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.

Stereo-3D arrives for iClone – 4.2 patch is out now

The major new iClone 4.2 patch is out now. I just logged in, and it’s available as a 104Mb download…

I’m downloading it now. The main new 4.2 feature is stereo-3D stills and video in iClone. Reallusion has its stereo-3D information page up today…

A more detailed guide for users is here.

There are also six new official Reallusion videos on the topic, on YouTube, although some appear to be still being crunched on by the YouTube conversion hamsters…

Stereo 3D may be a gimmick to some. But it could be very useful for persuading businesses to add some animation to retail / industrial / training videos — I’m told that the “human resources” drones who commission training-videos nearly always want live-action video for things like staff training and orientation. But live action can’t easily do 3D-depth demonstrations of complex processes and products. It could also be useful for those making museum / educational websites and even real-life museum “video-exhibit cases”, explaining in stereo-3D how an artifact worked. And for those who need to quickly do real-time layout and visualisation of 3D spaces — such as theatre set designers, store window dressers, exhibition stand designers, event managers, and so on.

LightUp

Another interesting real-time app, and this one is for SketchUp. LightUp for SketchUp

“LightUp for SketchUp is a SketchUp plugin that adds realistic, real-time lighting to your SketchUp models. Add lights, add windows, and watch your SketchUp scenes glow with gorgeous reflected light, soft shadows, subtle shading. Gone are the flat, boring surfaces of old.”

It seems it’s not exactly a renderer, although there’s some “render” time involved. But once that’s done you can navigate the lit model in real-time. MacUser magazine had a review a year ago, with the details…

“Real-time navigation through a SketchUp model with soft and translucent shadows, light spills, real-time reflections and a ‘parallaxed’ sky is something that has to be seen to be believed. Also, if your graphics card supports it, this will be anti-aliased.”

“the most intriguing new feature is the ability to export a fully-lit model with all textures intact as an FBX, so that it can be taken into other programs. Some 3D apps have problems with LightUp’s multiple UV sets, although others, such as the game design program Unity, have no problems.”

There’s a free 30-day trial.