Slipping Gears On Blog Posting Again

Here we are, half-way through the month of June and this is my second post. Before that, my last post was the middle of May. Let’s get caught-up on the stuff in my world.

I was going to evaluate BlogJet as replacement for Windows Live Writer. I abandoned that idea when I saw that BlogJet is nearly as old as WLW and has been just as long without any update to its software. Why would I pay for that when WLW is free?

Another piece of software that I began evaluating is RizomUV. It turned out that most of my evaluation period was being done on an older version. So the author graciously extended my evaluation period so that I could use the latest version. As previously mentioned, this tool has many features that make it superior to UV Layout; I am almost certainly going to switch. I did hit a few technical oddities but that might be caused by issues with my bell tower mesh.

NPS_TorontoBefore Photoshop World, Canada celebrated Victoria Day. I took the opportunity for a long overdue photowalk at Nathan Phillips Square, Roundhouse Park and Ripley’s Aquarium. I must confess, Nathan Phillips Square was much smaller than I had envisioned.

I arrived very early in the morning, so the square was empty of people. Occasionally, buses would arrive and about 30 Asian tourists would tumble out and take cellphone pictures for a few minutes before moving on to the next site. Since I had my tripod and other gear with me, I was deemed to be an expert (how little they knew! Sarcastic smile). Several people asked me to take pictures for them. I happily obliged – it was fun.

Islington_Subway_BWOne of my favourite photos was the first one of the day. I thought to take a photo of the train arriving at Islington station. This one screamed at me to be done in black & white.

I also took a photo of the connecting tunnel at Spadina station that links the east-west and north-south subway lines. The early morning holiday hours saw this normally crowded area devoid of people. So I liked how that came out.

This has inspired me to make a major (for me) photography project based on the subway lines. I’m still considering what my precise approach will be.

Photoshop World 2018

Last Wednesday, I flew to Orlando, Florida for my second Photoshop World. Just like the FFRF National Conventions, I am going to aim to make this an annual event for myself.

The flight into Orlando experience some short but fierce turbulence. It didn’t bother me; I was more intrigued by my fellow passengers’ reactions. For the first time in my life, I saw real fear on someone’s face. This poor woman across the aisle was terrified and it showed in way that I had never seen before. Behind my seat, a young girl kept asking, “Are we okay?” The plane was already on approach, so we had no choice but to go through it. Quite the experience.

PSW 2018 Welcome SignOf course, PSW was an even better experience!

Scott Kelby, the entire KelbyOne staff and all the amazing instructors really do their utmost to make this a great conference for creative people. Everybody is friendly and helpful.

Several people from the KelbyOne message forums attended. We met up often in the Community Lounge area to relax and chat and to help other attendees.

Here is the link to my Photoshop World 2018 Flickr album.

Natural Light Still Life - LilyOddly, I did not take that many photos this time. But there are a few shots that I am proud of.

KelbyOne member, Melanie Kern-Favilla attended to show off her floral photography technique. She delivered a KelbyOne class on her style too. With Melanie’s suggestions, I photographed this still life lily with natural light. It is hard to believe that there are massive floor to ceiling windows behind me with the Florida afternoon sun glaring in. But that’s Melanie’s magic at work!

May was a sparse month for blog posts. I’m aiming to change that this month.

Unfold 3D

I said my next post would be written from BlogJet. Not yet. Long story…

But I started trying out Rizom Lab’s Unfold 3D today. There is a lot to unwrap (Hahaha! Get it?) with this tool. I’ll be blunt; they have no documentation either online or offline. There are some disorganized YouTube videos and a Discord chat channel. So learning the application is by absorbing the community tribal knowledge.

That really sucks large. Not a professional look for a company at all.

unfold3dHowever; if you can scale that initial wall, this is a powerful application for creating UV maps. Memorizing a few keyboard shortcuts will serve you well.

You can select points, edges, polygons and entire shells. UV Layout can do that but in a more clunky fashion. One big advantage UV Layout has is the Copy UVs so that cloned meshes (columns, balustrades, etc.) can all be flattened quickly. I am told Unfold 3D has this feature too but I have not figured it out yet.

