Archive for April, 2006

Today we started the "Loading Dock" project.  In this project, we do no modeling at all.  We are given a complete model and are not to alter any objects within it.  The game here is that the model is completely textureless.  It has only form.  We are to add textures and colors without pasting images to the objects (like the Coke label in our cans project).  This one looks to be a lot of fun!

 This is how it all began.  We were given a complete, pre-built scene with all the texturing removed.  The whole thing was made neutral gray. 


 By the end of the day, this is as far as I got it.  The bricks were surprisingly difficult.  The wood around the windows — which I wanted green with patches of grayed wood showing through — was even more difficult.

 This is exactly the same level of rendering as the last, but it’s a bit closer and to the left.  I was very happy with the way the yellow steel post turned out.  I also enjoyed playing with a light fixture for the first time (wihtout the danger of electricution!).

I didn’t stay after class today to rush this one along.  I had made a promise to myself to begin exercising now that I am no longer scheduled in the afternoons.  I decided to take the older two boys to the YMCA pool instead.  We kept very active for an hour and a half, so I not only exercised, I got some quality time with my sons.  I’m going to do this twice a week… alternating with the older two and the little guy, who needs twice the attention.

Q & A


Q1:  Brenda asks "Do any of your classmates know about your world-famous blog?"

A1:  World famous?  Well, I have been visited by Flying Purple Moose in Tanzania and Nicole in Germany, so I guess I am.   And yes, they do know.  A few of us have shared addresses.  They’re in my blog list on the left (John O and John V).  Today, I visited my blog at school with one of our teachers.  The school is very encouraging of these kinds of sites.


Q2:  Cindy speculated on whether lighting and textures were plug-ins or tedious work. 

A2:  So far, they are tedious work (but you get obsessive about it).  In each scene, you pick the lights you want and place them where they make the best highlights and shadows.  Textures come in two main varieties…"procedural" and "image maps".  Procedural textures are made by the program in a pseudo-random order (it looks random, but you can recreate it so multiple textures can overlap each other perfectly).  Image maps are pictures that can be applied to an object like a sticker.  The wood grains in our coffee cart and the Coke label were image maps.


Q3:  Where ya been?  Don’t you still love us?

A3:  Yeah… sorry about that.  I have not been blogwalking like I should.  We’ve been a bit busier than usual around the house, and I was starting to spend too much time online.  I promise to drop by everyone’s site more often… provided it doesn’t cut into family time too heavily.  I was thinking alternating nightly blog sessions between walking and writing may be a good way to go.

Your breath does not improve when stored
for 3 weeks inside an inflatable Easter bunny.
(keep reading… the next post is really good and it’s not pastel colored)

It’s grading time again!  This time, it’s the close of the "cart" project.  Tomorrow at noon, we will have a critique and submit our items for grading.  So far, I am planning to submit some of these photos. 

This one is lame.  It was a render without any lighting effects at all.  It only gets better from here.

I had the soda can, so I figured, why not use it for some added realism.  

I like the wheels, but I’m not satisfied with the bluish hue the hubs have compared to the surrounding metal.  I’ll have to see if I can figure out why that’s happening.


As time went on I was happier and happier with the realism of the cart against the wall with lights shining on it.




Here’s an example of being super picky.  If you look at the edge of the table-top, you’ll notice it’s more subtle in the picture on the right.  That’s what I’ll submit for grade.

The screen door texture was a very difficult one to manage.  I was worried I wouldn’t get it in time.  I think it came out OK.

I felt the need to show that there in fact was a back to the cart.  For interest, I copied one of the wheels and dropped it on top.  Notice that there’s no post on the caster.  I figured it would always be hidden.  Good reason to build things even if you don’t expect to show them.

The poor cart has seen better days.  Our actual cart had a tear in the screen, and I figured out how to show that.  So I ripped out a wheel and made it appear to have flopped over forward.  Then I realized I had failed to turn the caster in the back as gravity would have pulled it.  So the image on the right has that.  While I was re-rendering the image, I decided to get a little closer.

Some of these images might not be questioned if shown quickly, but you can still tell that they’re "not quite right" when you pay attention.  Someday, I hope to be able to mix real and rendered pictures and have it be almost impossible to tell which is which.



In case you didn’t see it, people posed questions after my last full post.

Q1:  Brenda asked whether it was our cart or does everyone model the same one.  How picky are teachers about the finish?

A1:  The cart was present in class.  It was used by all students.  It’s been used by all students since the school opened and has become a tradition.  The teachers are very picky about the finish.  It has to match closely enough that you can’t tell it’s not real.


Q2:  Cindy wants to know…  how long does each process take and what is the software like.

