Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3D drama ... and Vue: the interface from heaven

3D action drama -- "now for something completely different!" -- and some landscapes. And these are very different indeed! I've been getting a bit exasperated with Bryce lately. It's the interface from hell. Literally. And I decided to take something else for a spin...

Vue is a program I've been aware of for a while. I knew Version 8 was out ... I didn't know they're already up to 8.5, and I only recently learned that you can now get Version 7 as a legal free download (get that, folks, LEGAL, not a torrent of dubious origins that's probably loaded with viruses). So I just had to take it for a spin, as I said.

It's the interface from heaven.

I'm not saying there's anything in an way amazing about my first tentative renders:

...but consider this. I got these images in about ten minutes flat, including installing the program and seeing the interface for the first time!! That's the part that blows you away. Right now, I don't even have the proper render engine for it. Vue is different in everything they do. They don't make their current "core" program a free download (DAZ does). In fact, if you're not careful you can still pay $199 for Vue 7, from Amazon sellers, when you can get it free from the publisher. However, as soon as a version goes obsolete the do give away the core. But the program expands itself in modules for about fifty bucks each; and the first module you need is (!) the render engine, to give you higher-rez renders without the damned company logo.

And it's not just long distance landscapes that Vue is all about. You can fly the camera into the heart of the forest and zoom in for a super closeup on the bee sitting on the flower, while the squirrels frolic in the tree behind.

It's a whole 'nother interface to learn, but by comparison with Bryce, Vue is child's play. And not only that, it has POWER you don't believe. Turns out, Version 6 was used to do some of the work in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Terminator 4 and Australia. Half the time, I just don't believe what I'm seeing.

I gotta learn the interface and controls, so that I can get out of "wide angle shot of the whole world" mode, and get into the forest glades full of ferns and trees. It's going to be fun! Also, must buy the render engine, which is something called RenderUp, and get rid of that damned logo.

So, let this post mark the beginning of something new: my relationship with Vue 7, also known as Digital Nature.

Jade, 30 June

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Male nude art in 3D ... bookmarks! Whatever next?!

Male nude 3D art -- for bookmarks! Yes ... at last ... I have something useful for you today! These pieces were uploaded at 1:1 size, about 10" tall at "native size," and I've even arranged them so they paste in nicely on A4 or Letter size paper.

Call this printer craft -- enjoy!

I realize instructions are going to cary an orbital duh factor, so I'll make it brief:

Print out on a decent grade of photo paper...

Let the page dry a bit, if you use an ink printer...
Print out some kind of pattern on the back, if you like...
Trim either to the edge or with little white borders...
LAMINATE with the kind of plastic kids use on school books.

I do advocate laminating, because both laser toner and photo inks can shed on a book in which these are used as bookmarks ... and I don't want to get the blame for damaging someone's book. So -- LAMINATE the dad-blasted things, right? Right.

There's not much else can go wrong. Mind your fingers with the craft knife you use for the trimming ... they tend to run amok and can lacerate your thumb. Voice or experience talking here.

And promise me you won't run with scissors.

Still sick with 'flu, and way too far under par to write coherently, but I did get this idea, and with any luck it's something people can actually use. Enjoy them, give them as gifts. Please don't sell 'em. Please do send your pals the link to this post ... and tell 'em to make their own. Let me know if you like them, and I'll do this again!

Looking for the "full monty" studies of this hunk? Click here to go there, and beware: nudity alert!

Jade, 29 June

Sunday, June 27, 2010

3D art meets life and death drama: make your own OBJs!

3D art meets nature photography ... and maybe a bit of Indiana Jones type adventure, too! I was messing around with Bryce for a few minutes today: feeling like death warmed over, because I have the 'flu, needing to take a break, get my mind off code and numbers and editing ... brain having something of a meltdown. So to do something absolutely different I opened up Bryce and started playing with terrains.

Now, in Bryce when you click to "create a terrain," you get a default mountain range. But nothing says you have to model a mountain range ... you can model a tableland that's flat as the proverbial bickie, if you like. The easiest way to model a terrain is to use a bitmap image, which tells the program where you want to push the default model UP, and where you want to drive it DOWN. Pure white is way up, top of Everest. Pure black is way down, bottom of the Marianas Trench. So it stands to reason that a good image map for talking to the software is going to be gray, and right around the middle of the "11 zone" grayscale. This way, you generate a terrain that's like low rolling hills. Which could also be used as a close-up of a bootprint or a tire track (!) or it could be scaled to be a pretty decent bit of foreground for your character to stand on...

