Thursday, June 18, 2015

Off Sim Backlighting Creates Depth and Detail Interest

 Today's 6/18/2015 Did You Know That? you can add back lights to your Off Sim scenery to provide more depth?

As with everything we can do in Open Sim (liberal prim allowances and economical land masses), there is a tendency to overdo.  Today I've decided not to add any more objects into my westerly Off Sim view.  if there continues to be a need for more layering after I add views (that use some repetitive objects from the westerly view), I will then add details into those views. 

Adding water wave details, a lone bird that flies no higher than the horizon and depth allows, a narrowing walkway (that no one will be able to follow, but should be there anyway), and some additional effects like a timed setting sun, changed the windlight again.  The solution was set the sky for a darker hour, and change the color horizon color settings.
Color Change Back Lighting Example
 Depending on your windlight color, you can add a backlight into the Off Sim horizon.  Color change scripts will add an additional interest option.

Subtle Bar Light on Horizon
Providing a subtle backlight (bar of light) on the horizon will throw off enough light to illuminate the farthest away hills, and increase the color tension between the horizon and the sky.

Receding pathways and water details are often used by artists to increase a sense of depth and mystery about what exists beyond?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mixing, Blending, Whittling & Clarifying

View From Overlook
Today's 6/16/2015 Did You Know That? there is an older video about using cycle nodes that is very easy to follow, but difficult to see clearly.  So I wrote up a node follow along to go with your view.  The narrator's voice is clear enough to make sense of the film, if you know what node options he is making.  So here is the follow along outline.  Coming soon a blender file (stored in the Waymarker to accompany the outline).
In between finding this video I stored away awhile back and viewing it again, I managed to work on my off sim lighting experiment.  So far, so good.  I am still enjoying the process, and it is working to bring depth to my one region build.
Here are today's results - photos still facing the west from an overlook and the beach.  The objective is use mountain shapes repetitively (but not boringly) with textures that blend into the sunlight, water color changes and the horizon.

Reminder:  Once the off sim set up is set down by the storybuilder, visitors cannot "pull back the curtain, or head out into those seas.  They can pan about, but their views continued to be fixed views.

View from the Craggy Beach

Details Closer Up

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Hudson Valley River" Lighting (Off Sim) Experiment Continues...

Today's 6/15/2015 Did You Know That? it takes a good while to build off sim while considering  painterly perspective?  The baking for each hill, mountain or flat took most of the afternoon.  Then there were color choices that would blend with the horizon in some places and allow for highlights in others.  What I ended up with at the close of the days is Progress so far @ building in perspective to 3d world.  The challenge continues without resorting to gray or sepia (at least for now).
Yes, it would be less challenging, if we could use voxels, but I grew weary waiting around, so this experiment came about anyway.   Distance, depth, and horizon issues come with freedom to wander and views from all 4 sides - building a story in the round. Voxels would be of no help for these problems. Neither will routinely building in boxes (inside structures, behind walls).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Storybuilding Walkabout Paths with "Hudson Valley River" Lights

Today's 6/13/2015 Did You Know That? is about where to place the objects we make with Blender or any other mesh/prims in our worlds, and how to set  up lighting conditions (within **limitations of Open Sim/Viewer rules) that spotlight our hard work within the story.

**1) one prim's light reflects off another object's surface, 2) a beam can be intentionally built to direct a separate light source (particles) over another object,  3) light glow yields apx results, 4) windlights are only reasonably effective, 5) every glow, emission, bump, texture added or directionally changed affects interior and exterior lighting, 6) interior lighting is affected by moon/sky and challenging to accommodate, 7) worlds have any number of horizons to consider  - is the center of a world the front of the world, since the gateway is not?

Without getting too technical I wanted to discuss the issue of lighting Open Sim Worlds.  Yes, we have windlights, yes we have "bulbs," we have a sun/moon day/night cycle and we have a few lighting options, if our graphics cards will tolerate their use & avoiding the annoying flicker. 
What we don't have is a flat canvas to paint, or even a rendered game, where we can force our visitors to walk down one path, through one gate, or focus on our points of view.  What we do have is a lateral build challenge to set a mood and immerse.  It is a challenge that many are not willing to take.  These naysayers continue to tell me it can't be done.  Why don't I give this nonsense of trying storybuild up and retreat to the game engine where I have more control over my storyline and the progress of the user.

