Johnny’s Workshop

August 17, 2008

To the xStream!

Filed under: 3ds Max 9,Vue 6 xStream — april15th @ 6:53 am
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Although I’ll be using 3ds Max throughout the foreseeable future, lately I’ve been flirting with Vue 6 xStream and getting a feel for what it can do. So far, I’m impressed. Even the shit I rendered whilst working through my first set of Vue tutorials could be passed off as carefully-designed desktop wallpaper:

Click to enlarge:

Okay, maybe not the rocks … but each of those scenes required fewer than five minutes to set up and the rendering times were surprisingly fast. Everything’s a cinch with this new software.

May 27, 2008

Streetbattlefield Fighter 2

Filed under: 3ds Max 9,Battlefield 2 — april15th @ 1:13 pm
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I don’t know what useful and/or exciting things you, my fickle readers, did during the first two weeks of May but a good portion of my precious time was devoted to 3ds Max. The focus of my efforts? Learning how to import, reconstruct and texture some of the more complex models from Battlefield 2 (and its various mods).

After a week of rendering those models and experimenting with different types of lighting, I decided it’d be fun to make a little composition. Originally, the plan was to create an animated scene that I could upload to YouTube but within a few days I changed my mind and decided to do a single frame instead:

Streetfighter 2 and Battlefield 2

An animated version of the scene remains a possibility; it’s just that I’m still hopeless at rigging and preparing the soldiers for this scene would have required a lot more time and effort than I was willing to commit. An experienced animator probably could have done it in no time but I’m an amateur and burdened with other priorities. I still haven’t told my neighbour that I found her cat and that’s something I should have done weeks ago. I’ve also got half a dozen DVD rentals that are seriously overdue.

The idea to recreate Guile’s level from Street Fighter II appeared out of the blue. I knew the Allied Intent Xtended mod included a well put-together F16—modelled and textured by clivewil—and it was probably the availability of that model, more than anything else, that compelled me to try. Growing up, I was a big fan of Street Fighter II, so the prospect of recreating a familiar image and spending a few days reminiscing about my Godlike SFII skills held great appeal.

More importantly, creating the scene allowed me to get better at using textures, Bipeds and the Physique modifier, and required the careful posing of half a dozen 3D models of humans. I’d never tried that before and it seemed a fun way to learn the basics.

Except for the clouds (created in 3ds Max) and the HUD (added via Photoshop), everything in the scene was sourced from Battlefield 2. Well, everything except clivewil’s F16 which, as I’ve already mentioned, was from Allied Intent Xtended, one of the very best BF2 mods going around. Some of the models were tweaked ever-so-slightly because I wanted them to better resemble the objects featured in Guile’s scene. For the most part, though, they were left alone. Battlefield 2 offered the equivalent of virtually everything seen in the original SFII level, so it was just a matter of finding the right objects, importing them into 3ds Max, applying textures, then moving them into position.

3ds Max Scene

The only object that could have been more faithful to the original was the Supply Crate. In Street Fighter II, the corresponding object is a destructible wooden crate (a rarity in video games) and BF2 definitely had one that was suitable but I think the Supply Crate, for this version, has more novelty value.

The scene’s main source of light is a Skylight with its Multiplier set to 1.3, however there are also three Omni Lights; two within the hangars to prevent them from being pitch-black and one in the foreground to increase the overall brightness of the fighters and onlookers. Without the Omni lights, the lighting had a more consistent, realistic feel but video games from that era didn’t really strive for photorealism, so I had no qualms about brightening things up.

As hoped, it was a fun project and though I’m sure it could have been done better, I’m happy with the end result. Happy enough to move on, anyway.

Let me know what you think.

(Click to enlarge)

May 24, 2008

SMD Importer for 3ds Max 9

Filed under: 3ds Max 9,Tutorials — april15th @ 10:08 am
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Every so often, I like to examine the ‘Search Engine Terms’ listed amongst my Blog Stats to learn which keywords are bringing people here. I know from months of doing so that most visitors will leave within seconds, annoyed that this blog didn’t include the information they wanted. For example, I have not written, nor will I ever write, a tutorial on how to create cotton candy using 3ds Max. Sorry, that guy. Try modelling a funnelcake instead.

Not everyone will navigate away from here disappointed, though.

At least once a day, someone visits in hopes of finding an SMD Importer for 3ds Max 9. My tutorial for Importing Half-Life 2 models into 3ds Max included the associated keywords but at the time of writing that tutorial, I was not aware of the existence of a functional SMD Importer for any version of 3ds Max beyond 6/7/8.

Well, there IS an SMD Importer for 3ds Max 9.

In retrospect, I should have written this post the very moment I learned of the Importer’s existence but I figured people would find it with or without my help, so I never bothered. I do, however, suffer minor feelings of guilt every time something like ‘smd importer 3ds max 9’ appears in my list of Search Engine Terms, so I thought I’d write this post and amend my tutorial.

You can download the SMD Importer / Exporter for 3ds Max 9 from HERE and read about it HERE.

At last, “do a good deed” can be scratched from my list of goals for 2008.

I’ve tested the Importer using 3ds Max 9 and it does work as both an Importer and Exporter, so ignore anyone who insists it only functions as the latter. They’re either using a different version of 3ds Max or they haven’t installed the Importer according to the (fairly straightforward) instructions provided in the download’s SMDImporter-Readme.html file.

Look, here’s a test I did five minutes ago:

Doesn’t work as an Importer, huh? Well, explain that, professor … with all your PRECIOUS SCIENCE.

