Thursday, March 31, 2011

Working with three models ... things get complicated!

Just two images today, because these were a loooooong time in the doing. The complexity of these renders is very high, though the human eye is fooled into seeing "just" three guys standing talking to each other.

Here's what's really involved:

Michael 4 ... three of them
Lee skinmap on Neil Travers (left)
Specially hand-painted skinmap on Mark Sherrat (center)
HZ Victor skinmap on Curtis Marin (right)
CG Event Hair on Travers, set to dark brown
Midnight Prince hair on Mark, set to golden blond
Danyel hair on Travers, set to red-brown
M4 Real Jeans on Travers
Narkilir shoes on Mark
Trainers on Marin
Beowulf slacks on Marin
M4 Veranil slacks on Mark
Callico texture map plus displacement map
Utilitize boots on Travers
M4 Basicware T Shirt on Travers
Colors changed out as needed
M4 Veranil shirt on Mark
Hawaiian texture map plus displacement map
Beowulf shirt on Marin
Texture map plus displacement map
One spotlight with shadows set
Four distant lights for fill
The set is "Commander"

With so much loaded into the scene, I find that DAZ 3 can get a little bit unstable -- it loves to crash to the desktop -- so you need to save the scene constantly, and of course it's also a looooong save. Renders were reasonably quick (a few minutes each), but I think it took about twenty to get everything right ... and these are not raytraced. If they were, I'd still be trying to get it done!

Speaking of rendering stuff, DAZ Studio 4 has just entered its beta phase. They're promising a better, or beefed-up, render engine, so this is something to really look forward to. However, I think I'm about to get left behind, because I think it's going to need a 64 bit system to make it go, and despite the fact this is a powerful PC, it comes up 32 bits short! So right now I'll let the specialists get through the beta, and then hold my breath and read the specs when it comes out.

Jade, 31 March

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The 3D stage ... lights, camera --!

Today I'm actually playing with camera angles. The lights were only set up once, and most of the really clever effects, like the smoke and candle glow, were done in GIMP afterwards. DAZ Studio 3 will do atmospherics, but this computer won't! Go into Bryce and try turning on the "volumetric" stuff, and you better start looking for the black box. After the crash, that is!

This is the same set as the Wizard's study -- you saw it just the other day ... and this is the same character as the Musketeer who was dodging Cardinal Richelieu to have a dirty weekend in the creepy old castle. I took out the props and furniture, then mered the scene with the Musketeer, and from then on it's all about piloting the camera around, and finishing the shots of with GIMP brush effects.

Speaking of the brush effects, this is work a look at 1:1 size:

The eyelights were hand-painted ... nice!

I would loooove to be on a movie set and doing this stuff. Can't you tell?! Or is that my megalomaniac streak showing? I mean, I'm not saying that movie directors are given to the odd big of megalomania, but...

Jade, 30 March

Monday, March 28, 2011

Michael 4 puts on his glam

Just beauty shots today, folks -- usual reason. Have been dumped upon by way more than I can handle, so I had some "male glamour photography" type shots rendering in the background...

It's always tempting to make up stories to go with this kind of sequence. Here's two, which leap right to mind:

It's a parallel world fantasy in which the glamour has landed on the shoulders of the guys, while the females wear their hair buzz cut, wear plain clothes and dim colors. The big glam magazines all feature characters like this on the cover -- women's magazines and men's magazines alike -- hunh?! Well, have you ever stood back and taken a look at the magazine racks?! next time you're in eyeball range of them, just take a good look. It's bikini babes on the men's magazine, and this, you expect. It's also babes on the bloody women's magazines, too!! The latest one has this head-knee shot of a twenty-something in a bikini, and the caption is: Kate's Body. Say, what? It's an up close and personal look at the body of Kate Middleton, in a state of undress, dished up by one set our journalisis, while the London Royal Watchers have been tipping Ms Middleton to be the next Queen of England. Does the word "impropriety" have any meanng?! So, imagine a world where the MEN'S magazines have photos of Mr. Obama in speedoes on the cover, with the caption, Barak's Body. Role reversal is delicious, isn't it? And you don't have to get into anything gay, or make guys in any way effeminate. Just switch the burden of glam onto men, and roll the movie!

Next story:

He's a Russian male ballet star who's taking the world by storm. He's meeting his costume designer here at this gorgeous little gazebo style thing by the lake, and they're going to fine-tune the costume he's almost going to be wearing to dace The Corsair in New York next season. It's going to turn into a romantic encounter ... and I leave it to you to decide the gender of the costume designer meeting him here! (See what happens when you shift the burden of glam onto the guy? Suddenly nothing is quite certain, and you're tingly, wondering -- heeeey!)

