Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Autodesk, your success needs to be messed with.

Okay.  I just want to make something clear.  I do like AutoCAD.  Once you learn a few basic conventions, it becomes easier to use.  Not only that, the help system is incredibly well-written...hover your mouse over the command, hit F1, it gives you the instructions in a clear, concise manner.

The same can't be said of most of the other items in my design suite.  I mean 3dsMax works well to convert across file formats so I can move a wireframe between applications, and it's great at optimizing meshes...but when I want to do more advanced things like adjust the position of a vertex or edge, I'm lost.  The basic interface is so radically different from the core technology in AutoCAD that I have no idea where to go.

Mudbox is a bit more intuitive, and with a Wacom tablet, I can do sculpting operations and produce more organic shapes.  However...Mudbox doesn't like solids or surfaces when I port them in from AutoCAD.  The program does what I want but I can't use the result, or it butchers a wireframe beyond recognition simply because it's not a mesh.

Alias?  What the hell do I use that for?!  It looks so much like 3dsMax, but I don't know where the strengths of one vs. the other lie.

Once I'm outside of AutoCAD, hitting F1 does me absolutely no good.  I get no useful information.  Every program in the kit is Autodesk's stuff...WHY IS THERE NO CONSISTENCY, PEOPLE?!

Okay...first, you need to redesign the interfaces of these other programs in the suite and patch the 2012 products on up.  And don't give me that BS about "buy the upgrade." I have 2013.  I can't afford an upgrade, and my school only offers AutoCAD...not 3DS max, or Alias, or Inventor.  The interface is the part that's the problem.  And I know from learning AutoCAD that the program's front end can be tweaked to the nth degree.  Even AutoCAD has an "AutoCAD Classic" setting.  And it even still has the command line.

I mean for crying out loud, Autodesk.  You've got some solid products, but most of the stuff on this highly expensive flash drive seems so foreign, the interface disparities are absolutely insane.  I have no common point of reference between products.

Seriously, get it together.  You can do some great stuff, but I don't know how to use most of it simply because the interface is completely different across products.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kane's Mind's First Fanart and a long overdue fan salute

First, I got a comment in my YouTube inbox stating that I'd got a fanart.  This comes from Strassa:

Well, I was going for a callback to episode 1 with Kane's comments in the dropship.

There were going to be a couple of movies linked here from FunnyMahem, except I can't find 'em anymore...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wonder WHAT?

Some of my brony-related searches for humor information, mostly relating to copyright issues vis a vis fan parodies (YouTube's copyright protection software is somewhat trigger happy, even if Hasbro and/or the studios and cast have no issues with parodies that duly cite sources), led me to find something on YouTube...botched voice castings and translations for roles...sometimes giving male voices to female voice actors, or producing a translation that is often way too literal.  A Swedish translation of the name of Rainbow Dash's favorite flight demonstration group (the "Wonderbolts") led to the word "Underskruvarna..." which translates to "Wonderscrews."

An artist on DeviantArt "derped" the character of Soarin, and created a new cutie mark for him based on the Swedish translation.  Links follow:

Soarin the Wonderscrew
Wonderscrews source video

Well at least they were in the right section of the hardware store!  I mean if they missed the aisle, we could have had "Wonderkeys," "Wonderplanks," or "Wondersaws!"

Don't even get me started on "Wondernuts."

I'd tried running "Wonderbolts" through digital translators...most of the time you have to break up the words "wonder" and "bolt" (the software treats "wonderbolts" as untranslatable or a proper noun), but sometimes they turn out amusing results.  I used iTranslate, which tends to yield a lot of accuracy with Spanish, but like any digital system, it's only as good as the programming. 

Most of the time you end up with something that makes some sense (e.g., back and forth with romance languages like French or Spanish yields "Bolts of Wonder"), and some even produce near accurate translations (e.g. Hindi yields "Wonder bolt") but in some languages...

