Doing Some 3D Work at Home

It has been a while, leaving my rendering and animation hobby sit on the shelf for nearly a couple of months now. I was not too busy for it, but I did have other “likes” I wanted to pursue first before I jumped back into doing 3D art work. So, being I was talking a one week holiday, this week, from my “real job,” I made it a week of rendering on my 3D software. And rendering I did.

So I completely recreated it from scratch, again, my Egg Head character, but this time making it as a female. So, her she is, Ms Egg Head.

Those first few steps were hard. 3D Blender is not an easy piece of software to learn on. Setting up the rigging for the mesh, I had to go right back to my help files to relearn the process, as I completely got stuck with the Inverse Kinematics settings on the armature. The other issue I had was setting up the mesh, so it matched the armature the way I wanted it to–that took a day to get it the way I wanted it to go. But, I was pretty happy with my results. The mesh, and rigging, took less that an day, and I was doing basic animating the next day. The stuff I am doing here is “kindergarten” stuff to what the software can do. You can do Motion Picture grade work with 3D Blender–it is everywhere.

Anyway, I am currently rendering out a small “Dance” video. We will see how well that goes. More to come.

I Solved My Sci-Fi 3D Art Issue – Happy Friday The Thirteenth!

First, Happy Friday…, the Thirteenth. I know, for those of you who are supper superstitious, I feel for you. I really do. But it is all psychological. Trust me. Now that we got that out of the way, I finally solved my 3D art issue with masking 3D objects onto a photograph, or movie clip. Actually, I am kind of embarrassed about it because I learned this a long time ago, but completely forgot. So I had to relearn how to use the compositor all over again. My argument, 3D Blender has a very steep learning curve, and you just do not pick it up in one day–it is that huge!

So, here is my image. Obviously it is a composite, or as they say in the U.S., a fake image. But I think if we had a large planet, with rings, very close to us, this is what it would look like. So I was going for as “real” as I thought it would be like, as possible.

My issue with 3D Blender was getting the 3D image, the planet, behind the mountain, which I shot in Rosswood, BC. I had the Mask working, but I could not figure out how to get it work properly. My solution was to use the Alpha on the background, or Alpha out the World View, making the background fully transparent. It worked, and it worked even better then I would have expected it would. I am happy with this.

Now I just need to work on better textures and colours for the planet, and get some better stock photos that I have on my hard drive. Hope you like the photo.

Second Try: Got it!

As per my May 12, 2017 post, I have been trying character animation in Blender, where I can create a human looking mesh, and make it move in a video. I have been experimenting and learning how to do the rigging and animation, and so far, I am getting it. I mean, I have figured out the basics, such as creating the armature, or bones structure, as they are called, and creating a good mesh to parent to the armature, but now it is the actual creation process that has bogged me down. So many ideas, and so little time to do them with. I mean, rendering out a thirty second video on my machine in Blender Cycles mode, takes about two to three hours. Patients is what I lack now, as I move forward in this newly discovered art form.

But I have to admit, this walk cycle animation is really good in my opinion, although I see room for improvement if I want to master this. Not bad for my second try! And I think I got the motion just right too.

Of course I am only animating legs and body. I want to start off simple, then work my way up to more complex characters later on. I also switched render modes to, using the old Blender Render settings as they are a lot faster to render out, but not as nice to look at as Cycles Render is. On my machine, it takes about two minutes to render out the same thirty second video as it did from using Cycles.

The rigging and mesh only took me about half hour to make from scratch, and the above jif animation took about an hour to create on my P.C. at home. The walk cycle is 20 frames in this one. Yes, I am excited!

First Try: When You Learn From Your Mistakes

I laughed when I first rendered this. I was trying to create a simple 3D walk cycle animation, re-learning the ropes becuase it had been so long since I played with animating moving objects. When this spewed out, I thought I had created a good animation, but when ran it, it quickly became apparent that I needed to do a lot more work with it. But then I thought, maybe I did succeed with this result, and I was closer to a polished animation than I could have been if I was learning this for the first time. Nonetheless, I am posting this becuase it is funny to watch.

Oh, before you read this, unless you have some knowledge of using 3D software, like Blender, this maybe a pointless post to read. If you are remotely interested, then why not check out the Blender website. Blender is free, and is open source, and works on all major platforms.

The first problem that I saw, even though I was using the Inverse Kinematics Constraint, I made the legs straight. Having that natural bend in the legs would have prevented the way the knees seem to buckle backwards each time each leg moved upwards.

The second issue I see, I should have added more leg meshes (or blocks), so I would have had a dedicated knee mesh–something that would pivot while the leg and thigh moved independently.  If I had five blocks in each leg, then I think the armature (or skeleton) would have worked right the first time. This ties with having a natural bend in each leg. In this case, I kept the legs straight in Pose Mode, so Blender assumed that the knees would work forward or backwards.

Still, I made this in about an hour, from start to finish. After getting used to Blender’s interface and the work-flow, it took no time to create. But tweaking this “Egg man” guy, may take from time to prefect. Will I do it; hard to say.