May 3, 2008

The Hypno-Orb.

I’m back. Don’t pretend you haven’t missed me.

For the past month-and-a-half, I’ve been refining the workflow needed to composite computer-generated images into real-world video footage. I thought I had it figured out months ago but for the very first time in my life, I was wrong.

The techniques involved are reasonably complex, so for the foreseeable future I’m going to practice all the steps and revise my notes over and over again until they’re perfect. The human resources folk at Village Cinemas devised an effective way to keep any part-time projectionist work from slowing me down, so that’ll help, too.

The clip below was created using a number of the techniques I’ve been studying, including match-moving and high dynamic range image-based lighting, so it has a touch of photorealism, despite the mistakes I made:

Except for the reflective sphere, everything in the clip is real. Well, everything except the Hypnotoad sound effect. Originally, the clip was silent but with the presence of an unusual noise, there’s at least a small chance some mindless, drug-addled YouTube visitor will see the video and become confused and/or frightened.

November 15, 2007

UFO Design.

Filed under: 3ds Max 9 — april15th @ 3:32 pm
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Ever since posting that woeful UFO picture on April 1st, I’ve been meaning to use 3ds Max to come up with some better UFO designs.

No-one’s impressed any more by simplistic-looking flying saucers. They don’t want to see a lamp shade held up by barely-visible string or a nicely-thrown hubcap. They want to see something cool; something Barzloff-esque so that they hesitate for a split-second before writing “FAKE” into the video’s Comments section.

My Uncle Ben always used to say, “With great 3D applications and post-production software comes great responsibility,” and in the years since he was gunned down by street hoodlums, I’ve gained a much better appreciation for what he meant.

For most of the past week, I’ve been suffering a bad cold and sore throat, so I’ve happily devoted less time toward studying and more time toward projects requiring no serious thought, including this new UFO design. The work was very stimulating, mind you, because it was all done whilst listening to lectures about the decline of the US dollar, the arrival of peak oil (and its catastrophic consequences) and the possible collapse of the US economy in the near future. The lecturers were kind of hazy on the details but essentially we’re all doomed.

Anyway, check out my UFO design! As you can tell, it’s a work in progress and not at all complex but WIPs can be fun to share, too.

November 10, 2007

Battlefield 2 in Real-Life.

Edit: The tutorial on getting Battlefield 2 models into 3ds Max is now available here:

http://machinima-tutorials.com/wiki/index.php/Getting_BF2_Models_Into_3ds_Max

Keen to put my patience to the test, I recently forced myself to learn the process of importing BF2 models into 3ds Max 9. I figure it’s another skill that’ll look great on a résumé; especially when applying for a job in which the ability to import BF2 models into 3ds Max 9 is a vital prerequisite.

BF2 models aren’t as high-poly or nicely-textured as those found in HL2 but they look fairly realistic nonetheless; especially when rendered using HDR Image-Based Lighting:

F35b BF2

Agreed?

I’ll try to do something creative with them soon and hope that Electronic Arts doesn’t sue. Not that you can get blood from a stone …

Click to enlarge:
f35s.jpg

September 26, 2007

Placenta.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve devoured a number of tutorials on High Dynamic Range lighting and reflections. Most of them were shit. However, their deficiencies were eventually addressed thanks to the sheer volume of information they yielded as a whole.

All the same, I think someone should carefully organise all the information available online. I’m tired of going through this ordeal every time I want to learn something cool.

Thanks to all the recent studying, my quest to composite photorealistic CG elements into real-world environments has been progressing well. The real test will come when I post UFO hoaxes on YouTube and fierce debate erupts between close-minded skeptics and close-minded believers. In the meantime, here’s another rendering:

Oh, yeah, the title of this post. Whenever I render a ‘glossy’ version of the Strider, I find myself thinking of a line from the ‘Method to Madness’ episode of Family Guy: “Now you’re being born … ready? And BURST through the placenta!”

September 20, 2007

CGI Recognition Challenge! (Part 2)

Filed under: 3ds Max 9,CGI Recognition,Photographs — april15th @ 12:47 am
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This one’s somewhat trickier than the last but if you know anything about Newton’s law of universal gravitation, you’re off to a good start.

September 14, 2007

A Strider from Half-Life 2.

Filed under: 3ds Max 9 — april15th @ 5:49 pm
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In recent days, I’ve rendered some very short animation sequences. In fact, they’ve all been a mere 91 frames in length because that’s how many frames make up the single animation file I’ve been using for all these experiments.

The file, a_walkN.smd, is from the game Half-Life 2 and I’m guessing the ‘a’ stands for ‘animation,’ ‘walk’ refers to the type of motion, and ‘N’ stands for ‘North’ … and that concludes our intensive three-week course.

What does this magical 99.3KB file animate? A Strider. They’re similar in many ways to the tripods in “War of the Worlds,” except that if they came across Dakota Fanning, they’d waste no time blasting her brains out.

The clip below was originally just a test to see how long it’d take 3ds Max 9 to render the animation with a simple lighting setup but the end result looked rather nice, so I thought I’d be polite and share.

September 4, 2007

CGI Recognition Challenge!

Filed under: 3ds Max 9,CGI Recognition — april15th @ 1:19 am
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The photograph below shows my fireplace mantel, along with an assortment of random objects. Composited somewhere amongst the real-world objects is a synthetic object rendered with light more or less identical to that found in the original scene.

Can you spot the computer-generated image?

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