Pledge drive - The future of CollieMouse and 3D mice in C4D

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  11 November 2016
Pledge drive - The future of CollieMouse and 3D mice in C4D

Hello, friends of the 3D mouse...

This is about the further development of the CollieMouse alternative plugin for controlling the 3Dconnexion 3D mouse family (for PC only, at the moment).
Please read if it affects you (if you are an owner of a 3Dconnexion device, or you are planning to purchase one) even if it's a long text.

Several years ago, I bought a Space Navigator, and I was not happy about the way it worked in C4D. So, I set out to develop a plugin of my own to provide the missing functionality, which became CollieMouse.

I originally published this as "donate if you'd like to see further development", but the total revenue from that idea turned out to be a whooping 38, which is about $40. No, there is no zero missing, donations from generous people (for which I am duly thankful) did not even pay for the original Space Navigator, which I got on a sale.

Now, that was fine at the time: I programmed the thing for myself mostly, and it brought me great joy because now the Navigator behaved the way I wanted it to, and it actually became an invaluable tool. I hope that others had similar good experiences with it.

Over the next years, I kept CollieMouse up to date, adapted it to the new pivot handling in C4D, and added button support that allowed to execute any C4D function through a Navigator button. (A fat lot of good it does me, with only 2 buttons on the small device ;-) )

These versions were released for free, because donations didn't do so well, so why bother.

However, recently I was informed that CollieMouse doesn't work with the new(?) SpaceMouse Enterprise at all. And possibly other newer devices; I can't check that for lack of hardware.

With the help of a person that owns such a device, I went out to investigate, and found that in the meantime 3Dconnexion had changed its interface. While CollieMouse used a raw input read, as in the code samples originally provided, 3Dconnexion now has a full abstraction interface with additional functions, and a setup GUI of their own that supports some interesting possibilities.

Also, it's breaking the CollieMouse connection.

I spent a few days on what practically turned out to be a complete reimplementation of the CollieMouse 3Dconnexion interface. Right now, CollieMouse works with the SpaceMouse Enterprise, and supports both raw buttons and the new button assignment interface - including radial menus. It's currently doing only test tasks, but I will be able to deliver a cleaned-up version which allows the assignment of ANY C4D function in the official SpaceMouse way, and will offer all the previous functionality of CollieMouse to the new (and future) devices.

Now, here's the catch: I'm spending a lot of time on this, and I can't even buy a SpaceMouse Enterprise of my own from the non-existing revenue. Which would be great to own because then I could do all the tests right here and reduce turnaround times. Also, I would like to have one ;-)

I don't expect much (3D mice are a special hardware, and while I personally love it - come on, with CollieMouse as a driver you would love it too! - I can see that not everybody will want to have one, and therefore not everybody will need CollieMouse) but if I keep programming code I don't need to support devices I can't even buy without netting a fat total minus, that seems a bit, uh, over the top.

So, I require a bit of money to buy the thing, and I'm asking CollieMouse owners and fans to chip in.

Should you care? Here's what CollieMouse can do or will do what the original C4D driver can't:
- keep the horizon level without tricks (and offer more movement modes)
- observe the rotational manual pivot (great asset if you work in closeup on a mesh)
- assign any C4D function to buttons instead of only a selection
- assign other plugin functions and scripts to buttons
- supports the newest 3Dconnexion interface, which means:
- will be able to work with radial menus!
- is still in active development - good luck with the internal driver to get any attention ever again

Redraw functionalities are the ones from C4D so don't expect speed wonders - it should mostly behave like the mouse camera movement. The plugin works with all cameras (default/view and camera object) as well as all perspective, parallel, flat, or axonometric views.

And to be fair, here's what it won't do:
- at the moment doesn't support Macintosh (I got some pointers on setting up a virtual Mac but I am not sure this will work well with this hardware, so I can't promise anything)
- will probably not or only rudimentarily support the LCD panel showing application symbols (I could do it but I would only be able to supply a small set of icons, so it's maybe a lost cause)
- will not move objects but only the camera (although if I have more buttons on my device, I may feel motivated to introduce an object mode)
- will only work with the camera in views, not with horizontal/vertical scrolling in object tree or texture view. This is actually a limitation of C4D itself, it doesn't
offer any API functionality to control these views.
- buttons can not be used as hotkeys (C4D's API again doesn't seem to have any corresponding functionality)
- CollieMouse will "grab" the 3D mouse device so you can't use it in parallel in other applications unless you close the dialog. This is a conceptual necessity since I do not control the main C4D window.

What is actually needed? Including fees and taxes (VAT tax in Germany is murder), I suppose 600$ will suffice. That's 30 people who give a twenty... I wouldn't turn down a few bucks more for the effort, but I'm realistic.