I came up with this Bryce landscape, above, and I was actually quite pleased with it. The next thing you'd want to do is put characters and trees and stuff into it, but while you can do this in Bryce 5.5 (yeah, yeah, I still use the free version; can we say "Counting our Pennies?) it's nowhere near as efficient at working with figure models (guys, trees, shrubs, snakes...) as DAZ Studio 3.

So the next thing you do, in Bryce, is click to EXPORT AS OBJECT. Tell the program you want an OBJ, and tell it to export all its maps. That part's easy. The interesting thing was, I had no idea how big and detailed I could make the OBJ now, because I haven't done this since I upgraded the computer about two months ago.

So I ran an experiment and told Bryce to create the highest-detail OBJ it could. It did a superb job. But DAZ won't render it! The program just falls over. I bought a fantastic model the other day, a battle cruiser that I'm hoping to able to use in the ANIMATIONS (!) for the upcoming promo for Mel Keegan's HELLGATE series. Saaaaame problem: DAZ won't even open the model. Fortunately, 3D Studio MAX opens it easily and renders it beautifully, so we're going to be bouncing from program to program, doing certain jobs on certain platforms, and then patching the work together later.

For today, though ... I knew 3D Studio MAX would open the huge OBJ Bryce had just made, but I don't have the energy to be bothered. I went back into Bryce and made a new model of the terrain with half the resolution.

Worked like magic. DAZ is happy to open it, whack the maps onto it, the works. So now you get to this image, which you might think is right out of Bryce:

OBJ as generated by Bryce, imported into DAZ, maps applied ... Bryce sky imported as a backdrop. Three distant lights set, and then rendered in DAZ. Um ... wahoo, it works! Now we can have Michael 4 go running about on a proper bit of ground instead of something that's as flat as a table!

So here's DAZ's male supermodel, Michael 4 himself, wearing Rock Star Hair by Neftis and Billy T.'s M4 Real Jeans, and the cockroach-crusher boots from he Stylin' pack ... I added four of the Deluxe Trees and four shrubs from PNature (all from Renderosity), and then set up a couple of extra lights ...

The scene was still missing something. Rattlesnake. Yep, that was it. The scene needed something to make Michael 4 get up and ACT. Nothing like startling a snake in the bush! I could tell you some stories ... but snakes are beautiful, beautiful creatures -- and almost blind, and very timid. They won't hurt you unless you threaten them. This snake is the DAZ Morphing Python, with the viper fangs turned on, and the texture from the Cold Blooded pack set to rattler. And he's a beauty. Looks like Mike knows to freeze and let him skedaddle...!

Looking for the "full monty" version? Click here to go there, and beware: nudity alert! The rattlesnake seems to have made off with the poor guy's pants...!

Cough drops and hot tea now.

Jade, 28 June

Yaoi romance: Subotu and the ninth-born son ... next part!

Yaoi romance -- and the plot thickens! In yesterday's post, the young ronin warrior Subotu learned that he's being paid a fortune to go away and stop being a bad influence on the young man who is the ninth-born son of the king of this small kingdom. In this post ... the princeling at the crux of all this trouble learns what his father has decided -- and by the looks of this, the kid is about to get his Irish up!

Seriously ... this is a very nice story that's developing. This one makes about seven episodes! I guess I need to give this kid a name (still looking for one that fits him), and design his parents, and the warlord who captured him. And then I ought to go back and show how he and Subotu met ... and hint at where Subotu is from, since he's a nomad heading west on a big, beautiful horse, hiring out his warrior skills as he goes.

Hmmm. Let me think about this.

Not much coherence in today's post: I've come down with 'flu, on top of everything else. It's winter here, downunder, and there's a lot of 'flu going around. It's my turn to get it, and I have to admit, I feel ... exactly the way you feel, when you have a case of 'flu!

Looking for the rest of this series? Here they are:

The Yaoi Princeling ... young, beautiful, still full of arrogance, with his jewelry and his, uh, clothing intact. Then...

