Sunday, October 31, 2010

HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2010 ... because brain-eating 3D zombies need love too

Happy Halloween, boys, girls and everything in betwixt! You might need to click on these pictures to see the seven-foot green brain-muncher in the background, and when you do you'll see a kind of story emerging out of the images.

Gorgeous party animal is looking for a street address in a weeeeeird part of town. Comes to the gate that he's sure is the right place. Doesn't see any sighs of (!) life. Is about to leave...

"Whaddaya mean, he's seven feet tall and green and standing right behind me?"

Bloody Nora, he is!

Better get outta here ...

"Well, hellooooooo beautiful! You wanna party down? Come in here, snookums, the party starts in about half an hour, and we're having brains to eat, and bobbing for shrunken heads, and all that good stuff..."

"Actually, no thank you, very much. I'm supposed to be meeting someone and, like, well, you know how it is."

"Okay, but it's your loss, sweet thang. Maybe next year?"

"Maybe. Bye, now."

"Tootles, snooks, come back soon, y'hear?"

So, uh, Happy Halloween from downunder where it's Halloween already!

Jade, 31 October

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All dressed an and waiting for the bus ... Happy Post 400!

What do you do for Post 400? The words "party, party" leap to mind. Or, a 3D party for the 3D "digitoids" at least. (I didn't coin that phrase -- wish I did! Mel Keegan thought of that one, back in Deep Sky. What a perfect term for digital actors. Digitoids.)

So they're all dressed to kill (or do I mean, undressed to kill?) and it's a warm evening (gazooks, it had better be), so they go out and stand waiting for the bus.

Twenty minutes later, and it still hasn't arrived. She says, ""you know, I think we missed that bus. When's the next one?"

He says, "Next Tuesday. Maybe we should try something a bit more enterprising."

"Like what?"

"Like, maybe you should stand in the road and stick out your thumb."

"Well, why don't you stand in the road, she demands, "and stick your thumb out? Or at least stick something out."

"Listen, Elspeth," he says, getting hot under the collar (which is a good trick, because it barely exists), "you've got more equipment for sticking out than have, so go put it to good use!"

"Phooey, Egbert," she says, sulking. "I'm not about to make an exhibition of myself."

*Well,* he thinks, *there's no answer to that.*

Fortunately the bus arrived in the nick of time before Egbert and Elspeth could resort to bare knuckles, since bare everything else didn't seem to be working.


Here's the full tutorial explaining how to do this stuff with the costumes...!

Jade, 30 October

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mirror, Mirror ... 3D reflections and sultry half-nekkid models

Two birds with one stone today, because time is short and (rats) I'm not well again. Migraine, with a 4:00am kickoff. Oh, joy. Anyway -- reflections in glass ... but window glass, not mirror glass. In other words, you want to be able to see through the glass and yet see yourself reflected in it.

The Room With a View renders last week were really inspiring, but there's no glass in them thar windows. I was more interested in shadows and reflections in the floor, at the time.

Here, it's all about mapping: diffuse, displacement, reflection, opacity. Everything in this scene is drooling color and texture, and the best part is, I did all the textures and maps myself, and designed the model to boot. Sorry guys, you can't buy this character anywhere ... this is Mildred, cousin to Agatha, Winifred and Hortense, my other Victoria 4 characters. I haven't bought a character in almost a year -- it's too much fun to create them, and you can save them as "character presets," and load 'em up next time you need them.

The background, outside, is a Bryce landscape I did a month or so ago. The only props are the window, from DM's Fantasy Visions, and the bikini which actually ships with the free version of DAZ, to get you started, and Neftis's Rock Star hair. Then the fun began. Everything was changed for new textures, down to the lipstick and nail polish.

Then ... glass in the window. See through it, see yourself reflected in it. Nice effect. I wish I had time (and brain cells) to tell how, but that'll have to wait till tomorrow. Migraines don't make for much coherence!

Join me soon ... we're going to see more of Mildred -- a lot more -- on the Exotic blog, when we'll convince the costume to blow away in a sudden gale, or else mysteriously turn transparent. Hey, she's a model, she's used to this stuff. Right?

Jade, 29 October

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ends and odds ... and some are quite odd!

The missing artwork: I discovered yesterday that one of the renders from the sunken temple series was never uploaded, so better late than never, here it is.

Otherwise, this would be the post you post when you're not posting a post! I honestly don't have time to post today -- working flat out -- but I want to make special mention that an absolute dream of a Yaoi ebook, adult picture storybook, has just "gone up" ... it's Part Six of our on-going Yai fantasy ... UNCUT.

