Creating a waving flag in Carrara using Soft Body Modifiers

Waving-Flag

Carrara lets you turn any object in your scene into a Soft Body object with the help of a Soft Body Modifier. To create a waking flag we need to use a combination of two modifiers: one that makes the object a “soft body”, and one that attaches it to something else, such as a flag pole.

Here’s how to do it in Carrara 8.5.

The objects in my scene are:

  • a thin cylinder for the flag pole
  • a grid (or squished up cube) as the flag
  • optional: to create some wind I’m also using a Directional Force, but that’s more of a fine-tune

All our work is happening in the Assemble Room.

Select the flag, head over to Modifiers and add a Soft Body modifier. This is where you can setup the physical properties of your object, such as stiffness, how it reacts to air flow, how much internal surface pressure it has, and if you would like it to collide with itself in case it folds.

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The values here are largely self-explanatory and require a bit of experimentation. Notice that nothing appears to happen if you change any of these. To see your object take on the new properties of this modifier, click on the Simulate Physics icon at the top left (the “bone in a dotted circle with an arrow” button).

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As soon as you click it Carrara will go to work with all physics calculations in your scene. It will render an animation which is governed by the duration you’ve set with the little yellow arrow icon in the timeline (not the actual animation duration). By default this is set to 4 seconds. If you want to see what happens beyond this, simply move that little yellow triangle in your timeline, then hit Simulate Physics again.

The flag is not attached to anything yet, so it will either stay in place, drop to the floor, or if you’ve already added a directional force it may drift away outside your scene. To attach it to the flag pole we need to add another modifier, this time it’s a Soft Body Attach Modifier.

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With it we’ll tell Carrara which other object our flag is attached to. In the first box, select your Flag Pole Cylinder. In the second box (edit) you’ll open a kind of paint mode. This will let you select which vertices you’d like to attach. In our case, we only want the points closest to the pole to be attached to the pole. Red points are selected, white points are unselected.

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Selection can be a bit tricky: I’ve not managed to find a way to change the size of the paint selection brush – I’m sure there is one, but I find it easier to select too many at first, and then choose the little minus icon and unselect what I don’t need.

Notice the three new icons in the top left corner: those are “select points” (plus), “deselect points” (minus), and “we’re done here” (tick icon). When you’re done, select Simulate Physics again to see your result.

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To render one particular image, simply drag the animation playhead to a desired position and select render. You can also render the entire animation of course.

The quality of physics relies on the amount of points your object has: the more points, the more accurate the waving will be, but at the same time the longer it will take Carrara to calculate the effect. Especially with cloth type objects, increase the tessellation for better results.

 

 

How to render DAZ Studio scenes without DAZ Studio

DAZ Studio has one drastic drawback: while you’re rendering a scene you can’t use the app until it’s finished rendering. In fact, DAZ Studio makes use of every available CPU cycle, turning even the fastest computer into something you can’t even check your emails with while you wait for that render to finish.

That’s great for efficiency – but it also sucks because you need a second computer to keep working with, or alternatively use a second computer for rendering while you work with your main machine. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do something akin to Poser’s background rendering, something that lets you setup the next scene in DAZ Studio while it’s rendering at the same time?

I have good news: you can – thanks to something called RIB files. I didn’t know this until recently, and it works a treat. Let me explain how to use this feature.

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How to add effects to a single layer in Photoshop

Photoshop has a feature called Clipping Layers. It’s extremely useful, but doesn’t quite describe what it does. Besides it’s extremely unintuitive if you’ve never used it before.

Among other things it can be used to add an effect to a single layer rather than the entire image, as you would if an adjustment layer is used without the Clipping Layers feature. In a nutshell, here’s what you do:

  • add an adjustment layer above the layer you’d like to affect (for example, Brightness and Contrast)
  • hover over the tiny black line in between the adjustment layer and your regular layer
  • you’ll see an angled black arrow pointing down, with a white square next to it
  • ALT-CLICK and that little arrow is now next to your adjustment layer

Clipping-Layers

Now you can apply the adjustments to the layer directly below the adjustment layer, while layers above it remain unaffected.

