Friday, August 17, 2007

In-progress tire and wheel tutorial

I've started on an a new online chapter to add to my car tutorial, on the wheels and tires, which presently are simply provided for you on the CD. It's a chance to illustrate a number of new or enhanced Version 4 features, and to hopefully improve on what I did before. There are only a few pages up so far, you can see them here. If you wish to print it out, Opera does the best job. I just checked with FireFox and it looks like it's been improved too. IE 7 is a mess. You have to enable the printing of background images, since for esoteric reasons that's how the screenshots are actually coded.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flamingo 747-setting the scene

Here is the result of my first stab at this rendering.

For now the lighting was kept simple, just the automatic sun, set to mid-afternoon. I started with the automatic sky, but it didn't seem blue enough so I moved to a 2-color gradient.

To start I just put a "clearfinish" car paint-type material on the whole plane, with the reflectivity toned down a lot.

After creating my own road and grass textures from photos, the results are far better than using the included library of materials...assuming the rendering is from a height of six inches. It looks like ground from a computer game, and not a terribly recent one at that. Obviously a more elaborate texturing procedure is required, not to mention more detail in the model itself. The question is, how little extra work will it take to get a much better result, what's the best bang for the buck?

What did offer pretty good value was adding a very subtle 'rubble' procedural texture to the fuselage. The whole plane is still too clean and smooth, but the level of distortion visible in the reflections on the fuse is not entirely inaccurate. Another big help was stepping outside and taking pictures of trees to place a backdrop behind the 3D ones. They don't really help the fractal trees look more realistic, but filling in the horizon with something is good, and at first glance you may not even notice the repetition.

Speaking of the textures, the thing to note about placing textures in the Flamingo interface is that the coordinates for setting their position are relative to the world origin, they have nothing to do with the object you're applying them to.

When relative rendering neophytes like myself try to tackle this kind of task, I know I'm not the only one to get the idea that it should be a straightforward task to make a nice "virtual studio" setting that you can just drop the product you're working on into and easily get a nice rendering. It never seems to quite work out, and why becomes apparent if you look at a high view of my scene, at the background I set up for just two main camera positions(a couple front views and a side view)with the plane in one position, and I have really only started at it. If I want to make a remotely convincing animation of taxiing down the runway it's going to take an awful lot of geometry, even if it is mostly very simple it will still be a lot of work to assemble it all and manage it so that it doesn't kill render times when not needed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Outdoor renderings with Flamingo

I'm intending for the focus of this blog for now to be rendering experiments, sort of like this site, except that it won't just be about Brazil and I'm no expert, you'll get to learn from my mistakes. My first project will be this model of a 747. I'll use Flamingo since Brazil doesn't yet support decals or ground planes, and exterior shots of this object that's the size of a building should be fairly well suited to Flamingo. I'll start with setting up a scene of it sitting on some tarmac, then an in-flight shot. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A clue to a new Rhino feature

Last week I posted a newbie texturing question on the Brazil newsgroup and got this reply from Andy le Bihan
Yes - you can use the box mapping/divided texture space options to map a cube map to an object, if you have a reason for doing that...However, the cube map texture was added to the RDK for another use - one that is currently "under-wraps". Hopefully it will become apparent fairly soon.
I'm sure to someone who knows more about this stuff it's obvious what he's talking about. Not to me though.

Form vs. Shape 2 Rewrite

For the first time since I wrote it back in 2001, I've redone my C-130 tutorial from scratch. It was interesting seeing how different it was doing it now versus back in V2 days, and how different it wasn't--after all, NURBS were developed for making airplanes so it's not like some products people work on where new features have made what was previously not practical in 3D possible. The improvements to blending were a big help. I did make some limited use of the new Universal Deformation Technology. Probably the biggest time-saver was the little thing of now being able to use multiple edges for surface matching and sweeping. Some things that were very difficult unless you knew the special trick you could only learn from my CD(or the Version 1 tutorial I got it from)became trivial.
If you take a look at the sample page from the original version, the layout's been changed to match the other two--one of the reasons I decided it was time to roll them all onto one CD for only $99, operators are standing by. ;-)
I am actually a little disappointed about that, I did like the old look very much, the project was as much a design experiment with that as it was about the 3d. I wanted a design that was actually intended to work better on-screen than printed, inspired to a large extent by the musings of Scott McCloud.
Unfortunately the process was incredibly complicated and too cumbersome to edit, especially after I lost track of the mess of scripts and macros that pulled it together. I don't even remember how it went, I'm flabbergasted to think of the stuff I did back in the primitive scripting days of V2. The process was generally something like this:
  1. In Rhino, I had every single step saved as a separate model, many of them in each file. I had crude brute-force mechanisms to do things like save the appearance of selected control points, separate new and unchanged objects, save the views of screenshots, set grid settings according to the scale of the view, and output all the shots for a file with the touch of a button.
  2. I wanted to do some things with the screenshots that couldn't yet be done in Rhino so part of the output process was to 'composite' them in Photoshop. One of those things was antialiasing, which at the time you could only control through your video card, but I still wanted grids and curves 'crisp,' so I...somehow managed that flipping back and forth.
  3. The pages were actually assembled in InDesign. That was alright, the way it handles text is awesome.
  4. Then the problem was how to get that out of InDesign into something that would work in a browser. It's "HTML export" wasn't acceptable then (probably wouldn't be now)so it was necessary to turn the pages into big pictures.
  5. InDesign didn't have raster export, so I had to export as PDF(after breaking the pages up according to the maximum page size)and use ImageReady(no, not Photoshop) to convert them and slice them up.
  6. To do the printable version I had scripting in InDesign to compress the spacing between the images and split it into page-sized chunks, which I then transferred into a new file.