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.

Still Struggling To Get My Creativity Back

I am on-call this week and tomorrow we start the annual business freeze. Hopefully that leads to some quiet time; because the last two weeks have been a non-stop rush of changes and updates before the freeze hits.

Except for a little bit of playing around with World Machine, I have not touched any 3D or digital art application. My camera is sitting patiently in the camera bag – unused since getting that new bag weeks back.

I’ve also been feeling a little bit bummed out creatively speaking.

I realized a terrible mistake in my bell tower model and that has taken the wind from my sails for working on it. I created three rooms inside the tower structure and the aim was to have them connected via staircases climbing to the top belfry area. A little over a month ago, I decided to start exploring the modeling of the stairs – this made the mistake painfully obvious to me.

tower_mistakeThe rooms are ridiculously large when considering human-scale.

The orange lines are the geometry for the rooms and the black lines are the geometry for the tower. The grid is 1 meter. So the tower is 8 meters on each side and the rooms are about 6.25 meters on a side. The height for each room is about 7.5 meters.

It is the height that is causing the problem. That is over 24 feet! That would be fine for a huge building; but it causes problems in this confined space.

Modeling stairs fit for human legs means coming up with a switch-back or spiral design. So far, I have not found a way to make these stairs fit nicely inside. I would have to fill the room with stairs to make this work!

Just make the rooms shorter! Add a fourth room if necessary! Yes, I thought of that too.

The problem there are the window openings. I’ve carefully lined up the tower and room geometry for that. Changing the room height would mean re-doing the window openings completely. I suppose it may yet come to that if I cannot think of a better idea.

Hopefully I can get my creative juices flowing again soon. Not just for this problem but for getting out and just making stuff – pictures, landscapes, art, anything!

World Machine, Meet OctaneRender!

I have owned OctaneRender for several years now. But it has sat on my computer almost totally untouched because I have not committed the time to learn its nuances. There is an introductory course at Liberty 3D for using the Lightwave Octane Plug-in. It is a good set of lessons and delivered by a great teacher; but it just gets your feet wet and doesn’t go quite far enough.

On the World Machine Facebook group, a user posted a short video explaining his workflow getting World Machine output into the standalone Octane Render. That was incredibly helpful and give me the kick that I needed to try things out.

World Machine & Octane RenderHere are my first results.

The terrain mesh and texturing images came from World Machine. I made use of the excellent WM plug-in Quadspinner GeoGlyph 2.0 as well as the texturing macro ProColor.

The sky and clouds are an HDRi image that I composited in with Photoshop. OctaneRender supports including an HDRi environment but I was not happy with my still novice results.

I can’t wait to see what else I create as I learn more about OctaneRender. I would love to include scattered instances of other meshes – rocks, boulders, trees, grass and the like.

If I do say so myself, this makes a pretty damn cool desktop background.

New YouTube Video – Creating Roof Beams

It has been a month since I posted about 3D modeling.

The Turin bell tower model has been progressing rather nicely these past few weeks. I used the LWCad Shingles tool for the first time to excellent effect. My photo references for the roof structure are weak though so I am winging most of this part of the model. I couldn’t have the roof floating in the air though; so I begin working on support beams for the underside.

imageThe support beams were fairly easy at first and I was rather proud of how they were turning out. Then I hit a snag.

Fortunately, a member of the LightWiki group on Facebook pointed out an easier way. LWCad provides for some really intriguing options.

The tip worked beautifully! It is a huge time-saving technique. So I made a miniature tutorial to demonstrate how to use LWCad to creating the support beams for a roof.

One point that I forgot to mention in the video is that Modo – and presumably other high-end 3D modelers – have features like LWCad’s UCS baked in.

We LightWavers are still waiting for the next version to be released. It is looking bleak though and the embittered come out in force whenever the topic is raised. I’ve seen this pattern of behaviour with the DAZ-3D treatment of Carrara.

I hope LightWave does not suffer the same fate! But that would be a different blog post.