Inother words, if you read yesterday's episode and screamed in frustration when it stopped before it got to the good bit, well ... remember, this is an open blog! But what I have done is to do a 22pp PDF ebook that's loaded with glorious images, and it's absolutely FREE.

Now, the only downside is that because it's a story told in big, beautiful, high-quality color pictures, it's a 5MB download. This is only Episode Six Uncut, not the whole thing, because the whole story has hardly gotten started. Looking at the layout of the story, Episode 10 or 12 will also need an ebook "uncut" version...

So with all due warnings, go and download a real treat. I've put the link at the end of the Episode Six post. And yes ... the story now has a title: ABRAXAS - The Forgotten Songs. The story is going in some incredible directions, and I'm really enjoying this.

Hope you guys enjoy the ebook. A little feedback would be nice, folks -- hint, hint. I mean, don't feel like I'm twisting your arms, but it would be soooo nice if someone left a comment.

Must go now. Must run back to work for another two hours of totally boring stuff.

Jade, 27 October

Yaoi Fantasy: Episode Six

Back to Episode Five...

Prolog: The big Gypsy horse swings around, and as the mist begins to roll in off the heath Leon sets him back onto the track toward the old cenotaph. Martin hangs on -- confused, filled with questions, and fully suspecting that nothing he can say will appease either his guardian or Leon enough to spare him the chastisement he is due. The truth is, the sheriff would be merciless, and Leon -- Leon would call it luck, again, Martin thinks miserably, even while he was tanning the butt off the hapless stray.

It's a glorious night for a ride under the stars, and soon enough Martin sees the old cenotaph in the distance. Those stars are blazing and he's soon warm, riding pressed against Leon's back. But he can feel how stiff with anger Leon is, and as they ride he asks,

"How come you know me? I don't know you. Believe me, you I would remember."

Leon snorts. "You were only twelve years old the last time I passed through. You were away at school, and I stayed a week, ten days. I saw you several times, playing ball with your friends, but you never bothered to notice me. Your guardian, Roald, made me welcome, as he always does. This time around, when I showed my face at his gate it was all fear and weeping, and 'Leon, will you do an old friend a favor? He's gone.' And when I asked 'Who's gone?' Roald tells me it's his moronic little whelp of a ward, taken off into the badlands -- breaking curfew behind him, risking his stupid little life, and no one even knows what for, because in his wisdom, Martin doesn't even leave a note tacked to the door!"

They're close to the cenotaph by the time Martin can think of anything to say. "If I'd told him where I was going, he'd have stopped me."

"Of course he'd have stopped you!It's bandits and rievers out here," Leon barks, "and it's the sheriff and the bastinado for you in the morning, unless Roald or I take responsibility for your actions. It'll be me taking responsibility, because Roald has to live here after I've moved on, and he'll be disgraced, known for not being able to control his ward -- the one who calls himself a man grown, but hasn't done a day of militia service to earn his right of majority!"

The horse comes to a half in the moonshadows by the cenotaph, and Martin slides down. "But the militia is sent to war," he protests. "I don't want to kill anyone, and I don't want to get killed myself!"

"No? But you'll come out into the badlands after dark," Leon argues, "and you'd have expected me to kill Yussan to save your skinny little neck!"

Martin hears the anger in Leon's voice. "He was going to sell me. He trades in captives, and you -- you knew him! Who is he?"

Leon seems to resent the question for a second, then he growls, "He's my cousin."

"Your -- cousin?!"

"Don't get excited about it. My parents had six siblings apiece. I have more than fifty cousins, some of them merchant princes and soldiers, others mercenaries like Yussan. Luckily for you, he's one of the decent ones."

"Decent?" Martin stutters, "he deals in slaves!"

"He deals in morons." Leon looses the horse and sets out his food, and then tends to the fire he set earlier, when he made camp in the cenotaph. He glares at Martin. "I still haven't heard a word about why you broke curfew and set up a killing field. If it had been anyone else but Yussan, I'd be cleaning my sword. And if Yussan hadn't backed off, I'd have had to wound or kill my own flesh and blood. And you --" he stabs a finger at Martin "-- you don't seem to care!"

"I had to come out here," Martin says sulkily.

"Somebody made you break curfew, did they?"

