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

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.

ZBrush At Last!

Posted on Saturday, December 17th, 2016 at 9:35 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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

Posted on Sunday, December 11th, 2016 at 5:44 PM in Personal, Photoshop, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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.

Farewell, Mr. Cohen

Posted on Sunday, November 13th, 2016 at 4:36 PM in Music, News by Garstor

What a week! A tumultuous upset in the United States’ election – which I kept out of on this blog but was rather active on Facebook. I’ve had a lingering sore throat all week and that was what got me out of bed on Friday morning at 1am.

My cousin Hana had posted the news about Leonard Cohen’s passing.

2016 has not be kind to music. This time I felt it much deeper.

The sore throat got worse and the only positive is that I could sing in closer tune to the Cohen songs that I’ve been playing on WinAmp all weekend.

So long sir. Thanks for everything you’ve given us.

Adobe Creative Cloud At Last

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 6:18 PM in Photoshop, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

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…

Civilization 6

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 4:28 AM in Entertainment by Garstor

imageCivilization 6 was released a little over a week ago. I have owned every major Civilization games since the first one; so it was a done deal that I’d buy Civ 6 too.

I confess that I barely played Civ 5 though. It was simply a matter of not having enough free time. I am hoping that won’t be the case this time around. On Friday night I stayed up until midnight – just … one … more … turn…

Civilization remains as addictive as ever.

imageMore challenging too. Perhaps I am a bit rusty, but in my first full game – even set to the easy Settler mode – I got my butt handed to me. I ended up resigning because I just couldn’t continue in any meaningful way against the barbarian onslaught. I went back to replay the tutorial mode and to pay more attention to the advice of the advisor.

My current game is doing much better now, but I am still struggling a bit to maintain the upkeep of my units. The delete button does not appear to work; so now I am paying for units that I no longer want or need.

I keep forgetting that you can no longer stack units. This often screws me up in a battle. But I will get used to it eventually and make better decisions.

Just watch the opening trailer movie in the link above. Narrated by none other than Sean Bean, the opener never fails to capture the imagination and inspire.

Hopefully I don’t stay up until midnight tonight. There are other things to do this week!

CN Tower Stair Climb For Charity

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2016 at 3:46 PM in Fitness, Personal by Garstor

Moneris buildingMy colleagues and I at Moneris began climbing the stairs in our building as an afternoon break and for some extra fitness. One day, seemingly as a joke, someone mentioned climbing the stairs of the CN Tower.

That quickly became a serious idea. We looked at our stair climbs as a form of training.

The CN Tower stair climb for charity has been around nearly as long as the CN Tower itself. Normally, the stairs are reserved for maintenance personnel only (and it shows on the inside). But once per year, people climb the stairs from outside the tower, up to the observation deck. The donations raised benefit the United Way.

There are 1,776 steps and 145 flights in the CN Tower. We have 21 flights at work and managed to get to the point of climbing, coming down the elevator and climbing again 4 or 5 times. By our math, that was about one CN Tower worth of climbing.

The Moneris DBA Stair Climbing TeamI’m probably in the worst shape of the entire team. At the 96th flight, my right knee was hurting enough that I couldn’t put much pressure on it. That definitely slowed me down.

My time was 35 minutes and 14 seconds.

I’m proud of all of us. We raised $500 for the United Way. We’ll likely do it again next year – faster.