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30. May 2011

 

So, until this point I have been using Microsoft’s Expressions Encoder to do video capture for tutorials on this site.  I am an MSDN subscriber and already had the Expression Studio installed, so even though I was really (…….. really ) pushing the bounds of my license I went ahead and used it.  Then I ran into a pretty big snag, see the encoder that ships with my Expression Ultimate version is the “free” version, which you can download here.  It is an impressive product, that makes for very small file sizes that are surprisingly detailed.  That is, until you hit the 10 minute mark.  That… is a sizable gotcha.

 

So, I started looking into alternatives.  Camtasia Studio is easily the big player in this space, but with a pretty severe 350$ price tag.  The before mentioned Expressions Encoder can be had for a more modest but still too high 200$.  The I found Cam Studio which is a free and open source alternative, but it really wasn’t a viable option.  My first test was 15 seconds long and a little over a GB in size!  Plus frankly, it looked awful.  I just don’t think Cam Studio is set up to do HD video.  I played around with various codecs and settings but frankly never got anything that approached usable. 

 

I was really starting to fret that I would have to put out a couple hundred bucks to simply capture video and frankly me and my money are rather tight friends and don’t want to part so easily.  Then a moment of serendipity occurred… I came across a shareware product called FastStone Capture which effortlessly recorded my screen, at > 15FPS directly to WMV.  After a minute of recording at 1080p I was well under 20MB!  What is so serendipitous about that you ask?  Ironically enough, I had already purchased this product a couple years back for helping me with screenshots!  SCORE.

 

Anyways, if you are looking to do video/screen capture on a Windows machine, I highly recommend you check out FastStone.  Comes with a fully featured trial and is only 20$ if you register it.  Keep in mind, it is NOT a video editor and isn’t even in the same league as Expressions Encoder or Camtasia for features, but if you want to just capture the screen in a high quality but small size, this is the best product I’ve seen.  Actually as I am using Blender for NLE and not Expressions, my work flow just became a heck of a lot faster, as I lost an encoding step!

Totally Off Topic

29. May 2011

 

Well here is one out of nowhere.  StudioGPU have released their flagship product MachStudio Pro 2 for free.  Real free too so far as I can tell, not free with an asterisk free.  For those of you that have never heard of MachStudio, it is in very rough terms a near to realtime renderer that makes use of your GPU.  In their own words:

 

StudioGPU's MachStudio Pro reinvents the 3D visualization production pipeline by putting the power of real-time graphics processing at your fingertips.

Render times that typically take hours or days are reduced to minutes and even seconds, limiting artists only to the scope of their creativity.

MachStudio Pro lets you truly Work at the Speed of Thought!

 

 

A Blender exporter is coming soon, but for now it does support importing FBX files.  Previous to this announcement, MachStudio sold for 4 grand!

 

Now the downside… you need a 1GB Direct X 11 GPU to run it.  In the world of desktops, that’s not too demanding.  For people like myself that buy only laptops, then it gets a bit trickier.  My best GPU is currently 512MB, but I am downloading it anyways to see what happens.

 

At that price though, if you have the system to run it, what are you waiting for, go download it now!

 

 

For those who ignore minimum requirements, just an FYI, it simply refused to run on my non-DX11 card.

Art

28. May 2011

 

As YouTube allows videos up to 1080p in size and does a very good job of providing downsampled versions, from now on I will try to publish all future videos in 1080p.  The only exception are videos capture on my 720p laptop…. which will obviously be 720p. Only downside is, some of these can get pretty blasted big!

 

Also, I am now using a utility to display what keys and buttons are being pressed, which should make it easier to follow along with what I am doing, while minimizing the amount of explanation I have to make.  Well, that’s the plan anyways.

General

27. May 2011

 

I am struggling a bit on how to format a “book” in blog terms.  What is the best way for me to get information across.  One of the big goals of this site is to guide a beginner through the entire process of creating a game.  At the same time however, as I come across problems, interesting things or just simply something strikes my fancy, I want to post it here as well.  This leads to a serious continuity problem, especially for someone just starting out.

 

As a proposed solution, I am going to keep things as they are, but “on topic/ordered” posts are going to be organized by chapters around a common theme.  That way a person can come in and view content on a chapter by chapter basis, even though a chapter is actually just a series of posts.  So, there will be a link on the right hand side Chapter 1/ Chapter 2/ etc… as well as each post being tagged by which chapter it belongs to.  Hopefully this will provide a solid structure to follow along by.

 

In addition, for each video posting, I will attempt to merge all chapter video together into a single video for people that want to consume it all at once.

 

I am currently working on chapter 1, which shows the entire pipeline in action.  Setting up your modeler, creating a model in Wings 3D, exporting to Blender, texturing and animating, the exporting to Unity.  By the end of chapter 1, you should be able to get your content from nothing to Unity with ease.

General

21. May 2011

 

In every industry there are definitely trends, and the CG world is no exception.  I remember the days when patch modeling were the “IT” thing, and every package under the sun added some forms of patch or spline modeling feature to its toolbox.  Then came NURBS and Sub-D surfaces, etc…

 

 

Pixologic_Logo_2

These days, the “IT” thing is sculpting.  Pretty much modeling via “virtual clay”.  Maya’s Artisan Tools no doubt was one of the big contributing factors to the whole sculpting movement with its release in 1998, but without a doubt the most disruptive and important program in the sculpting movement was Pixologic's zBrush.  Put simply it changed how the industry worked and if you have never checked it out, it is really worth a look! 

 

 

 

Now the gotcha, zBrush meshes by nature tend to be quite dense, as in high in polygon count.  Therefore it is a pretty piss poor tool for creating real time meshes ( although still useful for normal maps ).  In recent years though, lower polygon tools have more commonly made their way into the toolset.  Now, in regards to our project here, zBrush isn’t really all that relevant as simply put, it cost 700$.  That said, there are options.

 

See, a fellow by the name of DrPetter started an amateur project to create his own sculpting software.  In that way that can make you so damned jealous of other peoples abilities, the son of a… er wait… well anyways, he pulled it off, and created a pretty damned cool piece of software in just 6 months.  Being a hobby project he was pretty much going to abandon it, but the folks at pixologic stepped in an employed the fellow to continue work.

 

So, long story short, there is a freely available sculpting solution out there, thanks to drpetter and pixologic.  Given the cost of admission, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.  It is now called Sculptris Alpha 5 and you can download it here.  It’s a zip, download, extract and run the EXE, simple enough.

 

And to whet your appetite so you actually go ahead and download this powerful and FREE program, check out the following video!  Oh, and it is truly free, no watermarks, no limitations, simply free.

 

Sculptris in action

Art

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