If more money comes in, I will think about a context switching method, so you can have different button assignments for contexts like "modeling", "sculpting", "hair", or "animation". (3Dconnexion supports this, and I have tested it successfully already, it's just a bit more work on the Preferences interface side). Or I may even add object movement support.

Will this be a Kickstarter? No, I don't think the overhead for a proper Kickstarter campaign is justifying the outcome. We're not talking thousands here, and by the time I did a presentation video, I could have programmed three new functions into the plugin.

How can it be done? Well, if you wish to donate a bit, pledge the sum in a private message (I need your email). I will send you the test version when it's done, and you can check out whether it works on your device (buttons will only write stuff to the console for the moment). If it doesn't, we can do some tests together, or you can retract your pledge.

I will announce once the target has been met. Then (and only then) I give out my paypal, and you send me the actual money. You don't pay until the pledge is successful AND you had the opportunity to check whether the plugin conceptually works with your specific device, by means of the test version.

Then, I will send you the fully working version, unlocked - I don't need or want your serial -, once I have performed the necessary tests with the newly purchased device. You can get a working beta before then, but it may write a lot of s*** to the console ;-)

Later on (maybe in a few months), I will post CollieMouse for everybody, just like the existing versions. No strings attached, I don't want to make a living on this.

What happens if the target is not met, or if people renege on their pledge, or just don't pay up/book back? Well...

If I see early on that the interest really is too low even for this mini funding, I will cancel the pledge call, and you pay nothing. You can keep the test version; it's still good for controlling the knob. I may still offer the full plugin later with a serial lock (the difficult part is done so why waste it...) but it will definitely be more expensive. In any case, I will see how large the interest (and the willingness to pledge cash) still is, and adjust my planning for this and further plugins accordingly.

If I see the pledge going well, reaching the goal, and I buy the SM Enterprise and send out the plugin, and people are THEN asking their money back because it's so easy to cheat on paypal, well, I guess I'm effed then.

Sounds fair enough?

Spread the word.

(Comments and questions below please, pledges per private message to keep matters and addresses confidential.)
 
  11 November 2016
I'll pitch in bro. Super busy this week so it will be next week before I can get to in
 
  11 November 2016
Thank you!

In the meantime, I have started to implement the Context Changes already - that's one more thing you cannot do with the internal controller.

(Are the macros in the internal controller really implemented in the way that they just replicate the standard keyboard shortcuts? Seems so. I may need to ask the developer team.)
 
  11 November 2016
Well, here's a little update on development. I just felt like it, so I implemented contexts and context-dependent button assignments:



The numbers of contexts and buttons are flexible; I just added some for testing purposes here.

Now, by switching the context on the Cinema4D side, you will see different lists of assignable functions for your buttons in the 3Dconnexion dialog. Through this dialog, you can connect your hardware buttons with any defined functionality you desire.



If you change the context in C4D, you will get a different selection and see a different context name in the 3Dconnexion dialog, so you can set up a completely different button assignment schema for the new context.



It is not necessary to go to the 3Dconnexion dialog any more once the button assignments for all contexts are set up. You can change the active context in C4D through a dialog (or through scripting).

In addition to the direct assignment of buttons, you can also insert the radial menus dependent on the context. Each context can have its own radial menus with context-specific or global functions.



Now, while you could already define radial menus and button assignments through the 3Dconnexion dialog with the internal controller, or alternatively with the old CollieMouse controller, you didn't have contexts in either; the whole setup had to be done through keyboard shortcuts and 3Dconnexion macros, and it was constant. The new version is dynamic, you can adapt it to your work situation at any time, and it will give you an even better workflow.

In addition to that, CollieMouse will allow "sticky buttons", which execute a command on press and another on release. This may help in short-time tool changes (switch to select tool on press, switch to "previous tool" on release).

One more thing I noticed. Scripts change their IDs dynamically when you add or remove scripts. This would lead to trouble if you have scripts assigned by ID on your SpaceMouse. Therefore, CollieMouse will be able to interpret script names in the command fields, and convert them to internal IDs when needed. (Not shown in these screenshots.)

The downside is that currently the interest in this plugin is rather low. I mean, really really low. I guess everybody is totally happy with the internal controller, or a SpaceMouse is just such exotic hardware that no one owns it. Which is a pity, I really like this type of controller. Looks bad for a free release though.
 
  11 November 2016
Sorry for the lack of interest in this for you. It looks like you are putting in a lot of work. I use a space mouse, just the standard one and can't go back to not using it, especially in sketchup, but also in C4D. I remember when I got my first one and it was terrible in c4d so I shelved it within a week but some years later I dusted it off and they had got their act together on the driver side and it worked like I always hoped it would. The sensor was on its way out though and kept drifting but I bought a new one and it's rock solid.

