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 grow grass on a terrain in Carrara

Grass3My first idea of growing grass in Carrara was to make use of the Hair Object. It sounds like an easy workflow too: drag the hair object onto my terrain, adjust its growth behaviour, adjust the colour to resemble grass, and case closed. This approach works fine with primitives and vertex objects.

But sadly, it doesn’t work with terrains. So I thought, perhaps I’ll apply a patch of hairy grass to a plane, and then use a Surface Replicator to replicate the plane all over the terrain. That doesn’t work either: while the plane itself is being replicated, the actual hair (or grass) that’s growing on it is not. Perhaps the Hair Object isn’t such a good idea to be used with growing grass on a huge terrain after all.

A very different approach comes from Colin Boyd, who has kindly shown how to model a more complex patch of vegetation in this video. I’ve taken the same approach but only modelled a single stalk of grass, replicated it onto a plane, and then replicated that plane onto my terrain.

Here’s how I did it step by step.

Continue reading How to grow grass on a terrain in Carrara

How to animate clouds in Carrara

Carrara’s Realistic Sky produces some pretty decent clouds. I’m particularly fond of the Cirrus clouds. The manual suggests that they can be animated too, but I didn’t really know how to do it. Thanks to a tip from Mark Bremmer I was put on the right track.

Here’s how to do it:

In the Scene tab, setup a realistic sky to your desire. Configure the clouds as you like on one or more of those cloud layers at the bottom. Pay close attention to the little Animation box and give your clouds a particular direction and speed.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 09.14.21

The default is about 3mph, but at that speed cloud movement is hardly noticeable. The maximum we can set here is something like 153mph. Let’s use that. The transformation slider lets us choose how much the clouds will change their appearances. Click OK to leave the sky editor.

Still in the scene tab, notice a box called Cloud Animation. It’s set to 0 seconds by default. Leave it like that and set your first keyframe on the timeline.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 09.13.22

Now move your timeline forward to the end position of your animation, say to 10 seconds. Add the same value into the Clouds Animation box and set another keyframe. That’s more or less it. Move the playhead and see the Clouds Animation value update – that’s an indication that Carrara will now animate your clouds.

Note that even with 150mph, the movement is extremely subtle. In the video above I had to speed up my animation by 500% to get this result.

Running Bryce in Parallels Desktop

Sunset2Bryce 7.1 doesn’t reliably run under OS X, but it works fine in both Windows 7 and Windows 10. Being the Mac User and avid 3D enthusiast that I am, and having a bit of time on my hands, I thought I’d give Bryce another go. And thanks to Parallels Desktop I can run it in a virtual Windows installation. Nice!

I’m only getting started with Bryce, but the first thing I’ve noticed was that many of the mouse controls didn’t work as expected. For example, dragging a slider up or down only works in one direction, and much too erratic to be useful. Imagine how awkward camera and positioning controls are! Anything that has to do with leaving the left mouse button clicked while dragging up/down/left/right is affected.

The Problem

I’m using Apple’s Magic Trackpad, and those controls need to be translated by Parallels Desktop and given to Windows as Mouse Controls. This works fine out of the box in most Windows applications – but not with Bryce. Don’t ask me why.

So I thought, how am I going to make this work? Fiddle with Windows Mouse Settings (has no effect), fiddle with Parallels Desktop Settings (also has no effect), install Snow Leopard or Windows on an external partition? Ah, let’s just not go there.

But there is something surprisingly simple that came to me this morning: connect a dedicated input device directly to the Windows VM, rather than have Parallels Desktop translate the controls. And hey presto: it works a treat!

Let me show you how to do it in this article. Continue reading Running Bryce in Parallels Desktop

How to use the Photoshop 3D Bridge in DAZ Studio

In this video I’ll show you how to use the Photoshop 3D Bridge in DAZ Studio 4.9. It’s a little clunky and a little old school, but it can still be a helpful tool to either render a scene from DAZ Studio directly into Photoshop for compositing, or exchange texture maps for easy changes and amendments. I’ll also discuss how to bring a whole 3D scene into Photoshop and add a few troubleshooting tips.

But I know that videos aren’t for everybody, so I thought I’d also add some written instructions here for good measure. Continue reading How to use the Photoshop 3D Bridge in DAZ Studio

How to add textures to a sculpting brush in Blender


Blender allows us to sculpt with textures to add fine detail to each brush stroke. In ZBrush this feature is called sculpting with alphas, but the principle is a little easier to understand in Blender (at least for me). Here’s how to add a texture to a sculpt brush in Blender.  Continue reading How to add textures to a sculpting brush in Blender

How to use the Screw Modifier in Blender


The Screw Modifier in Blender is very straightforward to use – if you know how. I tried to figure it out by myself which proved impossible. I guess unintuitive is the word I’m looking for. Reading the manual gives us an explanation like this:

The profile should be properly aligned to the cardinal direction of the object rather than to the screw axis.

Yes… this means what exactly? Thick people shouldn’t use this tool? Thankfully it’s far simpler than it sounds – let me show you how.  Continue reading How to use the Screw Modifier in Blender

How to use Boolean Operations in Blender


Blender uses a Modifier for boolean operations. Those can be used to cut into an existing object or combine two objects. In this example we’ll cut a hole into our default cube.

Select the object you’d like to cut into, but have another object in your scene. We’ll use a cylinder that’s slightly smaller yet wider than our cube. Position them so that they intersect. Now add a Boolean Modifier using the little wrench icon in the Properties Palette.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 17.58.42

The modifier has several options in the Operation drop down:

  • Difference – cut one object from another
  • Union – combine two objects
  • Intersect – create the part that both objects have in common

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 17.59.13

For our purposes (cutting a cylinder from our cube), choose Difference. Under Object, choose the object you’d like to use for the cutting operation (that’s the cylinder in our example). Hit Apply and Blender will go to work.

Although it looks like nothing has happened, move the two objects apart and see the result.

A word of caution: use boolean operations only if absolutely necessary. Such procedures may alter the geometry of an object in unexpected ways, causing potential havoc with subdivision surface modifiers and smoothing.

How to duplicate an object along a path in Blender

Cube NecklaceHexagon had a nice feature called “copy on support”. With it we could create duplicates of
an object along a path, something that comes in handy when creating a ladder or a necklace. I wondered if Blender too had such a feature, and of course it has – even though it’s perhaps a little bit unintuitive (read: impossible) to figure out. Pretty much like the rest of Blender.

So here’s what we have to do in order to duplicate an object along a path in Blender, where this technique is called DupliFrames. Don’t worry about looking it up in the plethora of menus – it’s not to be found anywhere. Continue reading How to duplicate an object along a path in Blender

How to use Proportional Editing (Soft Selections) in Blender


Proportional Editing is what Blender calls a tool with which you can modify part of your object with an area of influence around your selection. Other apps would call this Soft Selections. The principle is the same: pick a selection, and rather than just move the selection, you have influence over an area of gradual falloff.

In the above GIF I’ve selected a single face in the middle of a grid. Without proportional editing, only the face is moved. With proportional editing, the whole area around it is moved. Let’s take a look at how to use this tool. Continue reading How to use Proportional Editing (Soft Selections) in Blender

Blender Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s a list of shortcuts for use in our Blender adventures. These become second nature very quickly, but when you’ve been away from Blender for a while it’s really easy to forget them all. So while they’re in my mind, here’s what my brain currently knows and likes.

Continue reading Blender Keyboard Shortcuts