Looks like a captive now -- notice the jewelry is gone, and in three out of four images his, uh, clothes are as absent as his jewelry. Then ...

The ronin hero realizes he has a dangerous job to do -- alone in the wilderness he performs the ritual sword kata to purify his heart and mind before undertaking the mission. Then ...

Here comes the hero -- and what a hero. The scenes actually look like he's breaking into someone's stronghold to bust someone out. Notice, there's an extra sword in the bottom of the shot in two of the images. Then ...

Remorse! Look who's sorry now. But how could you stay mad at him, especially when he's been through such a tough time. Then ...

The Next morning, where Subotu finds out that fighting the battle and rescuing the princeling was the tip of the iceberg in terms of trouble. Then...

This post, where the news filters down to the prince himself. And nooobody (except maybe the king!) is happy about any of it.

Jade, 27 June

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Yaoi romance: the prince and the ronin warrior, next episode!

The Yaoi fantasy romance continues -- and in this episode...

The battle is over, the princeling has been delivered back to his father; Subotu has gone out there and risked everything to rescue him from the warlord out in the hinterland ... and then he learns what's going on. The princeling is safe and sound, and his father is glad to have him back, but he also believes that Subotu had been a "bad influence" on the young man. It's not the ronin's love that's the problem. It's the fact that the kid is trying to emulate the older, wiser, much more experienced Subotu ... which is how he got himself in trouble in the first place! So here, ronin ... here's a barrowload of money and jewels, enough to be a prince yourself. Take it, and leave this land.

And here is Subotu, wondering what he did to annoy his gods, because he just became rich -- and lost the love of his life, in the same moment.

Yaoi romance ... this one's a heartbreaker. Come back tomorrow, and I'll show the other side to this scene: the princeling who got himself into strife and needed rescuing -- only the ninth son and far from the succession -- is about to find out what's happening with Subotu!

Looking for the rest of this series? Here they are:

The Yaoi Princeling ... young, beautiful, still full of arrogance, with his jewelry and his, uh, clothing intact. Then...

Looks like a captive now -- notice the jewelry is gone, and in three out of four images his, uh, clothes are as absent as his jewelry. Then ...

The ronin hero realizes he has a dangerous job to do -- alone in the wilderness he performs the ritual sword kata to purify his hert and mind before undertaking the mission. Then ...

Here comes the hero -- and what a hero. The scenes actually look like he's breaking into someone's stronghold to bust someone out. Notice, there's an extra sword in the bottom of the shot in two of the images. Then ...

Remorse! Look who's sorry now. But how could you stay mad at him, especially when he's been through such a tough time. Then ...

This episode, where Subotu finds out that fighting the battle and rescuing the princeling was the tip of the iceberg in terms of trouble.

Jade, 26 June

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gay vampires rock -- part two

"So I said to him, 'Don't be a berk, Lewis, I can't come to your dumb party. You know I hang out with Amadeus at night.'"

"That was very decent of you, Bradley. Tell me, what's a berk?"

"Um ... the Australians would call it a nong."

"I've never been to Australia. The furthest south I ever went was Athens, in 1742."

"You need to get out more."

"We're 'out' now, aren't we? Speaking of which -- we have to stop meeting in places like this. It's ... muddy!"

"It was your idea to meet up here. Anyway, you're a vampire, I thought you liked all these creepy old places. Like, you sleep in an earth-filled coffin."

"I sleep on a Posturpedic mattress, Bradley."

"I know. With chocolate satin sheets. I guess when a spine gets to be as old as yours, it needs its orthopedic mattress --"

"You're not too old to be spanked, young man!"

"Oh, would you, would you? You're always promising all kinds of goodies, then you never --"

"All right, how's this? Give me back the carkeys. You're not driving the Lamborghini tonight."

"Oh ... well, poop. You know how much I love driving that car o' yours."

"Then, try treating me with a little respect, since I'm eight hundred years old and I own the damned sportscar!"

"Uh, yeah, right, okay. So, can I drive? Please?"

"You can drive it right to the diner, and eat, so I can get fed. I'm starving! You wanted fish and chips."

"No, you wanted fish and chips. I wanted Italian. Or pizza. You gave me the usual sob story about garlic bringing you out in hives, and --"

"What happened to all this respect I was going to get if I let you drive the car?!"

"Um ... yeah. I do respect you, man. Honestly. Even in the morning."