I don't mind the standard drivers for it now in c4d. I just set it to fly mode and it works like a video game camera. Occasionally I'll get my bearings mixed up but for the most part I'm pretty happy with how it works. I don't bother with the buttons though as I'm more of a point and click guy than a keyboard ninja, so the same goes for the buttons which I find quite small and harder to press than a keyboard which is 1 inch away. I'd defo recommend taking the plunge with a space mouse if anyone was considering it or hasn't tried one from r a few years. It's a must have for me now.
 
  11 November 2016
what's the kickstarter link?
 
  11 November 2016
Originally Posted by IceCaveMan: what's the kickstarter link?


There is no actual kickstarter (their share would drive up the cost again, and I don't have the time to produce a complex video), I was just collecting pledges by mail/PM. At the moment, there is definitely not enough interest to continue the pledge idea, or even start a true Kickstarter(TM) - it would never make the goal, humble as it is.

I am far along with the development so the final controller will be finished at least for myself, but with a grand total of two people actually willing to chip in, it won't make the test/documentation phase needed for offering it to the public. (Let's see whether 3Dconnexion offers a cheaper SM Enterprise on Black Friday.)

I was thinking about releasing it as a commercial plugin with serial-number-lock, but the legal dangers behind selling anything here are so huge that the tiny expected revenue is never even covering a legal consultation.

If anyone is still interested in using it, I may make a private arrangement. Send a PM.
 
  11 November 2016
Originally Posted by Cairyn:
I was thinking about releasing it as a commercial plugin with serial-number-lock, but the legal dangers behind selling anything here are so huge that the tiny expected revenue is never even covering a legal consultation.


indeed. All you need is a gewerbeschein, a mwst number, and then be able to keep your transaction evidence for 10 years.

my 2 cents:

Think hard before doing all that. Calculate immediate and future costs, plus taxation, into your price, and ask yourself if you stand to gain, or lose. if you don't approach it with a business mentality, don't bother, or give it away for free. Your right, in that you can't just sell something anymore, as an individual without being absolutely sure, you can make all the long term commitments. if your not in a position to sell your product directly, either don't, or give it away for free.Maybe even hook up with a partner. Either way, I seriously doubt that there is a cent to be made on this kind of hardware support project. it's the sort of thing hardware vendors should be paying for, and giving with their product. Maybe ask Maxon if they find it interesting enough to sponsor. its a tough call, and I wish you all the best, with good luck.

Paul
 
  11 November 2016
Originally Posted by tapaul: indeed. All you need is a gewerbeschein, a mwst number, and then be able to keep your transaction evidence for 10 years.


And some method of proving that the buyer comes from a certain EU country, which is where you calculated the VAT for, and a lawyer to fend off Abmahnungen, and it's probably a good idea to register your plugins and company name as Wortmarken, and you will definitely want to implement a secure payment system that is NOT paypal...

It's really a nasty overhead, which is why I am happily employed in some totally non-3D function that has nothing to do with Cinema

Originally Posted by tapaul: if you don't approach it with a business mentality, don't bother, or give it away for free.


All three options seem rather extreme. Setting up a real business is too much overhead for some small-fry sales, and giving it all away is skewing the market and also creating the illusion that programming is easy and the work is essentially worth-less. And not bothering does solve the issues but leaves a lot of good ideas and work and experience hidden in some private drawers, when they might make a huge difference for someone else.

I am looking for alternative methods (as a general thought - not just for me, or even for this specific project) that would mitigate the risk and allow part-time programming that at least recovers its cost, or even allows building a name and a customership for the future. There seem so many interesting options out there, but I am not sure whether prospective customers can be convinced to support a Kickstarter or even pay for a Patreon.

Originally Posted by tapaul: Either way, I seriously doubt that there is a cent to be made on this kind of hardware support project. it's the sort of thing hardware vendors should be paying for, and giving with their product.


It is definitely a hard sell, with a controller built into C4D already, and most people not needing the extended button functionality of the very expensive Enterprise model. (Or using a Mac, which I can't support with the general lack of interest, vicious circle.) Mostly, I did the original CollieMouse (six years ago or so) because the internal controller was not what I needed, and that's the main driving motivation behind the whole project. Selling it in any way is more or less a test.

I may be mistaken in using this specific plugin as prototype to check the waters; it is limited by default in a lot of ways so it expectably won't excite scores of people. But the downloads for the original, raw-data version suggested a bit more interest. I will probably try other products in the future with different target audience when I have time.
 
  2 Weeks Ago
I just purchased a spacemouse and find it does not fully function. However, I need that type of functionality due to some health issues. Is it possible to get that collie mouse plugin? Thank you, Thom
 
  2 Weeks Ago
Originally Posted by Thom1: I just purchased a spacemouse and find it does not fully function. However, I need that type of functionality due to some health issues. Is it possible to get that collie mouse plugin? Thank you, Thom
I can sell you one controller for 20 but I can't guarantee that it helps with any health issues...
 
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