Oct 2, 2009

Mid Autumn a.k.a Mooncake Festival greetings

Another greeting email that I have just sent off to the clients and vendors.

Surface details are implemented via displacement maps at rendertime. That's why you can't see them in this wireframe screenie.

Started out as a simple experiment to see if I can do a realistic mooncake. Then I thought what the hell. Fired up a render, did a bit of photoshopping, and sent it out.

Sep 30, 2009

CGW - Siggraph videos

Did not manage to attend Siggraph at New Orleans this year?

Neither did I.

Fret not, Computer Graphics World put up a nifty collection of videos from the event, including presentations from ILM, Digital Domain and Autodesk, just to name a few.

Not to be missed by any CG geek!

Sep 28, 2009

Papercraft rapid prototyping

Ever wanted to hold your 3D creations in your hands? There is rapid prototyping aka 3D printing which has became more affordable over the years. But if you still can't muster up the cash for those services (let alone buy one of those machines which costs at least $ 30,000 USD a piece for the lower end ones), you can always turn to papercraft, which only requires a printer, mastery in 3D modeling and paper-folding.

First, make a model in your favourite 3D program. There are certain rules to follow when modeling for paper. As each polygons represent a folded surface, you want to avoid tiny polygons unless you have tiny fingers to fold them. This depends greatly on you intended size for the final product.

3D model created in Lightwave in 15 minutes.

After you are satisfied with your 3D model, load up Pepakura, a software that unfolds your 3D models and lays them out in templates for printing. If you are new to Pepakura, chances are that you will have to go back to your 3D model several times to fix stuffs that isn't working. In Pepakura, you can define the output size, how the model should be cut and the size / shape of the flaps (small surface extensions that is used to glue the separate surfaces together). Pretty straightforward, really.

Three A4 size pages generated by Pepakura.

Once you have the template generated, all that's left to do is to print them out and cut out the shapes. The tedious part (or fun, depending on how bored you are that particular day) is folding and gluing the shapes into it's 3D parts.

The final product is about 15 cm tall. Some parts looked "sorry" because the surfaces where tiny and difficult to fold, and we used cellophone tapes instead of glue to put it together. Notice the lack of the bell on his collar and his missing tail.

Phoebe, god bless her incredibly patient soul, took care of most of the physical work after the printing. This paper Doraemon now stands proudly on my desk.

For more impressive feats of papercraft using Pepakura, follow this link (literally).

Sep 16, 2009

Quality journalism?

It's a sad day in journalism (even for tabloids) when news like "Gosselin changes her hair" makes the front page.

Is there nothing else happening in the world worth writing about more than a moron changing her hair?

What's next? "Kim Kardashian...umm...breaths??"

Sep 15, 2009

The planet is round

Was trying out some NPR (Non-PhotoRealistic) methods to render planets. Lightwave3D ships with several cel shaders, though I usually work with Super Cel Shader and BESM (BigEyesSmallMouth). Despite their respective limitations, they produce some pretty good results with minimal tweaking.

BESM gives you more control, but doesn't play well with textures (in fact, it totally ignores it) while Super Cel Shader has less controls and does not render edges.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can even fiddle with the node system to get you own custom cel shader, though I have little success in that aspect.

Other than the big honking watermark in the middle, the map of the planet was created entirely from procedural textures. The node system is a monster to learn, but it is already established that the degree of freedom it offers is enormous compared to pre-node versions.

This is just the node view. In each of the color nodes are layer upon layers of procedural textures and mattes.

Because I was aiming for a NPR result, I can settle with less amount of surface details compared to photoreal textures. Using procedurals mean I won't have to worry about texture pixelation, though I won't imagine going too near to the surface as there is not much detail to keep the close-ups interesting.

Aug 21, 2009

All I want for Chrismas...

At long last, the first teaser trailer of James Cameron's Avatar is released on apple.com . For those not in the know, there has been a lot of anticipation for Cameron's upcoming masterpiece. Judging from the reaction of those lucky enough to attend a screening of a short clip some few weeks ago, for good reason too.

