Archive for the ‘3D Tutorials’ Category

Fake Toon Outlines

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Here’s a fun one! Ever wanted to re-create the look of heavy “toon” outlines, but didn’t have a shader for it? Believe it or not, there’s an easy way to fake it using fixed-function only.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Make sure all your surface normals are unified (facing outwards) and your polygons are set to 1-sided
  • Make a copy of your object and resize it so it is ever-so-slightly larger than the original
  • On the copy, set the surface material to black
  • Invert the surface normals

That’s it! Nifty, eh? The method’s not perfect–for best results, stick to convex objects–but it’s great for quick renders and on limited hardware platforms where shaders aren’t an option.

How to Cut Edges and Add Loops in AC3D

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

From time to time, people ask me how to “cut edges” in AC3D since the way AC3D handles edges is a bit different than other programs. Usually, I use the Divide Loop plug-in which is normally the fastest, easiest way to go. But, every now and then you get an edge that isn’t well suited for Divide Loop. In these cases, I use a combination of Insert Vertex and Slice Surface.

This video shows you how:

Click to Download Video

A QUICK SIDE NOTE: It is much faster to use the hotkeys (ctrl+shift+I and ctrl+shift+L) than it is to use the menus… the whole process can be completed in only a few seconds if you use the hotkeys. However, for the sake of clarity, I use the menus in the video so you can actually see what I’m doing. :)

Plasma HD Render

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The tiny little 320×240 render of the plasma for the POV-Ray tutorial was a bit hard to see, so I did a render in 1920 x 1080 resolution for those of you interested in seeing the details. It’s still a bit compressed, but the image is a lot clearer. You’ll find it here: download the video.


Rendering Plasma in POV-Ray

Friday, January 25th, 2008

POV-Ray has some very powerful commands for rendering realistic plasmas and explosions, but not very many people know how to use them well. This tutorial will show you how.

[youtube: 350 292]
An turntable of a plasma cloud rendered in POV-Ray
UPDATE: download the high-res version


Why Researching Workflow Matters

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Autodesk has a fun quiz on their site called the Fake or Foto test. In the quiz, you have to look at each image, and guess whether it is real or a render. Surprisingly, I aced it the very first time!

After I took the quiz, I went back and documented all the things that made me think a particular image was real or fake. That way I could see what it was that clued me so that I might improve my own work. In almost all cases, it wasn’t that the CG images were obviously wrong in any way, it was simply that the real images had more “detail” in them.

For years, the limitation has been what the software could do, but I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. In games especially, production costs have gone up as graphics have become more realistic simply because making detailed images is very time consuming. The relationship between time, money and graphics detail is linear. The problem, of course, is that neither time nor money are infinite. Limited budget means limited production cycles, which means limited time to spend adding things like scratches, scrapes and nose hairs. Eventually, we’ll reach a point where we can’t add more detail not because we’re out of RAM–we can’t add more detail because we’re out of time! Truthfully, I think we’re on the horizon of that already.

While I’m certain that there are still numerous improvements to be made in traditionally researched areas such as lighting, I think technological improvements to workflow have more potential to improve the quality of computer graphics in the near future than virtually any other area. Automated procedural geometry, better methodologies and tools that allow for less restrictive workflow patterns–such as recent advancements in re-topology interfaces–can allow us to complete the same job in less time and with far less effort. We know the artists and software can do it; now we need to make it practical.

For the curious, here are my impressions from the Autodesk quiz:

** WARNING ** Spoilers follow. You might want to take the quiz yourself before you read my analysis of the images.