To make sure the adjustment layer appears above the layer you’d like to correct, select your layer first, then create an adjustment layer (because moving it afterwards isn’t so good for your blood pressure).

The old Empty Smart Content Tab ploy – and how to fix it

One morning I woke up and my entire Smart Content tab in DAZ Studio was empty. Nothing had happened since the day before when it was working perfectly fine. It just stopped working overnight.

What I had done shortly before going to bed was to install the latest service release of Poser Game Dev (SR5). If this was the cause of the problem or not will forever remain a mystery. In this article I’ll explain how I fixed this issue on my Mac.

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Directory Structure of a Poser Runtime

Poser is a tad – shall we say – pernickety about where it allows you to save files if you’d like them to appear in the Library. You can save files anywhere on your system of course, using the options in the File Menu, but Poser can also save files into the Library with the little plus icon. This requires a Runtime folder structure.

By default Poser sets up two for us: Poser Content and Downloads. To create others, specifically empty ones for our own content, we need to create a specific folder hierarchy so that Poser recognises this as a Runtime. Here’s how to do it:

  • create a folder with the name you’d like it to be displayed as (say Your Scenes)
  • in this folder, create a new folder called runtime
  • inside the runtime folder, create the following three folders:
  • Geometries
  • libraries
  • textures

 

And that’s your Runtime Structure. Capitalisation is (or once was) important here. Poser will create other folders in this structure when necessary, as does content from 3D marketplaces.

To add your new Runtime to Poser, click that little “plus icon with a running man in a folder” type button in your Library palette. Now you can select it, just like the Poser Content and Downloads runtimes.

To remove it, select your runtime (make sure the drop down does not read <All>), then click the “minus icon with a running man in a folder” icon. Your actual folder will remain in place, but it no longer shows up in Poser.

How to rotate around selected objects in Poser

Other 3D apps rotate around the currently selected object by default. Poser does not. By default Poser chooses to rotate around the center of the universe. That’s great for characters but relatively maddening for larger scenes.

The secret lies in the Display menu, in an option called Orbit Selected Mode. Select it and Poser will rotate around your current selection. Unselect it and you’ll rotate around the world center again.

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In this menu is another helpful feature: Frame Selected. This will zoom in on your selection with a healthy distance, making it easy to pick out single objects in larger scenes.

Fly Around is a nice concept in which the camera circles the current scene, around the selected object if you choose. It can be a bit tough on the old CPU though and tends not to stop when you unselect it. Instead, simply click the top bar of the scene window (next to the object selection drop downs). That’ll make it stop.

Knowing these simple things may make Poser drive us just that little bit less insane.

Rough Guide to Poser Pro Render Settings

A few years ago I bought Prostudio by Synthetic and Blackhearted. It’s a “light preset kit” for Poser that comes with an extensive manual and many presets to start a good render, but as the author explains you really need to know something about lighting to make renders look their best.

After reading the manual I took some important tips away which I wanted to make a note of, in regards to render settings. It appears they are closely linked to getting good results – so no matter if you’re using this particular light set or not, the following tips apply to any Poser render I guess.

Default-Render-Settings

The above are the default FireFly settings you’ll find with a fresh scene in Poser Pro 2014 Game Dev, under Render – Render Settings.

As with all the settings, experimentation is encouraged and not one setting fits all.

 

Gamma Correction

Blackhearted recommends to switch off the Gamma Correction for more realistic renders(bottom right). Here’s the difference without (left) and with (right), using the default lights and the Andy2 skeleton figure.

This setting has no impact on render times, just on the contrast.

Gamma-Correction

 

Pixel Samples

This confusing term controls how anti-aliased rendered objects appear. Less anti-aliasing means a more jagged edge, while more anti-aliasing means a smoother edge.

