Poser Lights

In a word: FRUSTRATING!

At least so far. Maybe I’ll learn a few tricks to make this easier in the future.

Blade Maiden - my light rigI deleted the lights that start with the default Poser scene. Since I wasn’t comfortable editing them yet, those were what I had been using to this point.

However, lighting is a big part of the story-telling with any image that one creates – whether hand-painted, photographed or rendered with a 3D program. So I had to change things up in order to better convey what was in my head with this scene.

Since I envisioned the Blade Maiden rushing across a stone bridge to commence battle – perhaps over a pool of lava – I started with four area lights beneath the camera frame. Two pair on each side of bridge, one with a reddish colour and one with an orangey colour. Instead of allowing them to cast light straight up, I angled them slightly to better illuminate the model.

There is an infinite light above the scene to add some daylight to the mix. This was one of the things that I found very difficult and annoying to control in Poser. So it could be better. The blade edge seems to have picked up so specular highlights from this light though.

The last light – also one that gave me problems – is a spotlight behind Blade Maiden to act as a rim light. She needed to be separated from the dark background. But this light gave me the most trouble. I could not figure out how to illuminate only Blade Maiden. Positioning the light in the scene was more trouble than it was worth.

I certainly have more to learn. However, at this moment, I find lighting to be much easier in LightWave than in Poser.

Playing With Poser

Although I (mostly) like how this turned out, I am still putting into the WIP album.

Blade MaidenThere is a lot that I need to learn about Poser still. Especially the texturing.

An early draft of this used a red & gold texture set for the Blade Maiden outfit. But the specular and reflection settings were running away from me; I couldn’t get them where I wanted.

So I opted instead for the more subdued tan texture set.

I wanted to get out of the blank “room” that is the Poser default scene. So I added Jack Tomalin’s Cliffhanger product. I bought this years ago when I was still using Carrara but today is the first time that I have put it into a scene.

This render still uses the default lighting rig that Poser starts with. I’ll have to start experimenting with lighting in Poser soon.

More Terrain Work

Sandstone Ridge #4I had another burst of experimenting with rendering World Machine terrains inside LightWave.

The most serious issues have been worked out now. Here is the last render I created.

The normal map is solved. World Machine uses a Direct-X normal map, so I need to invert the Y-channel to get the OpenGL normal map format. The end result is better looking erosion lines that no longer appear to be vascular pumped veins throbbing across a power-lifter.

You will notice some odd stretching in the sky. That problem is also solved – I just did not upload a new version to Flickr. As it turns out, Image World is not the best answer for displaying HDRI sky domes. Image World is best suited to HDRI light probes and is not usually meant to be seen in the final render. I am using a Textured Environment using spherical projection for the sky dome now. That correctly renders the sky and clouds without distortion.

Alien LandscapeIn a very happy accident, I began exploring the new GeoGlyph 2.0 plugin for World Machine. Taking a cue from the work on “Sandstone Ridge,” I wanted to enhance the look of the erosion lines and get a more rock-like look to the terrain.

What came out immediately reminded me of some non-terrestrial planetoid. I instantly imagined a star field and nebula instead of an Earthly sky dome.

I also wanted to use the erosion to hint that there may be something else below the surface. So I made that a yellow-gold blend to mix with the brown and grey of the rock.

Instead of Textured Environment, I simply created a huge rectangle to act as a backplane. There is a slight curve to it but I don’t think that comes through in the picture. I used the Filter Forge plugin for Photoshop to create the star field and nebula.

Since it is in space without any atmosphere, the key light is a Distant one. This creates very hard shadows and you can see the light angle puts much of the left-side terrain into darkness. Behind the camera is a very large Area light that uses some of the green colour from the nebula. This light is very faint but it fills in some of those shadows a little bit.

I think it is time to return to building my skills with Poser and ZBrush.

Improvements On The Terrain

I have been experimenting with the new terrain, trying to work out some of the issues.

The default “size” of a terrain in World Machine is 8 kilometers square. But this is completely relative. The main output from World Machine is a heightmap (or optional OBJ mesh) and colour textures.

Sandstone Ridge 2When I open the OBJ file in LightWave, it is only 1 meter square. So I have been scaling it up by a factor of 8,000 so that it “matches” World Machine. This had the unintended effect of diluting the normal and bump map effects that I was trying to introduce.