Once I get a little more comfortable with the application, I will make a YouTube video beginner’s tutorial.

Considering Some New Tools

Blogging

I have been writing this blog with Windows Live Writer for many years now. I’m used to the tool and it fits (mostly) the way that I work. At the same time, it is getting long in the tooth and clearly Microsoft is not going to update it – WLW shows a 2012 copyright. So I started to seek out other blog writing applications.

About the only one that seemed really capable to me is BlogJet. The latest version was released in 2013 – so not much better than WLW. But everything else seems pale beside it. So I am going to give it a try.

This post is done with WLW, but next post will be done in BlogJet.

UV Mapping

I have been using Headus UV Layout for a few years now. I’m not at the newest version because I have let my maintenance expire. It is a far better UV tool than what either LightWave or Carrara offers.

The UI is the biggest obstacle. It is not pretty and it looks like a Windows 3 application – apologies to the young kids out there who will never know that pain. While it has some powerful unwrapping tools, they are locked behind that awful UI. My recent experience with fixing discontinuous edges that UV Layout then refused to open really left a bad taste in my mouth.

So I decided to search for a new UV tool and I found Rizom Lab. They make Unfold3D.

This tool will open FBX files as well as OBJ. It has colourized distortion maps for the flattened shells. It natively supports UDIM (I believe UV Layout does too but it is less clear). And it has a sexy, modern UI. I’m still digging into learning more about this tool before I evaluate it.

In semi-related news, I have made some good progress on cleaning-up the bell tower model. I rebuilt the base to use fewer polygons so it will unwrap more cleaning. I’ve rebuilt all of the front door pieces using subdivision surfaces. I did the same with the four big column structures around the belfry. I have much better topology now and few polygons.

So I will be returning to UV mapping the bell tower soon.

Finished A Game Of Thrones (At Last!)

As Season 7 of HBO’s Game Of Thrones came to its penultimate end, I decided to re-read George R. R. Martin’s epic masterpiece, A Song Of Ice & Fire. Like a lot of things in my life recently, finishing the first novel stalled a bit.

A few nights ago, I pushed through to the end and now I am starting on the second novel. A Clash Of Kings details the War Of The Five Kings (and covers what is essentially Season 2 of the television series).

Some of the best YouTube analysis of the books and the show can be found on the Alt-Shift-X channel. With Thrones in hiatus for another year, he has started looking at other shows too. But there is a great deal of effort put into these videos. Highly recommended!

Newest LEGO Model

LEGO Saturn VI made another bit of a splurge purchase last weekend. After visiting with my grandmother, I walked over to a nearby toy store (Turtle Pond Toys inside University Plaza for those of you who know the town of Dundas).

This is going to be about one meter tall when built.

Here’s the rub though. I now have two rather large models that remain in their boxes. The Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben) and this one. I simply do not have suitable room to build them or display them. There are other large models that I’d like to buy (Tower Bridge for one) but that only exacerbates the problem of space.

It is times like this that I miss my house in Texas and the bedroom dedicated solely to LEGO models…

A Bell Tower Setback

I procrastinated writing a blog post about the UV mapping progress last week. Each night after work, I’d spend some time in UV Layout unwrapping parts of the bell tower model. Then on Friday night, I hit a snag.

discontinuous_edgeA snag that would end up stomping on all my work thus far.

UV Layout displays discontinuous edges in blue. What is that? An edge that is part of only one polygon. A two dimensional square would have four discontinuous edges but a three dimensional cube would have none because all edges are shared by two polygon faces. These are not bad things necessarily – a modeler might create them on purpose.

In the picture above, the red arrows point out four polygons. Each of the two pairs on either side of the blue line should be sharing that edge. You can see other blue, discontinuous edges in other parts of the picture.

discontinuous_edge_2The ultimate proof of the problem is in LightWave itself.

On the left, it looks like I have selected a single point. However, the Point Info dialog box clearly shows two points. Each point has the same Z and Y coordinate location; but the X coordinate is off by 0.1192 micrometers.