In Pixel Sample render terms this means:

  • Higher Pixel Sampling = more/better anti-aliasing (longer render time)
  • Lower Pixel Sampling = less/worse anti-aliasing (shorter render time)

Note than even though the edges and textures appear more jagged, the lighting looks the same. Lower values are good for test renders.

Here’s Andy again, on the left with a setting of 1, and on the right with 20. The highest Pixel Sampling I can achieve on my system is 36.

Pixel-Samples

This option is not to be confused with Render – Antialias Document, which only applies quick anti-aliasing to the current preview, thereby creating a quick render. Pixel Samples are applied during the “real” FireFly rendering process.

 

Minimum Shading Rate

With this setting Poser defines how well defined shadow areas are rendered (I think). Lower settings take longer to render, but give a much more detailed and accurate definition on a model. Higher settings render quicker, and again don’t affect how the overall lighting looks – and as long as you don’t see a split render you can’t really tell what’s different between these settings.

Hence here are two full renders instead of a split: the top image is rendered with a Min Shading Rate value of 0 and yields a lot of detail in Andy’s chest cavity. Look at all the small reflections and detail, as well as the thin sharp shadows at his joints.

The bottom image was rendered with a rate of 20 (the highest value) and while not bad, much of that high definition is gone. It’s much quicker to render though.

MinShading-Low

MinShading-High

Depending on the shader that’s used on a surface, you can see what Poser is doing during the first render pass (when it says Precalculating Subsurface Scattering): the preview polygons are larger, hence the lack of resolution on higher rates.

The Poser manual has more detailed explanations on all the other settings, but those three above always mystified me most up until now.

 

Auto Settings

Poser also has an option to adjust all those scary settings with a simple slider, which appears when you select Auto Settings instead of Manual Settings.

Move the slider further to the left for quicker and rougher renders, or slide to towards the right for better quality renders which take longer. You lose finer grained control this way, but it’s a great way to get started quickly.

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Note that both Auto and Manual do not influence each other: make a change in Manual and it will not affect your Auto settings, and vice versa. You can import your Auto settings into the Manual dialogue by selecting Acquire from Auto – but it doesn’t work the other way round.

 

Here’s one final tip on how to speed up test renders: while you’re working and setting up a scene, consider reusing your shadow maps (Render – Reuse Shadow Maps). This will prevent Poser from recalculating those every time. Depending on how much you’ve changed in your scene this can be quite a timesaver.

When you’re finished, just untick the box again. To force Poser to recalculate the shadow maps, select Clear Shadow Maps and they’ll be regenerated upon your next render.

How to use Replicators and Surface Replicators in Carrara

Trees

Replicators and Surface Replicators allow you to duplicate single objects and make it look like you have an armada of “stuff” in your scene. For example, you could replicate trees on a landscape or a group of people, but only load a single object into your scene.

The difference between a Replicator and a Surface Replicator is this: Replicators duplicate (replicate) your objects along all 3 axis and only need a single source object. In fact they can accommodate several source objects, but they don’t replicate along anything.

Surface Replicators on the other hand only replicate along a given surface, like a terrain or another object. Surface Replicators only obey a twi dimensional plane along whose normals your replicated objects will be aligned.

To use them, simply drag an object onto the replicator in the Assemble Room. This can be tricky: make sure the source object turns green rather than yellow – which seems to happen when you drag it too far towards the right. Click and drag it further to the left, as shown below.

As soon as you do, you’ll see your object outlined many times over in the scene as bounding boxes.

replicator

To adjust the replicator, select it and click the Wrench Icon to enter the Modelling Room. Here you can tweak the behaviour of your Replicator: along which axis you’d like to replicate how many objects, if you’d like to add some distance or rotational changes to it, that sort of thing.

You can also add other source objects here if you would like them to have the same behaviour (in case you don’t like the drag and drop action described earlier).

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