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Monthly Archives: August 2010
Glare: A Post Processing Application for Creating Specular Bloom

Filed under Computer Graphics

Specular Bloom in Post ProcessingGuillermo M Leal Llaguno has released version 1.00 of a stand alone, post processing program called Glare.

The program’s loaded with options for specular blooms, rays, and other effects. From its demo video it looks like Glare offers all the fine tuning you could ask for: you can view and adjust which highlight levels should get the effect and view those selections and their effects either alone, or overlaid on the source image(s).

Using a stand alone application like this means that the effects can be tweaked and changed at any time after rendering – nice! – and because the program will work on image sequences you can add blooms to whole animations without having to re-render a thing.

I’m thinking about renderings here, but I guess it might not be obvious that this works equally well with video footage.

The final bits of the demo video show some of the possibilities for compositing Glare’s edited frames with the original frames of an animation.

At US $50 it looks like a great tool to add to the toolbox.

(Via Max Underground)

Harry Roy Reminds Me That Character Skinning Isn’t Always Torture

Filed under Computer Graphics, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Refining character skinning with splinesIn spite of what I said yesterday about how much I hate skinning characters to their skeletons, every now and then I do get to smile. My latest trick is to skin the characters not only to bones, but to splines that are (sometimes) also skinned to some of the same bones.

So when Harry’s chest and waist were getting pulled back and forth between warring bones I extracted some splines from his model, skinned those splines to parts of his skeleton, and added the splines to the bones that control Harry himself.

Then I adjusted the influence of those splines to even out the skinning and lock down the chest and waist lines – which are structural parts of his clothing, among other things.

This is a lot like what I’ve lately been doing with faces. The 3DS Max UI does a lousy job of displaying the splines’ envelopes, but since I can see the results on the model that’s not a huge problem.

The biggest downside seems to be that if you intend to edit the splines, as I’m doing in my faces, it’s not a great technique for animation because it’s hard to keyframe the shapes of the splines*. I guess you could create morph targets for the splines, which is a thought, but I so rarely do animation that I’m not worrying about that for now.

One reason this might be nice for animation, though, is that you can use the splines to simulate the way surfaces like skin or cloth slide over the more rigid surfaces they cover. That’s sort of what’s happening here already.

*Oh, there might be a way, but I don’t seem to be clever enough to work it out.

Thrilling Tales: New Characters, Pesky Logistics, and Imaginary Robot Assistants

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Harry Roy, about to enter the Future That Never WasI really seem to be on a roll with my new characters even though I know I that I ought to be working on the Thrilling Tales scripts, instead.

In one way it doesn’t matter. I mean, we’re going to reach the finish line at the same time, regardless of what I do first. But on the other hand I know that I need to start posting the Clockwork Book stories as soon as possible and all this character setup (a lot of which is for the other story, Part Two of The Toaster With TWO BRAINS) isn’t helping me to start posting those any earlier.

But I do hate to break my streak.

If I could just build ’em, I’d be pretty happy. But I have to skin the characters to their skeletons and that, as I think I’ve mentioned, is a task that I really don’t enjoy. Probably because I’m not that good at it.

Along the way I’ve worked out a completely different way to skin their faces. It’s a little wonky, but it’s giving me much better results. So I also know that at some point I need to go back to my recurring characters and reskin their faces the new way. Oh joy.

I think what I need is servants. Though I just got a little nervous when I remembered that there’s a name for servants that you don’t need to pay. Oops. Okay, what I need is a Faithful Robot Character Setter Upper, or, as I have just decided we ought to say it, an FRCSU. Does Roomba do that?

…Still Populating Retropolis for the Thrilling Tales

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Rocket Packs for Window Washers!

My Thrilling Tales character work continues: here we see the skinned version of our friend Al Bowlly, rocketeering maintenance man and window cleaner of the Future That Never Was.

I’m banking several new characters in advance right now, so that I won’t have to grind to a halt when I’m cranking out the illustrations for the next Thrilling Tales. Well. I know that I’ll be grinding to a halt anyway, as I build new sets and whatnot. But I won’t grind to a halt for these, anyway.

Next up: Harry Roy, in progress, and miscellaneous officers of the Retropolis Air Safety and Astronautics Association. I’m getting there.

Since the air outside the Secret Laboratory isn’t steaming any more I find myself wishing that I could sit out on the porch and write… with something other than pen and paper. Someday maybe I can do something about that.

More on the San Francisco Installation of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship

Filed under Hodgepodge

Alan Rorie of Almost Scientific dropped by to comment on my post from June about the San Francisco installation of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship – which post, I know, was a pretty hurried and incomplete one. Alan’s one of the Big Brains behind the Rocketship and as you might expect he has a terrific collection of photos. You can see some of those below, and many more at his blog.

Among the many things I didn’t know is that the Rocketship was also briefly installed at the NASA Ames Center as part if their Yuri’s Night celebration (in case you don’t know, that’s NASA’s very sportsmanlike recognition of Yuri Gagarin). Alan’s blog has a video of the ship’s raising there.

And as we see in these photos the San Francisco installation has added a "Rocket Stop" kiosk so that travelers can tap their toes waiting for the next rocket ship to take off. That’s a nice addition since liability issues are sadly keeping the ship’s doors closed for the duration of its stay.

If you get tired of waiting for the rocketship to take off, it should be a short walk up to the Maxfield Parrish mural in the Pied Piper Bar of the old Sheraton Palace Hotel. That’s at Third and Market… if we can trust my memory.

A couple of new characters for Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Al Bowlly and his rocket pack

August is nearly half over and here’s my first post of the month. I’ve been very busy with working on the assets for the next Thrilling Tales stories, in the mornings, and fleeing down the stairs of the Secret Laboratory to escape from the heat, in the afternoons. Or anyway that’s how it often happens. By late evening it’s sometimes safe to come back up here.

In other news, yesterday I mailed off the last of the rewards for the Thrilling Tales Kickstarter project. I should probably write up my Kickstarter experience sometime soon (before I forget). It was an interesting journey and I learned some things that I expected to learn, and a few that were a complete surprise.

By the way, if your name is Michael Church or Alain Cayrol, please get in touch with me through the Kickstarter messaging system. I still have no idea where to send your stuff.

Lew Stone:  Too sane for mad science?

You can see from the illustrations here that I’m not doing the sensible thing. The sensible thing, you see, would be to concentrate on the Clockwork Book stories first because I need to start posting them while I work on the Toaster With TWO BRAINS. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me to see that I’ve failed the sensibility test.

My brain likes to bounce back and forth between the two, anyway, and since that seems to be working for me I’m not going to impose any more order on it. I won’t need to exercise that kind of discipline until I’m done with one or both of the scripts. I’m thinking about writing the scripts for both Part Two and Part Three of The Toaster With TWO BRAINS, so that I can start on Part Three as soon as Part Two’s done. We’ll see if I’m sensible enough to follow through on that idea. Hmmm.

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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.