A2:  The software is like Visio.  You have a collection of basic shapes and each has its own properties you can adjust (i.e. number of sides for a sphere, etc…).  However, as a user of Visio, I feel LightWave is a lot more complex, with tons of nuances that are not apparent at first glance.  However, I do feel like I’ve picked up which ones carry over from tool to tool.  As for length of time, that’s a tough question to answer.  Since we’re doing this intermixed with lessons, we haven’t really had a timeable project.  However, measuring the original is very time-consuming.  Aligning parts is really not.  Getting intricate parts together takes a lot of thought to figure out the "how".  Generating the pictures takes between 1 and 15 minutes on a single computer, depending on which effects you have turned on.  Rendering glass (transparancy, reflection, and refraction) is VERY time consuming.


Check out the photo album for two new pictures.  Sorry… no time for an entry as I’m going to hate myself either way at 6:50am!
Take care!

We got a little into textures today, but most of the day was refining our cart and its pieces.


I added some more details to the wheels.  But they’re not done yet in this picture.  I believe I’m done with them now, as shown in the bottom picture.  


The doors now have wood textures added.  The rest of the cart will get these textures, too.  We literally took photographs of the parts and applied the actual texture board by board.  The image they gave us for texturing is on the right.  Before I submit for grades, I will knock my doors ever so slightly out of line to match those on the real cart.


I replicated the casters and put them on the cart’s legs.  The small details of the casters vary.  The two in the foreground have brakes on them.  The two in the background do not.   


Here’s a close-up showing the wheels at different angles.  I’ll need to put them at different rotations as well so the three rivets are in different places on each wheel.  It’s probably not visible here, but I actually put some ball bearings in the casters.  Just a couple to catch the light, since they have a lot of surfaces.

I still have some details I want to add to this piece of furniture.  However, we’re pressed for time, and I don’t want it to be late.  So I have to really prioritize what I want to add.  Our class time next week will be entirely spent on surfacing it.


Something just occurred to me.  Not that I’d know the answer, but do you have any questions about this process?  I’d be glad to make an attempt at a brief reply.

The coffee cart progresses… 

 On the left, we have a real caster.  On the right, my rendering of it.  When it’s done, it should be hard to tell the difference.  I know that at this point, that’s not truly the case. 

Inside this hole, there is a hex screw.  Some of the holes had covers on them (see the comparison picture of the caster above).  Others, like this one, had an exposed hole and screw with an allen wrench head. 

Here’s a pressure latch for holding the door shut. 

 The one on the right side door was ever so slightly uneven.  So that is represented here, too.  The more "quirks", the more realistic the end result. 

 A close up, fully rendered view of the caster so far.  Note the rubber and metal washers between the wheel and the caster housing. 

There are a few more pictures of the caster in the photo gallery.  Tomorrow, we are hoping to finish the cart.  Next week, we’ll add real textures to its surfaces.  When we’re done, it should be very hard to tell the difference between our rendered carts and a photo of the actual one. 

…Michelle and I went on our first date.
(Pretend I posted this one minute earlier… when it was still 4/19!  Took longer to write than I thought)
We met at her apartment and headed straight to Epcot.  Thinking it would be exotic, I got reservations at Morocco.  We had a wonderful meal, although watching a belly dancer on your first date can be a bit awkward.  After dinner, we walked around through the countries and got ice cream at the African Outpost.  It was extremely hot, and the ice cream was melting fast, so we stopped walking and sat down to finish it off.
This part gets a bit elaborate (off-on-a-tangent alert!).  I’m still not sure how the whole thing happened, as the timing seemed impossible.  You see, there was an elderly couple who frequented the park and rode around on 3-wheeled scooters.  They were horrible, miserable people.  You’d never expect to see people like this at the park, no less as regulars!  They would cruise around at full speed and beep at anyone who got in the way.  If you didn’t jump to the side, you were guaranteed roadkill.
OK, so we’re sitting there facing the promenade and lagoon, just eating our ice cream, and from hidden compartments all around, spotlight assemblies rose to 15+ feet tall!  In response to these lights, hundreds of teeny-tiny little frogs came from the lagoon and began hopping across the promenade in our direction.  They were no bigger than insects.  They were cute! 
Off to the left, in the direction of the Mexico pavillion, a horn tooted.  A pair of headlights appeared as the crowd parted like the Red Sea in the DeMille version of the story, dozens of innocents diving for their very lives just ahead of them!  It was Mr and Mrs Nasty!  "But the frogs!!!", I said to Michelle,  "It will be carnage!"  They just kept coming, hopping across the promenade toward the spotlights.  Grimaces on their faces, the two old cranks plowed through the entire population of amphibian seekers of light. Six scooter tires of frog-crushing doom!  If any of the frogs survived, the reason for the spotlights took care of that.  A marching high-school band followed through soon after the couple did their damage.  I think somewhere, in a lilputian frog library, someone keeps the tome documenting this event.  If not, you have it here.
After ice cream, we discovered the car was somewhere in the massive Epcot parking lot, but we had no idea where.  Michelle had a van and was used to being able to spot it over the tops of the other vehicles.  I had a Volkswagen Cabriolet and was too preoccupied with the date to take note of the row.  It was entirely possible someone with an SUV parked OVER my tiny car.  Just when I was ready to start looking under 4WD chassis, we found it.  I played "Alone Again Or" by The Damned  for her on the way to Disney MGM Studios.  She’s suffered through a lot more obscure music since then.
At Disney/MGM, there’s a slight debate as to what we did.  I once volunteered us for the sound effects show, and I thought it was our first date.  Either I’m right, or I was more oblivious to the fact that she doesn’t like volunteering for shows than I remember.  I can’t imagine that I’d have done that on a later date.  But that doesn’t make it any more likely that I’m right.
We had a wonderful time, and the glitches we ran into along the way made the whole evening hilarious (and memorable!).  Obviously she was impressed because it started us down the road to where we are today.  I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world (even the Disney World)!  But I still mourn for the frogs.