"Well, no, but I was going to meet a man. A guide. He was going to take me into the hills to find -- well, he's supposed to know where there's a tomb, and there's a relic hidden in it." Now he comes to put it into words, it all sounds lame. He comes to the fire to get warm, and waits for Leon to speak.
Leon stares at him. "You've been talking to the Gypsies haven't you?"

"Yes." Martin lifts his chin. "Why shouldn't I? You have something against Gypsies?"

"I am a Gypsy," Leon informs him. "I was born one of them, and I know every one of their dumb stories. Which one was this? The goldmine in the mountains? The treasures of the kings of old, hidden in a cave?"
"No." Martin is blushing, and he's grateful for the firelight, which covers it. "I was talking to Miranda. You know Miranda?"

"I should. She's my great aunt. And she told you...?"

"She told me the story of the compass that points to the marker at the gates of Atlantis," Martin says resignedly. "It's not true, then?"

"It probably is, or some part of it will be," Leon growls. "It's a legend. Some part of a legend is always true, or it wouldn't have come to be a legend."

"Then, that's why I came," Martin says quickly. "I need to -- to make something of myself. I don't want to do militia service, but if I don't I'll never get my right of majority, so I'll never be able to own property and trade, even though I can work and wed already." He looks up hopefully at Leon. "You understand, don't you?"

"I understand that Roald took you in and fostered you when your parents were killed when you were five years old," Leon says tersely. "I understand that you owe him everything you have today. You're educated, you're healthy and well fed ... and ambitious, too, aren't you? I understand you don't care that you just scared the wits out of him, and put me in harm's way to bring you back, though you don't even know me. And if I'm going to keep Roald from being disgraced, it's me who's going to have to answer to the sheriff for you tomorrow!"

"I didn't mean any harm," Martin mutters. "I didn't think."

"Morons rarely do," Leon scoffs. "For your information, the story as I heard it says the compass points to Lemuria, not Atlantis. And it's not a treasure of gold and jewels there, it's a magickal papyrus, so old that nobody knows where it came from. Speak its words to elder archons and daemons, and they'll grant your heart's desire in exchange for amusing them for an instant in the boring eternity of their lives."

"You know the story, then?"

"I know the story. And from what I can see, you're an ungrateful whelp. Roald put me under oath to tan the price of this out of you ... if I ever found you before you vanished into the trading caravans heading cross the mountains. Well, I've found you. And I'm still waiting to hear a syllable of remorse. All I'm hearing is a lot of excuses."

"I have to make something of myself," Martin sighs. "Roald has four children now. Me? I'm the adopted one, the outsider. He's good to me, but the others, the little ones, they're his pride and joy. All I've got to look forward to is work, or the militia, and soldiering, killing and being killed. So I talked to the Gypsies, and your great aunt told me the story, and I came out here to meet a guide. That's the truth, and what more could I tell you?"

"You could be contrite," Leon says quietly. "You could regret what you've done, and maybe have a little gratitude to Roald -- even to me. Do you feel any of that, boy?"

"I ... am sorry," Martin says reluctantly.

"I wonder if you are?" Leon sounds doubtful. "The sheriff would flay the flesh off your soles, and do it with great joy, for the trouble you've caused. Now tell me. What am I going to do?"

"Accept my apology?" Martin asks hopefully.

"If I thought it was genuine, I might," Leon muses. "But I don't."

"Then, accept that I had my reasons," Martin suggests, "and also that I'm an idiot, and I didn't think about what I was doing. Just followed my nose and my heart."

"Your ambition," Leon adds. "That's an explanation and an excuse, and I understand the why, even though I can't forgive it so easily, any more than the sheriff could, or Roald."

"I won't do it again," Martin offers.

"Damned right, you won't." And Leon sits himself down on the low wall at the side of the cenotaph. "It's remorse I wanted to hear, and I'm not hearing it. So you can hand me that hip-wrap and get yourself here." He pats his knee. "I understand what you've said, and I understand a young man's pride and ambition. But there's only one way you're going to learn, and only one way you won't go to the sheriff tomorrow."

Martin's eyes widen in the firelight. "You could tell them you tanned me."

"And it would be a lie, and we'd both know it," Leon argues. "And Roald would know it, with one glance at you. Not good enough, Martin, and you know it. You drop that wrap, get over here, and you think about the pain you've caused Roald, the hazard you put me in, and the trouble with the sheriff you've given me, if we -- you and I! -- are going to keep your guardian from being disgraced." He holds out his hand to take the hip-wrap, and pats his knee again. "I'll take into account everything you've said ... and if you keep me sitting here, waiting, I'll take cowardice into account as well. You don't want to keep me waiting. Look inside, boy. Seek honest, genuine remorse. It's hiding in there somewhere."