Hey, it killed a Friday night before it was my bed time. 🙂

Un-Boxing 2016: Happy New Year!

I like doing these little graphical tributes of events, like New Years. And sometimes it takes me a bit of time to come up with a unique idea for each event. So, this time, I thought of treating the new year like a newly bought item; something so new that you just brought it home from the store, and you are taking it out of its wrapping. So, here is my “un-boxing of the New Year: 2016-and throwing out 2015”!

NewYearsDay2016 - b - Weblog Image

Sure, it took only a few minutes to create it, and it does look simple and bare, but I thought it was clever. Of course, this was created using the 3D software called Blender, which is free and open-source. 🙂

Happy New Year! Saying goodbye to 2015, and hello to 2016.

Super Lunar Eclipse, The Blood Moon of September 2015

Tonight we had the rare viewing of the total lunar eclipse, but added to the planetary event, this was also a super moon becuase the Moon was at its nearest distance to the Earth as well. On the West coast of British Columbia, we only got to see the last half of the total lunar eclipse, but with great viewing weather, I think we got the best half. I snapped a few photos of it, and becuase I love photography so much, I will post a couple shots too.

Moon Shine - After Lunar Eclipse Vancouver Sept 27 2015 Weblog Image

My only fear that could have wrecked the night for snapping photos was the fog that Langley Township is so famous for. As soon as the sun was behind the horizon, the fog started to roll in. The above shot was taken just at the end of the eclipse; there was enough moonlight to take a wide shot at about 20sec, f11, at ISO 100.

Lunar Eclipse Vancouver BC Sept 27 2015 Weblog Image

All of these shots were taken at f11, ISO 100, at about 1/40 sec, using a 300mm lens. I layered each image onto a black background image and compressed each one onto it, using GIMP. This shot was my goal of the night, to get a shot that shows the progression of the eclipse throughout the whole event. Because we could not get the whole eclipse from start to finish, we were only to see the eclipse just at totality when the Moon rose up in the East. So, seeing the last half was all that nature was going to give us from my vantage point.

The Blood Moon - Lunar Eclipse Vancouver BC Sept 27 2015 Weblog Image

The blood red Moon rose from the East, and soon after it left the shadow of Earth to reveal its brightness over the land, people started packing up their photography equipment and left.  Yes, my favourite spot that I scouted out for photographing the event was soon taken over by tens of other photographers doing exactly the same thing. Before the Moon rose, I abandon that location, and drove further down the road to a gate that led to a farmer’s field. It was there that I took all of these shots. I like to be alone when shooting my camera at night–it is a personal thing. 🙂

Catching Up, and All That Fun Stuff That Goes With IT

It has been nearly a week now since I have gotten my main PC back on line. So much work since, getting back my files, and photos, and then trying to play catch-up on all of emails and letters that had been in limbo during the three weeks of “borken-computer-itus,” life is just starting to become normal once again. Mostly the last seven days have been spent focusing on work, my real job, the one that pays the bill,  so digging through my files and upgrading my PC had been a slow process. But I did manage to start going through my photos (that were also locked away while my PC was shut down), and it was such a relief that none of those files had been deleted during the recovery.

June Flowers - Weblog Image July 20 2015

This shot was taken in last June, using my 30mm Macro lens, then using DarkTable 1.6.7 for my post processing. shot from my Sony A77.

I still have a long ways before I am fully caught up with everything, but slowly but surly, I am getting there. Right now, item number one is getting tires for my SUV, which need replacing badly. Focusing on my resumes and emails, then preparing for another trip up North, then keeping on top of my growing stack of appointments and side jobs. The demand on my time is almost impossible to keep up with.

The good news is, I am winning. It has just taken more time than I originally thought it would of.


Success – My PC/Workstation is Back Up and Running!

Here was my situation about six weeks ago: my main PC/Workstation was in the middle of an upgrade, while I was downloading a huge back-up file from my server. It was going well, until my upgrade software needed to restart the machine. As soon as it shut-off, that was when the whole system crashed, leaving numerous unfinished files either deleted, or unconfigured. When I started the system back up, a total loss form the boot-loader had occurred, leaving the system as a brick. No matter what I tried, I could not get it to start up again. Nothing worked – period!

My next phase was to try and recover all the information on my hard drives. I like my data secured, and kept safe, so naturally everything on my systems are encrypted–heavily. The glorious task of prying open my data turned quickly into a nightmare. Just when I thought it was going to a snap to recover my data, the ugly truth reared its head when my recovery software flashed the text in the header that it would take “62” to “85” hours to copy and recover my data, then another untold amount of time to decrypt it all. When you are dealing with 2 x 4TB drives, that is a lot of data to copy over.

I was mortified. Me being the Linux guy and everything, with my vast knowledge of computers, and software, I was now sitting on the other side of the fence, helpless and frustrated at the task before me. My research yielded little, as the on-line community was just as much in the dark as I was on this matter, especially with the Ubuntu pass phrase and hard drive encryption precess for recovery topic. I thought, type in your pass words, and the rest took care of itself. WRONG! Not so simple.

