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15. January 2019


Today Autodesk have released the 2019 edition of both Maya and the stripped down indie edition, Maya LT.  The big theme of the 2019 release is performance, with 2019 having performance improvements across the entire application, from start up and selection speed, to animation playback improvements.  This release also includes tools to better track how Maya is using your computers resources, including Evaluation Toolkit and Profiler, which should help you track down bottlenecks to your scene’s performance.

Details from the Maya 2019 release notes:

This release focuses on letting you work faster than ever before through new workflows and numerous performance enhancements.

A myriad of improvements to Viewport 2.0 enhance its performance when doing everything from loading scenes to selecting objects, to handling dense meshes.

Additionally, cached playback speeds up your ability to preview animation changes by intelligently redrawing only what's changed rather than updating the entire scene. This greatly improves viewport playback performance, removing the need to constantly playblast your scenes.

This release also gives you the most powerful tools yet for tracking exactly how Maya is using your computer's resources. New features in the Evaluation Toolkit and Profiler allow you to pinpoint exactly where there may be inefficiencies or problems that are slowing down your scene.

Improvements to Render Setup enable you to better organize your render layers by coloring and isolating them in the Render Setup editor, or by controlling whether lights are included in each layer by default. In addition, more options are available for exporting and importing scene Render Settings and AOVs.

You can also now render Arnold right in the viewport, including all its RenderView options such as Debug Shading, AOVs, and region rendering.

New Graph Editor filters have been added to help you refine animation curves quicker and easier than before.

Plenty of examples and presets have been added to the Content Browser covering a variety of areas, from motion capture, to motion graphics, to characters. Use them as-is, or as a jumping-off point for your own work.

This covers just the top level new features, be sure to consult the full release notes for more information on improvements in the 2019 release:

Maya LT also has a dedicated release notes available here.

GameDev News Art


13. December 2018


In modern AAA games you often have a staggering amount of control over your character’s creation.  As a game developer you may think, “Why can’t we do this for creating game assets?”.  Simple answer, you can and that’s exactly what Character Creator 3 from Reallusion enables you to do.  Starting from a base mesh you have a staggering amount of control over just about every single visual aspect of your character.  You can flesh this out by adding a variety of clothing items, props, hair and more, all via simple drag and drop.  Best of all, your character is full rigged and ready for export and animating.

This approach to character creation is nothing new, several other packages we have covered in the past such as Fuse, MakeHuman and the recently cancelled Manuel Bastioni Labs all take a very similar approach to character creation.  Character Creator 3 however has some key advantages.  One of the biggest is it’s game engine focus, with the ability to create game friendly meshes (both in terms of polygon count and UV layouts) and export them to a number of game engines and applications including Unreal Engine, Unity, Maya, Max and Blender.  There is also functionality for tweaking your generated mesh right down to the vertex level, substance designer integration for materials, fine level PBR texturing control, templates for creating your own clothing and tools for automatically creating multiple LOD meshes.

Watch Character Creator 3 in action in the video below. 


If you are interested in checking out Character Creator 3, there is a 30 day trial available here.

Until December 31, they are also having a holiday sale with savings up to 50% available here.

Art Design


19. November 2018


The Game Creators have just released an updated version of the AppGameKit GameGuru Loader (phew, that’s a mouthful).  GameGuru is an extremely easy to learn 3D game engine with a complete game editor and loads of 3D content available to help you get started.   The 1.6 release adds several new features including LOD support, new 3D environmental effects (rain and dust), particle based bullet holes and more.


New features in the 1.6 release include:

  • Added 3D environment dust system
  • Real LOD support - 100% automated for much faster rendering
  • Fixed shadow fading errors in non PBR shaders
  • Fixed issue with rotation speed
  • Added ShadowCameraBias# to adjust shadow camera near plane, if you use a large spotlight object
  • Improved orthographic projection matrix to better centre on spot light position
  • Work in progress Shadowflashlight!
  • Added fake volumetric light - use "volumetric.lua" on a spot light to create the light cone
  • Added fake volumetric light shader that animates/rotates the light rays/smog
  • Fixed spot shadow camera rotation problem
  • Background GameGuru objects like billboard now don't get any light, results in better visual
  • Shaders expanded light ranges for improved smooth light
  • Fixed terrain distance improvement (did not work when using gamegurescale 1)
  • Improved terrain height map - it now matches GameGuru more precisely 
  • Added useVegNaturalPlacement = 1 - places grass using a formula, reduces the number of grass objects but still looks packed
  • Added PBR alpha control from AppGameKit code, so special alpha can be set per object
  • Fixed shadow bias for more precise shadows in new shaders.
  • Added speedShadows = 1 - will double the speed of your cascade shadows (really fast realtime shadows)
  • Added faster foliage/trees handling around 15 percent faster
  • Improved setup time for vegetation
  • Added makeBulletHoles = 1 - adds particle bullet holes where they hit
  • Added makeCharHitBlood = 1 , adds particle blood when you hit a NPC
  • Added environment rain, just set env_rain = 1 - many settings to control how it looks like speed/color/size/gravity!
  • Added rain_make_splash = 1 - make rain drops splash on the terrain and objects
  • Added rain_stop_when_indoor = 1 - stop rain when an object is above you ( you're indoors )
  • Added rain_sound = 1 - when raining play a rain loop sound
  • Added global maxNormalSize = 4096 - set max normal texture size to use
  • Added global maxDiffuseSize = 4096 - set max diffuse texture sizes to use
  • Improved: super sampling when using: "postprocessshaders = 5" - stops more flicker in distance
  • Added a additive blending particle effect sample
  • Improved: main game loop speed up by 50%! - Way better FPS when you have many objects on your levels
  • Improved: speed of water reflection render
  • Added tryconvertingmedia = 1 - source code can now convert .dbo to .x (no need to use fixpbr), and convert .dds to .png (Windows only)


If you are interested in learning more about GameGuru, be sure to check out this video also embedded below.