This time, I only scaled up the mesh to be 100 meters per side. This brought out the normal and bump effects. It also revealed another issue – the normal map should be producing erosion cuts into the rock. However, these are looking like veins on a steroid-abusing power lifter’s arms!

I think I know the cause though. The OBJ file is using the Z-axis as “up.” Carrara did the same thing. In LightWave the Y-axis is up and I have rotated the mesh to fit LightWave. So I need to adjust the normal map, either in LightWave or figure how to adjust it in World Machine. That will be what I experiment with tonight.

The sky is darker than before. I previously adjusted the brightness in the LightWave Image World tool. This caused too much light from the HDRI and I had to reduce the effect of the global illumination. This is not the best solution. I now know that the HDRI gamma needs to be changed.

So I am slowly getting there. Pretty soon I should be able to create good looking terrains on a regular basis.

A Bit Of 3D News…

It will be good to get another post in before January ends. I have been playing around a lot with 3D this month but none of it was really worth blogging about.

After a long hiatus, I bought several more Photoshop Actions from Sevenstyles. They include:

I definitely need to acquire images – either my own photos, stock or renders – that I can use these Actions on. There are even more Actions that have been created since I last purchased. Sevenstyles is quite prolific.

Sandstone RidgeMost of my work this past month has been with World Machine and GeoGlyph. I just bought the upgrade license to GeoGlyph Professional v2; this brings some very large changes from the Indie v1 license.

This area is where most of my experimenting has not been worth showing off. But this past weekend, I came up with the following. It is still a work-in-progress but at least it is worth sharing.

I bought an HDRI sky image from CGSkies. They are fairly expensive at about $30 USD per sky; but they do add a lot of realism to the lighting. Most HDRI sites include a ground with the image, but CG-Skies removes that and has just the sky. I’d like to buy more skies, but we’ll see…

My biggest complaint with this image is that it is too smooth. I have not been able to pop out details with a normal or bump map. Hopefully I can get that bit figured out and start producing landscape renders that are really nice.

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year - 2017I started working on this last weekend; so I definitely had a looming deadline from the start!

This is one of the few times that I have managed to see an idea in my head come all the way to completion. Well, close enough to completion. As they say in the art world, “You never finish something; you just stop working on it.” Most of my original vision is contained in this render.

The room was done with LWCad. There are windows behind the camera because I planned to have image-based lighting. I may return to that idea in the future. LWCad also created the moulding for the walls – I love the Engraver tool! It makes short work for things like this.

The marble plinth was the first thing that I created. It’s texture comes from Substance Painter. I originally wanted to add some gold flecks to further catch the light. That is another idea that I’ll have to return to in the future.

The numbers started in LightWave easily enough. I imported them into ZBrush to attempt some retopology with ZRemesher. I still have a lot to learn on that front. While I did get tris and quads out of it instead of the horrible n-gons, the meshes are still not as clean as I would like them to be. As such, I didn’t UV map them. Their texture uses procedurals with a LightWave dielectric material.

Last night, I tweaked the placement of two area lights and got the happy accident of the caustics. I love caustics!

Finally, to break up the colours and draw the eye a bit; I did a cloth simulation. One of my 3D friends really hates the addition of the cloth! While it is not 100% of what I wanted with it, I do like how it came out.

There’s plenty more I could tweak and add. But this is the final version for now.

2017 New Year Render

2017 New Year - work in progress

This image is still very much a work in progress. There is still a lot of things I need to add and improve here. Most notably, I have yet to model some baseboards. I should also create some ceiling trim while I am at it.

Everything was modeled in LightWave; however, the numbers were imported into ZBrush for retopology (done very badly by me). Texturing for the room and the plinths was done in Substance Painter. I quickly realized that I don’t have substances for wall paint or for the wood parquet flooring that I originally envisioned.

Because the numbers do not have UV maps, I used a procedural flakes noise to drive the bump of a LightWave dielectric material. I was aiming for a cut-glass look; none of the green colour has come through though.

More tweaking to do here. Hopefully, I can complete this on time.

ZBrush At Last!

Yesterday, I finally bought ZBrush 4R7.

