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10. February 2012

 

 

Sculpting is all the rage in 3D these days, and for good reason.  You can quickly and fairly easily make incredibly detailed models in a very intuitive manner.  Many professional studiossculptris_logo have slotted a sculpting application like Autodesk Mudbox or Pixologic ZBrush in their workflows.  Only one catch… got 800$?  In the world of 3D, that’s rather affordable, but in the world of my wallet, that’s a bit more harsh!  Of course Blender, Maya, Max et al. all have sculpting features, but they simply don’t approach the abilities of a dedicated application.  Fortunately for us, there exists a free option, Sculptris.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sculptris began life as a hobby project of Tomas Pettersson, in an attempt to make a free version of ZBrush.  Thing is, he did a damned good job, so good in fact that Pixologic hired him on.  Even cooler for all of us, Pixologic made Sculptris on of their official products and continued to offer it for free!

 

So essentially, you can think of Sculptris as ZBrush lite, but don’t go thinking it’s a demo version or a toy, it is a remarkably capable and streamlined application.

 

If you have never used a 3D sculpting app before, its rather like modeling with virtual clay.  With Sculptris you start with either a flat plane or a 3d sphere, then start pushing, pulling, smoothing, creasing away until your model takes shape.  It really is a remarkably fluid way to work.  Tools are kept to a minimum, in Sculptris you model using: Crease, Rotate, Scale, Draw, Flatten, Grab, Inflate, Pinch and Smooth.  That’s it, and frankly, that’s about all you need.

 

Once you are done shaping your 3D model, now it’s a matter of texturing.  You click the Paint button, choose the texture size you want it to create and it goes to work for a few minutes.  Once your texture map is generated, you can now paint in 3D using the same interface.

 

 

Sculptris is Paint mode ( click for larger image )

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Performance is good as is feedback.  I have never experienced a crash, although I have experienced some oddity using Sculptris on my laptop in power saving mode ( the buttons are all in the wrong location and the top menu bar disappears ), but then, using Scultpris in power saving mode isn’t particularly a brilliant idea, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

 

You can of course also import your own models, this is especially useful for creating displacement maps for your lower polygon work.  Sculptris supports importing OBJ ( wavefront, format, but nearly ubiquitous at this point )  as well as GoZ format ( ZBrush format ).  You can also export in the same two file formats.  Be careful though, your exported files aren’t going to be “light”.  Consider the model in the screenshot, it was imported as a 200K OBJ, and after a few minutes in Sculptris when it was exported  it was 14MB in size.

Cool Thing of the Week Art


8. February 2012

 

 

As I mentioned in my earlier review, all the links for Hexagon’s documentation are currently broken.  Since then, I have noticed a fair bit of search engine traffic  of people looking for documentation, for good reason too… this program is downright confusing!

 

I have noticed that although all of the links to Daz3D.com are broken and you can’t use the help menu in Hexagon itself, the help files are actually installed on your computer!  Go to the folder you installed Hexagon 2.5 to, in my case it was C:\Program Files (x86)\DAZ 3D\Hexagon2\docs.  Inside should be the PDFs you are looking for.

 

In case you cannot find them, I will make them available here ( hopefully this is ok… ).

 

Keep in mind, these are the manuals for Hexagon 2.1 and appear to be about 6 years old!  That said, it’s better than nothing!

 

 

Hexagon 2.1 US Manual (PDF, 11MB)

Hexagon 2.1 US Keyboard Shortcuts (PDF 1/3MB)

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6. February 2012

 

 

As I recently mentioned Daz3D have made Hexagon, Bryce and Daz Studio all available for free for a limited time.  As a Blender user, until they finally ship BMesh, I am always in the market for a good modeler with effective COLLADA support.  So at a price of 0$ I figured I would try out Hexagon 2.5.  This is not a complete review, not even close, think of this more as a “These are the things I ran into that made me decide to not waste any more time on Hexagon” review.  Obviously, it doesn’t have a happy ending, which is a shame.

 

 

First off, it is a remarkably capable modeler, almost every feature you could want is in there… somewhere.  Feature-wise, it actually spanks Blender handily, with support for n-gons, good boolean supports, surfacing, etc.

 

First a look at the interface:

 

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At first glance it’s pretty clean.  Properties and scene graph on the right, a tool shelf ALA Maya across the top and a mish mash of visibility buttons across the bottom across the bottom.  Then this is where things start to show the sloppiness as well.  Consider this expanded icon:

 

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As you can see from the tool tip, this control “Activates actual lighting” and when you click it, that toolbar folds out.

 

 

Any guesses what any of these icons means?  Cause, I’ll tell you, I don’t have a bloody clue either!  None of them have mouse over tool tips, so you are stuck trying to figure it out from the icons…  good luck with that.