Nope, I won't give up.  Not yet anyway.  I want to continue to explore ways that we could use lighting know how to better illustrate our worlds.  Now that we are building with mesh, and surfacing lighting into our mesh, how can we best use that mesh in world to tell our tales?

The first phase is comparing.  Since the outset of my storybuild, Midtown Arts Museum, a central hub to all my other storybuilds mostly finished or discarded, I've been talking about the Hudson River.  I've seen it several times while in NYC, rode across it on a few ferries, and finally seen drove over it, while visiting the Hudson River Valley.  I didn't decide to write about the river, because I knew the history of the river, although it does interest me.  I decided to include it in my storybuild, because my mother loved the artists who painted in that style.  Not photo realism that becomes a one canvas story.  And that is how I think of worlds with a lot of extra bells and whistles added to the soup.

Over the next few days I will be working on my little in world light table, along with my 16 region Brantley build that did not grow out of a "lighting plan" like I wanted to use.  That build started as a one region, then 4 region and finally 16 region build that will need some revision work for awhile.  It is still going to officially open on July 1, 2015, but I admit the off sim hills and dales not only need some resurfacing work, but some lighting adjustments too.

While I am working on those scenes, and another a scene dedicated to my own lesson one region lesson in Vickery's "fantastic believability," I will share what happens here - not to inform - instead to start a discussion about what we could do about off sim perspective, horizon lines that circle our illustrations, fake lights and bringing focus to our stories.  Lighting is as important to me as pathways into a story.  In fact I will follow the light before I watch where my feet will go.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Putting My Lightbox to Work & Personalizing Assets

Luggage Surface Comparison
Today's 6/11/2015 Did You Know That? you can use a Blender lightbox stage repeatedly to tweak various lighting bakes for inworld or storybuild objects?

Not too much to say about (talked about how to set up the lightbox in the last two posts, but I wanted to display the difference inworld between my 3 storybuild asset trunks.  My objective was to take the clean trunk and make it look like it was dragged through a few dozen wormholes and time travel stations.  If I were to do this again (likely) I would work with the hemi lights a bit more.  I wanted the trunk to look dusty, but it got a bit too dusty when I turned off the overhead light. But overall it worked like I expected it would.  The top of the trunk is light enough to show out the security lock, a detail important to my story.  And the decals (stencils)  were easy to apply to the map during the last texture paint phase.
Luggage Decals Added

By the way, using stencils is a brush pressure sensitivity task. 
Right Click Drag = Movement Up, Down, Left or Right
Right Click Shift = Scale stencil to size of face
Right Click Control = Rotate Stencil
Caution:  Be careful about using (label) stencils  - copyright issues may preclude you from using same, but if you write your own story, and create your own applicable stencils, you will have no worries.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Alternative Light Stage Set Up for Viewing Blender Mesh

Today's (6/10/2015) Did You Know That" you can bake textures into your **light box scene," that was started yesterday, so that you can see your lighted model through the materials option instead of render? 

Part II of my "finding a light @ the end of my workflow" journey continues.  Today I finished up my lightbox stage that I actually plan to simulate (somehow) @ the Waymarker 88221 (school for storybuilders). 

The stage is now set to light my models to be seen through the real time material look option.  Now I should be able to see what I am doing without resorting to the longer time taking render.  It makes the process more intuitive for me.  I don't nod off during the render.  In other instances, I don't mind using render for lighting, but I want to bake textures into my model, so it takes less time to render in world (in theory).