With a gulp, Martin slips off the wrap and hands it to him.


And what happens in the next ten minutes is told in an adult picture ebook:

This is the whole episode, fully rendered out and presented as a PDF. Be aware of nudity, adult themses and same-gender romance. Also be aware that it's a 5MB download, becuause the book is loaded with high quality images ... no way to compress them without turning them to crap.

Click here to download ... and enjoy. If you do enjoy this, please recognize the sheer amount of time that went into producing it, and perhaps leave a comment? Thanks!

Join me soon for the next episode, when Leon gets Martin back to Roald's house...

Jade, October 26

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book covers ... and judging ebooks by them

Just a peek at what I'm up to in artwork today -- because I know I'm not going to have time to post something new. This is a "detail" outtake from a cover I'm working on ... processed to make a CG render look like it was painted on oil canvas.

Here's the whole cover painting -- but the canvas effect isn't going to show too well when Blogger is done resizing it:
Wellllll ... it shows a bit, but you don't get the full effect. This is the new cover for The Lords of Harbendane. The book came out a couple of years ago, and it is a fantastic fantasy novel. Why are we putting a new cover on it? You may well ask! Because the existing cover -- gorgeous though it is/was -- appears to be putting sales in jeopardy. We're not 100% sure about this, but there's one sure way to put the theory to the test, and that is to put a new cover on it and see what happens next.

So I took the existing background which was a digital painting done for the first version:
This, I stripped into DAZ Studio 3 as a background image. It's already a major piece of digital work -- the sky, the mountains, the lake and the foreground belong to three different pictures. The mountains are in Alaska. The foreground is in Finland. The sky is a digital airbrush painting ... this was one of the last projects I did prior to getting into full CG work. This was hand-painted in Micrografx, whereas today I'd do it in Bryce.

Next, design the characters, Rogan and Tristan:
Then, crop an area which will make a good ebook cover (paperbacks are going the way of the dodo. They're so expensive to set up, besides anything else. It will cost upwards of $100 to set up a paperback, and -- fact -- very few people are buying them anymore. Ebooks have won the war ... and Kindle has won the ebook contest! So, that the hey. Go with the flow).

Then front cover area was then shipped into GIMP to be painted a little bit in three corners -- just gives the work a better cohesion, since it's been turned from a landscape into a vignette. The GIMP version was then shipped back into Serif to have the canvas texture overlaid. Then these two were combined, and the composit was shipped out into Irfanview to be color corrected.

Then, back into Serif X3 to have the text objects overlaid:
And that's it -- done. Heck of a nice cover for an incredible book (almost mainstream fantasy, this one; the romance is gay, but it's so understated, the love story is part of a tapestry so vastly wider, the Rogan-and-Tris saga is only a small(ish) part of an epic.

Now, let's see if the new cover will inspire readers to give this novel a go. It's actually both tragic and weird that great books can be halfway undone by being jacketed in artwork which might be lovely in its own right, but just doesn't seem to fire the imagination of readers. So here's the experiment: let's see if this one does!

Jade, 15 October

Underwater effects in DAZ Studio 3

Underwater effects are fairly easy to do -- same as atmospheric effects -- in DAZ 3D. You just have to know how. You can pay for plugins to do this sort of stuff for you, but they're a bit expensive ($30 or so), and they're also very, very heavy on system resources. I did get the particle animation plugin, and some shaders ... the reason you haven't seen them on the blog here is that even a fast system (quad core with 4GB of RAM and a 1G video card) falls over its own feet when you ask it to do that work.

And the fact is, you can save time and money and do it the simple way...

All the effects in these shots were done the exact same way as the atmospherics on the industrial planet in yesterday's shots. So ... what's the trick?

It isn't even a trick, just a basic knowledge of how primitives and maps work.

A primitive is a basic shape created by the software. It sits there like a big piece of gray plastic, waiting for you to do something with it. And to make something of a primitive, you apply maps to it. Primitives in DAZ come in several kinds. Cube, Sphere, Torus, Cone, Plane, that sort of thing. Remember your high school geometry?!

To make the effects you see in these shots today, all you need is the Plane and the Sphere. I also used a Torus (donut) for one of the effects yesterday -- I'll get to that later.

First, find the controls to make primitives. In DAZ, you've seen the bar menu across the top that gives you View, Render, Create, Tools ...? Look under Create. You get the option of creating lights and Deformers and (!) Primitives.

