Blender Experiments

I’ve been teaching myself about procedural textures in Blender lately. They’re really good for creating planets and all kinds of other stuff and you can create interesting generated animations of tectonic plates and clouds movements. There are lots of other interesting applications for them too.

Here are some of my little experiments.

 

Animated multi material textures

I’ve been playing around with animating patterns in Hexels and then applying them to a simple 3d model. I came up with this simple but quite effective animated wave pattern using Hexel’s half-tone mode on a circle shape pattern.

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The half-tone mode swaps the opacity for “pixel size” so if you make a pixel more transparent it appears smaller. It allows for very quick painting of different sized shapes, in this case circles.

This was animated frame by frame, so literally doing 20 or so drawings and then playing them in order.

The animation wasn’t quite right in Hexels so I imported it into Photoshop to change the levels and crop it a little bit.

After that I had to research how to actually make an animated texture. Initially I was going to use an animated gif but apparently that doesn’t work and all the links I came across were telling me I had to make a giant image with every single frame laid out in a grid, which seemed like a hassle. I then tried converting it to an avi movie but I had trouble using that too! In the end I used an image sequence which basically just involves creating a lot of pictures from your animation which are numbered in order, and then telling blender to use the first one, but then also telling it that there are 25 frames and it automatically sees the other 24 pictures and plays them in order.

I made a solid flat hexagon and applied the animated texture to it.

In Blender you can you can “mix” two different surface materials, so I mixed a black diffuse (matte) material with a white emission (light emitting) material and then used the animation as a “factor” in determining how the materials are mixed. When you do this basically an areas that are white become material A and any areas that are black become material B and any shades of grey in between become a mix of the two, the ratios of which are determined by how dark or light the grey is. Because the animation frames are fully white dots on a fully black background there is no mixing and you just get light emitting dots appearing on a black background.

Also because this was an animation I thought I would learn how to animate the camera. I tried manually moving it from point to point and then tweening (telling the computer to fill in the gaps of) the motion but it did some strange stuff, so I had to look up how to get the camera to follow a “path”. Once I figured that out it was pretty easy. I just drew a circle path and the camera automatically did a full 360 in the time I had set.

Lastly I hooked up my animation to the displacement output. I had no idea if this would work but it did! It gave me a simple bump map based on the animation, where the circles either appeared recessed or protruding. Ideally one would generate a normal map for this (bump maps are outdated ways of simulating topography on the surface of polygons) but for a little experiment it was fine. Normal maps take a lot more work to make.

This was my result… Well actually I nerfed the quality of this gif to keep the file down, but it kind of adds an interesting quality to it, I think.

I also added an animated simple gradient over the top in photoshop which is why the image is dark around the edges and changes colour a bit. I thought it just made it a little bit more interesting.

hexagon-animation

You can’t really see the bump map clearly so I made another variation where the circles were made of a metallic looking glossy material and the rest of the surface was a white matte material.

I also added an environment map (an image of sky and clouds) to light the scene and also have something for the circles to reflect that wasn’t just a solid colour.

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I put another subtle rotating gradient over the top again, this time with a lighten blend effect just to make it a little bit more interesting. You can see the bump map much more clearly here. The circles appear recessed into the surface.

Just because I was having a lot of fun with this, I decided to do one more with a slightly more complicated material. The surface was a mix of glass (with a bit of roughness added) and translucent. I went back with an emission material for the dots. I wanted to see if the light would enter the surface of the material even though it was being emitted by the same object.

Also I reversed the bump mapping using a multiply maths node and putting in a negative figure so the dots appear to protrude rather than recess.

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As you can see the light does reflect inside the material, which is pretty nice.

It took around 5 hours to render that animation because the materials were a lot more complicated to render, and it’s still quite grainy. I need to save up and buy a better PC really!

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This is the set up I had for my nodes for the last one. Itprobably looks complicated but the set ups that experienced Blender users have tend to be much more complicated than this.

Sketchbook/Research for first 3rd year project

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So this has been the piece I have had designed for weeks and weeks ready to be routed but because of various limitations outside my control such as software issues on the workshop computers and technicians being too busy to help for weeks on end I didn’t get a version cast till the very last week of the project. It’s unfortunate because it meant that I didn’t get to resolve a lot of issues I had with it. It should have been a test piece really but I ended up having to just settle.

Creating the model itself in blender was difficult and required me to learn a whole lot of new skills. Luckily there is a great online website where experienced Blender artists and designers are happy to help.

Right at the beginning of the project I wanted to do something inspired by glitch art although I didn’t know for sure whether I would end up settling on that.

I asked about chopping models up into pieces here:

http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?383300-Chopping-a-model-into-multiple-model-slices-using-a-plane&highlight=

I didn’t use that exact advice in the end but I did use boolean modifiers in a different way to subtract slices from my model.