 

Don’t worry, there is always the help files to sort things out…   or wait, is there?

 

 

Here comes big and I mean BIG strike number two.  The help, yeah, there is none!



Of course, there is a Help menu, and as you can see, the options look pretty encouraging imageover all but they do nothing!


You click Help->Documentation or Help->Tutorial and you are brought to Daz3D’s website.  At first it appears that it is going to bring you to a documentation page, but then you are redirected back to the Front page.  Yay.


Alright, so the help hyperlink is broken, no big deal right, just surf to the help manually in your browser?


Ah good idea, let’s try that!

So you go to Support->Wiki from the front page manual.  Then select Hexagon on the left hand side and click the Hexagon documentation link.

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Ooooh, this looks encouraging!  Hexagon 2.1 Manual in English, it’s an earlier version but better than nothing, lets click that!

 

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Oh my!  Amateur hour continues.  So, no help, I guess you are on your own figuring things out and, well…  good luck with that.  The interface is downright confusing.

 

Take view navigation for example.  Other than Blender, the 3D world has become pretty standardized on how to navigate in 3D, so lets see how it works in Hexagon.  To pan your view, hold down your middle mouse button.  Ok so far.  To zoom in your view, use the scroll wheel.  Ok, pretty standard.  To Dolly/Rotate your view you….

 

Um….

 

You…  well apparently you use the arrow keys.  Yep, by default there is no mouse mode to actually orbit the camera!   Of course, there might be, put to hell if I can find it with a complete lack of documentation!   Of course, a little googling later and I discovered the answer… It’s a preference and it’s by default OFF! Huh?  Why?  Seriously, why?

 

For those following along at home, its pretty easy to resolve. Go to the Edit Menu->Preference Editor.  Under the User Interface tab, click Misc then select Dolly around selection center, like so:

 

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Can you seriously tell me a reason why this wouldn’t be enabled by default?  It’s a small thing, but it is infuriating until fixed.  It’s a problem that exists for no reason, and those are always the worst kinds of problems.

 

 

There are a few thousand examples like this, all around, it’s like death from a thousand paper cuts.  Like features are added or removed with no thought to being a cohesive tool.  Lets take a look at the tools panel for an example:

 

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Second Life???  HUH?  Why exactly is Second Life getting such important placement, or even placement at all?  Now *this* is the type of thing you make optional in the Preference Editor!  Now take another look back at the shelf and answer me this… where you do think you would go to say… split an edge?  If you said anything except Vertex modeling, you are wrong.  Now lets take a look at that process…  How do you split an edge?  Using a tool named Tessellate, that expands down with various options, lets take a look at that next!

 

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Lovely eh?

 

So, not only do you not have documentation, you also do not have tooltips so its basically anyone’s guess which icon you actually want to press.

 

But wait, there is a description of each icon below the shelf!  Oh wait… the expanded toolbar obscures the description text!

 

 

 

 

Again, a small niggling thing, but 5 minutes in QA should have caught this.  Again, it’s like people keep adding features with no thought to how they fit or should work.  Even worse, you have items that simply don’t exist in the panel, but only via menu.  For example, there is a utilities panel, and a tools->Utilities menu, but WELD can only be accessed via the menu! Or how about the “Lines” menu that has 5! items called arc!  I’m not kidding… look:

 

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Then there is the lack of polish that if you switch to a different part of the tools panel with a menu expanded, it doesn’t close.  You have to switch back to Vertex modeling, click Free Tessellate again to get rid of the menu, otherwise it’s stuck there forever. There are tons of little things like that with the UI, that make the UI toolkit they used just feel… sloppy and frankly, slow.

 

 

Speaking of slow, I am running Hexagon on a 12GB i7 machine purchased 3 weeks ago and it can be downright sluggish.  This is especially true when it comes to sub-division surfaces.  The finally

 

 

 

It’s all such a shame, as reality is, there is a great program underneath the surface here.  I didn’t give this program a lot of time; I didn’t have to.  The glaring problems are exactly that, glaring.  I encountered a good dozen “WTFs?” in less than half an hour and within three or four hours with this program I realized it had nothing to offer me that Blender/Wings didn’t already do better.

 

 

If there was documentation available ( a big huge mistake, especially when they new they were going to have a giant influx of new users with the promotion ), it might be worth fighting through the stupidity, but there isn’t and it’s not really worth it in the end.

