Journey into Photogrammetry: 123D Catch

For a few years now, I have been using a program called 123D Catch, formerly known as Autodesk Photofly. Photogrammetry is a process of using photos and complex algorithms to mathematically determine where objects are in 3D space and what their shape is. I have had mixed success in using this software, but overall I have achieved some good results and gained a good understanding of which kinds of objects reconstruct well and which do not. Continue reading

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New App from Adobe Creates 3D Models from Selfies

Right now there are an increasing number of tools to use photos to aid the 3D design process. ReCap360 and 123D Catch fom Autodesk are two popular options, along with PhotoModeler and the late ImageModeler from Realviz. Most modern matchmoving software can also create point clouds from photos. Adobe 2D to 3D Selfie Tool Continue reading

Why Drawing Trumps 3D in Colleges

As I come to the end of my (almost) last semester in college, I have had a chance to reflect on my experience of studying animation in college. I feel like the 3D animation aspect of my major is floundering and getting weaker with every new generation of students. Most students in the program (as I see it) work primarily in traditional mediums.

Now this isn’t to criticize 3D or my college, and there are multiple reasons for this. However, I think the core reason is that a lot of students attracted to the program are already good artists. They have been drawing for years and, in many cases, have become quite good.

Now enter 3D. The technical aspects are difficult to grasp, and the learning curve is steep. After a couple of years of taking both 3D and traditional courses, many of these future animators do not have any affinity for 3D, for which there is today an enormous demand. Now more than ever (as one of my professors would say), I realize that this should surprise no one.

If I were to start learning how to draw without having any previous experience, it would not be reasonable of me to expect to be drawing great art after a year or two. I would have to work at drawing for a long time to get good at it, just as learning 3D requires.

The problem that I see is that students at my college and elsewhere don’t take enough time to learn the technical and creative aspects of 3D before deciding that they’re not good at it and better off animating in 2D. With more practice, they might decide that have more positive feelings toward the field. This could happen either through continued study or beginning to model and animate in 3D before college, similar to what is prevalent in most areas of the arts.

Blender Matcaps

One of the recent developments in Blender is Matcaps. One problem with trying to us textures and materials in the viewport is that there is a significant performance decrease when working with complex scenes. Matcaps addresses this issue by using textures that provide nicer realtime display using GLSL with low memory usage and relatively fast performance. These textures provide both color and reflection information, and can simulate an environment texture. Customized matcaps can also be added to the default library. The feature affects only the selected object, which further reduces the overhead, as well as making it useful for sculpting.

More info: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Dev:Ref/Release_Notes/2.66/Usability#Matcap_in_3D_viewport

 

Blender matcap

 

 

 

Blender matcap

A simple way to create a normal map?

 

Review of Blender 2.64

The new version of Blender was recently released. This release is impressive by any standards and includes significant improvements from the Durian Project. Because version 2.64 contains several features that I am really excited about, I would like to list them here with short overviews of each.

blender mask editorFirst of all, there’s new masking, tracking, and keying tools. The Mask Editor looks like a dandy addition that allows the user to create masks simply and easily. Based on my initial tests, it seems to have an extensive feature set and has some interesting handle types for splines. The ability to assign tracking points to spline points is both exciting and unique. My only complaint is that it is too easy to add points in the along the length of a spline rather than at the end. I once tried to use the RotoBezier tool but gave up as it wasn’t intuitive enough for me when I already knew how to create masks in After Effects. The Camera Tracker developments look promising also. I miss the choice of trac

blender compositor keying

king methods, but tracking seems to work quite well with the Hybrid tracker only. The new planar tracker is something that I have been interested in for months, but sadly have not had the opportunity to test it out. One of the areas that Blender has been weak at is greenscreen keying. The good news is that the Compositor has received major updates to its keying capability. The new Keying node works quickly and allowed me to pull a high-quality key with little work.

A more minor update is the new color management system for Blender, OpenColorIO. This gives the option of setting image properties for different color spaces. It’s actually much more important than it seems due to the way that linear and gamma-corrected images work. Now you don’t have to worry about sRGB images being gamma-corrected both before and after rendering. This has really prompted me to work with linear images now more than ever. There is some more detailed information here.

The modeling tools have also received substantial upgrades. The Skin modifier is, in my opinion, one of the best new features to have been developed this year. It uses a similar concept from the ZSpheres featre in ZBrush to quickly create a mesh object based on the position and scale of an armature. This results in an object that already contains all of the bones needed for rigging. We also have the BSurfaces retopology addon included within Blender. I can’t say how it compares to the Shrinkwrap modifier, but I plan to do some further researching in that area.

Blender 2.64 is an excellent update, and the software continues to get better on a regular basis. It’s no surprise that Blender won the ‘Software Update’ award at the 2012 CG Awards. I plan to continue to explore this release further, so look for more updates in the future.