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Topic Archive: Computer Graphics
Say Hello to my little acquaintance

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

No, I don't know what this is, either

I still don’t have any idea who this is. I can’t help but speculate, though.

I mean, I’ve been wondering a lot about what sort of character he(?) might be even as I cursed myself for working on him/her/it for most of the week when I should have been doing something else. Still – whatever it is – it’s about done, so I should be able to tone down the cursing for awhile.

Fun fact: I added a morph target that I call “Frog Throat”, in which the critter’s throat blows up big like a bullfrog’s. Why? It’s the same old question. I think the answer must be “because”.

I’m sure he/she/it will turn out to be important (maybe even essential!) someday. In the meantime I’ll just keep wondering.

My successful human hybrid experiment

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

My successful human hybrid experiment

It’s with no small amount of pride that I can now reveal my second, and most successful, human hybrid experiment. I wish I knew exactly what it was; but, as you can see, it’s keeping an eye on us until I figure that out.

Over the past year or so I’ve learned some new tricks with my morph-targeted character heads, and the most interesting tricks are the ones I can play on characters that are already done. Some of this is due to Collapse to Morpher, a very useful 3DS Max script.

Morphs are terrific, but they rely on the source object and its morph targets sharing the exact same topology. That means they need to have the same number of vertices, and (importantly!) those vertices have to be numbered in the same order. If you’re not careful you can end up with two objects that used to share those properties but which now are subtly and fatally different. You just can’t morph them any more.

You can change an object after applying the morpher, and that works because the morphing action takes place before all those changes. But when you do that you end up with a new stack of modifiers on top of the morpher that can’t be collapsed. Every time you make a change to a scene with the modified object present, and in particular every time you change its morph states, all of the post-morph modifiers have to be recalculated in the scene. That slows things down. Slowing things down makes me cranky.

Collapse to Morpher does this crazy, complicated thing in which the entire stack of modifiers is applied to an extracted version of each morph target. Then the morph targets are added to a collapsed version of the original object and then suddenly, or possibly not entirely suddenly, you have a new streamlined version of the object with its new, equally streamlined morph targets, and things are quick again and I’m less cranky.

That’s how I’ve worked out ways to blend between two finished character heads, to optimize existing characters, to save time on operations like calculating vertex colors and UV mapping, and – now – to turn a human being into something entirely different.

I did something like this once before. But at that time I didn’t have a practical way to salvage the original morph targets for the character’s facial expressions.Dr. Lillian Krajnik: unwitting experimental subject

So here’s a little picture of my unwitting experimental subject, Dr. Lillian Krajnik. I started by cloning her (as one does) and then edited her head into the head you see at the top of this post. Once the clone was completely mutated I used Collapse to Morpher to turn it into a new, streamlined character – with all its original expression morphs updated as well. My weird fishy, lizardy human hybrid frowns and smiles and sneers and look surprised, on command, just like Lillian does. Almost automatically.

This stuff is just so cool when it actually works.

I have a little work to do on a few of the morph targets. The nostrils are so different now that any time they rise or expand they behave a little differently, and the eyes don’t close completely as they used to do. But editing that handful of morph targets is so much simpler than starting from scratch, every time.

So now I’m a human hybrid maker. In whatever odd moments I have over the next few months I think it’s going to get all Doctor Moreau in here.

A Uchrony of Retropolitans; also, stupid morpher tricks

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

New Retropolis characters

Okay, after my post the other day you may think that I’m spending all my time considering feedback from the Bizarro World version of my editor. Not true!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending much more of my time on the sort of thing we see here. I’ve been adding to my collection of persons from Retropolis by modeling new characters; I’ve also worked out some tricks that extend the use of older characters. And I’ve done a bunch of them! I left out the imaginary editor you saw in my earlier post because you’ve seen him already, and all that exposure tends to make him more demanding; while another character that I like very, very much doesn’t appear here because he constitutes a spoiler, sort of, and as a result I’m keeping him under wraps.

The tricks I mentioned each have to do with the use of morph targets. I use those already for facial expressions, and for parts of expressions, but the first new thing I thought of was to use morphs to combine two existing character heads into a new character. I’ve mixed, say, 40% of Character A with 60% of Character B to get a new head that looks different from either of its parents.

This is possible because all of my recent male heads share the same topology, while all of my recent female heads also share a common topology. (No… sadly, it’s not the same topology as the male heads.)

So I mix the same amounts of two characters, the same way, in every one of their facial variations, and hey presto, new character. I should have thought of this years ago. I’m sure other people have.

This worked really well, sometimes… though not always. Some of these characters have so much personality that they just keep looking like themselves. Still: very neat!

Morphing between characters

The second trick is even more useful. I do a lot of work on UV mapping on these heads, and although it’s always very similar it’s a thing that’s frustratingly incompatible between models. In addition I calculate vertex colors to accent the creases and hollows in the faces, and that takes about two hours every time I do it.

But I don’t have to! I mean, this was the really clever idea that I ought to have thought of a long, long time back: because I can also morph an old head completely into a new head. My UV mapping and vertex colors remain the same as they were in the earlier character.

I can’t even imagine how much time I’ve wasted by doing those steps manually for every head. It’s a lot of time.

I decided many years ago that a truly lazy person should be willing to work very hard, one time, in order to prevent hard work that has to be done over and over again. I have aspired to be that person. But I see I’m not quite there yet.

Truly, the Way of Laziness is a long and difficult path to master.

Another untextured rocket, and that high pitched whine that could mean anything

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

Retro Rocket model, September 2014

I’m still being irresponsible and devil-may-care, which – since we’re talking about me – means that I’m still sitting in a dimly lit room while I build retro rocket models. This one, as untextured as the last, is more of the same.

Each of these September models is a variation on an iconic shape that I’ve played with before; but that was several years ago, with lower resolution on all fronts. These stand up much better in close-ups. Even their temporary textures are laid out at a higher resolution and so have a higher pixel density in the end product. I call that progress of the software-straining, RAM-chewing variety.

I’m expecting some news at the end of the week which, whether it will be good news or bad, seems to be distracting me. You know that thing that happens when you hear a high-pitched whine dopplering in from overhead, and you’re not sure whether it’s a drone delivery of some Really Cool New Thing, or a nuclear missile? It’s like that. Therefore, rockets.

Intermission: modeling a new retro rocket for Retropolis

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

Retro Rocket model, in progress

So after months of nearly nonstop picture-making for Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom I’m taking a short break before I start weeks of picture-fixing for the same thing, and with the same pictures. Because the whole weeks/months issue gets a little wearing, no matter what the work’s for, and it’s almost always more fun to build stuff than it is to turn that stuff into pictures.

So I’m modeling a rocket. You can’t go wrong with rockets. And it’s been quite a while since I built a new one.

Like most of my rockets, this one’s in the style of the personal rocketing devices we first saw back in the late 1920’s, in the earliest pages of the Buck Rogers comic strip.

Those open-cockpit flying roadsters were not much like the real rockets we came to know (and often fear) a decade or so later. No, these are "rockets" in the sense that they’re flying vehicles whose workings are mysterious to us, but which ought to look something like this.

You ask me, they still ought to.

Anyway, this one needs more surface detail, especially on the dashboard, and actual materials before I’ll use it anyplace. But it’s ready for those finishing touches whenever I figure I need it. Truth to tell, I should probably be adding to my library of Retropolitan buildings instead; but I just felt like making a rocket. So there.

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Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.