Nice Nathan

A new rigged Blender character just released on Blendswap by Gord Goodwin, Nathan. Theoretically this should be exportable from 2.49 as an FBX…

“This character represents the culmination of a year in learning Blender’s rigging system, and how best to use it. I call it ‘the Nathan Rig’ in tribute to Nathan Vegdahl, who’s rigging knowledge and examples have been invaluable in learning the rigging system as well as I have to date. The rig is compatible with 2.49 and 2.52 alpha, and uses many simple but effective solutions for things like arm twist, shoulder deformations, and facial animation.”

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Making of… “It dies at DAWN!!”

Ryzom 2D Props | free “Mad Science” props pack | Dusty Attic | Ryzom wood textures | DAZ Game Developer Kit | 3DXchange 4 Pro

Post-mortem: if it was dawn then the shafts of sun would have been much lower in the sky and so the light from the windows should have washed across the table, but that would have been too complicated lighting-wise. I still could have added more dappled patches of light on the table. I forgot to put a long glint of light on the table-edge nearest the window. I should also have added a slight shadow on the underside of the table, under the lip. I could have used the scissors (in the original model pack) and have had them standing stabbed violently into the table, raising up splinters of bright wood. The rat could have been replaced with a more appealing character, perhaps the cute Greenie monster from the 3DXchange Pro pack — although I’m not sure he scales down that far.

It dies at dawn!

The Photoshopped version of my picture for the CG Society’s summer 2010 lighting challenge (“Mad Science“), made with iClone…

3D models by Dan Konieczka and Giorgio Luciano, and the background loft model is by RPublishing.

Mad Science

My straight 100% iClone render for the CG Society Mad Science Lighting Challenge. Work in progress. Two directional lights, three spotlights, low-strength HDR and default IBL…

Click on the picture for a larger version.

A Photoshopped version (it needs some additional shadows, softening of the edges of the light shafts, whiskas on the lab-rat) to come later.

Lighting Challenge

A very nice bank of free high-quality themed 3D model bundles at 3D Render, which were specifically made available for the CG Society forum / 3DRender lighting challenges. It’s run by Pixar artist Jeremy Birn, and the current Challenge #23 is…

“a still life of a mad scientist’s table. […] deadline is July 30th, 2010. […] Use any 3d software and techniques you would like. Changes to the scene and models are allowed including adding new elements and changing existing ones. All 3D rendering techniques are allowed.”

When they say “adding new elements” I think they mean things like textures to buttons on the models, not adding complete new models? The downloads are open access. These are your base models (80k total) for challenge #23, currently freely available as OBJ and FBX among other file types…

And this is them in 3DXchange…

Quad Tank freebie

New time-limited freebie on the official DAZ freestuff list… Quad Tank (usually $13, 88Mb, OBJ files included). The textures are rather large at 4000px each, which may cause 3DXchange to choke if you use a straight OBJ conversion. But then you’ll probably want to retexture it anyway, perhaps for a more Steampunky look.

You’ll need the DAZ Game Developers Kit for this, since it’s 180,000 polys, undecimated.

Enabling real-time stereo preview in iClone

The new stereo 3D capabilities of iClone 4.2 don’t give you a real-time stereo preview while using iClone’s Editor mode. But… those with good NVIDIA gaming graphics-cards can use the free NVIDIA 3D Vision drivers to instantly preview scenes, using the “red-blue glasses” mode. This should help a lot when trying to establish the most effective lighting and colour-scheme for a stereo-3D scene in iClone.

Tutorial:

1. I assume you have latest NVIDIA stereo 3D graphics drivers installed (see below, if not), and set up, and globally activated.

2. Firstly you will probably need to change the stereo-effect “toggle” keys, i.e.; the buttons you press when playing a game to toggle the stereo effect “on” or “off”. Change these default keyboard “toggle” settings via: Windows Start | Control Panel | Appearance | NVIDIA Control Panel | Set up Stereoscopic 3D | Set Keyboard Shortcuts.

By default the toggle command is Ctrl + T, but this is already in use by iClone. I suggest changing it to: Crtl + #

3. Now launch iClone, and load up a simple scene. Then press F11 to switch to full-screen Editor view. The stereo effect will not work in normal Editor view mode, you must be in full-screen. The NVIDIA drivers should then auto-detect that you’re in a proper 3D scene, and they will kick in. After you’ve checked the colours and lighting while wearing the special glasses (you can worry about the stereo-separation distances later), just press Esc to exit full-screen mode.

A side-effect will be that the same stereo effect will now auto-activate in all your videogames. You can globally turn off this feature, by going to the Windows Start Menu > NVIDIA Corporation > 3D Vision and select “Disable 3D VISION”.

ATI users:

Users of ATI graphics cards report (on the iClone forums) that they have had similar success with the free third-party IZ3D beta drivers for ATI

“I can now toggle my iClone Editor screen to display in “real-time” anaglyph mode when required. This really aids content positioning and camera angles for successful 3D output.”

Presumably this will also only work in full-screen Editor mode.


For those with a newly-installed copy of Windows 7:

Are you running a recent install of Windows 7? You will find the new O/S doesn’t make it easy to enable stereo 3D in games and 3D applications. Nvidia’s instruction to…

“Browse to the Start Menu > NVIDIA Corporation > 3D Vision and select “Enable 3D VISION Discover”.”