So, these all use "Wonder Bolts" as the input string, which is translated into a language, and then translated back into English.  The results are entered here verbatim, with my notes in parentheses.  Punctuation marks which appear are straight out of the result.  Results which return to the original string or a close approximation (i.e., "Wonder Bolt(s)" or "Bolt(s) of Wonder") are omitted.

Arabic: Nails Wonder  (Captain Spitfire opens a pedicure salon in the Middle East?  Well if it helps the peace talks...)

Belarussian: Interestingly, Balta  (Um...what about Balta?)

Bengali: Bolts surprise (A dessert for the iron deficient?  Pinkie Pie must be desperate for ideas...)

Bulgarian: No wonder the bolts

Catalan: It's no wonder the screws

Chinese: No wonder bolt (Great, they've restricted their airspace.  Someone tell Celestia.  And tell Spitfire the demo's cancelled.)

Czech: The miracle of screws  (The carpentry version of the birds and the bees?  "You see, when a screwdriver loves a two-by-four very very much...)

Danish: Weird bolts  (Sung by Oingo Boingo.)

Estonian: Interestingly, the bolts (Yes, what about the bolts?  Are you going to finish that sentence?)

Finnish, Russian: The miracle of bolts (Same as Czech, but with auto mechanics.  "You see, when a socket wrench loves an oil sump very very much...")

Georgian: Interestingly, bolts (Is it just me, or is Eastern Europe and the Russian Commonwealth getting cut off a lot in translation?)

German: Miracle Screws (Sounds something the late Billy Mays would sell.)

Greek, Latvian: Wonder Screws ('Nuff said.)

Hatian Creole: Is Vice (Yes, is very very vice.  Amazivgy vice, in fact.)

Hebrew: This Screws (Wow.  Creative.  I'd have thought "This Blows" and "This Sucks" would be enough.)

Hungarian: Wonder, screws (and sodium benzoate as a preservative)

Japanese: What bolt?  (Either they lost 'em, or they're preoccupied by Spikezilla.)

Kannada: Bolt wonder

Korean: The Wonder Vault  (So that's where Kim Jong-un keeps his MLP:FIM downloads...)

Latin: Wonder and bolts  (Name for a pegasus death metal band?)

Lithuanian: Interestingly Bolts

Macedonian: I Wonder Bolts (Philosophical, an Apple product, or a parody of an Issac Asimov novel?)

Norwegian, Swahili: Strange bolts (Yes, they sure are...)

Polish: Interestingly, Screws (...there goes the connection again.  They really need better internet among their mechanics.)

Portugese: Screws of wonder (Didn't they make an NC-17 rated version of Teddy Ruxpin?)

Romanian: Ask bolts (I think Japan needs to.  They still don't know Soarin is lost on the subway.)

Slovak, Slovenian: I wonder screws (The NC-17 version of Macedonia's attempt on the franchise.)

Swedish: Wonder Bolts (Seriously?!  iTranslate gets it right when an educated human can't?  I'm beginning to think Ikea had a hand in this...)

Tamil: Bolt unknown (Well that's why you have people at the hardware store who know these things.)

Thai: Bolts(Period.  End of discussion.)

Turkish: I wonder if the bolt (What?  You wonder if the bolt what?  Struck?  Loosened?)

Ukranian: Surprisingly, the bolts (You know what?  Forget it, we'll try again when Discord stops messing with the connection.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Digital Art, Screenshot, or clueless with the software?

Once upon a time I started with pencil and paper.  My best efforts are in my gallery, but I moved into the digital realm...

First, I have an undo function.

Second, I can save what I do and re-use it at my own discretion (it is, after all, stuff I produced, even a copy of my own material slightly altered).

Humans as primates are tool-users.  What the old and new artists all need to realize is that the computer is a machine, it is a tool.  A paintbrush is a simple machine: a lever.  At its end is a brush, nib, swab, spray, or other device executing material dynamics upon a frictional surface to result in a line, a penstroke, a pencil line...