And if you're wondering what in the world The Corsair is, check this out, below. Apologies for the crappy quality of the video. This is the best available on YouTube right now. I can actually fix this, because for cripesakes it's just a one minute clip out of the middle of The Turning Point, which was re-released on DVD a couple o years ago. So -- when I get the chance I'll capture the clip and put something decent on YouTube, and till then, with apologies about the quality, here's gorgeous Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing (!) The Corsair ...

See what I mean about the recording?! Rent The Turning Point, see it properly! And I promise, I'll capture it and upload it when I get the chance!

Jade, 29 March

Hellgate ... hello, beautiful -- golden eyes and all!

The challenge: create a character who is not merely drop-dead gorgeous, but also different; a guy you'd trust with your life at the eleventh hour -- frighteningly intelligent, with something about him that tells you he's immensely old, though in human terms he doesn't look it ... at least six-foot-six with a mane of golden blond hair, and eyes the same color, and an exotic taste in clothes that speaks of other cultures, other peoples ... other worlds. Have you placed him yet? Mark Sherratt. At last! I've been working on and off with Mel Keegan for almost a year to create Mark, and it's been one of the most frustrating processes you could imagine.

The usual first question is, "Okay, hot-shot, cast the part, give me an actor who could play the part if Hellgate were a major motion picture."

And there isn't one. He'd need the stature of Jason Momoa -- whom you'll see soon as Conan, in Conan. He'd need the gravitas of Viggo Mortensen, the golden blondness and the sheer sensuality of Brad Pitt, the velvet smoooothness of George Clooney, the tangible genius of the three guys who taught Spock astrophysics, all rolled into one ... and then there would need to be that something this hypothetical actor would bring to the role, which would tell you the character is immensely old, as well as an androgyne -- his people are single-gendered ... yes, he's not quite human. Resalq. At last I got the "wonderful!" stamp back from Mel Keegan, and I am sooo glad, because to me this really is Mark Sherratt. This is what I've had in mind, golden eyes and all, while the story unfolded.

If you know your Hellgate, you'll know that the Resalq have been re-engineered to pass as human, out of necessity. They're the survivors of a pogrom, "hiding among humans," while the humans themselves have just blundered into the same war, out on the frontier, where the Deep Sky blurs into Freespace. (Don't you love this stuff? Gives you a tingle.)

To put Mark Sherratt into perspective, here he is with Curtis Marin, whom he mentored when Marin got out of Fleet and joined Dendra Shemiji:

Hellgate is very much on my mind, because the gargantuan task of proofreading has begun. The new book is way over 200,000 words -- it's like prepping two books at once, and in paperback (yes, we're doing it in paper, too!) it's going to be less a book than a brick. This is the fifth of the Hellgate books -- one more to come after this, to finish out the series, and then I'm going to take great joy in returning to a favorite old project from years ago, The World of Hellgate.

Two things stopped us doing it before now. First, the series had to be complete, and it's been a ten-year odyssey -- also over a million words. To put that in the frame for you, The Lord of the Rings is "only" half as long. And secondly, the volume of art required to do justice to the project would not have been possible without doing it in CG, so this is actually the first chance we've had of bringing it all together in reality.

So, what's the deal with Hellgate #5: Flashpoint ...? Ooooh, exotic locations, babes, hot sex, fabulous technology, mind-blowing science, action, violence, drugs, a ravel of politics, space battles, chases, shootouts, unexpected humor, romance, cultures in collision, massive personalities in conflict ... stuff like that. And we're proofreading right now. If you like your Mel Keegan, and if you haven't yet gotten your teeth into Hellgate, now's the time, because the words "The End" will be typed at the conclusion of the whole series, around Christmas 2011. The last one, #6: Event Horizon, is a wedge of notes as long as some people's novellas, and Mel is diving right into it, in April or May. I've read the notes, and was speechless. Oooooh, yes.

Anyway -- Mark Sherratt. And I am so tickled with this one, you have got to see it at full size:
Jade, 28 March

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Princess of Outer Space

The Princess of Outer Space, Episode 63: Sex, Lies and Rayguns ...

The story so far: Her mother, the Empress, is the ex-wife of the Emperor Ming, who was known as 'Ming The Merciless,' until Aunt Violet became the Empress by catching him in a temporal containment vessel -- and because Empress Violet treated the containment vessel with two-part epoxy, he's stuck in there. Which leaves the Empire of Mingo enjoying one long party ... nobody parties like Auntie Violet ... and their daughter, Princess Astra, is now officially the Princess of Outer Space. And when you're the daughter of the Empress of Mingo, well, you generally get to do anything you like. Dressed any way you want. Astra is determined to be outrageous.

