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.

R.I.P. Uncle Michael

Just received word from my mother that my uncle Michael passed away last night.

This was not entirely unexpected. He had appeared to be suffering from dementia – he was 84 years old – but it was moving fast. So about a month ago, a doctor ordered a brain scan. They found an very aggressive tumour.

Farewell uncle. You’ve earned your rest.

R.I.P. John Perry Barlow (1947–2018)

http://www.davidmcelroy.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/John-Perry-Barlow.jpgYesterday morning, Grateful Dead lyricist and EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow passed away in his sleep.

Rolling Stone has nice obituary for him.

It was Barlow’s lyrics and Bob Weir’s music that had the earliest influences on me when I was first turned-on to The Dead. Throwing Stones and Hell In A Bucket from the album “In The Dark” made their early marks. Mexicali Blues from “Skeletons From The Closet” and Estimated Prophet from “Terrapin Station” followed closely. Then others, such as Looks Like Rain.

I had been passingly familiar with JPB long before I knew his music though. In high school, I found a long article in Harper’s magazine titled, Is Computer Hacking A Crime? It was a long chat-room transcript from The WELL (a pre-world wide web bulletin board system). The chat included JPB, early computing luminaries such as Richard Stallman, and a hacker who would later become more widely known

Hacking was more of the exploratory, curious and creative nature back then. I still vividly recall JPB referring to our ancient ancestors as engaging in “fire hacking.” In that chat article, hacking was a force for good that drove our species forward. The word was only just gaining its nefarious, darker pall for the renegade and destructive activities it is known for today.

Like the other members of The Dead Family before him, John Perry Barlow will be sorely missed.

Thank-you for the EFF. Most importantly, thank-you for the music!

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.

Shanghai Skyline Model

A month ago, I sensed that the next Lego Architecture model would be the Shanghai skyline since that was being used in the website navigation graphics. Not exactly The Amazing Kreskin there with my clairvoyance! Sure enough, Shanghai is the newest in the Architecture series.

Just as sure, I bought it as soon as I saw it! Hopefully I’ll get it assembled before the weekend (it has been crazy busy this week).

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.

Debug Is Recovering Nicely

My poor, furry baby was definitely in a foul mood when I picked her up from the vet last night. Not eating would do that to anyone, as I well recall. But the surgery to remove the fleshy growth on her face went well.

I gave her a little bit of food leftover from her final meal before the vet-ordered cutoff time. Even though it was cold from being in the fridge, she devoured it. A good sign, I think. She was trying to wake me up at 3:15 AM today for more feeding; so I got up earlier than usual.

The lab should provide their analysis of the growth by the end of this week.