The computer is another kind of art studio.  It can do whatever you want.  It cannot create art on its own.  The artist must impose a vision.

3D art has become easier thanks to Poser, Daz Studio, and Adobe Photoshop Extended.  The problem is...how do we interpret art?

In truth, there is a great deal of 3D art on DA.  Many people have produced quality images, although with many I have some technical issues...however, they're minor.  But there's also more material that debases 3D art as a medium...mainly because too many people think all you need to do is throw a model together, push a button, and you have instant art without effort.


Daz3D for example, in the Daz Studio 4.5 pro system (geez, you can get this for free) provides the basic Genesis model.  This is a universally morphable model that can produce male and female forms of varying types.  Additional non-human forms require add-ons...this system produces humanoid models.  However, if you buy the Genesis Evolution head and body morphs (yeah, buy...come on, it's like buying a paintbrush set or an easel...or a neverending tube of a particular paint color), you can fine-tune a head to a particular facial structure.  If you dig into the software, learn more of the ins and outs, you can even go beyond that.


When I created my fan-art of Tavis Harts for :icontavisharts:, I had to look at a lot of drawn artwork and figure out how to translate it into a three-dimensional life-like model, or a stylized simulacrum.  I'd had some old stuff kicking around and used a GenX emulator to make it work with the Genesis system.  The head is the hardest part, as it carries a great deal of the fine detail that makes a character unique.

When I created my "Awakened Worlds" images, I didn't have the surface maps or shaders (basically, these are render system add-ons that tell the computer to make the image look like something else, working pixel by pixel...you can make something more realistic or more cartoony, whatever you tell the shader to do) I needed...so I rendered as realistically as possible, and worked everything together with Photoshop.

If art was as simple as throwing it together and pushing a button, then Michaelangelo could have just thrown a few globs of clay together carelessly and called it "David."  But part of art is imposing your will on the medium and seeing what happens, even with a few mistakes along the way...sometimes those mistakes can produce inspiration.  (The chocolate chip cookie, for example, originated as an accident...and became a popular treat.)

It's impossible for me to create an editorial that explains the whole of 3D art...I barely know the terminology myself, but I grew up with rendering systems, playing around with computers since I was very young and learning the ins and outs of graphics since high school.  I had to play around with the system, make ludicrous paintings and butcher pictures before I got the hang of it.  Even when people said I had an eye for photography, it didn't make me an expert at creating a picture from scratch.

3D art is part painting and part photography.  You create the environment, but you need to know how to create it.  I can't explain everything, but I can demystify some things.

First, just like in basic physics...you need to find your axes.  The computer should give you a clue as to where up/down, forwards/backwards, and left/right are.  The concepts of X, Y, and Z vary from program to program...but they are consistent.  X is one way, Y is another, and Z is another throughout the software.  Don't strain your brain on this, it's part of getting the feel of the program.

Second...terminology.  It might be a pain, and it might seem like I'm insulting your intelligence, but a few terms can help out a lot.  Some of these terms are quite universal, but sometimes you have to re-orient yourself to a program...once upon a time, I worked with "lathing" in Strata StudioPro.  When I began learning AutoCAD, I couldn't find a "lathe" command, it was hidden as REVOLVE.

Model: A model is a 3D representation of a physical form, anything from a primitive (like a ball or cube) to a complex humanoid form and beyond.  The term can refer to an item in a 3D construct, or to the construct as a whole.

Solid: A 3D model that defines a physical shape.

Primitive: the simplest kind of model represented by simple mathematical geometry.  These can range from 2D models (squares, triangles, circles, ellipses, polygons) to 3d models (pyramids, cubes, spheres, cones, toruses).

Extrusion or sweep: this is what happens when you take a flat shape and extend it along a path.  Extrusions usually refer to shapes extended along a straight line, while sweeps (extrude along path) can follow any line up to the limits of the software.  A square can extrude to a cube or rectangular prism, for example, or a circle can extrude to a cylinder.