Even with my pass words, and pass-phrase alphanumeric code, I could not get the software recovery to work. It stumped me. I started asking myself questions like, did I record my pass phrase wrong, or was there something else I missed when I originally installed the OS? To this day I do not know.

I got thinking–what happened when my system crashed? The boot-loader was still intact, and I could see that the check-sum for my drives was an exact match. So this lead me down a different path, one that made me believe that maybe this was not a “corruption” of data issue, but of missing files that got wiped during the upgrade.  My first clue was not being able to see any graphics right after the initial boot-up. But I went ahead and started copying my data first–just in case I screwed everything up.

In the mean time, I set-up an older PC Tower, with a bare-bones OS, Ubuntu 14.04, just to get me by while I finished recovering my data on my main PC. Starting from scratch was horrendous: no email address, loss of work files, no contact names, and using webmail–it all sucked.

My first test, confirming my hunch about a broken graphics’s driver file. I confirmed that I did indeed had an issue with my graphics card’s driver file; it was completely missing. This meant that I had to purchase a new card and see if my OS would kick in and recognise it, thinking that this was an upgrade. The risk, further damage to my data.

My second test was buying a graphics card that would work. I originally had an ATI card in it during the crash, so I thought that buying another ATI card would do the trick. Nope. I realized that it had to be another make and model. So I bought an Nvidia card. IT WORKED!

Within seconds after the boot-up, my machine’s OS was hunting down the latest drivers for the new graphics card! As it spewed out glorious graphics of my log-in page across my monitor, in the background, it was digging up the files it needed to completed the job of the upgrade. I was ecstatic; I gave out a yell of gratitude that must of reverberated across the forest outside. Everything was now back to normal; my precious data, my machine, and my sanity, all recovered and put back to where it was once before.

Going Deeper into 3D Graphic Art

I finally decided that it was time to start learning the process of layering objects with image textures in Blender. The idea is to use an image that is real life, say a photograph of a tiled wall, then project that onto a object-plain’s surface in a scene to mimic what that wall would look like in a three dimensional computer generated image. You can go one step further by adding bumps, reflective surfaces, and physical typology that matches the image to create a three dimensional version of it with Blender. The result is a wall in the 3D scene that would look like the wall from the photograph taken in real life, even though you only started off with a two dimensional image.

Working With BumpMaps in Blender 2-74 April 4 2015 Weblog Image

At first I could not make it work. In fact, several months ago, I gave up on it thinking that maybe Blander was not working properly with Linux, or there was still bugs in it that still have not been worked out with Ubuntu. Well, none of this was true. It worked, and very well I must add, I just needed to really sit down and go through the process one step at a time. There is lots of tutorials, both texts and video, but none seemed to fit the pieces together for me–I was always missing something.

A guy by the name of Andrew Price, who is a self-proclaimed Blender Guru, posted a video tutorial called “Realistic Texturing” that worked perfectly for me. He cleared up the mud, though I did discovered that I had to do a little tweaking in the node editor to get my texturing to work as compared to his tutorial. In the end, I was very pleased!

I only had one dry run at this, so with a three day weekend with just one third gone already, I may try several more attempts at texturing before I move on to other projects. So far, I think the work-flow is basic. Now, it is taking bump-maps to the creative level, and make some art with it.

Tiles Render from Blender 2-74 with BumpMap and Texture Image Weblog Image

I added a second image, my attempt at getting better “bumps” on the surface of a plain, but I see that I still need a bit more work on this. Maybe I need to “tile” the texture images over a larger surface, adding more resolution to the finished image to get a more realistic look? Well, anyway, I am off to a good start.

Yes! Little Creepy Fury One-Eye Bug Creatures Art

With the pre-release of Blender 2.74rc4 (yes, number four) I was excited to try out some of the new hair particle system features that were added to 2.74. Normally I wait until the actual full release of blender before I go off exploring it, but when I saw some of the new cool features you can do with hair, well, I just had to have a copy! I was not disappointed.

Fury Thing 01 Weblog Image

Some of the particle system’s new features has a “spiral” in the Kink hair setting that cam mimic curly fur/hair, for example, a sheep’s fleece, or curly hair on a stuffed animal. Also, you can create wet looking fur, like what I did above using the new interface in the Partial System.

Fury Thing 02 Weblog Image

Fury Thing 03 Weblog Image

These images were created very fast. Actually, I was impressed with how easy the work flow with Blender has gotten now. Even the render time seems to have been speeded up; however, all of these images were rendered at 350 samples, and the more hair particles you use, the longer the render time. The last image (bottom) took the longest, nearly 30 minutes becuase of the heavy use of six different particle systems using their own separate mesh.

UPDATE: April 1st, 2015

The Blender Foundation finally released 2.74 as of today. The first thing I did when I got home was tried it out.

First Fury Thing With Blender 2-74 April 1 2015 Weblog Image

More or less the same parameters as the images above, all rendered at 350 samples in Blender Cycles. Hard to tell if there were any significant changes from the release candidates, but I did notice that when I set the hair particles to over 5000, Blender did not crash on my machine!