Inferring from the tidbits of information found on the Internet, and from the teaser trailer, the story is about a crippled soldier (Sam Worthington) who has his consciousness transferred to a blue alien being, or an avatar. As to why they did that I'm not sure, but like Titanic there is suppose to be an epic love story with another female alien amidst a war between the aliens and the humans.

The film was shot in 3D (As in stereoscopic), though I'm not sure I want to watch it with some thick, heavy polarized glasses after the less than pleasing experience with another 3D film.

Anyway, you can watch the trailer here, or just look at the screenshots below.

Spaceships and mechs, whats not to like?

Feeling a bit blue, are we?

cue snarling, angry alien

Just from the trailer, this must be the most emotionally convincing animated crying scene I have ever seen.

You jump, I jump?

Needless to say, I'll be looking forward to watch this on the big screen come this Chrismas.

Aug 18, 2009

Durian, durian

The Durian Project, another open movie project by the Blender Foundation, is now opened for pre-orders.

Considering the significant quality jump between their previous open movie projects: Elephants Dream (The Orange Project) and Big Buck Bunny (The Peach Project), I'll be eagerly following this new endeavor. Looks like this time around they will be going for a action-packed fantasy setting.

On a side note, Blender is shaping up to be a fantastic production tool.

On another side note, The working title is making me crave for durian.

Aug 17, 2009

Trees of life

Recently I came across a simple but cool little app called ngplant designer, an L-system implementation that is programmed specifically to generate 3D trees and plants.

The app is simple enough and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Just spend a few minutes with it and you'll be churning out trees in record time.

The resulting mesh can be exported as an OBJ file to be imported to the 3D app of your choice. The UVs are readily laid out so all you have to do is slap on the texture images with some minor tweaks to further tailor it to your heart's content. While it is perfectly capable of modeling leaves as well, it does slow down dramatically when you reach a certain level of branching, yet the leaves density is still not quite there yet. So I imported the mesh and used the branchs' vertices to clone cardboard leaves , duplicating to achieve the desired density.

The trees above took around 10 minutes each from ngplant to rendering in Lightwave3D, complete with textures and leaves

Jul 29, 2009

Transformers RTS?

After watching a trailer about a new Mechwarrior game in the making, I got my hands on MechCommander 2 (Which is free for download and legal, btw) to re-live the exhilaration of commanding those hulking mechs into battle.

While I was busy blowing shit up in the game, I thought about another robot-related franchise: Transformers. Then I thought: wouldn't it be awesome if somebody made a Transformers real-time strategy / tactical game.

Due to the limited numbers of characters in the franchise, I would imagine the gameplay to be similiar to MechCommander or even Warhammer 40K: Dawn Of War, for example:

  • Instead of mining resources, the player capture resources points to call in more allies or equipment.
  • No base-building. Installations, if any, shall be in the form of transformed robots that is mobile and capable of combat.
  • Limited number of units per mission. Like a squad-based strategy or tactical game.
  • Featuring battlefields in Cybertron as well as Earth, with differing priorities in the diverse environment for opposing forces.
  • Active units can salvage parts from destroyed units.
  • Diverse range of unit expertise, eg. Optimus Prime is excellent in melee fights, where as Ironhide is a long range expert etc. Skill points can be earned and distributed for each unit.
  • Functional combat roles for the units alternate modes. In fact, some objectives can't be achieved without using their alternate mode.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head. I hope some big shot game developer would stumble upon this post and decided that he would go ahead and make it. I wouldn't mind if he decides to share some profit with me too :P

Jul 26, 2009

Tron Legacy aka Tron 2 - Concept trailer

Tron, the movie that inspired a generation of visual effects and computer graphics artists, gets the sequel treatment.

Watch the trailer in youtube or HD quicktime here.

Can't wait!

Jul 25, 2009

Miniature renders - Homeworld

For no apparent reason, I was overcame by an urge to do some miniature renders. So, I dug up some Homeworld 2 game models which were extracted from the game and converted by Fabio from Foundation 3D, place some props in the scene and rendered away.

Hiigaran Interceptor

Hiigaran Scout

Vaygr Bomber

For the uninitiated, Homeworld 2 is a space based RTS game released in 2003. Despite it's age, their ship designs are still one of my favourites.