That is smaller than a lot of bacteria. But it still means that there are two different edges that look like one edge to the naked eye.

I don’t know how this happened. A good thing that LightWave has a super-easy fix with the Merge Points command!

So all is well right?

I thought it would be. But UV Layout refuses to open the new OBJ file that I saved. The error message it displays is not helpful at all.

So I am taking this force-fed opportunity to clean up the model geometry a little bit before re-starting the UV mapping process from scratch. The shape will be unchanged; I am just tweaking areas that will improve the ease of UV mapping.

Hopefully the next major release of LightWave will see some huge improvements to the UV toolset. Otherwise, I might finally abandon LightWave in favour of Modo.

Calling The Bell Tower Modeling Finished

tower_finishedAlthough I could probably take this even further, I really do want to move forward with the work on this project. So I am calling the modeling phase of my bell tower done.

Major props and shout-outs to my friends Cris, Brent, Gene, Dan, Kevin and Wendy for their encouragement, critiques and suggestions. I love you guys! Thanks for everything!

imageThe last phase that I completed was the big windows on the top floor. I’m leaving the smaller eight windows on the lower floors open. The tower custodians will just have to mop up after rainstorms!

I learned a lot while working on this. One of the most important lessons is to plan carefully in advance before adding a single polygon to the model. Think of all the things you want to include up-front and plan around that. Adding them in after the fact will lead to problems.

My model was heavily inspired by the duomo of the Turin cathedral. You can tell that I took several creative liberties. I put stairs into my model and I doubt anything like that is in the original.

The final stats are:

  • 360,983 polygons (mostly quads, some tris and subpatches)
  • 31 surfaces to be shaded

Now I am moving on to UV mapping. Even with UV Layout, that could be daunting. After that, comes the texturing with Substance Painter.

No doubt, this model has much more to teach me…

New Books & Tutorials

Well this mild depression – I hate using a word as strong as that – may have sapped my creative juices temporarily. But I am still reaching for creative inspiration.

On Friday, I returned to High Park for another photowalk. Unfortunately, I did not check my batteries and discovered that both of them were fully drained. Oooops! So I had a bit of a nature walk instead and returned home.

I love physical media, so I have been acquiring new books and tutorial videos. I guess this is like a drug addiction for me. I keep needing hits.

imageOn the atheism/religious front, I replaced Bart Ehrman’s excellent Jesus, Interrupted. I had loaned the original to my former trainer in Texas. But he took it in and sought out more and is now agnostic. So…worth it!

I have also bought Bart Ehrman’s newest book, The Triumph Of Christianity. Seth Andrews interviewed Professor Ehrman about it and this will doubtlessly be an excellent read. I am very much looking forward to it; I will probably take it with me on my trip to Australia later this year.

I’ve said it before and it still stands; Bart Ehrman is one of the best authors on the writings and history of Christianity. His style – in what can be a very dry topic – is always approachable and easy to consume.

imageFor photography, I bought Light: Science & Magic. During one of Glyn Dewis’ YouTube videos, he referred to this book as “the bible of light,” so naturally I was intrigued (on two different fronts!). So far, Dewis has been spot-on in that evaluation. I’ve only just started reading it but I can tell already that I’m going to get a lot out of it.

I’ve continued acquiring downloadable tutorials for 3D and Photoshop as well. In addition to the very worthwhile investment of a membership to KelbyOne, I’ve added the following tutorials:

  • LightWave 2018 – Adam Gibson
  • FibreFX – Adam Gibson
  • MACO Helmet – Liberty 3D / Chilton Webb
  • Adobe Fuse For LightWave Artists – Liberty 3D / Phil Nolan
  • Advanced Techniques With Brushes – CreativeLive
  • Setting Up A Home Studio – CreativeLive

CreativeLive has turned out to be a surprisingly good source of learning material. It is an excellent supplement to KelbyOne. Liberty 3D has been there for me since the first day I dove into LightWave. They have excellent and varied tutorials from established LightWave artists.

