Category Archives: 3D Article

SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014

The 7th ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia will take place from 3 – 6 December 2014 in Shenzhen at the Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center.

SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 is expected to draw more than 7,000 professionals from 52 countries to Hong Kong.

The SIGGRAPH Asia conference attracts the most respected technical and creative people from all over the world. The SIGGRAPH Asia community includes people everywhere who are excited by research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web.

SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 is sponsored by The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), an educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges.

Both, a conference and a trade exhibition, SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 will allow you to see, meet, and interact with the international computer graphics and interactive techniques community. Witness the astounding advancements of computer graphics technologies, where stellar ideas blend with boundless artistry. If you’ve been longing to be enthralled in tangible illusion and immersed in an affluence of innovation and ground-breaking technologies, this is the place to be.

This year, the conference program line-up includes the Computer Animation Festival, Courses, Emerging Technologies, Posters, Symposium on Mobile Graphics and Interactive Applications, Technical Briefs, and Technical Papers.

The trade exhibition, held from 4 – 6 December 2014, will offer participants from hardware and software vendors to studios and educational institutions a platform to market their innovative products and services to computer graphics and interactive techniques professionals and enthusiasts from Asia and beyond.

Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center

Shenzhen, China

Conference: 3 – 6 December 2014 (Wednesday through Saturday)

Exhibition: 4 – 6 December 2014 (Thursday through Saturday)

SIGGRAPH 2014

The SIGGRAPH conference attracts the most respected technical and creative people from all over planet Earth.

The SIGGRAPH conference and exhibition is a five-day interdisciplinary educational experience including a three-day commercial exhibition that attracts hundreds of exhibitors from around the world. SIGGRAPH is widely recognized as the most prestigious forum for the publication of computer graphics research. In addition to SIGGRAPH’s leading-edge technical program, the conference’s installations provide close-up views of the latest in digital art, emerging technologies, and hands-on opportunities for creative collaboration.

The conference also hosts the international SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival, showcasing works from the world’s most innovative and accomplished digital film and video creators. Juried and curated content includes outstanding achievements in time-based art, scientific visualization, visual effects, real-time graphics, and narrative shorts. Since 1999, the festival has been an official qualifying event for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Animated Short Film award.

V-Ray 3.0 for Maya Beta Review By Jahirul Amin

With the release of V-Ray 3.0 for Maya around the corner, Jahirul Amin puts the Beta version to the test to uncover what treats are in store for Maya users.

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Founded in 1997 by Vladimir Koylazov and Peter Mitev of Chaos Group, V-Ray has continuously grown and evolved to become the renderer of choice for many artists. Without a doubt, V-Ray is a known powerhouse in the world of architectural visualization, and with recent iterations, it has shown muscle and versatility enough to be used in television, feature films, game cinematic and more. With the full release of version 3.0 for Maya imminent, we take the Beta version out for a test drive.Now, I’ll just come straight out and say it: I’ve never used V-Ray beforehand. Therefore, you won’t find this review a comparison between current and past versions of V-Ray. Instead, I’ll give you an honest account of how I found V-Ray as a newbie.

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An initial test render, with and without Global Illumination

With this in mind, there are a few themes that I want to explore throughout my hands-on test. These themes can be summed up as:

• workflow
• speed of renders
• quality of the lighting
• quality of the shaders

So let’s kick off with workflow – and I think it is safe to say that V-Ray excels hugely in this area. With the fantastic implementation of V-Ray RT (Real-Time), you can start to take advantage of V-Ray very early on in your production pipeline. Having this viewport feature enabled allows you to use lighting and rendering for a lot more purposes then simply creating the final renders.

“The overall implementation of V-Ray into Maya is very strong, with the GUI so well integrated that you can easily forgot that it is a plug-in”

You can, for example, get a very clear idea of the quality of your models as you go through the modeling phase or get a clearer idea of how the final animation will look before you send it out for rendering. You can also take advantage of the GPU to give the V-Ray RT more bang and make things a little snappier. Check out the making of Kevin Margo’s CONSTRUCT to get a clearer idea of how powerful the V-Ray-RT engine is:

Still on workflow, the overall implementation of V-Ray into Maya is very strong, with the GUI so well integrated that you can easily forget that it’s a plug-in. Setting up a linear workflow is a breeze, and gamma-correcting input images can be done in a variety of ways, such as the traditional method of using a gammaCorrect node, or by adding a V-Ray attribute directly onto the image to handle the correction.

The V-Ray attributes are great for speeding up your work and making you more efficient. They can be used for a multitude of tasks, from the previously mentioned gamma correcting images, to adding subdivision levels to your models.