I have debated this purchase for a long time and decided that a Saturnalia gift to myself this year was reasonable.

One reason for the delay was waiting for an entirely 64-bit release. I had thought the 5R series was finally under development when Pixologic announced earlier this year that there would be a 4R8 first. Not a devastating knock against them, but mildly disappointing given how long 64-bit systems have been available. I started at Microsoft during the shift from 32-bit to 64-bit; so 12+ years on is really a bit much to wait for a change like this.

Virtually every page of the 3D World and 3D Artist magazines features ZBrush work. It certainly is a must-have tool for the industry.

My last objection was training. ZBrush forces some big conceptual thinking changes on a 3D artist. But since I have access to PluralSight, Learn 3D Software and was recommended Michael Pavlovich’s videos, I really have no excuse any more.

I’m looking forward to putting ZBrush into my workflow. And I look forward to sharing the results of my creative efforts with the world.

Getting Caught Up On Stuff

Screaming up again on a month without a post here. Let’s fix that.

I hinted at a sore throat and that sumbitch only just went away in the last couple of days. It was about two weeks of an actual cold and then two weeks of a dry, scratching throat. It kept me coughing and making ahem sounds.

Black Friday and all the days leading up to Christmas Eve are super-busy for work. As a payment processing company, you expect that. The entire team is essentially on-call right now. Officially, I’m on-call next Friday. Fun!

I have finally re-installed all my SevenStyles Photoshop Actions into PS 2017. Brad has been busy creating even more Actions, so I’ll have to buy more in the near future.

In spite of the sore throat, I have recorded more videos about using Headus UV Layout on my YouTube channel. I was asked to do videos about unwrapping a human model; so I undertook the challenge. I used the free MakeHuman tool to get a female model and then set out to create 3 UV Maps rather than the single UV map produced by MakeHuman.

In the very near future, I am also going to take the plunge into the world of ZBrush. There is definitely a lot to learn there.

I am hoping that all of this will take my mind off of the looming disaster of President Trumpycakes.

Adobe Creative Cloud At Last

I was still at Microsoft when they announced plans to dominate the cloud. The chosen mantra was “We’re all in!”

Ugh! I refused to say it. I found it vaguely dirty minded (yes, that borders on hypocritical but I am not a multi-national world-renowned company).

Well, my opinions of the cloud be damned. Years later, it seems that everybody is doing it. I was disappointed when Adobe announced the Creative Cloud and that they would not ship another physical product beyond CS6.

I’ve put it off for years and I am now several versions behind the latest and greatest versions.

So I’m taking the plunge but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. A little history is in order, please bear with me.

A long time ago, there was a company called Macromedia. They made a web-based piece of software you might have heard of – Flash. They also made a program for creating websites called Dreamweaver. I bought their suite of tools way back in 2001. Then one day, Adobe bought Macromedia.

That wasn’t a bad thing really. It was a good match and brought some incredible tools to Adobe’s other incredible tools.

Then I moved to Texas. When I upgraded to the new Adobe Creative Suite series, I had to prove my registration of the former-Macromedia suite. But the Adobe ID account did not accept my Texas address. It was linked to Canada and could not be changed. For tax reasons is the official excuse.

So I made a new Adobe ID account and used that happily for several Creative Suite upgrades.

Now I am going through that process all over again but in reverse. Adobe support has apparently changed the country on my account (so much for being impossible).

Hopefully I will have the new applications installed before I finally have to get to bed for work tomorrow…

UV Layout Pack Basics

imageI guess I am on a bit of a roll here. After the Copy UVs video, I pushed on a bit further so that I could show the basics of the UV Layout Pack feature.

As impressive as I find the Copy UVs feature, it is the Pack feature that is really what UV Layout is about. After you have flattened all the UV shells, you want to arrange them into a single UV tile – sometimes more than one tile, but I’m getting ahead of myself. You can certainly do this by hand and if your model is simple enough, that’s not a big deal.

In my example, I unwrapped 80 corbels that decorate four castle towers. Manually moving all those shells would be time consuming. The Pack feature not only does that moving for you, it tries to optimize the coverage of the tile space. The more space a shell covers, the more visual detail it has from the texture map.

