Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bimbarella, Queen of Outer Space, Episode 47: The Ice Planet

"Let me understand this properly -- you're telling me I can't go rampaging around this planet dressed like this? Why not? You turned into a prude all of a sudden? Or is this planet inhabited by a whole population of prudes."

"No, dear, not at all, but --"

"Then, what have you go against what I'm wearing? You don't like pink? You used to like pink."

"And another thing -- you're always telling me to put something decent on my feet. So look! I've put on the biggest pair of cockroach-crushing boots I could find! And it still isn't good enough!"

"Bimbarella, love, will you just shut up for long enough to --"

"I just don't believe this! I've just had my hair bleached, and my tattoos brightened up, and my legs hot-waxed, and my --"

"Bimbarella! Shut up for four seconds, and turn around, goddamn it!"

"I don't wanna turn around. Why should I turn around? I'm tired of always doing what I'm told to do."

"You never do what you're told to do. When's the last time you did something you were told to do? Huh? You see? It's so long ago, you can't even remember!"

"Well ... phooey. Pardon the French."

"Will you .... just ... turn ... around!"
"Oh, all right. Have it your way."

"Okay, so I'm turned around. What am I looking at?"

"Well, I realize this is going to be a stretch of your capabilities, but ... have you looked outside?"


"Outside. It's an ice planet, for gawdsakes! There's glaciers as far as the eye can see. You can't go rampaging around out there dressed -- like -- that!"


"Yes, oh."

"Well, I could put something warmer on ... but then nobody'd be able to see that I've just had my tattoos done, and my legs, and all. I could put a hat on. But I'd get hat hair, and I've just had my hair done..."

" I suppose you'll just have to go without me. I'll just have to stay behind, and sit here --"

"And pout."

"I like pouting. I'm good at it."

"You get plenty of practise."

"So I'll just stay here, then, and mind the ship."

"Don't touch anything. Don't push any buttons. The last time you started pushing buttons --"

"All I wanted was a lousy cup of double-decaff late with mocha sprinkles."

"-- you found the ejection seat. I didn't even know this ship even had an ejection seat."

"Well, we came and got you, and you weren't really hurt, and it was a nice day, so I don't know what you're complaining about."

"Bimbarella! Just don't -- push -- any --buttons! Not till I get back."

"So whaddaya want me to do?"

"Mind the ship. Keep warm. And get in some pouting practise."

"Bring me back some coffee."

Jade, 29 August

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Working with cycloramas in DAZ Studio 3

When you're "shooting a scene," you change the camera position over and over ... and if you're using a static background, even a good one, one thing makes the sequence look false: the background isn't changing. And the human brain knows that if you change the perspective of the foreground, the background is going to change!

The shots above were done on the Fairytale Story environment set -- and as the camera position changes, yes, you do see the background move. Which doesn't do you a hell of a lot of good, if you're shooting in an environment of your own creation, because there's a limited number of environment sets out there, and you won't get exactly what you want, and they could get a bit expensive.

So you want to be able to use a bit of stagecraft ... take their images off the cyclorama, put your own on, and start over. Right? Right. So it'll go something like this: 1) strip out the default backdrop; 2) put your own on; 3) load up some good props so you "can't see the join" where the cyclorama meets the stage. And it's exactly like a stage:

Okay, brilliant. So far, so good. The question is, how do you do it?

Notice in the three cinemascope shots above, I've stripped in one image three times on the big semicircle of the backdrop, and I put a big, loud pattern on the ground. The ground is called the Terrain. You need do go into your Surfaces tab, find the cyclorama and fiddle about till you track down the names of these items. Here's a broad hint: they're going to be called something like Scenery Left, Right and Center, and Terrain! It ain't rocket science.

Now, replace the default images with something obnoxious, so you can SEE what they are and how they work. Eureka!

Now, you need your own images to slap on in their place. So...

I started with an old Bryce backdrop I made eons ago, and worked from there...

From the screen captures above, you see how it works. Whatever you use as your source materials (photos, paintings, a combination of the two), you have to have enough left-to-right material to make a wiiiiiide shot. What I did here for the sake of quickness was to create a seamless repetition of the one background, but if you had the time, and the purpose, you'd create a fantastic backdrop that went from the woods to the mountains etc., so you could pan all over it. And this is how you'd do it: in segments.

When you get the super-wide shot all put together, they you have to cut it into THREE pieces. Left, Right and Center. Penny drops! Yep, these are slapped onto the cyclorama's thee component pieces.

For this chore, I used Serif, which gives you the ability to be incredibly precise in your masking and cutting. It's The Best for this, no ifs and buts.