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The comparison between V-Ray RT actively running in the Maya viewport and the final render

Moving on to the V-Ray Frame Buffer (VFB), which I will admit, I adore. It gives a far greater level of control than I have been used to previously and simply makes the rendering process a lot more enjoyable. For example, the Color Correction tools allow me to stay in V-Ray and make simple changes to the renders that I would normally handle in NUKE or After Effects. Changes such as playing with the exposure, contrast, tweaking the colour curves, the levels and so on, allow you to work faster and smarter.

If you’re not a fan of taking your images into another package for post-work, you can also make a few extra changes, such as Bloom and Glare using the Lens Effects tools. As well as being able to render regions, another nice feature is being able to specify which buckets should be rendered first by dragging the mouse to a particular position on the render frame.

Kicking off a few initial renders in V-Ray, you’ll quickly notice that it has some oomph to it. I started by adding 2 V-Ray Sphere Lights into a scene and was pretty astounded by the quality of the render in such a short time. Yes, there was some noise to the image, but all in all, it was a darn good start.

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My initial attempts to create a clay-based shader and a skin shader

Adding a V-Ray Dome Light came next, mapped with an HDRI and turning on Global Illumination. Again, I was very impressed by how quick I could light a shot, make changes, and re-render. Or better still, I could use V-Ray RT to block everything out in the viewport before hitting the main render button.

What I did find, however, was that as I increased the quality settings to get a crisper image, render times did increase pretty dramatically – no more dramatically than in other packages that I have used, though. What I found more important was the speed at which I could set up the lighting for a shot, and the speed at which I could make tweaks to the lighting. In both these cases I got results very fast, and this is where V-Ray really stood out.

239_tid_fig07.jpgV-Ray offers the user 4 different Image Sampler methods:• Fixed Rate
• Adaptive DMC
• Adaptive Subdivision
• ProgressiveI mainly played with Adaptive DMC and Fixed Rate and had a little play with Progressive.

Adaptive DMC takes a variable number of samples per pixel and looks at the difference between those pixels. This method allows you to make many custom tweaks easily, enabling you to really refine the quality of your render vs the speed.

Combine this with the DMC Sampler and you can define how much should be controlled by the DMC settings or by the light settings.

Fixed Rate does exactly that and is the simplest to set up. This method takes a fixed number of samples per pixel and will therefore take longer to render but will give more predictable results. With the previous 2 sampler methods, you will only see parts of the render that have been computed with the buckets.

Progressive on the other hand, builds up the entire image as it renders. This is similar to the method in which V-Ray RT calculates its images but with a bonus that you can create production-ready renders from this method.

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Taking advantage of the Color Correction tools in the V-Ray Frame Buffer

One of the issues I’ve heard over the years from others who have used V-Ray is its ability to create noise-free and blotch-free animated sequences. Doing a test with the Adaptive DMC and Light Caching, I did find the process of preparing an animated scene (character animation, not a fly-through) a little more taxing than it needed to be and the results were still not as refined as I would have liked. Saying that though, being able to switch back to Fixed Rate and enabling Brute Force, I found I had less quarrels with the final outcome. I’m sure my inexperience has a part to play in this and with a more informed tweaking of the settings, better results would doubtless come faster.

My results of an animation test in V-Ray

Moving on to the lighting tools in V-Ray, it must be said that I was extremely pleased with the results. As the lights are designed with physical accuracy in mind, as long as the assets in your scene are built to scale, you should be able to get pretty stunning results very fast. Turn on the Global Illumination and watch as the light bounces around your scene effortlessly.

V-Ray also comes packaged with procedural sun and sky lighting models, and controlling the direction of the sun and its parameters couldn’t be easier. For calculating GI, V-Ray presents a few different methods such as: Irradiance, map, Photon map, Light Cache and my favorite but the most time-consuming method, Brute Force. Like the Sampler Method options, tweaking and testing the different methods of computing the GI will allow you to control quality over speed.

Lastly, I want to mention the V-Ray shaders. Like the V-Ray lights, the shaders are also physically plausible. Therefore, it is easier to create shaders that work under numerous lighting conditions and handle reflections and refractions more accurately. To get a good feel of what is possible, have a look at the BDRF shaders created by Sergey Shlyaev. Sergey very kindly allowed me to test out his shaders and their capabilities do seem amazing!

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The ABC shader by Sergey Shlyaev in action. (Image taken from) http://www.shlyaev.com/rnd

The VRay Mtl is its version of an all-in-one shader and can be used to create a huge variety of different surface types. The VRay Blend Mtl, as the name suggests, also allows you to very easily blend different materials together while maintaining physical correctness. If you are looking for a variety of shaders to get you going or to learn from, you can also check out these free V-Ray Maya Materials.

“V-Ray feels like a very modern, up-to-date renderer. And now with support for Open SubDiv, Alembic, PTex vector displacement and more, it’s easy to see why it is the renderer of choice”

My favorite shaders, though, have to be the Sub-Surface Scattering shaders. They are quick to set up, or if you prefer, you can use one of the preset settings to begin with. They look great and they render pretty darn fast.