I’ll get back out with my camera soon – after ensuring the batteries are fully-charged. Then I will re-charge my creativity and get out of this rut.

In A Blue Funk

Work has gotten me down lately. That has spilled out into my personal life; so I have not posted recently or worked on any 3D or photography.

I hate these situations. They are tough to climb out of sometimes. But climb I must!

One foot forward…

New Toy!

Last year, my Facebook feed began showing me the Pluto Trigger. Unlike most web-based advertising, this one actually caught my interest. This could be a helluva lot of fun.

imageI asked about the device on the KelbyOne forums and someone there did have one. He gave a positive endorsement for the device’s features. I also searched for other independent reviews and managed to find two.

So today, my own Pluto Trigger arrived!

It is a compact little unit, but a lot of cool stuff is packed into it. Hopefully I will finally get out for a photowalk – it has been months now – to put this new toy through its paces.

Pluto Trigger has a YouTube channel here if you want to learn more about it.

Turin Bell Tower Tour Revisited

Bell TowerSince it has been a long time since my last content upload on my YouTube Channel, I decided to make a quick update to my Turin Bell Tower model.

I have nearly finished the modeling portion of the project. As mentioned in the video, I’d like to add some decorative window panes; after that, I’m calling this done.

Then it is on to UV mapping and the texturing process. It is a little intimidating for me because texturing is not a strength of mine and LightWave 2018 has completely changed texturing and lighting. What little I know is no longer valid! I’m sure that I’ll use Substance Painter for much of it.

But I have learned a lot with this project. Hopefully the next project is easier because of that education.

Shanghai Skyline Model Complete

Shanghai SkylineProcrastination got the better of me (again). I didn’t take a photo of the finished model until this past Sunday.

As usual, I used my 50mm Prime lens but I don’t have any depth of field on this one. Truth be told, I am running out of room here to display these models. I’ll have to invest in a decent bookcase or shelving unit – but that would have to wait until I move some place better.

Moving is something else that I am procrastinating! I hate moving nearly as much as I hate this building I am in. But I digress.

This was an interesting model to assemble. The twisting Shanghai Tower is the most eye-catching and the way it goes together in Lego is just as cool. Ingenious!

Happy 101st Birthday Grandma!

grandma-Aug-2017My grandma Garstin was born today over a century ago in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. She attended Carter Lane Public School. I often wonder about visiting Mansfield to see it today.

She was nine years old when the family immigrated to Canada. My great-grandfather worked in the new gold mine up in Timmins, Ontario. Had he told the immigration people that he was a coal miner, the family would likely have lived in Nova Scotia and I wouldn’t be here today.

I try to visit my grandmother every weekend that I am not on-call at work. I often read to her from her memoirs that she wrote nearly 20 years ago. That always brings back memories and opens up talking points. Sometimes my dad or my aunt can call my cell phone from Australia and talk to their mom.

My long-term goals are to preserve grandma’s extensive journals and memoirs. She detailed her world travels thoroughly and they can be fascinating reads.

Happy birthday grandma! I wish I could visit you today!

A Week In Hell…

Recently my blog posts have had a somber tone. Bad news for my family and personal interests. This past week at work has been brutal; it drained nearly all my reserves for getting through each day.

We hit a new variation on a known bug in SQL Server 2016 that nearly caused an outage. So much of the week was consumed with tracking that down and monitoring for new occurrences. If the problem happens again, we should get a filtered minidump to Microsoft for analysis. One of my systems had other headaches to deal with. On top of all that, I was the on-call DBA.

Fun times…

I finished the Shanghai Skyline Lego model but did not get a photo taken yet. That will happen later today.

This is a long weekend – Monday being “Family Day” in Ontario. So tomorrow I will visit my grandmother (which I try to do every weekend that I am not on-call). On Wednesday, she turns 101 years old! So we’ll have a few glasses of sherry to celebrate.

I need to get out for a photo-walk somewhere on Monday. It has been ages since I’ve taken new photos. The shot of creative adrenaline will hopefully be what I need to recover from the last seven days.