You save the three pieces where you can find them in the DAZ Surface panel hierarchy, and you put them onto the cyclorama. You plop something suitable onto the ground. You're almost home, now:

In the last shots here, I'm switching back to the normal 2:3 aspect ratio for the images and driving the camera around ... and the background is moving properly. Also, I'm resetting the lights, as Red Riding Hood messes about in the woods till the sun is setting and it's coming along to night. Silly girl. Looks like she ain't going to make it to Grandma's place in this version of the story, either!

And, in a nutshell, that's how you do your own cycloramas, in DAZ Studio 3! Having static backgrounds has been bugging me for a while. Having that question resolved is great.

Jade, 28 August

Friday, August 27, 2010

More 3D whimsy at garden's bottom

A little more 3D whimsy today ... leftover shots from yesterday, in fact! I'm strapped for time, so am uploading these for your amusement. It was supposed to be a winged warrior on a black, winged horse, in the purple and gold moonlight, but -- not today, guys. It wasn't going to happen on today's time budget. Tomorrow, if I can get a couple of hours. I'll sure try, so -- join me then!

Jade, 27 August

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yaoi beauty at the bottom of my garden!

When I was a kid they still used to tell stories of hobs and boggarts and wee folk -- every area had its local species, and a lot of them still lived in the areas where humans were starting to build subdivisions ... with the result that the old saying about "faeries at the bottom of the garden" had to be true at least some of the time ... not because the fairies moved to live behind your henhouse, but because Uncle George built the damn' henhouse right on top of the site where people had been seeing wee folk for about a thousand years before City Hall decided to subdivide the woodland.

So the legends of "faeries at the bottom of the garden" arose. Of course, these days the stories are utterly pooh-poohed, and rightly so, because there are no faerie at the bottom of anyone's garden. Which makes sense when you think about it. What life form in its right collective mind would want to stick around where you dump your dead lawnmowers, and those leftover rolls of linoleum, and the old paint cans? Let's face it, there's so much toxic waste at the bottom of the garden, somebody as small as the wee folk would keel over dead, and no amount of clapping would bring 'em back. Of course they moved out. They're short, not dumb.

But as the Greens and the Tree Huggers get mobilized, some very nice, clean gardens are starting to come back, and hey -- you never know. When's the last time you actually bothered to go out and look? Well, look again...

Ye gods, that wasn't there the last time you looked! The only thing missing is the wings ... so let's do something about that:
Whoop ... darn it all, it looks like you've been spotted. They have sharper senses than humans do, and even better...

They can camouflage themselves. Their wings turn silver-green to match the shrubbery, and those ferns Auntie Joyce chucked out last year because she thought they were dead, and they rooted themselves in and started colonizing the whole garden.

They come in all kinds, these faer folk; some of them are downright wicked and some are conniving, treacherous. Walt Disney had no idea. Only one thing you really, really have to watch out for, though...
You must be very, very sure not to fall in love with one of these wee characters ... for a very good reason...
This Yaoi beauty is just about six inches tall. And -- well, maybe it's just me, but I'd have to guess that would wreak havoc with your love life.

UPDATE: the Fully Monty versions of these renders are uploaded and waiting. Nudity alert, before you click on over there. Don't blame me for any heart attacks caused by the fact you can see right through the flimsy bit of organza he's almost wearing ...! Here's your link...

Jade, 26 August

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DAZ Michael 4 ... poster boy

3D art and digital painting are the perfect medium of expression for book covers -- especially ebooks. More and more these days, publishers need good art delivered fast for a modest price, and if you ask someone to paint you an actual, genuine painting, it's going to take so long, the "modest price" that's payable is all very well, but the artist will die of starvation ... which is what they used to do a century ago, and more!

The fantastic thing about doing the whole thing digitally is that after you've bought the 3D models, you can mix and match them ad infinitum, and the only element holding you down is your own imagination.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of book covers. A lot. And the more you do, the more your imagination seems to get itself into gear. It's an art medium I like a great deal.

In these images, I created only two backgrounds, and then swapped colors around ... you're looking at DAZ Michael 4, wearing a nice skinmap (it might be Chase; I honestly can't remember), and in four of the shots, the Rock Star Hair by Neftis; and he's wearing the M4 Real Jeans. The rest is all lights, poses and camera angles, and you could literally go on forever, re-re-re-posing the model, resetting the lights, playing with colors ... on top of which, you can also change the skinmaps, and you can alter the physique at whim.

Anyway, this is what I've been doing today -- thought I'd share of few of the renders!