Jul 23, 2009

Cameron Highlands Trip - Part II

They second day on Cameron Highlands started with an extended stay in the hotel toilet as I attempted to purge my stomach.

The first stop was at the same Jungle trekking site from the previous day, known as Parit Falls. For reason that I could not fathom, Phoebe was determined to venture deeper into the jungle, hoping to find the highest spot on the mountain that was said to overlook the whole of the Highlands. Of course, we turned back when the trail became dark, which was a perfect excuse because my stomach started acting up again. After leaving the site, we ventured into Brinchang and "accidentally" arrived at the "Big Strawberry Farm" (Yes, thats the actual name)

Despite what the name says, the place also feature a hydroponic farm.

You can actually go in and pluck the strawberries yourself, but it will cost you more than twice the price of the pre-packed strawberries which were just as freshly plucked on the same day.

More random flower shots.

Tomatoes (top) and Grapes (bottom)

Cacti. This place almost have everything except, sadly, durian.

We returned briefly to the hotel to stash the Strawberries we bought in the hotel fridge, and went down to Tanah Rata Town to have Chichen rice.

We went further up towards Tringkap and visited the Boh Tea Plantation. The road there was even more winding and narrow, with a hill on one side and a tea plant-filled slope on the other. Most of the time the road was just wide enough for one vehicle, yet it is a two way road. Unfortunately, after negotiating the treacherous trip to the entrance of the plantation, we were denied entry, so we had to go back where we came from and snapped pictures on the way. Nonetheless the view was pretty breathtaking, with tea plants spanning several mountains; You have to see it for yourself because photographs alone don't do it justice.

We also stopped by a fruit market and where the Malay fruit vendors speak cantonese, mandarin, Malay and English with equal fluency.

We called it a day and returned to the hotel, spending dinner time in the room eating cup noodles and peanuts.

The next day, we started our journey back early and visited the Sam Poh Temple which we thought went out their way NOT to be found. After a brief stopover which almost led me into a monk's room when I was looking for the washroom, we bid Cameron Highlands goodbye and swore that I shall never drive here again.

Jul 22, 2009

Cameron Highlands Trip - Part I

Last Sunday Phoebe and I embarked on a long overdue vacation trip to Cameron Highlands. It was to be a 3 days 2 nights trip and we picked Cameron Highlands because Phoebe has never been there and I have been wanting to enjoy a hot steamboat meal there in the cold climate.

My dad was raised in Cameron Highlands, but when I did visit the place when I was a child, I spent most of the time around my Grandpa's place in Tringkap, which was nice and all but in retrospect it was probably boring as hell , I just didn't know it then.

Anyway, we started our trip from KL, drove all the way to Simpang Pulai, had a quick breakfast and continued our grueling trip up the mountainous roads to our hotel in Tanah Rata via Kampung Raja.

We passed by Tringkap, so I though I'd visit my Grandpa's house, which has been vacant since both my grandparents passed away.

Random flower shots on the way from Tringkap.

We arrived at the hotel around 11am, but we could only check in at 2pm. To pass the time, we travelled by foot through a broken trail from the hotel to a jungle trekking site. We didn't go in far, but just deep enough to get a shot of a small waterfall.

Another random shot along the trail.

After that we took our lunch in Tanah Rata town and returned to the hotel to check in.

We stayed at Century Pines hotel. The building looks like a cheap flat from the outside but the interior was a different story.

The room we stayed in was pretty spacious, almost too big for a two person room.

View from the balcony.

Of course, I won't be a CG geek without sampling some textures whenever I can.

Unfortunately, I spent the better half of the day bedridden with stomachache. I'm not sure whether it was the food I ate or simply because my body couldn't get used to the climate. Nonetheless I was adamant that we have steamboat for dinner, so after a couple of quick fixes (courtesy of ENO), we finally managed to achieve one of the main goals of coming here.

The steamboat was nothing special. But enjoying a steaming hot bowl of food in the chilly climate was really something.

After the meal we returned to the hotel and I concluded the day with another round of staomachache throughout the night.

More pictures in the next post.