I asked about making objects with more than one axis of symmetry as when you model faces and bodies there is a straightforward way to make them symmetrical but this rose window has 14 way rotational symmetry on the outer ring, 7 on the next ring and then 8 in the central section and copying and rotating them one at a time would take a long time and then not look very good in the end anyway.

I asked for more advice here:

http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?383876-Symmetry-variants&highlight=

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There are lots of other things I had to look up constantly, most of which I can’t remember and most of which would take far longer for me to explain than it did to look them up in the first place. I learned to do insetting which worked great on the rose window as tracery generally involves shapes with smaller similar shapes inside and I didn’t realise it was possible before.

The way I constructed the model (making from lots of little models and using the boolean modifier to join them into one) made lots of the modelling very tricky and I had to go back in and redraw a lot of it by hand to make it work. Next to my typewriter it’s the most time consuming CG piece I’ve ever made.

I’m an idiot and didn’t take any screenshots while modelling this except this one. I appear to be in the process of “extruding” some of that highlighted section inwards (the extrude tool pulls things in or pushes them out).

Picture 2015-11-03 16_51_49

I also had a lot of trouble getting the ambient occlusion to behave. Ambient occlusion is kind of a cheat simulation of ambient light and shadows used in video games. Actually rendering real time ambient shadows takes a lot of processing power and can’t currently be done live so the shadows have to be “baked” directly onto the model based on the light sources around them. It looks fantastic till you move the model or move some of the lights around and then suddenly you can really tell that the ambient shadows are painted on.

ao pre glitch

This is an image of the ambient occlusion baked onto the image. I had a lot of problems where weird black patches appeared in certain areas and it took a lot of fiddling to fix. On the main front piece (the big white one on the left) you can still see a small black patch on the bottom right but I decided to just ignore it because it was driving me crazy.

You can see here how much difference ambient occlusion makes. Both images have basic hard shadows but the one on the right has baked on ambient occlusion and looks a lot better, although maybe it is a little bit too exaggerated. You can see the black patch I mentioned right there on the bottom of the piece in the right image.

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did record a lot of the development for this CG replica of the medal from the museum even though it wasn’t a final piece.

Explaining everything I did here would be impossible without writing an essay. I learned a lot with this model and also made quite a lot of mistakes. In particular there is some distortion on the circle part in the middle where it is ever so slightly squared. I’m not sure how this happened but there was so much going on in the model by the time I noticed that it would have been an insane amount of work to go back and tweak so I decided to leave it. You can see the ambient occlusion bake there too. I’m not entirely sure whether adding ambient occlusion to metallic objects is necessary or even works but I did it anyway.

Also with my main museum piece:

In the final version of this I made the d-pad at the bottom larger. Also the last image is of the medal that I modelled too.

 

Why a video game controller medal?

I had quite a similar idea last year for the medal project but at that time my 3D modelling abilities weren’t really up to scratch otherwise I would have made a bronze version of something similar. The one I was playing with last year I was considering loading with springs and having press-able buttons. I talked through the technical side of it a lot with Stewart the technician but I ended up getting distracted by my experimentation with paper folded stuff.

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There were some images that developed from this which looked much more like xbox controllers but I don’t have them to hand.

I decided to settle on a medal with four way rotational symmetry rather than five way (all of these objects last year had five way rotational symmetry)  as the medal Hussey Vivien is wearing in the painting also has four way symmetry as opposed to Napoleon’s very similar medal which has five way. I did spend a lot of time looking into this but couldn’t find out why this was.

Napoleon’s version is the Legion of Honour medal:

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The justification for my medal was to juxtapose achievements in video games with achievements on the battlefield. In most video games you receive “achievements” for performing tasks. Some of them are very challenging but often you will get one for starting a game, or walking so far, or playing for so long. I thought that as most people will only experience receiving medals through playing war video games I wanted to draw a comparison between the gruelling task of winning battles in the 18th century and achievements earned video game.

I experimented with a few ideas and spoke with tutors about my ideas and got into a discussion about the value of materials and what they symbolize. Casting my piece in paper was perfect as it’s a transient, disposable material that isn’t regarded as having much value at all.

I thought about casting the pieces in paper but with the amount of effort it took to get my models routed out it wasn’t worth the risk. I found out that there is a 3D paper printer in the workshop and ended up getting my piece printed on that.

I had to print out the thumbstick separately and glue it on. The process took a day to print and then another day for me to excavate the prints from the sheets of paper with the help of a craft knife.

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This is my mould for one of my test pieces. It was taken from my first CNC routed piece way towards the end of my project. It was supposed to be there to do a lot of testing with resin but by the time I managed to get it routed I on;ly had time to do one failed test before I had to move on my final piece.