… is completely useless in such cases, because you won’t have any such shortcut in your Start menu. This is because those with a fresh install of Windows 7 will only have “Windows 7 approved” Nvidia display drivers (191.07), which will have been downloaded and installed automatically soon after installing the new Windows. But these are not the latest drivers and they don’t have 3D capabilities. So… you need to download the very latest Nvidia graphics drivers, install them, reboot — and now you will then have the magic link to “Enable 3D VISION Discover” (which is actually located in C:\Program Files\NVIDIA Corporation\3D Vision\nvstlink.exe — and the set-up calibration wizard is also there, nvstwiz.exe).

Crackdown 2

One of the most interesting and acclaimed “open world” city games of the late 2000s, Crackdown (sadly for the Xbox 360 only), gets an official five-part Microsoft machinima “series” to connect it to the new sequel Crackdown 2: Pacific City Archives

I like the way it zooms in, looses focus and shakes, while avoiding the nausea inherent in wobbly camera-work. Are they re-filming off of the screen of a large high-quality monitor, using a camera that’s a little loose on its damped tripod?

Bassam Kurdali

A new 17-minute video interview with one of Blender’s top 3D artists, Bassam Kurdali (director of the first open-source movie Elephants Dream, maker of the ManCandy rig).

Part two here (although it current says “private”). Part two should open up soon, and there’s also a third and final part of the interview due.

Alice in CG-land

35,000-Euro Prize Competition for 2D/3D CG fantasy stills, “Alice… always in your imagination” …

It’s a French competition, but my reading of an automated Google translation of the blurb and rules doesn’t suggest that it’s restricted by nationality. You’ll need to know enough French to sign up with their Forums and work out the rules. Here’s my translation of the gist of the competition…

“For this new competition, we invite you to be inspired by the books of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). Create a digital illustration (2D or 3D, depending on your speciality and tools) of your choice. The work should remain faithful to the original, but can be multifaceted or be transposed into an imaginative world of your choice … Deadline: Monday 11th July 2010.”

Obviously Carroll did a lot more than just the Alice books, but since the competition is titled “Alice” then I guess it’s best to stick to being inspired by those books rather than going haring off into Sylvie & Bruno or the nonsense poetry.

And there’s a bunch of prizes that would make any cat smile…

Do I spot Quidam 3 in there?

Stereo Med

Yesterday’s Streets of the Med picture, rendered in stereo-3D using the new iClone 4.2 functionality…

Click on the picture for a larger version.

I was already using a 50mm camera, and didn’t need to change anything to enhance the stereo separation effect. Just ticked the stereo option and rendered as a .tga still. The stereo separation is rather nice, “out of the box”. I can’t find anything to fault with it.

The colour balance was far too yellowy though, due to the glasses. So while I was wearing the red-blue glasses I loaded the .tga render in Photoshop and used the Edit | Adjust | Color Balance sliders to reduce the yellow cast and push the magenta. The result is seen above.

It seems there’s no way to preview the red-blue stereo effect in real-time in iClone *, and thus no way to establish the best color/lighting in iClone while wearing the special glasses. You have to make a “best guess” at a compensating lighting/color scheme while making the set, render a set of test stills, and then slowly approach the most effective lighting/color scheme.

I seem to remember that black & white video with a red-blue stereo effect can work rather well? Which, if true, would bypass the colour-balance problem for those reliant on red-blue glasses. Apparently the far more expensive polarized glasses don’t cause problems with colour shifts.

* or can that be handled by NVIDIA’s stereo Windows display drivers?

iClone 4.2 patch – full list of changes

Thanks to Peter Edwards in the forums for this list…

* Added: 3D Stereo Vision in ‘Anaglyph (Red/Cyan)’ and ‘Side by Side’ formats for both Image and Video output.
* Added: Allow scaling of entire Non-Human Character body.
* Added: .popVideo file format in popVideo Output.
* Added: Export function – alpha channel video in Video output.
* Added: ‘Normal Map’ item in Right-mouse list for texture dragging into 3D window.
* Added: DRM protection for iGlove, iHand and iFace.

* Enhanced: Able to set free size and adjust frame rate, video and audio quality in WMV output.
* Enhanced: Able to show Codec Info in Video Settings.
* Enhanced: Able to open current content folder via the Find File function in the Content Manager toolbar.
* Enhanced: Select function with two behaviors: drag-select from left to right- just touch object to pick all object(s); drag-select from right to left – select all object(s) to pick.
* Enhanced: Loading efficiency enhancement by changing Benny, Dylan, Jana Persona to basic.

* Fixed: Bounding box on sub-object selection was sometimes blocked.
* Fixed: Lock to ratio and lock all channels did not work in new dragging texture.
* Fixed: Corrected normal map direction.
* Fixed: Blend function in Create face did not work properly.
* Fixed: RM output format with DVD NTSC size which caused the AP to crash.
* Fixed: After adding the move command and Collect Motion, it caused the AP to crash when changing the sound clip speed.
* Fixed: Could not load object with UV node when UV data was empty (Props Pack Bugs, Bears pack, Singing Birds…).
* Fixed: Tank track was always moving and could not be stopped.
* Fixed: Could not load some characters because of the buffer overflow (US Navy F-14 Aviator pack).
* Fixed: Updated embedded character (Benny, Dylan and Trey) failed during Mesh replacement in 3DXchange4.