A Short Tour Of My Bell Tower Model (So Far)

I have little doubt that this month is my record-setting month for posts! Considering how often I have let multiple months slip by, I am rather proud of this. I hope it is a momentum that I can maintain in August.

imageI have been working on a model of a bell tower that has been strongly influenced by the Turin Cathedral duomo (aka the bell tower).

It was many months ago when I first saw photos of the Turin bell tower. I kept think about how I would model it. Eventually – to get the idea out of my head – I sat down and started modeling.

There were a few abortive starts. My initial photo references were not good. Heck, as I state in the video, they still are not very good. But I finally got into a groove.

I didn’t want to make this video a full-blown tutorial. I had been showing off progress pictures to friends and colleagues; so this is meant to provide a closer view of the model.

Much work remains. There is the roof to build. I need to decide what the interior is going to be – will I keep the rooms that I have constructed or delete them and leave a hollow structure? I’d really like to get stairs modeled inside. Lastly, there is also the bells and their support structures.

I hope this turns out to be a respectable facsimile of the actual tower. There are some artistic liberties that I have taken already. I would be truer to life if I could actually visited Turin, Italy and take my own references photos!

Back to it. There are polygons to push around.

The Netherlands & End User Event 2017

Two weeks ago – late in the evening – I left Toronto Pearson airport on an Airbus A330-300 for Amsterdam. This would be my first time visiting Europe.

Several months back, Dax Pandhi of Quadspinner had posted on Facebook that he would be giving a talk at End User Event 2017. I had not heard of EUE before and none of the other talks covered technologies that I use. But it was in The Netherlands! In a bar! How cool is that? I decided to make this my major vacation.

Flying overnight, we landed at Schiphol airport around noon on Tuesday. I made my to Utrecht via the excellent train system. EUE didn’t start until Thursday; but there was to be a Wednesday night pre-conference drink-up. It was raining on and off Tuesday afternoon; I walked to the hotel from Utrecht Centraal station. I nearly got lost – a portend of things to come – but managed to arrive damp and tired.

In spite of more drizzle and rain on Wednesday morning, I set out with my camera to explore Utrecht. My passport was stowed into one of the camera bag pouches for safe keeping…

The adventure begins! I got lost. In the rain. It was all in fun though and I eventually found the hotel again. That evening, I had a really nice dinner with Dax and Cynthia at the hotel restaurant. If you visit Utrecht, be sure to stop into Luden Restaurant & Brasserie for a meal and a few bottles of Bastaard. We became instant friends. Very cool.

On Thursday morning I registered for EUE and attended the first talk, followed immediately by Dax’s talk. Awesome stuff. Things were off to a great start!

This is where the sound of a record player needle scratching across your favourite vinyl album should play in your mind. Over lunch I realized something awful. My passport was gone.

not really a pouchThe zippered camera bag pouch was not a pouch. There was a second zipper along the bottom – this was actually meant as a way to secure the camera bag on an extended luggage handle. My passport had fallen out while I was exploring Utrecht.

I had a few things in my favour; I had made copies of the passport bio page and the hotel staff was super helpful. So much for attending the other EUE talks though!

I had to file a police report and got lost again while walking to the station. Me getting lost would become a recurring joke with my new EUE friends. With the police report in hand, I had to take the train to The Hague and deal with the Canadian consulate.

There was a ton of paperwork and they wanted four non-family contacts who had known me for at least three years. I also had to provide my ticket home to prove that this was an emergency. Since I only had my cellphone with me, I had come back on Friday to complete the forms and provide them with new passport photos. That wiped out attending the morning EUE talks.

Your whole life is an application errorWhen I returned to the pub where EUE was being held, it was just after the lunch meal. They had provided chocolate fortune cookies. Being a mite bit peckish, I ate one and looked at the fortune inside.

I wish I were making this up! “Your whole life is an application error.”

Indeed…

EUE wrapped up that evening. Dax and I “stole” the flags that had been flying outside of The Florin pub during the conference.

