Low-poly steampunk airship

A new steampunk-style airship, just appeared on 3D Warehouse, by Spike McGrath. It’s very low-poly, at just 18,000 faces — even after I’ve parented new spinnable propellers, and two iClone flex cloth flags. Additional textures from the Ryzom and Sintel Creative Commons packs. I’ve packed my version as an iClone project file. Creative Commons license. Might work well with the characters from the Cartoon Masters packs.

Download here

Smoothing models in 3DXchange

Awesome, I’d never realised that 3DXchange has a smoother for models! Thanks to Paumanok West for pointing it out on the forums!

How to smooth a model in 3DXchange 4:—

1. Use the eyedropper to select the part of the model you want to smooth.
2. Scroll up to the top of the Modify panel.
3. Find the section marked Normal. Tick “weld vertex”
4. Press “Auto Smooth”.

Here’s a comparison between smoothing done in 3DS Max and smoothing done in 3DXchange. 3DXchange has the advantage here, in that it’s (miracle!) keeping all the textures and opacity maps. Running the model through 3DS Max means the textures have to be applied later by hand, with inconsistent opacity results (look at the eyelashes). The 3DXchange smoothing, on the other hand, doesn’t quite get the nose and mouth right at the default setting of 45 — I had to push it 65 to get acceptable results…

Quorra, no smoothing:

Quorra, 3DS Max smoothing:

Quorra, 3DXchange smoothing set at 45 (visible creases on nose and mouth):

Quorra, 3DXchange with smoothing set at 65 (much better):

Ryzom needs coders

Want to get real game development experience on your C.V.? Ryzom Core is participating in Google Summer of Code for its second year. Ryzom, you may remember is the great-looking multiplayer game that kindly gave away all its fabulous art-assets under a Creative Commons licence. Applications open today! Perhaps you could work on machinima features?

StartUp Britain

Based in the UK? Thinking of setting yourself up as a freelance animator-for-hire? There’s a new StartUp Britain website. StartUp Britain is a not-for-profit company and is not funded by the government. Entrepreneurs setting up a new businesses will be offered £1,500 worth of support via the website. The package of assistance includes free services from the likes of AXA, Barclays, Experian, Google, Intel, Microsoft, McKinsey & Company, O2 and Virgin Media. Many other leading firms have agreed to provide free desk-space, mentoring, marketing, and advertising to new start-ups. Even school kids who want to practice their business skills will qualify for new £10 loans, helping them set up their own playground or online enterprises!

Big Wonder

A new tutorial from Small Wonder Studios, showing how to make a big Sky Captain-style 1940s robot in iClone, from simple blocks…

Drawplus X4 demo

A new Reallusion video, showing what Drawplus X4 can do for CrazyTalk Animator users…

Just keep in mind that there’s something missing from X4 that’s a massive deal-breaker — it lacks anything like the Smart Fill in CorelDRAW or the Live Paint Bucket in Illustrator (for Photoshop users: that’s roughly the same thing as the “make a selection and fill with it a colour from the paintbucket”). It seems crazy that DrawPlus has got so far without this vital tool.

Reallusion bundles Serif Drawplus X4

Reallusion is now bundling Serif Drawplus X4 with some CrazyTalk Animator bundle offers. X4 (not to be confused with the old v4 from 2003) has become the affordable alternative to Adobe Illustrator with its latest release, both in cost ($50 + local sales tax, if you own CrazyTalk Animator) and the time it’ll take you to learn it (months, not 10 years). There’s a positive review of X4 by the respected UK magazine PC Pro.

A very clear tutorial on auto-tracing and then cleaning up photos in X4…

Photos like this are probably going to have too many shapes for efficient use in CTA. But a simpler shape, photographed against white paper, should do fine.

And there are many more tutorials at its YouTube channel.

Just keep in mind that there’s something missing from X4 that’s a massive deal-breaker — it lacks anything like the Smart Fill in CorelDRAW or the Live Paint Bucket in Illustrator (for Photoshop users: that’s roughly the same thing as the “make a selection and fill with it a colour from the paintbucket”). It seems crazy that DrawPlus has got so far without this vital tool…

Friday Funny #4

“If only I could… clean all the crap off my PC — then I could really animate!”

Summer is ‘a comin in — don’t forget to de-dust your PC before the hot weather hits!

YouTube Create

YouTube Create integrates three basic free animation tools into YouTube, using your existing account…

* GoAnimate is like a very basic CrazyTalk Animator, with some branded theme-packs and characters (none of which are currently available on the YouTube version). You can also record voice from the microphone, and import your own images (if you pay to upgrade to a ‘premium’ account). The best of the bunch, I’d say. Although for a mere $38, CrazyTalk Animator completely outclasses it and (once you consider all the apparently complex and fiddly ways GoAnimate entices you to spend money) is much better value.

* Xtranormal has what looks like 3D CG, although in a limited range of themes. There appears to be no way to actually see your rendered movie before you post it to YouTube (although you can preview it as a storyboard with sound). Audio appears to be limited to text-to-speech?

* The rather stupidly named Stupeflix is capped at 60 seconds in length, and is more of an animated greetings card / Powerpoint thing. Ugh.

Servers on these services may be slow, since about 50 millions kids are no doubt visiting right now.

Cutting a notch in your music for the dialogue

Wolf & Dulci Hour, 12th April 2010, in which guest Ricky Grove gives a very useful tip for balancing music with spoken voices: use a graphic equaliser (any useful audio-editing software will have one) to cut a “notch” in the music from 300 Hz to 2000 Hz — drop this range by about minus 6 decibels. Reducing the volume of these particular frequencies makes a space for the human voice, which uses the same frequencies.

This is what the Graphic Equaliser looks like in Cool Edit Pro, with the range of the human-voice frequencies marked…

A quick look at the Firefox 4 video/3D features

Firefox 4 final is out now. Some features of the browser that may interest 3D/video -heads…

* it’s graphics-card accelerated when playing videos (although only on Vista / Windows 7, not XP).

* it means Firefox users can now safely dump Flash and switch to HTML5 for playing videos, at least on YouTube.

* it now supports WebGL, which provides graphics-card accelerated 3D inside the browser.