Hexagon Features in Carrara

Many features from Hexagon have been ported over to Carrara, but not all of them are obvious and easy to find for Hexagon users.

Here are my favourite features from Hexagon, and how to access them in Carrara:

 

Tweak / Stretch Tool

The one Hexagon tool I was missing most was Vertex Modelling – Tweak, which is very similar to the Utilities – Stretch tool. I was looking all over Carrara and couldn’t find anything equivalent.

Until I realised that this function is enabled by default! As long as you’re in Carrara’s vertex modelling mode, Move Tool enabled (T) and Paint Selection deselected. Simply hover over a polygon, edge or vertex and start moving it just like in Hexagon.

tweak

All movements happen perpendicular to the camera. For most accurate results, work in 4-view mode. If the manipulator gets in the way, simply hide in the sidebar (Manipulator – Hidden):

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Lay-On Tool

Utilities – Lay On lets you align two faces against each other in Hexagon. Carrara doesn’t have such a tool, but you can get the same results by using a combination of two functions in the Assemble Room: Edit – Align and Collision Detection.

For this to work, both objects must be individual objects, they can’t be two cubes that are part of the same vertex object for example. But they can be two unrelated objects (say a primitive and a spline object).

Position them loosely they way you want them, then select them. Next head over to Edit – Align (this option is greyed out if only one object is selected).

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From the modal window, select all axis you’d like to align, as well as how you want to align them. Hot Point or Center works well. Now the objects are in position, but not quite touching. To make that happen, select the little “three ball icon” in the title bar of the current document.

collision

Collision Detection is not related to the physics engine. Instead it’s a positioning tool you can use in your scene. Extremely handy!

 

Copy On Support

In Hexagon you could create an object, then select a path, and have a copy of your object made x times along that path. Carrara doesn’t have this option, but its Duplicate tool has a hidden feature that can work well for such tasks:

When you either select Edit – Duplicate, Carrara remembers the changes you’ve applied to your first copy. Don’t select any other object in between, simply make your first copy, apply a change, then duplicate again. The next copy will have your changes automatically applied.

copy-on-support

Here I’m building simple stairs using Collision Detection to place the first copy on top of the other one. Then I’ll simply select Edit – Duplicate again until my staircase is tall enough.

 

Grouping the many parts of a Vertex Object

Hexagon takes care of giving each new 3D object an automatic name (like Form3, Line20 and so forth). This happens automatically as soon as you create a new object. With Carrara and its modellers it’s a little different.

Instead of creating one Vertex Object, and then adding several parts to this object (Construct 3D – Cube, then Construct 3D – Sphere, etc), create each part of your model as a separate object. In fact, mix and match kinds in a single object by amalgamating several parts from different modellers. Then select all items that belong together and select Edit – Group.

If you add two cubes in the same Vertex Object, Carrara will see them as a single object. To split them apart, select Edit – Split Object and a group will be created from all those separate parts. Very neat!

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The key thing to note is that an object and its components are created in the Assemble room rather than in one of the modelling rooms.

 

Why not just use Hexagon instead?

As much as I love Hexagon, it hasn’t seen a major upgrade since 2006. Even though Hexagon’s feature set is rather complete, it has numerous bugs that can cause the app to crash frequently – depending on your system and what you’re doing with it. DAZ have chosen to keep the much more feature rich Carrara under development, but it appears that Hexagon has turned into abandonware.

Don’t get me wrong, I find it rather charming that the software still looks and feels the same as it did many years ago, but there is a danger that on future operating systems Hexagon may stop working altogether – you never know if and when this may happen.

Therefore it’s good to have a “backup solution” for your 3D modelling needs. Until then, when using Hexagon, save early and save often. Make use of the Incremental Saving feature or use Version Control.

 

Do you know other tips?

Leave a comment and share them with the world!

Mac Mini 2014: If that’s the future, you can keep it!

Over the last few months I was considering buying a Mac Mini. I’m currently using my high-spec MacBook Pro 2.8GHz Dual Core i7 on a 27′ Thunderbolt Display, but it’s awkward to unplug every time I want to use it as a laptop. The Mac Mini would streamline my desk and add some more power to those 3D apps I’m using.

Or so I thought.

When the refreshed 2014 Mac Mini line was introduced this week I couldn’t quite believe my eyes: Appe have made the little guy much slower than his predecessors!

Granted, the graphics card is better, the IO ports are faster – but the Firewire 800 port has been removed – which is not such good news for video editors. And in terms of processing power, all we can get now are Dual Core i5 models which are slower than my current 3yr old laptop. The 2012 models featured Quad Core i7’s at 2.3GHz, something I had really looked forward to.

