World Machine – Mount Daniel Release

After a very long development hiatus, Stephen Schmitt is back to seriously developing World Machine. He has opted to stop using version numbers in favour of naming the releases. I think this is a silly and confusing idea but the newest release is called Mount Daniel.

My preferences to using version numbers aside, I am impressed with the new World Machine. There are a lot of performance enhancements and improved multi-threading. This Mount Daniel release offers a re-built snow device, support for OpenEXR and numerous bug fixes.

The major disappointment with all this work is that the Programmer’s Development Kit keeps getting breaking changes. This doesn’t impact most users directly; however, third-party developers like Quadspinner keep getting punched in the face. Quadspinner’s GeoGlyph is an absolutely essential plug-in for World Machine.

This weekend, I hope to sit down and build a new digital terrain. It has been so long since I have created one.

Photowalk – Return To Mimico Creek

Yesterday, after clicking my personal odometer up a notch, I went on a photowalk. It was a short one but I wanted to try out a few things.

Yours Truly – Sir Dumb-Ass here – forgot to bring along the cable to connect the Pluto Trigger to my camera. So that cut my try out list down a bit.

Kipling Station 01I started out with a quick hop over to Kipling Subway station. I figured that the Sigma 10-20mm lens and the Platypod could still create some interesting images.

The lighting in the subway station sucks. I find that the fluorescents always blow out. But I walked as far on the of the platform as I could and set the Platypod near the edge. The 10mm focal length nicely captured the flooring in front of me along with the waiting train. The colours were all over the place; so I made it a B&W image.

I also experimented with shutter priority to get blurred trains. The aforementioned fluorescent blow out made that extra tricky. I don’t have a neutral density filter that will fit on the Sigma lens.

My other plan was to get a self-portrait in front a blurred train. But not having the Pluto Trigger hooked up keeps that idea on the To-Do list.

Mimico Creek 03After the subway, I wandered back to Tom Riley Park and Mimico Creek. This was where I took my first photowalk when my Canon 80D was brand-new.

This time, the Platypod let me get down low to the water’s surface. That change in perspective can make a big difference.

Mimico Creek is only a few centimeters deep through the park – I’m sure it gets deeper elsewhere and I should more of the creek in the future. Some shutter priority work when the water is flowing faster would be cool too.

I think my mojo is nearly back. This week, I have to make the return to 3D work. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything about modeling and rendering…

Canadian International Air Show 2018

The Labour Day weekend traditionally marks the end of the Canadian National Exhibition – known locally as The Ex. It also means the Canadian International Air Show plays out over Lake Ontario.

I haven’t been to an air show in over 30 years. With a passion for photography, I ended that too-long dry spell on Saturday.

USAF Thunderbirds - flyby 2It was a hot, humid day and the haze was heavy all morning. Only the noon sun was able to burn that away for the aerial displays overhead.

The show opened with the jaw-dropping performance of the USAF Thunderbirds in their F-16 Fighting Falcons. This weekend is their only performance outside of the United States. All I can say is, “Wow!”

CF-18 about to climbThe Canadian Forces showed off their own prowess with the CF-18 Hornet demonstrator. She was painted in the colours of NORAD to mark the 60th anniversary of that partnership.

I’m always proud of our forces and their global reputation.

The amazing F-35 Lightning II followed the Canadian Forces and it darn near made the Hornet seem quiet. What a beast that plane is; with a roar to match!

I couldn’t stay for the entire three hours of the show unfortunately. I followed the Thunderbirds’ formation into the sun with my camera. My eyes still hurt from that – I hope I haven’t damaged them any more than they already are. Sadly, this means that I missed the Canadian Forces Snowbirds performance.

Next year!

My Flickr album for the air show is available here.

First Light – The New Sigma 10-20mm Lens

I mentioned last week that I had bought a highly recommended Sigma wide-angle lens. Here are the first photos taken with that new glass.

First Light - Sigma 10-20mmNext door, three new condominium towers are being built.

This photo consisted of me mounting the lens on my EOS-80D, stepping out on to my balcony and taking this photo at 10mm. I am impressed that that focal length captures the construction in the foreground (which will become a smaller tower) and the crane on the top of the main tower.

I tried to keep post-processing to a minimum here. I kept to the basics with some straightening and sharpening. My goal was to preserve what the lens “saw” as much as possible.

A few hours after that first shot was taken, a storm came rumbling over Etobicoke. There wasn’t a lot of rain – but it was a welcome relief from the day’s heat. I grabbed the camera again.

First Light - A Coming StormThis time, I was aiming across Mabelle Avenue. The sun was not quite ready to set, but some orange colour was on the horizon.

As before, I primarily straighten and sharpened in Photoshop. I did tweak a little bit to emphasize the clouds.

I am going to enjoy shooting with this focal range. I can’t wait to find more interesting subjects for it.

Keeping My Mind Busy

In an effort to keep my thinking away from the event of Friday afternoon, I am going to delve into building the long-procrastinated, big LEGO project I have here. Big Ben.