Solid of revolution or lathing: If you've ever seen a tradtional-style wooden chair leg, you might notice it's decorative bumps and grooves that run about its circumfrence.  That is because the leg started out as a wooden cylinder that was placed upon a lathe...simply put, a machine which spun the rod about its axis while the machinist applied tools to it.  The rotation against the tool carved it into shape.  In a 3D rendering program, you create a line in the shape of the profile of the item you want...maybe a vase, a table leg, or a piston, and define an axis about which that line rotates to produce that shape.  A simple example...if I take a circle, draw the axis through its center, and tell the computer "revolve it 360 degrees," I get a sphere.  If I take the same circle, place the axis outside of it, and tell the computer the same thing, I get a torus (donut).

Wireframe: This is the network of line segments (edges) and intersections (each one is a vertex, plural vertices) that defines a model.  A wireframe can be manipulated through:
-Edges: these are the individual "wires" making up the wireframe.
-Vertices: the points at which edges converge.
-Faces: Each closed polygon enclosed by edges.

Mesh: Some computer programs split hairs between meshes and solids...they may call a pure solid something that's immutable, but a mesh (in my opinion, a solid with an accessible wireframe) reshapable (3dsmax and AutoCAD do this, but usually they can inter-convert).  Meshes allow you to fine-tune and tweak an object.  Adding edges and vertices allow more fine shaping, but the more stuff there is, the more complex the object.

The model can only be made so detailed before it generates errors in the software or becomes so elaborate that the computer runs out of memory or processing power trying to maintain changes.  Textures not only paint the surface, but they also generate fine details by giving instructions to the graphics processor.  If you've played Halo...ever noticed how Master Chief's MJOLNIR suit is so highly detailed yet he can move so smoothly?  The details aren't in the model (which has to update every frame so he can move), but in the texture mapping.  This makes the details a function of the GPU (painting the stuff on screen) freeing the CPU up for physics and scripts.

Diffuse maps: this is the image itself that is applied over the surface of an object.  It's basically the paint on the skin of your figure.

The following maps, though, are a little trickier to understand.  They are (almost) all in grayscale.  Think of it as a scale represented by black (0%) to white (100%) where each gray shaded pixel represents how much effect is applied.  (Beware: sometimes the software scales black at 100% and white at 0%, so it takes some practice.)

Displacement: This is a fine-tuning factor where more displacement pushes the surface outward further.  The graphics system will render fine three-dimensional details on a surface, treating them as actual physical mini-structures.

Bump: This creates the image of three-dimensionality on a surface...it's great to bring details in while saving render time.

Luminosity: In 2d artwork, it indicates how bright the pixels are (as in, I have a mixture of R, G, and B, but I need a brightness factor to make a color).  In 3d artwork, this is a more potent factor...any luminosity above zero means the region generates light, that is, it becomes a light source.

Specularity: All things reflect light, that's how we see things in the first place.  But...extra light produces "shininess."  Specularity is how the computer knows how shiny something is.  Think of a car...it's been on the road, it has a thin coat of dust, it's matte.  Now have it washed and detailed...the car looks the same, but it has shine in most parts.  The specularity is increased on the paint, greatly increased on the chrome, but still low on functional parts like the windshield wipers.

Gloss: More of a global factor in Daz Studio, gloss tells the computer how much light to reflect physically.  100% gloss is practically a mirror (although the computer is not going to create a mirror unless you have a generic object with 100% gloss in the model).

For dragon scales, the diffuse map is the scale picture...the displacement map is a black and white gradient on each scale (yeah, it's a lot of work, but this will make a more realistic map), with the bump map filling in the details.  The specularity map will tell the computer where each scale is more shiny and where each scale is more dull.

The following examples come from my DeviantArt account here.

These images combine photographed environments and 3D rendered elements in a composite.