Meanwhile, Princess Aura shacked up with Prince Valiant on the Forest Moon of Endor. and he's currently trying to figure out who she's two-timing him with at the moment, while Flash and Dale are domiciled in a luxury condo on the high side of Mingo City -- and you thought science fiction was boring! Days of our Star Wars ...or, As The Death Star Turns. (What you do is to rent all the sets and props from Flash Gordon, contract the actors from Stargate, and hire the writers from The Bold and the Beautiful. Set them all to work, with visual effects by ILM and a giant soundtrack by Hans Zimmer ... kick back and start writing you acceptance speech for the next Golden Globes.)

Seriously --!

This whole things is just about a couple of "Screamin' SF" renders to have a look at the hairstyle that didn't suit Michael 4 at all. It does actually suit some incarnations of Victoria 4.2, but it's surprisingly hard to work with. The costume is comprised of bits and pieces from here and there, all given a common appearance by having the same texture whacked onto them. Those are the strappy shoes from Horizon Redux, and I think it's the skirt from Arabesques, and I forget what the boobtube is part of, sorry. The raygun is another from the Classic Rayguns set, and the background is a tiny, tiny part of the vast Starcarrier set.

The good news is, the Telstra Bigpond crew got the Internet cables back up ahead of time, so we're back in communication by late Sunday, whereas they were only promising late Monday! Small miracles.

Jade, 27 March

Friday, March 25, 2011

The wizard's apprentice

The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- or, a new spin on the old idea. Actually, I'm just playing with props and textures and reflections. This is a terrific set of props from the same designer who did the Gothic ruins with the gargoyle. Less than half of the props appear in these shots -- it's a set called The Wizard's Study, from Renderosity. It was half price in a sale a couple of months ago, and I just couldn't resist! Fantastic quality throughout.

I know very few people actually click on the small images to see the detail, so I'm uploading some outtakes at close to 1:1 size. Have a look at this:

Don't you love the candle on the skull? That is so cool. The floor, incidentally, is done by adding loads of reflection plus a displacement map. Sure, it makes the shots take longer in the rendering, but it's worth the wait. The costume is The Hunter with all the textures changed. (The fabric on the loin cloth, or whatever you'd call it, is a photograph of our Mexican blanket! Actually, it looks better on him than it does on the rocking chair...!) And the background is a wall and staircase from the Castle Creator prop set. Of course all these are raytraced -- and you can tell!

Lighting this was a challenge. You don't believe how big this set is till you stand a Michael 4 in the middle of it! You might notice, I changed the hairstyle halfway through. It started out as the Uranus Hair, which is fairly easy to work with, but I didn't think it really suited this project. It would look better on the Victoria model. In fact, I'll plunk it on her tomorrow, and we'll see how it looks, maybe in a science fiction setting. We'll see. This here is the Spartacos hair, which looks great on him.

Jade, 25 March

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CG babe ... looking for trouble

At last ... a chance to post some art! We got back from the long weekend trip late on Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday were an "overload of work" which had backed up while we were away. There hasn't been a chance to get to some art for myself -- or, "ars gratia artis," if you want it in Latin ... Art for Art's Sake. But I do believe I'm just about caught up with everything (or will be caught up by late tonight), so I can afford a little while out from work to do some renders for the blog here!

The trip was fantastic ... exhausting ... and if I had any excuse for posting photography here rather than just artwork, I would be posting images like this...

...there, see? I just wrangled an excuse to post a few! Seriously, a lot of the images are gorgeous. It's a very picturesque part of the world which makes photography more of a pleasure and an art than "just a job," which it quickly turns into when it's part of your bread and butter. I love photography -- you can tell, right? -- and this was my first chance to work with the new camera my partner organized for me, for my last birthday. 12.2MP, and an optical zoom equivalent to 720mm. I shot the whole lot on full high-def, 16:9 widescreen. Pure joy. Best camera I've ever used -- and that includes the big steel-body Pentax cameras I loved way back when, and still love, but rarely use because they take (!!gak!!) film.

Anyway -- today's theme is "CG babe, looking for trouble." And by the looks of this, she's found it! Now, whether she's taking the trouble or dishing it out is something else -- and frankly, from the look of this one here, I think she's dishing it out!

The base model is Victoria 4.2, wearing the HR Donna skinmap and the Hermes hair. The dress is, I think, by Hongyu, but I'm not dead sure about that -- or the pumps, come to that! I changed out all the textures, stood her on a bit of brick pavement, with a stand-lamp which is actually a prop from the Apartment 39 prop set. The backdrop is a little bit cut out of a NYC nighttime street scene, which was flipped horizontally, had its color changed to blues, and then was blurred waaay down.

(Why would you blur the background this way? Simple: when you're shooting at night, and you're not using flash (these are not flash shots -- popping a flash in someone's face creates much, much harder shadows than this) you're on a biiiig aperture, right? You know your theory of photography. Low light = big aperture, big aperture = very little depth of field. Which means that if the model is in focus, the background can't be. If you pasted up a tack-sharp backdrop in this kind of image, it would look wrong. Anyone could tell you something was not right, even though folks who're not photographically inclined might not be able to put their finger on what! Golly ... if I had the time, I'd start a photography blog. That would be such a pleasure -- but what would I do for time?!)