Building the set also confirmed what I knew about baking onto the stage floor and my replaceable model.  It was good practice.  Since I am adding the blender file to the Waymarker Community drive file, participants will be able to pick it up and replace the texture that is now glued/baked to the floor, and/or replace the object that is sitting on the display floor.  All the nodes are there and hooked up.  It does take some time to bake the texture to object's material, so I am not sure this 3rd stage set up will be useful for everyone.  I do think its an advantage to see how baking works, and in particular how we can bake/save lighting effects  into our surfaces without the use of additional tool. 

**Reference Andrew Price original informative video here for additional perspective

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Did You Know That? In Cycles Render You can Create Quite an Elborate Rendering Preview Stage to Use Over & Over

Today's, 6/9/2015 Did You Know That? Question is about creating your own "last process" cycles rending stage, so that you save time when you check out your specularity and bumps.
I got **tired of setting up my cycles rendering with lamps, so I created a quick change stage.  By using or not using, replacing backgrounds and camera lighting through the nodes, I can set up my rendering view port window in a few minutes, depending on how many adjustments I want to make to my world environmental options. 

In these slides you will see the difference between using the 3 kinds of stages I use all the time.  Of course the first stage uses less resources and rendering time is minimal.  The complex scene is slower to rend and seems to use more resources, but that could be me tapping my fingers while it takes several seconds rather than the one second it takes the normal use stage to render. 

So I usually add my household objects (the ones that are not going to be master works of art <she says with a silly grin>, and for more often seen models I use the complex stage with all the bells and whistles.  At this point I am not sure why?  Because when I take the model into my open sim, windlight world, my model's nuanced color will look different anyhow.  Nevertheless, I keep whittling away at the learning curve, and somehow it makes sense to plug in every bump and shine regardless of whether anyone sees a 1M storybuilding asset.

**Note:  I've noticed often that linear folks (one pleasant step after the other) will create a stage like the ones discussed here from the outset.  Me being a lateral person rarely thinks of doing these systematic operations until I am weary from starting over again and again, or until I know every other which away reason for doing something.   Family members refer to my malady as bullheadedness.  I like to think otherwise of course.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Today's (4/4/2015) Did You Know That? is about the Texture Paint Addon Zero Brush

Did You Know That? there is a low cost alternative to purchasing pricey texture paint addons.  And the addon is a Blender Cycles addon, so there is not an additional learning curve to leap.  For the next three days (give or take a day or two) I will be working with my new tool/toy, so this is a first of 3 part question and answer, but I wanted to slap some photos up here, so you could see how the addon works in real time.

Disclaimer:  I am not selling this product, no investment or interest in it (only in that it works to make my painting life more intuitive, immersive and less fussy).   This is a tutorial review.

While it doesn't entirely replace nodes (it sort of builds them for you in the background), it is a time saving tool that takes you places within texture paint navigation, adds some buttons you didn't have (or know you had), and conserves resources for what's important.  All for $29.99 or thereabouts.  The other "coating" applications are too messy in my opinion and too expensive for my pocket book.  This will do fine, and so far its doing very fine to get rid of my modeling scratches, particularly around the bevel areas and in the corners when I exceed my extrusion limit.  I do that a lot.  I love extruding.

So here are some initial photos (working backwards). I will be back with a more in depth tutorial like review within the next few days, and of course a photo of my finished Sholes and Glidden Typing Machine, circa 1870  or thereabouts.

(5 of 5) result so far, the uv texture surface is much better, bake on to the object and is ready for the next step - to have the decals and detailed paint added on to the surface.

(4 of 5) looks a bit more dramatic than it was, but uv issues (stretched vertices) caused scratches around bevels and in corners where holes were cut into extruded parts of the one piece model.

(3 of 5) In Blender the ground color (steampunk metal) was layered (multiply) into the ambient occlusion to create a new blended map, a process I formerly needed to do (earlier updates) in another image editor (GIMP).

 (2 of 5) One button ambient occlusion was baked immediately after opening the model I made the day before.  It took less resources than I usual, and I didn't have to generate a blank image to "print" the ao over.

(1 of 5) the typing machine model I made the day before, one piece extruded and unwrapped model.  My only editing involved the packing of textures after I unwrapped the marked seamed uv.  I then added a few loop cuts around the holes I made through some faces.