I am one of those pedantic types that rankles at this structure being called Big Ben. The bell is called “Big Ben,” while the tower is “The Elizabeth Tower.” I’m not sure why that annoys me so much…

Another major London landmark that is available in LEGO is the Tower Bridge. I will very likely acquire that one next.

Yesterday, I also went over to Henry’s Camera Store and bought the wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens. This lens was highly recommended to me at Photoshop World. Even with the cropped sensor factor of my EOS 80D, this lens is wider than any of my other lenses.

I’m looking forward to finding some magnificent ceilings to photograph. Wide-angle lenses give the sense of epic grandeur to cathedrals and museums when the camera is angled upward. So that could be fun.

Over in the digital art world, I am very close to finishing up the unwrapping of my bell tower model.

I will probably make a video introducing RizomUV in the near future. I am not sure if I will aim for creating a tutorial series though.

UV Unwrap Of My Bell Tower

The slow and sometimes-not-steady progress on my Turin duomo inspired tower has continued. The end (of the UV mapping) is finally in sight!

rizomUV_progressI have steadily become accustomed to the RizomUV workflow. I am now working on mapping the spiral stairs to the belfry. Unfortunately, the automatic edge selection tools in RizomUV are having problems with these parts. So I am stuck with doing each piece manually.

It is slow and tedious work, but fairly straight forward. I have managed to get the stair support cut into four pieces that unwrap quite well. The tiresome bit is that there are about 60 stairs to work on…

I experimented with the mosaic automatic edge selection for the roof shingles. That was a disaster! I ended up going back and re-doing those by hand. I partly blame the way LWCAD creates shingles; there a lot of n-gons that needed cleaning up during modeling.

Currently, many of the UV islands are oriented at 90 or 180 degrees to how I want them. I’ll fix that up just before I call all of this work done.

After that, I’ll use Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter to do the texturing. I’ve owned the Substance products for a couple of years now but have never been able to use them thoroughly. I hope the model turns out as nicely as the vision in my head.

So my 3D knowledge will continue to expand!

Buying RizomUV

Friday marked the final day of my evaluation period for RizomUV. The application developer graciously doubled my time because most of the first period was spent looking at an older version of the program. I appreciated his generosity.

A full license will cost about $230. But given how much better RizomUV is over UV Layout, it is worth it.

That said, RizomUV is not without its quirks that one must get used to. But if you are aware of these idiosyncrasies and work carefully, you can avoid them. Truly, the biggest knock against the product is the lack of proper documentation.

Some users have started creating YouTube tutorials – I’m not yet sure if I’ll do the same. For now, the best learning resource is a Discord chat channel. You can text with other users and the developer directly.

What makes RizomUV superior to UV Layout? The selection ability. It is far easier to select edges for cutting in RizomUV. It has an edge loop selection. You can select individual polygons and RizomUV will cut them around their perimeter. The application also has several automatic selection features, such as box model and sharp edges.

I mentioned some quirks and the biggest one for me was that RizomUV includes the entire still-folded 3D mesh in the UV space. UV Layout used the metaphor of “rooms” to separate where you perform cutting from where you perform unwrapping. This means that in RizomUV, if you are not careful, you unwrap a part of your model but if there are other visible parts, those will become highly deformed. Basically, RizomUV is trying to unwrap a 3D mesh that does not have any edge cuts yet. The results can be bizarre and jolting.

But all in all, it is a great product. I’m glad to have bought it. Hopefully I will get my bell tower model unwrapped in the near future.

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.

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…

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.

World Machine 3 Is Finally Available

World Machine has been at version 2.7.9 for years. It truly appeared that it was going to remain there and that 3.x was abandonware. However, several months ago, the sole-developer behind World Machine came out of hibernation and began working earnestly on the version 3.x code.

I know it was frustrating for third-party developers like Quadspinner to keep updating their code in pace with the new beta releases. That pain is finally over.

World Machine has given up on version numbers though. Preferring to name their releases. So now World Machine Mailbox Peak is the latest public release. I think this is a silly trend because numbers provide an inherent sense of how old or new some code is. Names don’t do that – this will be fun for a few versions but the novelty will quickly wear off.

I can’t wait to start playing with the new version.

There is even bigger news brewing in the digital terrain community – but that will be for another blog post.

Fast Updates

Debug

Debug continues to recover nicely. The cauterized areas that were removed are drying up and her fur is gradually returning to the areas that were shaved away. I still put crème on her mouth sore and make her wear The Cone Of Shame. She hates that but I usually only leave it on for the morning when I am at work. I take it off at lunch.

The lab reports that the facial growth was benign. It’s still not complete sure what it was; though the vet was talking about irritated hair follicles. I hope that’s all it was and that it won’t come back.

The Bell Tower

I’ve continued to push forward on this model. I think it is nearing the point where I call it done and move on to UV mapping and texturing. The most recent work is a separate model of a lamp that I will use as a light source around the tower.

UV_Layout_LampHere is the lamp model after I have UV mapped it in UV Layout. It is spread out over two UV tiles; but LightWave 2018 now supports UDIMs so this should not be a problem. All in all, it is nicely flattened (hence the greenish coloring) even though I made more seam cuts in the top than I would have liked.

