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

Poser Lights

Posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 at 6:28 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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

Posted on Sunday, February 12th, 2017 at 8:31 PM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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

Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2017 at 6:42 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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

Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 at 6:42 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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.

Heading To Photoshop World!

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2017 at 8:25 PM in Photoshop by Garstor

I guess the post title says it all. I’ll be going to Photoshop World in April.

I don’t know what to expect because I have never been before. Hopefully there will be plenty to learn.

A short and to the point post.

A Bit Of 3D News…

Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2017 at 6:33 AM in Photoshop, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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.

Pittsburgh & Fallingwater

Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2017 at 7:38 PM in Personal, Travel by Garstor

The first weekend of October, I was in Pittsburgh for the 39th National Convention of the FFRF. Part of that was a group tour of Fallingwater; I did not get around to posting a Flickr album of the trip for a variety of (bad) reasons.

  • I switched to Adobe Creative Cloud and didn’t get all my apps updated in a timely fashion
  • I had just moved to Etobicoke and still needed to unpack and settle in
  • Most honestly, I was scared my photos would all be ruined – I kept a UV filter on my lens and feared it would make the pictures garbage

There was a lot of noise and I suspect the UV filter there. In many images, I used a slight Gaussian blur and then applied Smart Sharpen. All in all, I’m rather happy with how the pictures turned out.

You can view the Flickr album here.

Pittsburgh Point State Park fountainMost of the pictures are from Fallingwater, but I did take some while walking around Pittsburgh. I loved the fountain at the tip of Point State Park. In this shot, I think I got really lucky.

I thought it would look cool with the sun immediately behind the spray. But there was a huge risk of getting completely blown out. That didn’t happen though and the shot works.

Just the same, I should probably invest in a neutral gradient filter sometime in the near future.

FallingwaterBut Fallingwater is nothing less than breath-taking!

You are not permitted to take photos during the tour itself. That’s why everything I have is exterior shots. I understand the rationale behind that rule; but it is still disappointing that I could not fully chronicle my visit there.

I’ll definitely have to return sometime to get more shots from this magical place.

A shout-out must be given to Adobe Photoshop and the Content-Aware Fill technology. Fallingwater keeps a steady flow of tourists through the house, so there is always going to be people on the cantilevered balconies. But I removed a few strong distractions with the Spot Healing brush and Content-Aware. Amazing results!

I am looking forward to some photowalk opportunities around Etobicoke soon.

A camera and kit upgrade may also be in my future – we’lll see!

Here We Go!

Posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2017 at 2:49 PM in Personal by Garstor

Day One of three hundred and sixty-five. Phew! What to say? Can I be optimistic?

I think that in the immediate vicinity of my personal life that I can be very optimistic.

  • I have a job that I enjoy and will soon have my first anniversary for
  • In spite of a cockroach infestation; I live so close to my job that my work/life balance has improved dramatically
  • I am advancing in a hobby that I love
  • In less than two months time, my grandmother will celebrate her 100th birthday

There are challenges ahead for this year. I’ve kept this blog mostly clear of politics this year. But the US election of Donald “Cheeto Hitler” Trump is highly disturbing. If I did not have very dear friends living there, I would be laughing until I burst a vein. But the fact remains, when the US sneezes, Canada catches the cold. So I have both personal and selfish reasons for concern.

Fortunately, I support the FFRF! They are gearing up to fight all attacks against the First Amendment posed by this vile man-child and his cabinet of anti-intellectual billionaires. I remain hopeful that Trump will be brought to heel somehow. Longer term, this debacle may trigger meaningful electoral reform in the USA.

I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. They are silly. However; I do intend to reinvigorate my lifestyle toward healthier choices. I need to begin a regular workout routine with the equipment in this building. I need to improve my eating habits too.

We’ll see what comes of all this.

Happy New Year 2017!

Posted on Friday, December 30th, 2016 at 6:47 AM in Personal, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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

Posted on Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 at 4:43 PM in Personal, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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.