Jade, August 25

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pegasus in DAZ and Bryce

(uploaded at full size, 1075 wide ... click to see)

Just one image today ... but it's a good one. I was going to do a whole series, but I ran out of time -- again! This one is...

the Millennium horse,
one the the CWRW textures,
the MAT Mor Manes add-on,
the Seraph wings,
a displacement map on the horse's coat
a displacement map on the wings
a Bryce sky/seascape,
three colored lights making model match background,
one of Ron's Birds brushes to paint in the waterfowl,
a couple of Ron's Bokeh brushes to paint the light effects.

Post work was limited to the Bokeh effects, and also a tiny bit of work to make the juncture of wing and shoulder soft.

Cross fingers, I'll have some time to spend on artwork tomorrow!

Jade, 24 August

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lighting and shadows in DAZ Studio 3

Studies in light and shadow ... 3D work tickling the borders of both real art and also photorealism. These were looooong renders -- each took about a half hour, because there are many lights set and the images are heavy in props, textures, transparencies, the whole gamut.

This is Michael 4 set up with my old "Sinbad" character; he's wearing the Mon Chevalier hair, carrying the hand torch fro Fantasy Visions, standing in a set made up of a couple of DM's trees, and whole bunch of assorted props, to which I've overlaid my own textures. That's the Lockwood shirt and the Journeyer Scout pants, but I've changed the textures, displacement maps, opacity maps -- the lot. And then there's about six lights set up, with deep shadow maps set. Like I said, a loooong time to render these! But the mix of colors -- it all starts with the rich Bryce backdrop -- is so nice.

Now, something very different

I was asked the other day how complex composite artwork is done (or can be done), and since I just did this book cover today, I thought it made a good example. Bottom right, in the montage above ... how many layers are you seeing?

The answer is, you're seeing five layers even before the text objects are added for the final cover. How's it done? By the numbers:

1) Start with a clear idea of what you want to end up with.
2) Put together the BOTTOM layer first ... the background. This one was made up of two images -- a shot of Mars from space, and a NASA image of the Horsehead Nebula which has been dropped back into monochrome. The two are painted together n a program like Gimp or Micrographx, or whatever you use. (I used Micrographx, which is a golden oldie -- it works with masks and inks, not layers. It's what I'm used to ... I also am a golden oldie, I guess.)
3) Save the artwork and import it into DAZ as the backdrop. Design the first character ... the one in the background. Position him juuuuuust right in front of the backdrop ... then take the backdrop OUT, make the background pure black, and render the figure.
4) Go back into your paint program and use your inks (or whatever your program calls them) to combine the figure and the backdrop to get the effect you want. Save it.
5) Import this saved version into DAZ as a new composite backdrop, and create your second character. Get him posed just right. Set up your lights and so on -- render this.
6) Import this render into something like Gimp, which allows you to paint with fancy brushes. Paint on the final layer of effects with whatever brushes you need, and save the whole thing one last time.
7) If you're finishing the cover yourself, now you ship the work into your DTP program (I use Serif) and add the text objects where needed...
8) Export this final composite at 300dpi. Done.

That's it for today ... it's really late, and I'm really tired! Didn't have a chance to post anything at all yesterday -- life is about work right now. Such fun.

Jade, 23 August

Saturday, August 21, 2010

DAZ Michael 4 ... getting into trouble again

Storyboarding. Nothing at all like skateboarding or snowboarding. It's something you do when you're halfway between the script and the "roll cameras" moment on the set of a movie. These days, a lot of directors use a thing they call "pre-viz," or a video pre-visualisation of the action that's about to be filmed (or taped), but for about a century now, its all been about storyboards ... and if movies and starting to drift away toward the video equivalent, well, graphic novels aren't.

In fact, a graphic novel is the souped-up version of storyboarding. Just the way the director started with an idea that turned into a script, the writer/artist combo behind graphic novels starts out with an idea that turns into a script. The director would have an artist sketch out the shots as storyboards so he could get the cameras right and get the flow of the shots in his mind's eye. But the writer/artist combo working on a graphic novel aren't heading off to a soundstage. They're developing the script into the finished version right there on the page (or screen). The storyboards are the end product ... so make 'em phenomenal.

Most movies actually start their lives looking like this:

...and end up thrilling you after the color and sound and special effects have been added. But supposing you stopped at fantastic images ... each panel in the storyboard is fully developed into a finished "pane," accompanied by dialog and enough narrative to tell the story...

That's quite an idea. And the end product would be more than a story, less than a movie -- something new(ish). Comics have beaten this path ahead of us! But not in this kind of resolution on the artwork. Even the recent digitally designed comics aren't like this -- well, not yet. Someone has to be first, put it to the test, see it it works.

Anyway -- as you can see, Michael 4 went out to meet someone. A tryst? With whom, for what? And by the looks of this, something didn't go quite according to plan. Now, if I can just figure out what's going on here --!

Jade, 21 August
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