out the pictures:

25 minutes after unboxing and assembly, I mounted my Modbook on the LX next to my CINTIQ
Sideview- before I connected the Mag-safe power supply, USB and DVI cables
Rearview - Notice that the black mounting tray connects to the arm via a standard VESA mounting plate. According to Axiotron, a VESA type mount will be available in the spring to attach to the back of the Modbook. This means I can have the option of mounting the tablet directly to the LX..... But that kind of defeats getting a portable tablet don't you think?
View directly above the mounting tray. You can easily detach the tray by removing those knurled knobs.
another sideview
Looking up at the LX, there is a provision to run wires and cables through those plastic tunnels running along the length of the mounting post and forearm directly to your machine.
As I mentioned above, when you remove the Modbook, the counter-weighted tray lifts up
A look under the LX sans Modbook.
..... now I'm cooking with gas!! Sitting in between these two makes me feel like Tank from The Matrix.
It looks a little gnarly with all those wires but it's a quick demo. I'll need to tidy things up later.
... it almost looks kind of hospital-ish doesn't it?
.... euphoria has just set in folks....

Friday, February 15, 2008

Modbookin' at the Car Wash

I've been taking my Modbook outdoors to sketch and it's been quite fun. Today at lunch I went to the car wash and did some doodles while I waited.

The bright sun did impair visibility of the screen a bit, but there was more than enough to work with. Just keep the screen directly in front and not at an angle.

Done on SKETCHBOOK PRO using a 2B pencil and chisel tip pen.

(Check out this related post on Random Anomalies)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Battery life

In my previous post, I mentioned that the Modbook can be a bit of a gas guzzler, even while in sleep mode. There have been posts on the ModbookArt Forums about varying experiences regarding this subject. It all really boils down to usage. Some have gotten really good mileage using their Modbooks in a variety of situations including general use.

However, it seems apparent to me (although not unexpected) that running apps like Photoshop will drain the juice out of that Macbook battery faster than usual. For instance, starting at a 100 percent charge I sketched with Photoshop along with Adobe Bridge for 40 minutes and the charge went down to 73 percent. (I've done this several times and the average is about 20-30 percent battery consumption per 30-45 minutes of use)

For one full hour the battery went down to 58%. This averages to about 2 hours of sketch time per charge. Once that fan starts to spin, expect your battery life to go south.

Now 2 hours isn't bad. However like I said previously. Plan on an extra battery if you plan to be away from home base for a while. Most coffee houses (like Starbucks) and restaurants don't mind you plugging in as well. Just plan on ordering some Java to avoid a dirty look.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Light Sleeper

It's been a week since I received my MODBOOK and the transition has been quite smooth. I can tell you that this tablet is hard to put down. I am constantly finding ways to sneak in some sketching time and like some drug addict, the more I sketch, the more I want to do more.

Having used the Modbook so much during this time, I did notice that it has one obvious downside: IT'S A POWER HOG.

Not that I didn't expect this. I knew that the digitizer screen will draw a lot of power but particularly in SLEEP MODE, the Modbook doesn't totally go to "sleep". I suppose it needs the extra juice to keep to keep the digitizer memory intact. The blue LED indicator lights on the top left corner will draw power as well. That is on top of the normal low-power sleep mode that a Macbook already employs.

This could be problematic when you're on the road and unable to plug in. The typical Macbook battery (regardless of what Apple eggheads claim) will only last 2, maybe 3 hours. (Much less if you run Photoshop or stream video) This means you will have less power to work with on the Modbook.

As an example, I charged my Modbook yesterday to 100 percent, then put it on sleep mode. I woke it up after two hours and the power indicator showed it 87 percent. I charged it again to 100 percent then sketched for a few minutes down to about 90 percent. I left it in sleep mode all night then woke it up this morning and it was down to 47 percent...

It's obvious that contingencies are necessary. Perhaps purchasing and packing an extra battery? This will add a tremendous load to one's gig bag but could be a lifesaver if you're pressing to finish a deadline on the run. You'll probably need an extra anyway because the main battery's life will definitely be short with the constant charging/discharging.

Shutting down during travel should help as well. If you don't plan on using your Modbook inside a plane, then power it down. (unless you're on some of the newer jets that have laptop power inputs, then by all means, sketch the friendly skies)

So whatever your usage will be, managing your power will be essential to keep that stylus moving...

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Reader Terence brought up some functionality issues regarding the ERGOTRON LX DESK MOUNT via AMAZON.COM that he had read. I followed up and checked them out and they are worthy of mention. The product rates overall at around 5 stars and the gist of the complaints are centered around the laptop platform and it's apparent inability to hold anything over 6-7 pounds without easily tilting down. (The LX states the cradle will hold up to 8-12 pounds) It's important to note that the MODBOOK weighs around 5.2 pounds so that is something to consider if you are thinking of purchasing the LX.

My response to Terence regarding my proposed use of the LX can be viewed HERE.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Accessory Alert: Ergotron LX Desk Mount & Matias iRizer

There's no question as to the tremendous portability of the MODBOOK, but sooner or later you're going to need to mount that bad boy onto something so you won't get a nasty neck kink. (Looking down directly at the tablet while you draw will do this)

Axiotron is coming out with an attachment that will enable the Modbook to hook into all VESA type mounts. My source at Axiotron indicated that they are fast-tracking this attachment to be available by March 2008. But in the meantime, this nifty, multi-adjusting laptop mount from ERGOTRON might suffice. The LX Desk Mount looks well made and sturdy and allows for freedom of movement while the Modbook sits on a secure cradle.

I think i'm going to order the LX and try it out. I'll let you know how it works with the Modbook.

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Another, more cost-efficient solution could be another product from Matias called the iRizer which is basically just a laptop stand that can be adusted to a total of 4 positions. It's most upright tilt is at 50 degrees which may or may not be enough for general viewing since this product is meant to be used for a laptop with a screen. (where you can adjust the screen further)

This is definitely one of those accessories that you would really have to demo to see if it'll work out.

ERGOTRON and MATIAS links are available on the sidebar.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Accessory Alert: Mattias Folding Keyboard

As helpful as QUICKCLICKS is, sooner or later you're going to need a keyboard, especially if you're used to working with apps like Photoshop and Painter that involve heavy use of keyboard shortcuts.

I've been researching the net for a while and this in my opinion, seems like the most logical solution. This baby folds in half!! Which means it'll fit nicely in one's gig bag.

I haven't demo'd this product yet but at around $60, it can't be any worse than any other keyboard out there in the same price range. Aside from the fact that it does the cool transformy thing, this is a dedicated Mac keyboard. Without it, one would have to settle for a Windows keyboard and would have to suffer through transposing the command, option and control keys. (I've actually tried this and after a while, one does get used to working on it for the most part)

So check it out and see if it works for you... I'll add the MATIAS link to the sidebar as well.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Now that the AXIOTRON MODBOOK has begun shipping, I decided it might be good idea for me to create a blog concentrated on all things Modbook. Until now i've posted my Modbook experience on my regular blog RANDOM ANOMALIES. RA is essentially an art blog that covers my experiences as an animation story artist and i'd like to keep it that way.

On this blog i'll be posting art, reviews, updates and general info regarding the Modbook. That includes accessories, software and user feedback. I invite all bonafide users of the Modbook to contribute their info and ideas as well. Owning a Modbook wouldn't be any fun if you couldn't share the experience right?

So here we go!