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A selection of shaders readily available from http://vray-maya-materials.com

All in all, I would say that V-Ray feels like a very modern, up-to-date renderer. And now with support for Open SubDiv, Alembic, PTex vector displacement and more, it’s easy to see why it is the renderer of choice for many. And luckily for those looking to switch to V-Ray, to get new users up and running, there is a huge amount of training documentation and video tutorials out there as well as forums, where it seems the passing on of knowledge and experience is rife. I like that.

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A Shifted Gamma Distribution model for V-Ray created by Sergey Shlyaev

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Key features

V-Ray RT on CPU and GPU
V-Ray Frame Buffer
Physically accurate lights and shaders
Sub-Surface Scattering shaders
Progressive Rendering
PTex and Alembic support
V-Ray physical camera

System requirements

Check out the system requirements on the Chaos Group website.

Platforms

Windows
Mac
Linux

Star rating (out of 5): 4.5

Related links

Check out the full features list for V-Ray 3.0 for Maya (Beta)
Learn more about V-Ray for Maya
Take a look at the Chaos Group Youtube channel
Discover free tutorials for V-Ray from Render School
Check out the Chaos Group 2013 showreels

Desktop Subscription for Smoke 2015 is Now Available

Adding new effects tools, 3D tracking, support for OS X 10.9 (aka Mavericks), support for the new Mac Pro and better-than-ever interoperability with Final Cut Pro X, Autodesk Smoke 2015 is now available.

Hot off NAB, Autodesk Smoke 2015 editing and effects software is now available. Smoke 2015 adds new effects tools, 3D tracking, support for OS X 10.9 (aka Mavericks), support for the new Mac Pro and better-than-ever interoperability with Final Cut Pro X.

“The integration of the timeline editor, the visual effects tools, and some familiar desktop tools in one environment made Smoke both remarkably familiar and an entirely new experience for me,” said Rich Anderson, senior video editor of Team Detroit.

Desktop Subscription for Smoke 2015 comes in three flavors allowing editors and artists to pay by the month, the quarter or by the year. The price for monthly subscription is $195 SRP and by committing to a one year subscription customers can save more than $500.

Smoke 2015 is now also available as a free 30-day trial. Autodesk has worked hard to make Smoke easier for trial users to get up to speed with updated hands-on tutorial content. The Smoke Learning Channel has also been updated with more than 50 new free Getting Started tutorial videos. To purchase Smoke 2015, visit http://autode.sk/buy-smoke.

Source: Autodesk

Takuya Suzuki 2014 Modeling Reel

2009 – 2014 collection of cinematics I worked on Blizzard Entertainment.
My position at Blizzard is Senior Environment Modeling Artist.

Heroes of the storm (2013)
Diablo3 : Reaper of souls (2013)
StarCraft2 : Heart of the swarms
– Opening cinematic (2013)
– Ending cinematic (2013)
World of Warcraft : Mists of Pandaria (2012)
Diablo3
– Intro (2011)
– Black soulstone (2011)
– Heavens gate (2011)
– Death of Cain (2011)
– Outro (2011)
World of Warcraft : Cataclysm (2010)

What to expect from MODO 801

One of the community’s favorite pieces of 3D software has just got even better. Here’s the rundown of the new features of what to expect from MODO 801

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The key to MODO‘s success is its versatility. It’s a 3D package which is used in diverse environments such as architecture, 3D art, film-making and videogames. As it’s an all-in-one piece of software it can do pretty much everything you need, so you won’t have to fire up third-party software to create stunning pieces.

Its latest version, MODO 801, adds even more to the mix than ever before: nodal shading, new deformers and better hair and fur, on top of a bunch of little tweaks to make the software even more impressive and intuitive. In fact, there are so many new and cool features that we won’t be able to cover them all here; nevertheless we’ll guide you through some of our favorite bits and bobs.

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MODO has its roots in one of the first 3D applications to deliver broadcast-quality graphics: LightWave 3D. Developed by many of the same engineers, the first version of MODO was released 10 years ago, and has since found its way into a lot of different environments, as Adam O’Hern, a product design guru, testifies:

“We work with brands to create compelling product photography for packaging, point of purchase displays, billboards, print ads, and web 360 views – often long before the physical product is ever manufactured,” he says. “This allows us to start the packaging design and manufacturing process in parallel with product manufacturing, cutting weeks or even months from the total time to market.”

While artist Mike Campau works in a similar role to Adam, he uses the software for creating predominantly 2D art, which is testament to its versatility. “I am digital artist who works primarily in print for large advertising agencies and businesses direct,” he says. “I use MODO for just about everything, from simple 3D type to full-out CGI environments. I combine MODO renders with photography and try to blur the lines of reality.”