I did spend a day painting random patterns on it which looked pretty awful, and then the next day I soaked it in polyester resin in my friend’s garden and neither it nor the other little test set, even after weeks in my room. The only thing I can think of is that I mixed the resin wrong. Either that or the damp from being left outside interfered with it.

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This is another of my “test” pieces. Because everything was delayed so much I ended up using this as a contingency plan in case my main piece didn’t come out right.

I talked through various possibilities with my tutor and he suggested suspending them and found this spot in the Cathedral.

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I liked it and thought I could make it work although it would mean coming in through the holidays and casting as well as continuing to cast for the first couple of weeks back.

Here are some examples of me playing with compositions.

 

I wasn’t really happy with any of those and ended up going for a sort of repeated wallpaper idea that would imply an infinite pattern of these forms that had been cut off. Like this:

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The larger piece at the top was added for in case I managed to get a large one finished in time, which I did in the end.

Here is the process from CNC routed form to finished paper piece

 

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I set up a miniature version of this in the studio for viewing by the Cathedral people.

 

Things I looked at

http://dragon_azure.tripod.com/UoA/Med-Arch-Rose-Window.html

http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?335899-What-the-medals-that-Napoleon-is-always-seen-wearing-in-portraits

http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/shine_forth_upon_us_in_thine_own_true_glory/

http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2009/05/theology-and-metaphysics-of-gothic_09.html#.VoqI0hWLTIU

Glitch Textiles http://www.glitchtextiles.com/woven-throws/

Faig Ahmed’s glitched out rugs http://inagblog.com/2014/03/faig-ahmed/

Panoramic Churches http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-pope-should-check-out-these-panoramas-of-nyc-churches

And lots of other stuff that I can’t remember. I didn’t keep a record of everything I was looking at as I did it so I’m probably going to get a terrible mark.

Museum Summer Project

Our Summer project this year was to visit a museum and select an object and do some drawings and maquettes from them.

I initially chose this Victorian till from the Kirkstall Abbey Museum in Leeds.

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The only problem was that I only had one reference picture. I decided to find a picture online of shopping tills from the same period and the one I found that had useful pictures I could use to get the proportions right weren’t anywhere near as nice as this one.

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This time I thought I would think outside the box and try and actually model the real object as was instead of stylising or abstracting it. It was a good opportunity to learn some more skills in 3D rendering.

till 1

I built the basic shape
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Added more detail

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And built a tray with a normal map on the front.
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I modelled two types of key, plus a tray, and then fittings with an accompanying glass tray. In this picture I have just baked a normal map for the body, which simulated ambient shadows and adds a lot more realism to models.till 15  This is where I stopped working on it. Most of it is finished but it needs normal maps of Victorian designs for the surfaces, as well as a few extra little details.

I decided I would rather use this penny arcade machine from the same museum instead and modelled that too.

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The wood actually looks nicer in some of the previous versions, I think. I may have to change that.

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This is my spin off project which looks nothing like the first project but it’s definitely inspired by it even though the link isn’t totally obvious. I had something very different in mind but there was a degree of improvisation which took me away from the thing it was based on.

More Blender Experiments

Over the past six months I have been developing my skills with Blender in the hopes of being able to translate my models into real life art objects using unusual materials. At the moment it’s mostly just visual experimentation although I have considered materials and methods for the construction of these pieces.

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In these two images I experimented with having a multi-coloured sphere light inside a waxy shell. Playing with the shaders in Blender is pretty fun.

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I really like this star shape. This was mostly just about playing with shaders again though. At this time I found myself ending up with a lot of objects with five way symmetry.

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This was my first attempt at modelling a head using Blender’s sculpting mode. I ran into some issues when it came to texturing it because it was made of too many faces to unwrap. The solution is to make a head made of less faces and then project the detailed one onto your new simplified low poly model as a normal map, which creates the illusion of complicated geometry. I haven’t tried this yet.

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These were two of the first things I made where I painted textures on them. The pyramid one I painted in Blender directly onto the model and then put the texture through Crazy Bump to get a normal map, which gave it the damaged rubber looking surface.

The one on the right I played with Blender’s liquid physics and had fluid run out of my object.The physics are a little bit glitchy in Blender so so there’s a little bit of weirdness.

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This is my first attempt to use Hexels to create textures for my models. It’s a program that lets you draw with tessellating shapes.

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I made this guy afterwards. I think it’s a bit more successful than the other one.

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With this thing I was experimenting with using a black and white imageto determine the materials of an object. Without doing this you can only assign the material type to the triangles the model is made of, but with this you can draw onto the model which parts are which material, which allowed me to paint those gold blobs on the front and add the swirl. Also putting that through Crazy Bumps let me create normal maps which creates the illusion of the gold parts being indented in.

