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
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