I have tried texturing the model in Substance Painter, but I definitely need to improve my skills there. Right now, I envision this to have a copper frame with some grungy discolorations or oxidation marks. Later today, I plan on trying the new PBR texturing in LightWave 2018.

Fingers are crossed for when I tackle texturing the tower.

Dominion

imageBack in Texas, a group of my ex-Microsoft colleagues started playing board games over our lunch break (and sometimes on the weekend). Just before Christmas, I turned on a few of my Moneris colleagues to Dominion.

It is a turn-based, deck-building game around the theme of expanding your dominion by purchasing Estates, Duchies and Provinces. You acquire the wealth to do this by purchasing one or more of the Kingdom cards each turn. The Kingdom cards power the game dynamic in varied ways and the expansion sets offer new dynamics to spice up the game.

I have all of the expansions but currently we are only playing with the base game, Intrigue and Seaside. I haven’t done the combinatorial mathematics, but I’m sure that there are many billions of possible games across all the expansions.

Right now I have about six regular players. My boss has won the most games – no, I’m not letting her win on purpose! Hopefully I can get more people interested and we’ll start playing two games simultaneously.

So Long 2017!

Well, the world survived the first year of President Orange Dumbfuck. For the sake of my American friends and the rest of the world, I certainly hope that early 2018 sees special counsel Robert Mueller file charges of treason. Cheeto Hitler has done incalculable damage to the United States; it will be interesting to see if their system of checks and balances can self-correct.

The only good thing to come from this presidency is the exposure of the hypocrisy of evangelical Christianity. Much (but not all) of this crowd supports the Painted Shit-Stain in the White House. The USA is moving on culturally and leaving these fossils behind though. I am hoping that this is their death throes.

imageI’ll aim to spend today building my last – for now – Lego Architecture model. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. For the time being, I have all of the Architecture sets.

Intriguingly, I snipped this image from the Lego website navigation menu. This shows a skyline set – Shanghai I think – that is not available. This might be coming soon.

I will keep my eyes peeled for that.

I did acquire the Lego Creator set for Big Ben to compliment the Architecture set. This a huge set and I think it will make for a wonderful juxtaposition.

In just a few hours time, LightWave 2018 will be available! I cannot wait to start playing with it and learning the new physically-based rendering system. I’m really hoping that it makes for a seamless transition between Allegorithmic Substance and LightWave.

I had a new boss start during 2017 and I enjoy working with her. Hopefully 2018 sees some solid improvements with my employment. The DBA team works well together and Elena is a champion manager.

Lastly, Photoshop World 2018 is coming along with the 41st FFRF National Convention in San Francisco. There is much to look forward to.

Bell Tower Progress

Over the holiday weekend I have pushed forward with the bell tower work in spite of the issues with the size of the rooms. I found some really bad geometry in the rooms and on the main staircase. It was caused by some really sloppy modeling on my part; but it should be fixed now.

tower_bellYes! I am finally modeling some spiral stairs going up through the center of the rooms. There is another spiral stair case from the top room up to the belfry. I envision the main stairs to be stone and the other to be metal.

Each time that there is progress on this model, I think of other ways to work it or add to it. But I feel like I must keep going on this and see it through to completion. This is definitely the most work that I have ever put into one of my creations – most die aborning.

After a long procrastination, I have also begun modeling additional support structures for the bells and belfry. Other than a dearth of decent photo references, I cannot quite say why I have avoided this part of the work for so long.

I received some good feedback and encouragement from other LightWavers in the Facebook forums as well as my close friends.

The picture shows the current state of the bells. One thing that bugged me – other LightWavers saw it too – is that the bell should be firmly attached to the swing arm. Right now, I have created straps and that would make it difficult to get the bell ringing.

So that is something to work on fixing today. One day, I hope to have a model worthy of showing off or perhaps even selling online.

3D News

I kept quiet last week after the news about Narelle. I wanted to be in Australia for the family. So I chose silence and spent time with my own thoughts.

Even though I still don’t feel like writing about good news yet; I can’t really delay posting this much longer.

NewTek is finally set to release LightWave 2018 on January 1st. After nearly two years of complete silence – it is official at last. I’ll certainly make the upgrade but I am in the camp of the deeply frustrated users who are angry with NewTek’s silence and lack of updates. Many modelers have moved on to other applications.

I won’t rule out jumping ship myself one day. But for now, I’m still a LightWaver.

The new physically-based rendering should be exciting. I hope it makes using Substance Painter outputs completely painless. As has long been the case, Modeler is only getting minimal love and attention. However; the Lattice deformer and interactive Array and Toroid tools are welcome.

LWCAD 5.5 was released a couple of weeks ago. I have not yet upgraded, but I will soon. LWCAD really breathes new life into LightWave Modeler.

Tomorrow, Smith-Micro is releasing Poser 11.1. Not much to say here – but it is good to know that they are continuing to work on their flagship product.

Other 3D things are afoot. I’ll write about those as they arrive.