"In mourning for what? Or for whom? I always wear black. Everyone says it looks good on me."

"No, the morning, like before-noon, as in, a.m."

"Ante meridian."

"Auntie who --?"

"Shut up and get in the car, Bradley."

"I love it when you come over all masterful. S'why I told Lewis. 'You know I can't come to your dumb party, man, you know I hang out with Amadeus at night."

"And he said ...?"

"He said, 'Why don't you hang out with the dude during the day?'"

"And you said ...?"

"I said, 'Because we're both asleep during the day, because we hang out at night.' Well, duh. In red, underlined."

"I must say, I rather admire your logic."

"You're just saying that."

"No, really. And ... which way is this diner with the fish and chips --?"

"It's ... um, that way. And I get to park the Lamborghini right outside!"

"Just get in the car, Bradley."


Looking for the other parts?

Waiting for the Vampire (prolog) and Gay Vampires rock -- part one

Jade, 25 June

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Displacement mapping in the world of the very small

Male nude art ... 3D an' all --! You thought today's post was going to be about the joys of displacement mapping, and you'd be right, but I thought I'd set the scene and get into the right environment first. Or at the very least get everyone's attention with a lovely male nude!

So, mission accomplished! And after getting your attention, I'll feel at liberty to get on with what I promised:

Displacement mapping. What the heck is it, why bother doing it, and if you decide to do it, how?!

The best way is to "show, not tell," so doing this in pictures was the only way to go. All of the following images have been uploaded full size. The effects I'm talking about won't be visible in the reduced-size shots Blogger pastes up, but if you click on the pictures they'll pull up at 1:1 size, and you can see the whole deal. Here goes...

Long shots are more or less plain sailing. You're not close enough to individual objects and surfaces to be able to see if they're plastic-smooth or if they have the visual texture you expect of real objects, but...

Closer shots start to show surfaces. By the time you get as close as this to the wall in the above image, you'd start to notice it was plastic. What you need to add in is a texture that either makes the surface of the 3D model in the image rough, or at least makes it LOOK rough. Luckily, there is such a thing, and it's called a displacement map. Now, to make the difference obvious between surfaces are are displacement mapped, and others that aren't, I put the mapping on the walls, above, but not on the rocks. Aha! So...

Let's drive the camera in even closer and get right up to the rock. It starts out as a gray plasticky lump -- this is the OBJ "object" that loads right into your program. Then you put a JPEG texture map on it ... most likely a photograph of a rocky surface. This wraps around the OBJ, so that from a distance it looks like rock. But close up, it looks like the rocky texture was an image (which it is!) printed on a plastic surface. What we need to do is rough-up the surface of the rock, make it less smooth...

Same image with the displacement map added to the rocks and pebbles and even the ground. Whoa, what a difference. Now, it looks like you could get right up to the boulders and touch, and feel the roughness. And you can keep on adding this effect ... let's drive right up to one of those fantastic mushrooms (they're Mykos, by Poisen, from Renderosity)...

No displacement map on the mushrooms in this shot. Then I add the map...

Click to enlarge this -- the displacement map makes a big difference, but the miniaturization of the Blogger upload makes it hard to see. What a difference!

So, what's a displacement map anyway? Like bump maps, they're mostly black and white images, where true blacks made the surface of the object get punched in, and true whites make the surface get pushed out. And if the maps are grayscale, you get a continuous gradient between the two extremes. Unlike bump maps, displacement maps actually do deform (rough up) the surface of the object. Bump maps just give the illusion of roughness. I don't usually mess about with bump maps, because the illusion goes away if you turn the object sideways on, and suddenly you can see it's still smooth.

Okay, so far so good. What's a displacement (or bump) map LOOK like?

Well, one could easily look like this:

(Have this one on me -- take it home and play with it. It's okay for me to upload it and give it away, because I made it myself. Anyone gives you grief about this, tell 'em to talk to me.)

That displacement map will cause a surface to ruck itself into the textures of a piece of malachite. How did I make the map? I got an image of malachite, opened it in Irfanview and reduced the number of colors in it to ... two. Then saved it. Only black and white left there, so you have very deep striations and no gradients. Like worn and pitted old rock. Have a look at the closeup of the gargoyle in this post from a few days ago. Same effect, achieved the same way. I think it was even this displacement map I used to do it.)

