Did I mention my new book?

Lampstack-SoftcoverOver the last few weeks I’ve written a book. It’s about how to run web applications in the comfort of your own home.

Yesterday it went live on Amazon! I have an author page and everything!

Turns out that writing was the easy part: formatting it so that it looks good on Kindle devices was a bit tougher. It’s a tech book after all, which means there are several screenshots and code snippets which need to be formatted to stand out from the rest of the text.

Before I call myself “best selling author”, let me describe how this book came to be.

 

Continue reading Did I mention my new book?





How to combine a 3D render with a background image in Photoshop

In this video I’ll show you how to render an image in DAZ Studio and compose it onto a background image in Photoshop.

We’ll use the Shader Mixer and a Shadow Catcher in DAZ Studio to make the figure cast a shadow but be otherwise transparent. In Photoshop we’ll add artificial depth of field to an arbitrary background picture using Smart Objects, and I’ll introduce some techniques to blend both images together for extra realism (all non-destructively).

The final picture is going to look like this (featuring the 3D Universe Toon Crab and a new lifeguard tower in my neighbourhood). composite

The whole video is nearly 40mins long, so grab a cup of tea and enjoy.





How to use the Grappling Hook in XIII for GameCube

unknownI was playing XIII again the other day. The US GameCube version this time. I remember enjoying XIII on the original Xbox back in the day, as well as on PC.

Even today, there’s nothing quite like playing these old style shooters with blurry textures and blocky unsmoothed 3D objects.

That aside, I had a tough time making the Grappling Hook work, mainly because the controls on the GameCube version must be the most terrible in the history of console gaming. Sadly my copy did not come with an instruction booklet, but at $4.99 with free shipping I’m not complaining. I found no instructions on the internet either, I’m probably a lost cause and too late for the XIII party anyway.

For future generations, and my future self, here’s how the XIII GameCube control work (from what I could figure out). Continue reading How to use the Grappling Hook in XIII for GameCube





How to create a translucent shader in Blender (Cycles)

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-14-24-08By default all our 3D objects are opaque, meaning light does not pass through them. Like a brick wall. But many objects in reality let some amount of light through, like a piece of paper or a glass of lemonade. This partial transparency is called translucency.

In the picture above, light passes through the leaf, partially illuminating the ground underneath it. We can setup such a shader in Blender like this:

  • in between the Diffuse and Material Output node, connect an Add Shader
  • create a Translucent Shader and connect its output to the second input of the Add Shader (top or bottom does not matter)
  • connect the Color Output of your texture to the Color Input of the Translucent Shader

Here’s what such a shader looks like:

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-14-20-21

In the above image, I have combined this translucent setup with a transparency shader, so that the leaf can be “cutout” using the texture’s transparent background. Here’s what that looks like:

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-14-23-49





How to create a Shadow Catcher in Blender (Cycles)

shadow-catcher

Setting up a Shadow Catcher in Blender is a bit more tricky than in other applications, but nevertheless straightforward if you know what you’re doing. I certainly did not when I first tried it, but thanks to this short YouTube video by Nonsense Blender Tutorials, I was able to set this up.

Here’s how to do it:

Continue reading How to create a Shadow Catcher in Blender (Cycles)





Why I joined The Blender Cloud

Blender LogoYesterday, while I was receiving my 13th chemotherapy shot at the hospital infusion suite, I’ve spontaneously joined The Blender Cloud.

Full of pride I mentioned this on Twitter, and Ton Roosendaal asked me to sum up what got me on board in one tweet. That’s not an easy feat, considering what the Blender Cloud has to offer, and the more I thought about it, the more reasons sprang to mind.

Here’s why I did it (in slightly more than 160 characters).

Continue reading Why I joined The Blender Cloud





How to create a transparency shader in Blender (Cycles)

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-14-03-09

Texture files can have a transparency value, and as such we’d like to use it on occasion with 3D objects. The above image is created using flat square leaves, onto which an image of a leaf is projected. Outside the leaf, the area on the PNG file is transparent.

Here’s how to create a Cycles Shader in Blender that will show only the leaf and not the surrounding area of the texture.

Continue reading How to create a transparency shader in Blender (Cycles)





How to render an image sequence as video in Photoshop

Up until now I had always used Premiere Pro to assemble image sequences of a rendered animation.

I’m still using Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and I’m not currently subscribing to the whole Creative Cloud package. As such, my version of Premiere is stuck somewhere in the past, when 4K was barely an idea, and 1080p was the highest result you would ever need.

The trouble is, I was working on an animation whose resolution was larger than 1920×1080. While Premiere Pro CS 5.5 can handle this and higher resolutions for editing, there doesn’t seem a way to export it at anything above 1920×1080.

My editing needs were moderate at best: assemble 250 frames, repeat those several times, and add a fade to black either end. Which application would be capable of doing this swiftly and efficiently, I wondered?

Photoshop CC can do it! Would you believe it? Here’s how.

Continue reading How to render an image sequence as video in Photoshop





How to make a texture repeat in Blender (Cycles)

Sometimes we need a seamless texture to repeat on an object without the help of Photoshop. That’s possible in Blender’s Node Editor, albeit not exactly intuitive.

We need to add both a Texture Coordinate node, as well as a Mapping node to our shader to make this happen.

Here’s how to do it:

  • setup your texture map as usual (Add – Texture – Image Texture) and plug it into the Diffuse Color Input
  • your texture does not repeat at this point
  • add a Mapping Node (Add – Vector) and plug its vector output into your texture’s vector input
  • in the Mapping Node, select Texture. The X and Y Scale value below one determines the repetition of your texture
  • however, your texture does not show up at this point
  • add a Texture Coordinate node (Add – Input) and connect its UV output to the Texture Coordinate node’s Vector input
  • now your texture shows up

Here’s what such a shader looks like:

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-07-18-38





How to grow grass on a landscape in Blender

grass-cpu-3m55s

I have previously grown some grass on a terrain in Carrara, and thought I’d try the same in Blender. I didn’t know much about how to do this, but the approach is very similar in Blender.

Like with my Carrara approach, I’ve modelled a few grass stalks from a cylinder first. Those are then replicated over a larger terrain. Neither a replicator nor a terrain generator exists in Blender, so here’s how I did it. Continue reading How to grow grass on a landscape in Blender





How to flip or rotate a texture in Blender

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-39-11

When you’re UV unwrapping in Blender, it can sometimes happen that a texture doesn’t show the way you had intended it to. Instead it may appear rotated or mirrored (flipped).

Take the above example of a simple frame with a picture in the middle. When I originally added the texture file after unwrapping, the crab was displayed upside down, like so:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-38-29

What had happened? The UV map looked OK, did I make a mistake? Did Blender make a mistake? Nah, neither was true. I used the Pack Islands feature though, and in that case Blender may rotate islands randomly to maximise the space of the UV Map. Blender only did what I asked him to do.

Fixing rotated textures

It’s very easy to fix rotations: select the faces in question (either in the 3D view or the UV view), then hover somewhere inside the UV view and use the standard rotation command: R X 180 (followed by return). This will rotate the selected faces by 180 degrees, turning them upside down.

Fixing mirrored textures

Blender may also flip or mirror textures when packing islands, in which case my picture could appear like this:

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-50-02

We can fit this phenomenon with the scaling command: S X -1 (followed by return). This will scale our selected faces along the X axis and inverse-stretch them, thereby flipping the image.

Notice that the UV map as such does not change visually, nor should it: we want our texture to remain in the same place. Also, when issuing those commands, make sure you position your mouse inside the UV view, NOT the 3D view – otherwise you’ll change the actual geometry instead of the UV coordinates.