This was an introduction to packing. There are several features surrounding it. So I’ll make at least one more video about it.

New YouTube Video For UV Layout

Now that I have moved closer to work, I have the time and energy to create more content on my YouTube channel.

imageI am still creating videos about Headus UV Layout. My newest video shows off the Copy UVs feature. As I mention in the video, this feature pretty much makes UV Layout worth the purchase price.

Unwrapping meshes that are the same cloned shape is tedious and time consuming. But Copy UVs allows you to unwrap only one of the clones and then let UV Layout apply all your cuts to the other clones automatically.

You can then chose what UV Layout does with all those flattened shells. It can extend them in one long line along either the U or V directions. Or it can stack all the shells on top of each other; giving you maximal UV space at the cost of making all the meshes have the same textures applied.

I have a few more UV Layout videos planned. Now it won’t be nine months between releases!

First Poser Renders

Pauline - business suit

The above image is not my first render with Poser, but it is the first render that is worth showing off. Unlike past work in Carrara, a lot of the Poser renders will be fully-clothed so that I can share them at work.

The model is called Pauline and I used the business outfit and a preset pose for her. The background is just the empty “construct” default that Poser uses.

I wanted to bring the old models that I bought for Carrara into Poser (since Carrara reads the Poser formats). So I figured that out today and created the render below.

Sexy Victoria

This is the Victoria model with Damaris hair and the Dangerous Mistress dress. I modeled the “sexy” text in LightWave and imported that into Poser. The background is still the “construct.”

The dress actually had a poke-through problem and “hung” down through the letter “E.” So I made two renders; one with the dress and one without it. I merge the two images in Photoshop and used layer masking to correct the poke-through.

I still have much to learn about texturing, lighting and rendering in Poser.

Poser 11 Pro

New weapons added to my 3D arsenal!

I have had my eye on Smith-Micro Poser Pro 11 for some time. That interest has increased as my passion for DAZ Carrara decreased. The renders I created with Carrara actually use the Poser format. I have bought a lot content since I started and didn’t want to waste that investment; but I just cannot stand using Carrara anymore.

DAZ has abandoned Carrara but Smith-Micro maintains and improves their software. So my allegiance has switched.

I also bought some training videos so that I could get up to speed quickly. I cannot wait to start sharing some renders on Flickr. Poser Pro transfers scene assets into LightWave – that could open up some interesting opportunities too.

Further Terrain Tweaks

Terrain test 3It seems that I am spending my commute time during the week thinking about what I can work on in 3D over the weekend. To that end, I am grateful for the three-day weekend.

As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to add an HDR background so that I could have realistic sky and clouds. That is exactly what I did here – I used LightWave’s Image World feature to display this HDR.

Unfortunately, it is a rather low resolution HDR. It was a free sample from some site that I have long-since forgotten. I should put together a collection of better quality HDR skies; even if it means paying for a few images.

I also tweaked the water texture since it was really bugging me. While still not great, this version makes big strides forward. I used the Fast Fresnel shader so it started reflecting the terrain and sky. I couldn’t get the ripples / wave displacement but there is enough there to distort the reflections.

I may try another terrain creation and another photo-walk this weekend.

Improving The Terrain

terrain test 2A bit later on Sunday afternoon, I managed to get some of the original terrain texturing that I was seeing in Substance Painter. Inside LightWave Layout, I mixed the flow map from World Machine with texture map from Substance Painter.

That really added punch to the crevasses in the rock!

In the previous post, I mentioned adding a brownish coloured fill layer. The Substance Painter mask generator created a happy accident and added very nice strata layers throughout the rest of the terrain. I was very pleased with that!

Several people in the LightWavers Are Everywhere forum on Facebook provided positive feedback. I appreciated that. Mention was made of Andrew Comb’s compound node network that allows LightWave to use the Substance PBR maps. I will definitely have to get that installed and try it out.

I cannot post this without mentioning the terrible looking water plane here. I used a LightWave preset shader for water and did not try to tweak it. Obviously it takes quite a bit away from the scene rather than enhancing it. We’ll see if I cannot improve it.

I’d also like to try out an HDRI sky dome (or LightWave’s Image World) to get a realistic sky with clouds. Fortunately, this is a long weekend – so I’ll have some extra play time!