So far, so good. You can see what displacement maps can do. You could also choose to set the same map as a bump map -- it'll just created the illusion of roughness, rather than the real deal. You've got a map to have a play about with ... and you know how to make them. So, how do you apply them?

This is the part that I can't actually be totally explicit about for every reader -- I use DAZ Studio 3, Bryce and 3D Studio MAX ... you might have chosen to learn this work in Carrara, Maya, Blender, Terragen, World Builder, iClone, or any one of a dozen others, right? So I can only point you in the right direction.

In DAZ, you need to open your Surfaces tab. In Bryce, it's under the little [M] Materials tab on your little floating toolbox. In MAX, it all happens in your textures editor. Open whatever toolbox or tab or menu, and look fot where you get your options for "mapping."

Now, there's loads of different kinds of mapping: bump, displacement, reflection, refraction, transparency (aka opacity), specularity and ... on and on. Don't worry about the rest. Ignore 'em till their times comes. Zero in on bump and displacement, and in the popup dialog, click through to where you saved your map. Apply it ... and don't forget to "dial up" the strength of it. The effect can be adjusted from barely there at all, right through to the point where it'll turn an egg into a hedgehog. Experiment till you get what you need ... if it turns out you don't want the surface deformed and the illusion is what you need, switch to bump mapping -- use the same map. Enjoy!

Jade, 24 June

Studies in light and shadows

Studies in 3D lighting ... just eye candy (guy candy, if you prefer!) today ... no time to write more than these few words. Things are hectic, time is short, and I'm submerging under a mountain of work! Back tomorrow, with something semi-coherent: a tutorial or sorts, on the joys of displacement mapping ... and you can't imagine how beautiful it can be! Trust me, it's a treat -- I already did the art, I just don't have time today to write the text, so ... please enjoy these images instead!

Jade, 24 June

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gay vampires rock: 2010 style

"Hey, what kept you, man? I been waitin' here for half an hour, and you know there's bats!"

"I like bats."

"You like bats? You're weird. Even Batman doesn't like bats."

"I'm not weird, I'm a vampire. And I was stuck in traffic, Bradley. Even we get stuck in traffic. Occasionally."

"Don't call me Bradly. You know I hate it."

"It's your name."

"Call me Brad. Listen, I'm starving."

"So am I!"

"Yeah, but I get fed first, so I don't fall down and faint when you get fed, if you take my meanin', you being a vampire, an all."

"I take your meaning. And you wouldn't fall down and faint. You'd faint and fall down."

"You're picky tonight."

"I get that way when I'm hungry, and when I've been standing in traffic for half an hour!"

"Oh, yeah, right. So, like, you wanna go somewhere?"

"Unless you can find somewhere to get a burger or a hotdog in a ruined church, I should imagine we'll have to go somewhere ... and get you fed so that I can get fed! So, what do you have an appetite for tonight?"

"Italian. I like Italian."

"No! Bradley, you know perfectly well the garlic brings me out in hives!"

"Oh, yeah, right. Well, how about pizza? There's no garlic in pizza."

"Yes, there is. It's in the sauce. I can taste it. In your blood."

"Damn ... is that why you always hiccup, after I've eaten pizza?"

"Bradley, you're not taking any of this seriously, are you?"

"Nope. You take yourself way too seriously, man. I mean, Amadeus. So you're eight hundred years old. Whoopdie-do. Doctor Who's older than that."

"Doctor Who is a fictional character in a television science fiction comedy-drama, Bradley, not a starving vampire who is quite likely to sink his fangs into you at any moment!"

"Uh ... yeah, I guess you make a good point there. Okay, no pizza. No Italian. I guess that includes French, too, huh?"

"No, Italian does not include French, just as Italy does not include France. And no, you're not going to eat French food tonight, either -- not if you want to drive the Lamborghini!"

"O...kay. Well, you got anything against English food? They don't use garlic in English food. I could go for fish and chips."

"Mmm. With plenty of salt and vinegar ... and ketchup, all of which lends a pecular piquancuy to your blood. Here, catch the keys -- the car's parked over there, under those trees. You're driving, Bradly."

"Way cool, man! So, hey, where's this traffic jam of yours?"

The story continues...

Jade, 22 June
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