 

 

Product Link: Hexagon 2.5

 

It’s free for the remainder of February, so there is no need to take my word for it, check it out yourself.  Be aware though, once you sign up, Daz is a little spam happy.  Since signing up this weekend, I believe I have received 5 emails, in addition to the receipt and serial number emails you get initially.  A word of advice to Daz, first off, it’s really cool you have made your applications available freely and I hope you see an uptick in your market sales as a result; but dial it back on the volume of emails or you are going to be blocked as SPAM and ignored by the users you are trying to attract!

Art


2. February 2012

 

 

 

Not sure the catch, if there is one, but this is a pretty epic deal on face value, hard to beat free!  I just finished the checkout process and as you can see, it really is free:

 

Your order contains:

DAZ Studio 4 Pro                                 1 @ $429.95   = $429.95
Bryce 7 Pro                                      1 @ $249.95   = $249.95
Hexagon 2.5 - Download...      Hexagon - Bo... 1 @ $149.95   = $149.95
Tax:                                                           $0.00
Shipping:                                                      $0.00
Discount:                                                     -$829.85
Paid via Gift Cert/Voucher/other credit:                      ($0.00)
Total:                                                         $0.00

=========================================================================

 

You have to sign up, and they will confirm your email address, so use a real one.

 

Oh, and their servers are getting absolutely hammered right now, so have some patience.  For those wondering, these are real applications and those are their real prices, so this is quite a bargain and time limited to my understanding.

 

As to the applications:

 

Daz Studio Pro

 

 

DAZ Studio 4 Logo

DAZ Studio is a feature rich 3D figure customization, posing, and animation tool that enables anyone to create stunning digital illustrations and animations. DAZ Studio is the perfect tool to design unique digital art and animations using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories, environments and more. Simply select your subject and/or setting, arrange accessories, setup lighting, and begin creating beautiful artwork.

With DAZ Studio 4 you can...
  • Create custom 3D characters and avatars
  • Produce illustrations for books, comics, and graphic novels
  • Make your own CG movies
  • Quickly make your own editorial artwork
  • Create graphic design elements
  • Design virtual environments with animated fly-throughs

 

 

So, basically it sounds like Poser, not sure how much this one use would be but worth checking out for free. 

 

 

Bryce 7

 

 

Bryce 7: The First Name in 3D Landscapes

Discover why Bryce has earned its place as the favorite 3D modeling and animation package of so many for so long. Bryce 7 Pro combines powerful features with a smart and simple user interface to make the creation of digital landscapes easier and more realistic than ever. Bryce 7 Pro proves that the only limit to creation is your own imagination.

 

 

 

Bryce I’ve used in the past, it used to be a rather one of a kind package, although now it’s functionality is often included in game engines like UDK.  Anyways, it allows you to easily build and render landscapes and terrain easily.  The results are actually rather amazing too.  This is surely a tool to add to your arsenal, especially for free!  The Pro version exports to Callada, so can easily be slotted into your workflow.

 

 

Hexagon 2

 

 

Hexagon delivers all the tools a graphic artist needs to create detailed 3D models ready for final render. Packed with features such as; DAZ Studio Bridge, sculpted primitives, freehand modeling brushes, micro-displacement modeling tools, comprehensive UV-mapping modules, advanced 3D paint, and instant ambient occlusion. Hexagon provides you with all the options of expensive competitor software, but at an affordable price.

 

 

 

Basically it’s a modeling package, I have absolutely no experience with this application, but again the price is right.

 

 

Oh, and your “purchase” gives you Mac and PC binaries!

 

 

 

In a world of 3000+$ graphic apps, this is an offer too good to ignore!  So, go check it out before it expires!

Art


19. January 2012

 

 

 

Our first Blender reference guide chapter has just been put online.  Think of it as a mash-up between a quick reference guide and a video tutorial.  We will cover off the most commonly performed actions in Blender with instructions on how to perform them via hotkey or using the mouse, as well as an accompanying image showing the action in, um… action.  We hope to bridge the gap between regular written instruction and video tutorial.  So for those that like moving at their own pace like you would with a written page, but with the clarity of video, hopefully this guide is perfect for you.

 

 

Obviously if you’ve been using Blender for a while, this will be of very little use to you, but if BorderSelectyou are just starting out, I hope you find it helpful.  If you have not, hopefully these will be of use.  Here for example, is the graphic illustrating the (B)order selection tool.  Click any image for a more detailed version.

 

 

We have many other pages in the work, the next one specifically covers the editing process, but any and all suggestions are welcome!  Feel we’ve glossed over an important command in a certain category, let us know!

 

 

Here is the first release though, covering selection and camera manipulation.  Consider everything to be a WIP, subject to multiple changes.  There are also some tutorials in the works, and they are going to assume you are familiar with everything in the guide.  As we bring more sections online, we will be improving the navigation of course.

Art


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