I spent Saturday in Utrecht, walking around with my new friends and taking a ton of pictures. Roman lives in Russia, Zakhia is in Lebanon, Barry lives in England, Daniel is in Germany – and all of us were immediate friends. United by the common threads of digital art and drinking beer. The perfect way to achieve peace on earth!

Amsterdam 05 - VondelparkOn Sunday I went to Amsterdam for the rest of my vacation. I had to wait several hours for my hotel room to be ready but Vondelpark was only a block away. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, so the park was packed with people. Lots of trees and walking/biking paths and large ponds.

Monday was the hop-on / hop-off city bus tour. I also visited Gassan Diamonds. I don’t really have decent photos from that – but it was interesting and I learned quite a bit about diamond cutting and polishing.

Tuesday was the canal boat tour in the morning. I was supposed to have a day trip to Bruges, Belgium on Wednesday but my temporary passport was ready – so I had to make a third trip to The Hague. The tour company swapped the Bruges trip with the Windmill / Volendam tour on Tuesday afternoon.

Windmill Tour 01If you visit The Netherlands, be sure to take the Windmill and Volendam tour. The windmills are fascinating and you tour a cheese factory and a bakery in Volendam.

It is a quaint and quiet town with a long fishing heritage. A new dyke has all but eliminated fishing as a livelihood; so they have had to re-make themselves for the 21st century.

You won’t want to miss out on the Amsterdam Icebar either. It is a small venue and a steady flow of patrons is kept flowing in and out of the place. It is themed on the Dutch explorer Willem Barents’ search for the Northwest Passage.

My Flickr album for this trip is located here. I will add more photos to it over the next few days.

Here is the official EUE photos on Facebook.

I strongly recommend visiting The Netherlands. They are a very friendly people. They love bicycles more than you can know. There is a vast history here and plenty of things to see and do.

I will have to return – probably for End User Event 2018. With my passport secured nine ways to Sunday this time.

Dearth

Weeks have marched past without a post once more.

It has been crazy busy – and annoyingly frustrating – at work lately. The WannaCry emergency patching was brutal; even though it really did not require the DBA team, we were on-hand and gathering overtime pay.

Other work-related items have been equally draining.

But things are looking up! Tonight is the start of Imagine No Religion 7! It will be held near the Toronto airport, so I can take the bus to the event instead of flying to another city and staying at a hotel. The line-up of speakers is going to be awesome.

I have already heard Professors Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Lawrence Krauss speak at FFRF Conventions before. But it will be nice to see them again. Seth Andrews will be speaking, I hope to meet him and get another book signed. I am looking forward to hear an update on Gretta Vosper’s story too.

Ali Rizvi and Matt Dillahunty will be there too. There are many other speakers, so I am totally stoked for this weekend.

Monday night, I’m off for my first trip to Europe! I’ll be attending the End User Event in Utrecht. This was triggered by Dax Pandhi from Quadspinner speaking about his latest terrain tools work. So I turned this into a major holiday for me.

I’ll be spending a few days in Amsterdam. I’m really excited about the photographic opportunities.

Phew! Hopefully all this generates a lot more blog posts this month.

Unwrapping A Celtic Knot Design

This was an interesting problem. On the surface it seems easy; however, as you consider the options as modeler and texture artist, complications arise.

imageA good friend of mine was modeling a Celtic Knot-like headpiece for a staff. She graciously permitted me to record a video about my attempts to unwrap it with UV Layout.

As I hopefully make clear in this tutorial, this is a question of trade offs. We can create rectangular strips that are easy to paint on and very nicely fill the UV space. However, they will contain UV stretching or compression distortions.

Or we can remove the distortions but have oddly shaped UV shells to paint on. The end result will probably look much better at the cost of the effort required to paint on it.

After I posted this to my YouTube channel; I thought of a possible hybrid solution. I may experiment with that over the weekend and write about it here if it bears useful fruit.