GameDev News


18. October 2018


Meshroom is a new, free and open source photogrammetry software from AliceVision.  Photogrammetry software enable you to create a 3D scene using a series of photographs, generally the more the merrier.  Currently documentation is a bit lacking, so I’ve decided to create this quick tutorial.  In this tutorial we are going to quickly walk through the process of using Meshroom using a photoset available here.  That post links to a zip file containing 50 images that are confirmed to work with Meshroom.  Simply extract them somewhere on your drive.  Of course you need to download Meshroom, which is available for download right here.  Simply download the archive, extract then execute the Meshroom application.  Note Meshroom requires a CUDA GPU and works on Windows and Linux!  So this process will only work on nVidia GPUs, at least as of time of writing.


Once you’ve got Meshroom loaded, follow the following simple steps.

Drag extracted images into the Images pane on the left.

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Save your project somewhere

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Click the green Start button.

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As it’s running, you will see the progress across the top:

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This bar indicates a problem occurred.  You can divine more details by locating the current task in the Graph, like so:

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With the node selected, check the Log (bottom right corner) for details.  This is the error message you receive if you run the process on a non-CUDA (nVidia) GPU.  Keep in mind, it can also be caused by the process running on a laptop with Optimus, not automatically selecting the right GPU.

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Hopefully however you encounter no such errors and the process is entirely green.  On the bright side, it should pick right up where the error occured if you run the project again in the same directory, as Meshroom caches the results of each step as it goes.  You will find the vast majority of time is spent on the DepthMap section,  this is normal.  As the process continues, you should start seeing results in the 3D viewer.

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You can pan, zoom and orbit the mouse using the LMB, scroll wheel and MMB respectively.  More detail in the point cloud will fill in as the process runs.  Once it completes successfully, you will see a button Load Model.

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You can now preview the results of your effort!

FinalGif

A few steps in, it will have evaluated all of your photos, acceptable/usable photos will be marked with a green checkmark.

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Review the remaining photos for flaws and inconsistency if you run it again.

Go make some tea… it’s going to be between 10 minutes and an hour depend on the speed of your machine.  Once the process is complete, there will be a folder called MeshroomCache, with the following contents:

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This is a folder with all of the output files from each step in the process.  Generally what you are going to be interested in is the obj, mtl and texture file in the Texturing folder.  This can be imported into your 3D modelling application of choice, the obj format is fairly universal.  The resulting mesh is extremely dense and you may consider checking out Instant Meshes for optimizing the results.


Now that you know it works, it’s time to start refining the process or providing your own picture set.  I would recommend the following tips from my own experience:

  • use an actual camera, not a phone.  I got terrible results from my Pixel phone, but my Canon DLSR gave much better results.  YMMV
  • DO NOT green/white screen your background.  Unique markers in the background help Meshroom position each virtual camera
  • try to get the entire object in frame on each shot
  • get rid of any image with any blurring

So far we just default settings in the Graph Editor.  This graph represents a graph of nodes in the process, one for each directory shown in the screenshot above.  Note when you select a node, there are a number of properties you can edit:

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You can also connect pins to multiple nodes to create multiple results.  For example, if you wanted to create a set of TFF and lower resolution PNG textures, you can do the following.  Right click the graph editor and select Texturing:

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This will create a new node in the graph.  Now drag the output node from MeshFiltering and connect it to ini and inputMesh.

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Select the new Texturing node and have it create a lower detail texture set:

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Now when it runs, it will create two sets of textures for you.  Note there are other nodes such as Decimation that aren’t in the process by default.  You can see the entire thing in process in the video attached below:

Art


15. October 2018


The academy award winning book Physically Based Rendering from Theory to Implementation 3rd Edition is now available free online in it’s entirety at http://www.pbr-book.org/.  This book is hugely important to the game and film industry as this is where the expression Physically Based Rendering (PBR) was coined, and it is the underlying rendering technology behind every major modern 3D game engine.

Description of PBR 3rd Edition from the book homepage:

Physically Based Rendering, Third Edition describes both the mathematical theory behind a modern photorealistic rendering system as well as its practical implementation. A method known as “literate programming” combines human-readable documentation and source code into a single reference that is specifically designed to aid comprehension. Through the ideas and software in this book, you will learn to design and employ a full-featured rendering system for creating stunning imagery.

This new edition greatly refines its best-selling predecessor by adding sections on bidirectional light transport; stochastic progressive photon mapping; a significantly-improved subsurface scattering implementation; numerical robustness issues in ray-object intersection; microfacet reflection models; realistic camera models; and much more. These updates reflect the current state-of-the-art technology, and along with the lucid pairing of text and code, ensure the book's leading position as a reference text for those working in rendering.

The author team of Matt Pharr, Greg Humphreys, and Pat Hanrahan garnered a 2014 Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences based on the knowledge shared in the first and second editions of the book this book. The Academy called the book a “widely adopted practical roadmap for most physically based shading and lighting systems used in film production.”

Additionally you can still buy print (and digital) copies on Amazon via this affiliate link, should you desire the feeling of paper in your hands.  This is not an easy text, and isn’t required reading for everyone, but if you are working on rendering technology or want a peek behind the curtain this is definitely a book you should check out today.

Click here to read the book now.

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