Back to work now ... and apologies for all, for not posting here for a week!

Jade, 24 March

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Queen's Courtesan

Just beauty shots today, guys ... am scrambling to catch up with everything that has to be done today because tomorrow will be busy beyond belief -- and I might not get back to the blog here for a couple of days after that! My partner and I have the opportunity (also the excuse ... it's our twelfth wedding anniversary. Good gods, is it really 12 years?) to get away for a couple of days, and we're grabbing it while the grabbing is good. We're not going too far, just a driving tour of the peninsula, east as far as the lagoons, back up to the wine country ... leaving Saturday morning and getting back Monday afternoon. But tomorrow (Friday) will be a mad scramble to get through shopping, packing, last-second stuff, and that makes today a challenge, to get work all tied off, neat and tidy, so it'll hold till Monday!

At this point there's no plans to take a laptop, so don't worry if you don't see anything new on the blog here for a few days. It hasn't been abandoned. Post 500 is coming up very soon. I found about 7 old drafts which had been saved in error, and after I deleted them, it kicked me back to Post 490 (this one), so I need to think of something major to do for #500.

Yikes. What?!! Every time I try to think of anything, I go blank!

Today: Courtesan in the Queen's Chamber. DAZ was having a lunatic sale, where you could get things like the Treasures of Egypt for $1.87, so I got Treasures of Egypt 1 and 2, plus The Queen's Chamber. I've had them since January, and had no time to even unpack them! I installed everything this morning while having a break, and here you go. Beauty shots indeed! These are some absolutely gorgeous props that'd suit fantasy work too ... or Indiana Jones type work. Now, there's a thought --!

I did them in widescreen, but this is worth a look, in closeup:

Who says courtesans have to be nubile young females? Enjoy!

Jade, 17 March

Screamin' Science Fiction ... go, Flash, go!

Along time ago in a galaxy far --

No, hang on, That's Star Wars. Start again.

There are those who believe that life here began --

No, wait a trick, that's Battlestar Galactica. One more time...

A looong time ago, around the date when Noah was hammering the last nails into the ark, they used to print these science fiction magazines, full of wonderful, naive stories about characters with names like Flash, and Buck, and Buzz, and villains you could really detest, with names like Ming and ... so on. Everything was black and white in those days (including the printing; not to mention the movies). Good was good and bad was bad, and nary the twain ever met in any gray zone betwixt those poles. Then things got complicated, and heroes developed dark sides that made them do questionable things, and villains were known to have suffered horribly, which punted them onto the path to devastation. Nobody was altogether good, or bad any more and the laws of physics really started taking the fun out of a lot of plots. Little things like gravity and vacuum were known to screw things up completely.

There was something very Alice in Wonderland about SF back in those days -- loooong before I was born, in fact. But before the age of about 10, you can still read the old "golden age SF" fiction and get the same kind of zing out of it that grown adults used to get when Noah was still swinging a hammer. And it's very true that then you grow up, and the magic rushes away, never to return...

Yet there's still a kind of magic in the artwork of that era -- it's not the art itself, mind you. It's the ability of he visual medium to reach right down into the roots of your mind and tickle the part of you that's been dormant since you were 10. It's like smelling something you haven't smelt in 40 years, and memories rush back. With art, the same kind of thing happens, but it's not memories that come back, it's the sensation of delighted wonder, delicious fascination, a desire to go somewhere, do something, be someone ... else.

Of course, these days we know there are no plutonium pirates on Pluto, because for a start there isn't any plutonium, because (contrary to popular misconception) Pluto is not where plutonium comes from. We also know (fact) there are no vampire hunters on Venus, because there are no vampires on Venus. Vampires come from the constellation Vulpecula. Everybody knows that.

But oooooh, it used to be fun when you could believe all this stuff, reading in bed by torchlight...

Anyway --!

Here's a salute with gentle humor to the classic SF genre! And if you're wondering what happens when we grow up, and the art grows up along with us...

I guess this would be a still from the Exotic Adventures of Flash Scroggins, possibly from Episode 42: The Beast with 200 Tentacles, which apparently came slithering up out of the purple lagoon and made of with Flash's pants when he wasn't looking. Of course, what he was doing with his pants off in the first place is another question. Better ask the mad monks about that!

What in the world inspired this? The raygun. Seriously! A while ago one of the model designers did a set of "Classic" rayguns -- real Flash Gordon specials. I just unpacked them today to take a look, and they're great! The rest just ... happened.

You might also enjoy this post...

...which was the original outing of the "Screamin' Science Fiction" idea. I kinda like it..

Jade, 16 March
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