The Mac Mini 2012 lineup
The Mac Mini 2012 lineup wasn’t bad at all

For many buyers the Mac Mini was a cheaper alternative to the overpriced Mac Pro: get the medium model, increase the RAM, replace the 1TB drive with an SSD, and for about $1000 you’ve got a super small desktop with more processing power than most people know what to do with.

It was a blessing for professionals: You could buy 4 such machines for the same money as a single Mac Pro which is less than twice as fast.

Apple aren’t stupid. They know this too. Notice that the current line-up of Mac Mini’s no longer includes a Server model, probably because nobody ever bought it. Buyers like me would opt instead for the $200 cheaper model with an empty hard drive slot, ready for aftermarket goodies.

Perhaps such a powerful 2012 Mac Mini was hurting Mac Pro and iMac sales, and I guess the decision was made to relegate the Mini to be a cheap “web and email machine”. No professional should ever look at it again.

And to bring this point home with a baseball bat, Apple have removed the ability for users to upgrade the RAM or the hard disk after purchase. Even though there is room for a second hard drive in there – just like before – the Mac Mini is now unopenable for mere mortals.

So NO Tim, not “everything is great”.

This leaves me with the decision to quickly get one of the 2012 models, or rethink the way I do things with my MacBook / Thunderbolt setup.

The new Mac Mini 2014 lineup leaves you wanting more. Or rather less.

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Painting textures with 2D tools using ZAppLink in ZBrush

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 12.28.24ZAppLink is a ZBrush feature that allows you to use 2D painting tools to paint the texture on a 3D object, as it’s seen in the workspace. Rather than exporting, editing and re-importing textures, drawing on awkwardly layed out UVs, or solely relying on 3D painting tools, you can simply frame your object and draw on it – with anything that supports the PSD file format.

This is different to using GoZ which relies on 3D features of a painting app (such as Photoshop Extended – which I don’t have). ZAppLink allows you to use other 2D tools in your pipeline such as SketchBook Pro, Manga Studio, Corel Painter and many others.

Here’s a quick guide on how to use ZAppLink in ZBrush 4R6.

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How to close a Vertex Object in Carrara

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To close a Vertex Object, first select the edges around the opening. In this example it’s a sphere with its top sliced off.

Now head over to Model – Fill Polygon. It’s equivalent to the Close function in Hexagon.

Empty Polygon on the other hand will remove the polygon, much like pressing the Delete key does (or Selection – Delete). The difference is that Empty Polygon leaves your selection intact, delete does not.

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How to navigate DAZ Studio on your Surface Pro

DAZ Studio Pro 4.6 runs perfectly fine on the Microsoft Surface Pro, however by default the stylus navigation isn’t working well: the pen is so sensitive that it has your scene spinning into al kinds of directions at the slightest touch on the navigation cube at the top right.

Other 3D applications are working fine with the default driver that is provided by Windows 8.1, only DAZ Studio appears to suffer from this problem.

To fix this, all we need to do is install the dedicated Wacom Feel IT driver. It will add an options menu to the Surface Pro, much like the one that comes as part of the driver for the Wacom Intuos tablets. The driver (and included utility) will allow you to map your stylus button, display a radial menu and – more importantly – improve pen accuracy across all your apps.

wacom

Once installed, restart your Surface Pro and navigate DAZ Studio beautifully.

Note that this driver is designed for tablets with Wacom Feel IT technology which includes Surface Pro 1 and 2. It will not work with the Surface Pro 3 due to its different (non-Wacom) digitizer.

You can download the driver here:

Creating Texture Maps in ZBrush

Import the OBJ file you’d like to create a texture for under Tool – Import. Drag it into the workspace while holding shift, then hit Edit to enter 3D mode.

Head over to Tool – Geometry and turn the subdivision level to 1. Texture maps should be created at the lowest subdivision level, even though your ZBrush objects will have a much larger polygon count. Don’t be alarmed when you see your object seemingly lose all its surface detail.

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Under Tool – UV Map, select a size for your texture map. Those are always square, so 1024 will create an image map of 1024×1024 pixels. The larger the map, the higher your surface resolution will be.

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Under Create you have several options with cryptic abbreviations. Hover over them to see less cryptic titles for those options, or press CTRL/CMD while hovering to see a more detailed explanation of what these options do.

You must choose one of these unwrapping options to create your texture map. Doing do will enable the Morph UV button which will show you an animation that transforms your object into the UV Map – one of the best features in ZBrush in my opinion. It shows you exactly how your object is unwrapped.

unwrap

This is just a preview, press Morph UV again to display your 3D object. You can choose other options here and see how those are unwrapped. Packed UV Tiles makes the most efficient use of space on your texture map.