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I added more details to this blobby monstrosity just so I could try out samples of different patterns and see how they look with normal maps added. I also figured out how to do ambient occlusion which simulates the way less light gets into crevices on objects, but I struggled to implement it very well on a glossy surface.

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These are more visual experiments. The cube with the corners was particularly about getting more familiar with how to make more complicated objects out of multiple pieces.

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This was using a black and white image to determine materials which allowed me to scribble glass material onto a rough glass/translucent mix material so you get a steamed up glass effect on the surfaces.

3D Modelling

So this is my idea for my Trelissick Park installation. The work has to relate to something about the park or the house, so I thought I’d look at Copeland pottery as the Copeland family owned the land for a period of time. The idea is to have a few tears in the landscape with some kind of pattern inspired by Copeland-Spode pottery underneath to sort of imply that the pattern runs under the surface of the ground all over the Gardens.

tear 1 tear4 tear3 tear 2

This is an alternate version, but I don’t think it works as well. I have sketches of lots of variations on this idea. I might mock up a few more in Sketchup to see how they work.

render reveal

This is just me playing around with various 3D rendering programs and trying to get to grips with how they work.

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Just a simply geometric form that I played with in Marmoset Toolbag.

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I tried my flap model in Marmoset Toolbag. The finish on the soil and the ceramic glazed surface is really nice but there is no built in grass/fur rendering option in this as far as I’m aware, so I would probably have to hand model all the grass. I used a leaf material instead as it was the closest thing. They look quite damp.

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I made some star things in Sketchup. Just playing around with them in Toolbag.

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And these last few were experiments using the demo of Maxwell for Sketchup. You can make some really nice translucent materials in this. I may have to try and see if I can get one of my tutors to help me get a cheap student version of this software.

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And this last thing is me going through a tutorial on Blender, which is a free 3D modelling and rendering program that is very complex compared to software I’m used to using, but once I get used to it I should be able to do some really interesting things with it.

I have a real problem with cups/mugs. Even when I’ve attempted to coil some mugs in clay I end up with these giant skinny loops.that look like elephant ears for handles

cup

More material experiments with light

Just a quick update with more experiments with paper and light. I have been experimenting with this tracing paper that has a very plastic quality to it. It has potential to do what I want although in some ways I prefer the less plastic paper. The advantage of the plastic tracing paper is it’s hardiness. I submerged it in hot water and rubbed at the images vigorously and they remained perfectly intact. DSCN5472 DSCN5487 DSCN5483 DSCN5482 DSCN5481 DSCN5480 DSCN5479 DSCN5476 DSCN5470 DSCN5447 DSCN5438 DSCN5429 DSCN5430 DSCN5431 DSCN5378 DSCN5354 DSCN5350 DSCN5335 DSCN5322

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More Lighting Stuff

So I finally finished this thing. Yay!

pentagon lamp  pentagon light dev

I then had to satisfy a curiosity about layers.

2 layer samples

Following this I decided to make a big pile of tetrahedrons to experiment with. I made a few more white ones that other colours because I wanted to try painting with different media like watercolour and inks.

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Faux Futuristic Toy Sculpture Design

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Just a sculpture design idea today. I had a lot of fun drawing this. Taking sketchbook doodles and redrawing them in colour in painter/photoshop is really satisfying. This may become a paper lamp tomorrow.

This second one is just me playing around in photoshop. The way I shaded the first image makes it really easy to slide patterns and other images underneath with minimal effort. I stole these patterns off the internet just to experiment really. I don’t plan on using this for anything. I do quite like the colour combination though.

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Paper Lamps

I started working on this mainly because I needed decor for my room, but it could easily feed into my main work. I first wanted to replace the ugly glass ceiling light shade that makes a horrible vibrating noise every time my housemate upstairs moves around, but that ended up being a bit of a disaster. It wasn’t till I started doodling that I came up with some potential workable designs.

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Led on to me making this

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I still need to finish the watercolour work on the white tissue surface.

Since then I’ve been trying to figure out what to do next. I had a go at drawing it out in painter and seeing how other colours might look.

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and then [played around with more designs ideas.

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I also wanted to try and make a bunch of samples using tissue I put through my home printer by taping it to a regular sheet of paper. When you add the pva water mix to it the image runs but if you are extremely careful you can keep it mostly preserved

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And here is the little model I tried it out on. each surface had an increasingly clearer image as I got used to preventing the wet ink from running.

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I knew I was going to try a few more of these in the future so I played around with designs which might incorporate a number of these tetrahedrons into another lamp.

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The last design reminded me a bit of an xbox controller and made me think of potentially making an abstract wall piece based on video game controllers. A kind of impractical monstrosity that might work as a piece of art in a gallery space.

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