Play with making planes and spheres. Get familiar with sizing and moving them. Then, to do atmospheric effects with them, you need to know two things: 1) if you put an x-coordinate of -90 on a plane, it stands on end like a big, blank backdrop. And, 2) you can slap any kind of map your heart desires on a plane.

Penny starting to drop? Check this out:

There are no models in this shot. None at all. The ocean and the piling are primitives with maps applied. A JPEG photo of a length of wood was put onto a cylinder ... and for the water I used a DIFFUSE map, and an OPACITY map, and a DISPLACEMENT map -- and the same map served for both opacity and displacement. The sky is an old Bryce render I did months ago.

Now, a diffuse map is basically a picture which you want to appear on the object:

This is part of a photo I took a couple of years ago, from the end of a jetty in the late morning or early afternoon. Calm, green sub-tropical seas ... nice place we live in, I know! If you were doing an ocean-surface shot, you could make a plane and put this on it as the diffuse map. Then, you'd want to give it a bit of transparency (so you can see through it to objects below the surface), and you'd also want to suck the surface up, so it looks like there's a light chop.

You can use the same map for the transparency and the rucking:

That's pretty much what you need to know about mapping, in a nutshell! The maps are added in the Surfaces tab, and you play with the percentages till it looks right. (Also, surface water should have its reflectivity set, so it reflects objects above the surface.)

Now, when you go underwater you're also going to use maps ... same kind of map as the opacity/transparency map you see right here ... but for different reasons. Underwater, you don't see reflections, and but do get effect of dimness, and currents, and light striking through the water.

Make three planes and stand them on end with a -90 x-coordinate. Stand one in the background and make it dark blue-green, because this one is pretending to be ten cubic miles of water. Stand the second plane a bit in front of the dark one. Make it light sea-green and slap an opacity map on it ... the map makes swathes of this plane go transparent; the lighter parts show up against the darkness of the background, like currents and shafts of light angling through water.

You're halfway there now. Set the last plane to a lighter sea-green ... put the same, or similar, opacity map on it and stand it (!) right in front of the camera. Saaaaame effect, but now the currents and light-shafts effect show up between the camera and whatever models you pose.

I've used the Mirador temple, and a scatter of columns from the Eroc column construction kit. For the seabed I used another plane and put a grassy surface on it. Then I used a grass-carpet prop by Rhodi Design to create the effect of sea grasses in the foreground. The background is my trusty old terrain prop which was made in Bryce ages ago. I import it every time I need a hillside or a bit of ground for a character to stand on. This time, I scaled it up till it's huge, and used four instances of it, rotated around and positioned.

Last thing: lights. I used only two. One distant light -- white -- pretending to be the sun ... offset at about a two o'clock angle; one spotlight, orange, to put a little warm highlight on the top arch of the temple ruin. Both lights were cranked very bright and then deep shadow maps turned on.

The only other thing in these shots are some bubbles ... and they're just spheres, scales and positioned, with the same opacity map on them, all colors (diffuse, specular and ambient and reflection) set to white, then the reflection turned up to 100% and the lighting model set to metallic. The down-side to the bubbles is, they take a long, long, long long time to render, so I didn't do them in every shot. I don't have time for 30-minute renders, halfway through which you realize something isn't right, so you cancel it and start over!

And that's it. Honestly! In yesterday's pictures I used the exact same technique to create atmospheric smog layers. The only thing I added was a torus, made huge and stretched, in the foreground. With an opacity map set, it became the mist layer close to the camera. And the repulsion fields under the ship were done with two nested spheres, both with opacity maps set, and diffuse maps used to get the colors, and the reflectivity turned up to 100% -- then I just shone a spotlight on them, and wham! Instant Arago field.

Now you know what you're looking at, look closely at this:

Same thing exactly -- just different colors. With the blues and greens and a character swimming in freefall, they eye sees water. With a sky and so on, the eye sees smog and dust. But the effect is worked the exact same way, right there in DAZ -- the free version -- without any plugins. Nothing to buy ... and as for the opacity maps, you can paint your own in five minutes -- those, you don't need to be buying.

The character swimming here is Michael 4, and he's wearing the Spartacos hair, which is great for this work because you can float it ... and it's the only hair model I have at this time which is floatable. Perfect for freefall.

Hope you enjoy playing around with all this. It's a lot of fun.

Back soon with Episode Six of the Misadventures of young Martin and the ronin hero, Leon...

Jade, 24 October
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