Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

Posts Tagged ‘Ray-Tracing’

Still Struggling To Get My Creativity Back

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

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!

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

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

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

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)

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

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

Monday, June 19th, 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

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

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

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

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.

Poser Lights

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

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

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

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

Monday, February 6th, 2017

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

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

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…

Monday, January 30th, 2017

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!

Friday, December 30th, 2016

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

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

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!

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

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

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

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.

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