Thursday, February 28, 2008

The sustainable graphics toolchain


Every day I'm a bit more overwhelmed at the abundance of graphics tools that are waiting to line up and take their place in my graphics toolchain. I now have more graphics software installed on my computers than I believe I ever had, and every single title has some unique purpose.

The most exciting part of this is the fact that I get to choose the tools I use - that's one of the advantages to owning a business.

I decided early on that I wanted to use sustainable, open source software for my business, whenever possible. First, many of my clients are very sustainability-minded and they know the danger of using "proprietary," "temporary," and "short-term" solutions. Using sustainable software makes sense to them - I like how they think. Second, why would anybody running a business tie himself to proprietary software, unless it was absolutely unavoidable? I'm lucky enough to be able to use sustainable software most of the time without running into trouble. When the city I live in commissioned the 3D model you see above (the example you see has had a complete texture overhaul, but the model's the same), did they know it was made with sustainable software? No. Do they care? Doubt it. But I am happy that there's no license that will ever lapse and lock up that artwork on my hard drive, keeping me from improving on it. There's no chance that the software developer will abandon the software that made the artwork, keeping it locked up, out of distribution, and unsupported.

My final reason for being picky about the software is the most fun: I get to be as involved as I like in the software development process. Looking at the image above, there is one HUGE feature used in its creation that I had suggested to the software developer. He implemented the feature, I created the artwork, and now I feel really glad I got involved in the software development process (as small as my role may be). I've even had people send me re-compiled, upgraded versions of the software when they noticed I asked for a specific feature that I couldn't do without on a big project. Impossible to do with proprietary software.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time for a Story


There is a small island off the west coast of the United States that has an interesting past. The island was grown synthetically as a result of a Department of Defence research project that started in 1962. Parts of the island are apparently still growing in beautiful fractal patterns beneath the surface. You could put on some diving tanks and check it out for yourself, if anyone knew where the island was located. The island has been scrubbed from satellite photography as well as geographical charts and maps, and a sensor suite warns approaching ships away by radio long before they come within sight of it.

In October 2003, a survey group from a coastal survey ship, riding in a small boat with no radio, landed on the island to have a look around. Three of the four men on the boat just...disappeared. Nobody's sure what happened to them. The fourth man, the junior of the group, survived, having returned to his ship alone and quite frightened. He left his surveying position in 2004 and has written about his experiences from time to time.

I have access to this survivor's journal, and a particular sketch of his has intrigued me ever since I first saw it. I knew I had to recreate the horrible mood in 3D as soon as I saw the sketch.

OK, not really. In fact, there is no island. But I do like the way this image turned out - it does tell a story.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Metal Caustics


One day I went to a nice department store and I found myself looking at the really nice effect created by little lamps in different locations around the store. One of those effects was a caustic that was created by the light hitting the inside of the metal casing and bouncing off, creating a pretty effect on nearby walls. I realized I had never tried this before in 3D so I went home and ended up with this result. The renderer was fairly picky about the circumstances under which it was going to create this look, but with some trial and error it turned out just as I wanted it to.

While the effect is pretty expensive, requiring a lot of processing time to create, it's fun to play around with.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm tired already

Tons of work ahead today...todos coming in from all over...

Update: Actually it went really well, although I got hyper-focused and I went for about 7 hours at one point without taking any breaks. I noticed I didn't drink any water or nibble on anything during that time. Yikes.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The demoscene just keeps giving and giving

It seems like every time I stumble across a musician I really like, they turn out to be an ex-tracker. I used to wonder where it was all going to lead, all this stuff in MOD and XM format, sounding great but so annoying to copy to a cassette tape for walkman use :)

Subliminal Doodling

Back when I thought my Art of Illusion habit was going put me into an addiction treatment center. :-)
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Ball Chair in 3D

The ball chair with fun-to-play-with little emissive globes.
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3D Float plane over clouds

Clouds test. Turned out a lot better than I originally thought (I was mad because the shadow on the clouds was nowhere to be found, but it was just a refinement problem).

The secret to getting a nice chrome effect is creating the proper environment to reflect; it's not enough just to say, "ok, texture, you're going to be reflective." When chrome (or any really shiny surface) doesn't have anything pretty to reflect, it doesn't really give what the mind recognizes as the chrome effect.

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Splash Screen for Freemind Software

An old (2004?) Freemind splash mockup. First use of 3D for a splash, and a lot of fun to make those rocks.
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Discovery One

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"Greeble" Modeled in 3D

Ahhh, greeble. Every 3D modeler should make at least one greeble scene. I noticed that some contrast between non-greebled objects and greebled objects should be present for an extra little eye-catching effect.

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Glass Textures

Glass textures meant to be used without materials for the most part. I was pretty surprised at the outcome - a lot of these have become very versatile and will stay in my collection permanently.
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Red Mars with water

An older 3D render of Mars in semi-terraformed state. I'll probably still use this in a still composition at some point.

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