Our object still shows no surface detail, so lets go back to Geometry and increase the subdivision level again to the highest point, just like it was when you started painting. This will show your textured 3D object again.

When you’re ready, head over to Tool – Texture Map. Pick what you’d like to create your map from. For texture maps select New From Polypaint. Note that these options will be greyed out if you haven’t chosen an unwrapping model in the previous step.

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You’ll see a small thumbnail of your map in the above palette. This is good news. Now head back over to Geometry and decrease the subdivision to 1 again – leaving your object textured.

You can even go ahead and delete the higher subdivisions, leaving you object slim and light – just what we want. Export your object (or tool as ZBrush calls it), and with the new OBJ file you’ll also find a new BMP file which is your texture map.

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Alternatively, if you don’t want to export your 3D object or you’re not a big fan of the BMP format, select Texture Map – Clone Texture to copy the map into the texture painting channel on the left hand side. From here you can export the texture as PSD or PNG file.

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How to use GoZ in ZBrush

GoZ (pronounced Go-Zeeh) is a bridge between ZBrush and other applications. This allows for easy mesh and texture sharing between ZBrush and Sculptris, Photoshop, Poser, Carrara, DAZ Studio and many others.

But how do we use it? Where is that magic button? And how do we select the target app? All will be revealed in this article.

Under Tool you’ll find the GoZ button in the first section at the top (it’s easy to miss):

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Just next to it you’ll find three options: All, Visible and R. Select either All or Visible to choose which objects will be sent via GoZ. This works with the current tool or a sub tool or a combination thereof. Nothing happens when you do, but ZBrush will remember it.

Click the GoZ button and a dialogue window appears. When you launch it for the first time ZBrush will search your hard drive for apps it knows, but it may get it wrong and say something like “Photoshop is not installed”. In which case, you can specify the paths to your apps under Preferences – GoZ.

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GoZ is a one-click operation to make it deliberately quick and easy to exchange data between two apps. Therefore, ZBrush will remember whatever app you’ve chosen last time and launch it automatically the next time you press that GoZ button.

This may not be what you want. To change your target app, simply press the R button in the palette – NOT the R Button on your keyboard, as the documentation makes you believe. I mean the little R next to the All and Visible buttons in the Tool menu.

Pick your target app, then hit GoZ and send your creation to another app instead.

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Your target app should launch automatically and may present you with a dialogue box to acknowledge the import (shown below is Poser Pro 2014).

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 23.32.39

Note that to use GoZ with DAZ Studio and Carrara you need to install the relevant files from DAZ as they are not provided bundled with ZBrush:

How to fix “insufficient disk space” error for GoZ in ZBrush

I’ve encountered a problem last year that every time I tried to send something from ZBrush to another application via the GoZ plugin, my Mac gave an error message telling me I had “insufficient disk space”. With over 100GB left on my main drive this is a plain lie.

Turns out that there’s a permissions problem on the Mac platform which prevents ZBrush from using a shared folder with which it communicates data to the target app. Here’s how to fix this:

  • open Finder and navigate to Users/Shared/Pixologic
  • right-click and select Get Info, and a window will appear
  • at the bottom you’ll find the section about Sharing & Permissions:

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  • even though everything looks OK here, sub folders may have different ideas
  • click the paddock icon and enter your admin password
  • under everyone, change permissions to Read Only 
  • click the little gear icon and select Apply to enclosed items…
  • now change the same permissions back to Read and Write
  • and click the gear icon again and select Apply to enclosed items again

What we’re doing here is fording all permissions to be something else, then changing them back. It sounds weird and bizarre (like everything in ZBrush), but it will solve this nasty problem

Kudos to aurick who kindly told me this on ZBrush Central.

Changing the colours of the Popup Help in ZBrush

zbrush-popup

ZBrush doesn’t have a User Manual in PDF form you can download and curl up with. Instead, it has an online version over here.

ZBrush also encourages us to use the integrated help which explains every feature of the app. All we have to do is press CTRL / CMD while hovering over an item in its extensive menu.

Trouble is, when I do this on my Mac, I can barely read anything – if at all. You’d expect that an $800 piece of software would at least WORK out of the box without extensive digging into how to make the friggin help show up. But of course that’s not how it works with ZBrush.

Lucky for us the entire UI is customisable (albeit a tad difficult to understand how), and thanks to MentalFrog’s suggestion I could tweak my ZBrush popup help from “totally irrelevant” to “actually usable”. Let me show you how.

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