 

MODO Nodal

A new feature which has long been a part of other 3D packages is nodal shading. This system means that artists can create complex shaders and materials quickly and easily using a series of connected ‘nodes’, each of which can be tweaked and turned on or off individually. It makes it really easy to get an overview of what’s going on in a particular texture or shader, and you can apply the same setting to multiple objects by connecting the necessary nodes together.

Snapping in MODO has always been very good, and it’s especially handy for creating architecture or vehicles with lots of straight lines and right angles. In 801 it gets even better, with the cursor contextually snapping to different surfaces to make selections and manipulation easier. You can specify certain rules for snapping, such as geometry intersections, and then save these rules as a preset.
MODO’s also nabbed a few features from dedicated animation packages in 801. Character animation is now even easier thanks to the inclusion of inbetweens and key poses, which smoothly fills in the blanks between your virtual actor’s movements. Onion skinning let you see every stage of an animated sequence, and new retargeting controls allow you to apply motion-captured data to differently proportioned creatures and people, and make tweaks to their movement if necessary.

“Finally, with these enhancements, I actually feel like I have control”

“I always felt like I was not in control of my animation,” says Brad Peebler, The Foundry‘s President of the Americas. “And finally, with these enhancements, I actually feel like I have control. You can forget about all the curve blending, all the craziness that comes with traditional keyframe animation.”

Rigging

Rigging is typically a fiddly nightmare, but MODO 801 makes things a lot easier. The schematic viewport – which is used to set your rigging properties – automatically magnifies itself when you hover the mouse over it, which means you can create complex interactions and animations and still see what’s going on.

Wrap, lattice and bezier deformers have also been added, and these allow you to add soft-body simulations, simple warps and tentacle-like animations respectively.
MODO 801’s new referencing system allows multiple people to work on large-scale scenes – a neat addition which can get a little complicated in other software. It allows you to work on your lighting or rendering while someone else is creating models, and as everything is cross-referenced you can ensure your project stays up to date.

“Referencing is good when building larger scenes with a team of people”

You can specify objects which can’t be removed, too, which prevents accidental deletion of your hard work. Although it’s a minor addition, Juhani Karlsson, a 3D artist and technical director at Talvi Digital absolutely loves it. “The small and not so flashy features such as referencing are good when building larger scenes with a team of people,” he confirms.

Smashing

Physics also receive some love in 801. A new glue strength system specifies how objects break apart when they’re subjected to a force, and this can be used in conjunction with the shatter tool to break things such as wine glasses and buildings realistically. You can even use the leftover debris as a model unto itself, which makes it easy to make a mess. Another neat addition here are particle modifiers, which can be driven by music or sounds to make sprites change colour – expect to see this in many music videos in the coming years.

Related is fur, which is now easier to style and sculpt. MODO features guide curves so you can get an idea of how the hair will look in a final render, and new tools allow you to lengthen, reposition and manipulate hair as you see fit. You can even specify different colors for the roots and tips of the hair, which adds to the realism. If you’re familiar with MODO’s Vmaps you’ll know how it works.
“When you add the Vmap it gives you all these little white guides, and you can select the hand and specify a negative value for the fur and it removes it,” says He’s Here All Week‘s Matt Burniston, who demonstrates the technique by removing the hair from a gorilla’s hand.

Mike Campau is also a fan of the new fur, adding: “The improvement in the fur tools is definitely my favourite upgrade with its new set of tools to control and style hair.”

This is on top of a whole host of great features for specific MODO users. Texture baking now has greater control over output resolutions, so game artists can tweak it to match their engine of choice. New Iridescence and Thin Film materials create unique oil and rainbow effects on surfaces, and UV unwrap – which lets you ‘skin’ models and lay their meshes flat so you can create UVs – is quicker and more versatile.

Adam O’Hern is incredibly happy with the update. “We’ve been extremely excited about the vastly-simplified color management system and the ground-up rewrite of the referencing and snapping systems, not to mention the long-awaited addition of nodal shading,” he says. “The upgrade would be worth it for any one of these improvements, but all of them in a single release? Wow.”

The future of MODO

The other big news to come out of The Foundry recently is that it’s partnered with 3D printer company, MakerBot – which is surely a match made in heaven! As a result The Foundry and MakerBot are working hard to ensure that the software and hardware play nicely together, which will hopefully remove the headaches of 3D printing. MODO users can even claim a 10% discount on MakerBot’s printers!

As for MODO itself, everyone we’ve spoken to is extremely happy with the latest version. However, an often-requested addition is better support for third-party software, something we’d love to see in MODO 901. “I would love to see MODO integrate third-party render engines,” adds Mike Campau. “Although MODO has a great, and fast, renderer, I would love to be able to open up other possibilities.” Juhani also sums it up perfectly for us: “Lets hope that MODO stays MODO, only more so!”