Today was more work on the coffee cart.  It’s still got the "clown colors" mentioned earlier (for those who missed it, they allow you to distinguish textures while building, and will be replaced by real textures later).

We reproduced the chome handles on the cart’s drawers.  Wouldn’t you know that the same handles on the doors are slightly different dimensions!  Can’t reuse these (actually, I can stretch them, so I don’t have to redo the whole thing).


The interior is quite detailed.  To better show its features, I put a light in the bottom of the cabinet.  It produced some interesting shadows.  Note the guide rail for the drawer(dark green thing visible behind the open drawer), which will most likely never be seen.  In a professional rendering, you would probably leave it out.  However, if the director called for this shot, wouldn’t you be in a pickle! 

I did some other parts… the little pressure tabs that hold the doors closed (slightly cock-eyed on the right door as it is on the real cart), and the casters.  The casters aren’t complete, and I finished the latch just before leaving today.  I’ll try to get a render of that for tomorrow’s post.

We had our first critique yesterday.  I was happy to have a name in the middle of the alphabet because that was the order in which they were done.  My bracket was good, but lacked enough texture.  I was attempting to be subtle to match reality.  The texture of the wall, however, was too pronounced.  All of this will improve over time, I’m certain.  I’ll probably look back at this first exercise and wonder how I thought it looked so realistic in the first place.  Grades for this project have not been issued yet.


This is our current project.  It’s a coffee cart.  Compared to the recent projects, this is vastly more complex.  It will be graded on several aspects, including it’s accuracy in comparison to the reference object (i.e. one of the doors is not 100% in align with the other, so it can’t be perfect).  To quote our teacher, "we’re building this coffee cart, not a coffee cart like this one."  Note, we have not yet completed the first door, so we haven’t copied it to the right side of the cabinet yet.  I am guessing that tomorrow, we’ll hit the other side.


This shot shows the articulation of the object.  The drawers pull out, and the doors open.  The screens on the doors will appear transparent.  All the measurements are taken down to the millimeter, with tiny bevels of 200 nanometers on the edges.


After class, we got a treat.  First, we were visited by Orlando’s illustrious Mayor Buddy Dyer.  He took a tour of the school.  While waiting for his arrival, a classmate informed me they would be doing some motion capture after the mayor’s visit, so I continued to hang around.  This is picture of a very small woman in a black suit covered with reflective balls.  The balls are tracked by 24 cameras around the room (you can see them around the room) and her motion is overlaid on a warped little teddy bear.  This is for the final project of one of the more advanced classes, Teddy Scares


This is the teddy bear she was animating.  I know these two are hard to see.  I only had my cell phone with me to take the pictures.  What I found funniest about this was watching the teddy bear, Toasty, taking instructions from the director.  He tracked the actress even when she wasn’t acting.  She really got into the role.  She was skipping, singing, dancing and yelling.  Even though she had no idea what the bear would be saying, she still managed to act out what he was supposed to do.  Sometimes, the things she said were hilarious, as she tried to find things that appropriately matched the action she was performing ("You wish you had a toaster so you could have this much fun!").

So, while I have no photorealistic images to show you today, we’ve been doing an awful lot and having loads of fun in the process.  See you tomorrow!

Lynda, Howie, and Steven are here!
Steven (age 7) got us tonight with one of those "out of the mouths of babes" comments.  The conversation went kind of like this:
Steven:  Mom! I just saw my friend from home!
Lynda:  I don’t think so, Steven.  We’re quite a way from there.
(Lynda checks to see if it’s him… and it is!  All the way from Long Island!)
Steven:  Mom, why didn’t you say "Hello" to his mom?
Lynda:  I don’t even know his mom.
Steven:  I’m sure he’s got one… somewhere.
The boys are having such a great time together.  All four are finally asleep.  Tomorrow, we hit Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  It’s going to be a long, tiring day, but one I’m sure will be full of great times!
Who’s gonna get the quote of the day this time around???
Steven and Howie in front of the San Francisco matte painting.
Steven, Lynda, and Howie (not under the influence!) at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular