How to export a garment from Marvelous Designer

You can export your garment from Marvelous Designer either in OBJ or FBX format. Note that at the time if writing, FBX is highly experimental and appears not to work very well. OBJ on the other hand is doing a fine job.

Head over to File – Export and choose OBJ. There’s also an option called “OBJ selected”. Both bring up the same dialogue in which you can indeed select which part of your garment and your scene you’d like to export.

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The top section of this dialogue shows all pieces of your scene, including your avatar (it’s the orange item called Untitled in my example). The “OBJ selected” option will pre-select whatever is selected in your 2D view.

Underneath it you can specify if you’d like to export a single object or individual pieces. Single objects can be welded together as an option and will appear as one when imported into your target application.

If you only need the garment, make sure to uncheck the avatar from that list.

Notice that the scale section is greyed out – that’s a bug in the current version I’m using (MD4, 2.1.87 r10465), hopefully to be resolved soon. For now, remember that the “mm” option is ticked, which means that Marvelous Designer will export your garment with 1 unit as 1mm. Tweak accordingly in your target application.

For example, DAZ Studio expects 1 unit to be 1cm. Divide by 10 during import for the correct scale.

 

Unified UV Coordinates

When this option is ticked, Marvelous Designer will generate a UV Map which fits all parts into a square. Therefore all parts of the garment will be on a single texture. Imagine something like this: the dark sections on top of the Android icon are the pieces of the garment on the UV Map.

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If the Unified UV Coordinates option is un-ticked, Marvelous Designer will assume you’re using an individual texture file for each piece of your garment. The scale between pieces may not be the same in relation to each other. It looks something like this:

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And to put this into more of a context, the original pieces in MD looked like this:

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The UV Map will look as layed out in the 2D view: moving the pieces will have a direct impact on the position on the UV map when exported with unified UV coordinates.

Hit OK when you’re ready to export your garment. This will either create an OBJ and an MTL file, or a ZIP archive including these two files plus all texture patterns you’ve used.

How to import DAZ characters into Marvelous Designer

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 09.24.00Marvelous Designer comes with 7 default avatars, but it’s very easy to use your own 3D figure and create custom clothing for it.

Simply export your desired character as OBJ, including full body morphs, then import it into Marvellous Designer.

Here’s how to do with with the Genesis 2 Male character from the free essentials pack.

 

Exporting from DAZ Studio

Load your character into an empty scene and select it in the scene tab. It’s typically located on the right hand side in DAZ Studio.

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Head over to File – Export and pick a location for your files: DAZ Studio will create a .OBJ and a .MTL file. It will also bring up an export dialogue in which you can specify the scale and size for your export. Those need to match the import dialogue of your other app.

By default DAZ Studio’s scale is 1cm per unit. Leave it all as is and click Accept to save your files.

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Importing into Marvellous Designer

Marvelous Designer 4 opens with a default scene, featuring a lady in a red dress:

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To replace her with Genesis 2 Male, head over to File – Import – OBJ. Navigate to the files you’ve saved earlier and select the OBJ file that DAZ Studio has created. This will trigger an import dialogue which is set to 100% by default. Don’t use that: it will make your Genesis character a 10th of the size that it should be.

Instead pick the DAZ Studio option in the scale section, which will make sure the avatar will have the correct size when imported (1 unit = 1cm).

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Now the lady in the red dress has been replaced by Genesis 2 Male. After some quick adjustments, the red dress looks stunning on him too 😉

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You can now go ahead start a new garment with File – New. This will leave your avatar in place and remove the red dress.

 

Arrangement Points and Bounding Volumes

The default Marvelous Designer avatars come with bounding volumes and arrangement points. They make it easy to place pieces of your garments onto your avatar with one click. You can work without them, or you can create your own from the properties menu on the right (under A-Points and A-BV).

Vintorix (THANK YOU!!) has already created a set of those over on ShareCG:

To use them, simply unpack the ZIP file and head over to the Object Browser on the right. Under A-Point and A-BV, select Open and load both the arrangement points and bounding volumes – one won’t work without the other.

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To display these in the 3D view, you can either use the menu and navigate to Display – Avatar – Show Arrangement Points (and Show Bounding Volumes respectively), or us the little avatar icon in the 3D view: it’s the second from the top, the one with the little orange dot in the screenshot below:

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Happy tailoring!

How to create editable blurry text in Photoshop

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 18.36.22There is an easy way to create blurry or out-of-focus text in Photoshop using Layer Effects. The text remains therefore perfectly editable.

Here’s how to do it:

First we’ll create a standard text layer. Pick a font and write something nice, and choose the foreground and background colours as you wish. You should end up with crisp text much like this:

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Now right-click the text layer and select Blending Options. At the very bottom of the list, pick a drop shadow and set its properties so that the text gets its blurry outline.

Set the distance to zero so that the shadow is not created towards the bottom left, or wherever the light source appears to come from. Increase the size of the shadow to create a blurrier effect.

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To remove the last bit of sharp text, head over to the very top of that list and select Blending Options, above Bevel and Emboss. I didn’t even know this was clickable!

Here we can reduce or completely remove the Fill Opacity, which controls the actual substance of the layer without touching the effect we’re creating (namely that blurry shadow). Don’t touch the Opacity though: this will reduce both the shadow and the fill.

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What we’re left with is just the effect and not the typeface.

Navigating 3D Space in Marvelous Designer

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Sometimes it’s the simple things they don’t to tell you about in the brochure:

Zooming

With the trackpad, move two fingers up or down, much like you would scroll a web page up or down.

With an Intuos Tablet, hold the lower button down (right-click), then drag the pen.

Moving/Panning

Hold ALT/OPT and drag the pen, or drag with one finger held down on the trackpad.

Rotating

Same as in ZBrush: With the trackpad, drag with two fingers held down. With an Intuos Tablet, hold the lower button down (right-click), then hover.

The avatar is always in the centre, no matter what is selected.

 

Where’s the User Manual?

At the time of writing, the Marvelous Designer 4 manual is here:

If you need a PDF or Word version of the current page, click on the Tools option at the top right. Sadly this won’t compile a full manual for us:

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In case you’re confused about the word Confluence at the top of the screen (like I am): it’s the content management system they use to write the manual. It is not a reference to the Marvellous Designer product or a feature.

This should probably be replaced with the company’s logo at some point…

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Other resources

The links below may stop working at any time and are not hosted by the Marvelous Designer team:

ARM: Rise of the low-cost CPU

The other day I was looking at Samsung Chromebook laptops. It’s the latest fad in giving laptops something to do in the post-PC era. They’ve largely replaced netbooks for “surfing with something that’s not a tablet”.

I’m a fan of open source operating systems, and Parallels Desktop offers to install Chrome OS as VM too. Never having experienced what these puppies could do, I gave it a quick whirl. Here’s what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 14.51.29There’s really nothing to do here, except for launch the web browser – which is precisely what a Chromebook is supposed to do: you don’t install anything, you don’t maintain anything. You can just about edit some super basic settings, such as the background picture and which Gmail account you’re using for all this, and even those settings are presented in a web browser.

It’s Chrome if you hadn’t guessed:

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What’s interesting about these types of devices is the price point: at anywhere between $200 and $300, the entire Chromebook costs as much as an Intel i5 CPU, without a keyboard, screen, battery or anything else.

The device has very limited storage: nothing like your 500GB hard disk. Instead it has 16GB of internal storage, sometimes a little more – much like an SD card. The RAM isn’t anything exciting either: while Windows and Mac really need 4GB minimum just to check your email, a Chromebook only has 2GB tops, sometimes even less.

I know this sounds ridiculous because we’re so used to large hard disks, huge amounts of memory and beefy graphics cards. But it’s the operating system that asks for those things in quantity – it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. We’ve been conned into thinking that such powerful hardware is necessary to accomplish basic day-to-day tasks.

 

The new era of laptopping

What Samsung have done here is very interesting, and it appears to be an emerging trend in the gadget industry: they’ve taken their own Exynos chip and attached some different peripherals. The Exynos is an ARM based system on a chip, commonly found in Samsung’s mobile devices such as the Galaxy phones and tables.

The Exynos is the equivalent of Apple’s A-series of chips found in iPhones and iPads: it provides not only the CPU, but also graphics and network capabilities, all with a very small footprint. Using this approach for laptops rather than small mobile gadgets is something we haven’t seen before. Up to now, everything in a laptop was Intel or AMD based to be anywhere near useful.

All these ARM based systems are less power hungry too, much cheaper to produce, and up to now less beefy in regards to performance. The Raspberry Pi uses one for example, as does the iPhone (that A-series is indeed based on an ARM chip too).

Over the last few years, two interesting things have been happening to the way we humans to stuff on the web, which makes Chromebooks and this philosophy such an interesting choice:

  • we do more powerful things “in the cloud” rather than locally
  • and we use more web interfaces to access such services

At the same time, these cheap ARM devices seem to be getting faster and faster and will very soon be an alternative for running more power hungry desktop applications. I hear for example that the Apple A8x chip in the iPad Air 2 is now as fast as the Intel i5 chip found in a 2013 MacBook Air.

So the question is: does the average user NEED a super fast device just to access email and web applications?

 

What’s next, Desktop?

It’s all up to the operating system to make use of these chips – and of course Windows and Mac OS X won’t be able to run on those devices at the moment. But Linux – that’s a different story.

There are distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu which are just as happy running on an x86_64 system as they are running on an ARMv7 and above. It’s a frightening thought, but I’m currently running Fedora 21 on my Nook Tablet from 3 years ago! Sure it’s super slow, but I can speak to it just as if it was a powerful server in a data centre.

What Samsung call Exynos, and what Apple call the Ax series, Intel call the Atom series. It’s the same idea, providing a system on a chip based on an Intel CPU. These first debuted in Netbooks in 2009 and have since been used in some Android phones too. Will these low-cost chips change the world? Will they soon overtake the power of the Xeons?

Will we one day go back in computing power and instead be happy with something slower than what we had before? Is that why the 2014 Mac Mini is already slower than its predecessor? Will we soon see a MacBook Air powered by an A9 chip? Or instead tablet devices that are faster than our desktops and laptops?

Who can tell. It’ll be exciting to watch what happens next. At least one of the big companies is preparing such an eventuality: Windows 10 will be available for ARMv7 processors.

 

How to install Carrara 8.5 in Mac OS X Yosemite

I’m configuring a new Mac Mini 2012 specifically for all my 3D ventures this year. As such I’m installing all my favourite (and annoying) 3D apps fresh from scratch. Being a futuristic kind of guy I’m using “the best operating system ever” (yeah, right!) OS X Yosemite.

Over the last 7 years I’ve installed Carrara more times than I can count and in every version of OS X and Windows that I can remember, and it’s never given me any trouble – neither when installed manually or via the DAZ Install Manager.

Until today, when I’ve received the following message in OS X Yosemite: “The application cannot get the administrator access right”. Thank you, Yosemite!

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What does that even mean? I thought my user account HAS admin privileges.

Turns out they’re just not administrative enough. The solution to this awkward puzzle is to login as root for the initial launch of Carrara. Which leads us to the next adventure:

 

How do we enable the root user in OS X?

Continue reading How to install Carrara 8.5 in Mac OS X Yosemite

Hey there, Television! How’s it going?

What’s wrong with this picture:

Some organisation decides to broadcast a movie or TV show, at a time that they deem “the best” to maximise their profits. The organisation has commissioned the programme at great expense, and they decide to chop it up into little pieces and place a plethora of annoying adverts in it to make money.

In order for me to watch the programme, I have to pay my Cable TV company to see it. In essence, I’m paying to watch advertising. I’m paying to get annoyed.

This is the traditional method of delivering private TV stations into the homes of many hundred million people around the world. The way this happens is slightly different from country to country, but the principle remains the same – or shall we say WAS the same – for the last several decades.

Because with the advent of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, who is stupid enough to watch a mediocre programme live on air? Time Delay Technology (like DVRs, DVD and even VHS recorders) have really only delayed the inevitable. Even “we’ll send you DVDs by post” services didn’t quite make an impact and were quickly replaced by streaming services.

 

The Beginnings in 2000

I remember back in 2000, or around that time, there was a Chinese website – highly illegal of course – which for $99 per year offered anything from cracked software to movies and TV shows. Members could download as much as they liked, burn things to DVD and use such cracked warez.

Back then I thought, “imagine I had a legal alternative to this service – I’d sign up immediately”. The problem we had back then was not so much the devices at home, even though it wasn’t easy to connect them to big TV screens as it is today. It was the connection speed to the internet that held us up.

I remember I was with Homechoice at the time: for £40 per month I’d get a 512 kBps connection (another 512kBps was reserved for their abysmal TV on demand service). Nobody could offer anything faster at the time in the UK. But that wasn’t fast enough even to satisfy SD streaming really, and DVD and traditional television had the upper hand, at least in terms of quality.

Those however were the humble beginnings of a revolution which has only just begun.

 

Fast Forward 15 years

Today (2015) streaming media services are commonplace. Even though iTunes and their iTunes Store were the first to offer an integrated experience from an online store to a device, they no longer hold the monopoly. Paying for music that you already owned again and again was working for the record industry for many years. It no longer does.

The same holds true for TV services: Streaming videos, even streaming video games, can now be had for less than the price of a cable TV subscription. There’s really no need to buy physical media anymore unless you feel nostalgic.

Where does that leave the cable providers – and more importantly – the private TV stations who existed for the sole purpose of eliciting money from advertisers? How long will advertisers pour money into a medium that nobody is watching anymore?

Where will Sky & Co be in 10 years time, or ITV, or any of the major US networks?

 

Fast Forward another 10 years

Soon there will be the point at which the classic “on a schedule” TV programming will no longer be watched, purely because there are cheaper and better alternatives out there. Without advertising.

A large broadcaster will no longer be able to commission high budget TV shows in the future, and instead the equivalent of Amazon Originals will be in charge of new shows (and how we watch them).

Industry professionals probably know better how much trouble they are in than I do, but I don’t see them doing anything to prevent their own demise. I see things like “watch it again online if you’ve missed it” type approaches, along the lines of iTV Player. Or the idea that people are charged for single episodes directly by the broadcaster.

But even the “iTunes approach” (buy once – own it forever) isn’t going to hold up much longer either: because what’s the point in paying $40 for one season of a show, if for $7.99 a month you can see thousands of such shows? There is no need to “own” anything anymore, neither music nor a video file as long as we subscribe to a service that will make it available if and when we want it. How much more convenient is that?

In the audio world, Spotify has been leading the way for a while, but there are many other similar services available. It didn’t take long until this business model (pay per month, unlimited streaming) was available to videos too, which brings us up to date to 2015.

To me it feels like FINALLY a form of TV watching has arrived, or taken over, that I had dreamt of for many years. I embrace it and I haven’t watched “traditional TV” since 1998 (other than in hotels once a year).

 

Where does this leave traditional broadcasters?

That’s the $100.000 question, is it not? Where will the multi million dollar broadcasters around the globe be when nobody tunes in anymore? When that rerun from 20 years ago at 3am doesn’t cut the mustard anymore? When once loyal viewers switch off for good and invest their time elsewhere? And when advertisers aren’t prepared to pay thousands of dollars per second anymore?

Perhaps they should create several other channels with the same content, maybe even exactly the same, but delayed by an hour or two. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Dave Plus 1. Awesome!

Putting programming – including adverts – online for a limited time is a good start, but it doesn’t really solve the long term problem of how to make money. Maybe preroll and overlay ads are the solution… cast your mind back for a second and tell me: when was the last time you’ve clicked on an overlay ad on YouTube? How about NEVER?

I wonder how they will be able to tackle this dilemma. Or if they won’t be able to do this at all. Perhaps broadcasters will simply die a slow death, cutting personal costs and programming budgets further than they have already, until there’s really nothing left for them to do than sell the real estate they own for a quick buck.

How many years have they got left? Five? Maybe ten? Who will be around in 2025?

The clock is ticking, and I’ll be watching.

Steel-cut Oats

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I’ve always liked oats for breakfast, and I was intrigued to find something in the US that I hadn’t come across before in my life: steel-cut oats.

They’re marketed here along the lines of “the real Scottish oatmeal”, yet it’s not a term used by the Scottish as far as I know. So I went forth and did some research on oats in all forms, shapes and sizes.

 

Oatmeal Varieties

In the US we have three kinds of oats:

  • quick-cook oats (small rolled, much like the Oat-so-simple variety)
  • old-fashioned oats (rolled too, but much larger, these take longer to soak)
  • steel-cut oats (whole oats cut into pieces, obviously by steel blades)

According to one of those Wikipedia articles with “issues”, steel-cut oats are also known as pinhead oats in the UK – although I don’t recall this product in the oat isle at Sainsbury’s.

In the picture above you can see the difference between quick cook oats on the left and steel-cut oats on the right. The latter take a lot longer to soak up any liquid and are great if you don’t want your breakfast to get soggy because it takes you a long time to eat it (this happens rather quick with the rolled oats).

Steel-cut oats taste exactly the same as rolled oats but they have a much nuttier texture with more bite to it. I personally like to eat oats (steel-cut or otherwise) with cold milk and a bit of sugar, and perhaps with a selection of dried fruit and nuts – that’s what we do in Germany, where it’s not common to eat oats warmed up.

My wife on the other hand enjoys oats warmed up in the microwave, either cooked with milk or occasionally water (as porridge).

Steel-cut oats are offered at places like Panera Bread as part of the breakfast menu here in the US, also warmed up.

 

How to cook them

According to Bob’s Red Mill, all you need to cook steel-cut oats to perfection is

  • 3 cups of water (700 ml)
  • 1/4 tablespoon of salt (4g, or a couple of pinches)
  • 1 cup of steel-cut oats (240g)

Bring it all to a boil, simmer for 10-20 minutes and enjoy. Makes 2-3 filling portions.

Bob should know how to do this, because he travelled to Scotland and won first prize at an oat competition, as it says on the packet of steel-cut oats we bought from him last week.

Check out the full recipe here.

Keyboard Navigation in Photoshop

There are a number of super handy keyboard shortcuts for navigating the Photoshop interface. I keep forgetting them so I wrote them down here as a reference.

I’m using Photoshop CC 2014 on a Mac which means that magic trackpad gestures work well for the following:

  • zooming (pinch gesture)
  • panning (two finger drag)
  • rotating the canvas (two finger rotate)

To reset canvas rotation press ESCAPE. There’s even a menu item for this which can be accessed by holding down the hand icon (or pressing R). Hold it down again to switch back the hand tool (H).

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Multi Picture Navigation

You can zoom/pan/rotate multiple images at the same time by using the following shortcuts:

  • zooming: CMD+SHIFT and drag left/right
  • panning: SPACE+SHIFT and drag
  • rotating: select the rotation tool (R), then select “rotate all windows” at the top. Drag to rotate all open images.

 

Screen Display Modes

Press F to toggle through 3 modes of presentation: standard with all menu bars, no title bar and full screen (total Zen).

When in full screen mode you can bring up any of the navigation bars on either side by moving the cursor to the edge of the screen. This will bring them up temporarily. They’ll disappear again if you move away from the edge.

In either mode, press TAB to hide all menu bars (except for the file name tabs). Press TAB again to bring them back.

 

Image Presentation

By default Photoshop opens one image in a single tab and shows this full screen. At times we may need to see more than one image side by side. Select Window – Arrange and choose one of the many options towards the top of the huge list (for example, 2-up Vertical will show two images side by side).

You can also float all open images in tabs (classic Mac annoyance mode from back in the day) and even choose to display the Application Frame (Mac only – if unticked it will show the desktop in the background).

To bring all images back into their own tabs, select Consolidate All to Tabs.

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What I’d like to see in a potential Apple iPad Pro

Rumours that Apple are working on a larger version of the iPad go back at least a couple of years. In fact I had secretly dreamt up something I felt they should call the iPad Air around 2013, before Apple had actually come out with the “real” iPad Air.

See, my idea was to make an Apple version of what Microsoft did successfully with the Surface Pro:

  • take a MacBook Air
  • take off the keyboard
  • and add a touch screen
  • give us a real Wacom stylus
  • keep the size of 12-13 inches
  • and voila!

That’s precisely what a Surface Pro is – and I love using mine. But there’s room for improvement, and although I’ve not used the latest Surface Pro 3, or a Wacom Intuos Companion, I’d still like to see something along those lines running Apple software.

Specifically for graphic intense tasks, a stylus is a must – Wacom or otherwise. Ultimately I want a portable Apple-powered Intuos Companion, for drawing as well as “real” handwriting. And with rumours of what the media now dub The iPad Pro, we may see such a gadget at some point in 2015.

But here’s the problem: Microsoft have one version of Windows on the Surface Pro. Therefore desktop apps run great out of the box. And Apple don’t have that. iOS and OS X are worlds apart, even if you can use similar code and turn it into two applications. Xcode supports that.

The iPad Pro as I envision it would seriously benefit from running OS X and make use of the full array of desktop applications such as Photoshop, SketchBook Pro and many others. By which I mean existing apps that we know which are ready to go. Not specced-down versions that don’t deliver.

If however Apple were to bring out an iPad Pro type device and instead have it run iOS, then all we’d really have is a large iPad. There would be no benefits to it whatsoever, other than yet another screen size. Granted, over the next few years apps will emerge that will find uses for it, but that’s in the future and not usable from the get go. And sure, we’ll be able to enjoy Procreate on a very large display, but squishy rubber-tip styluses are not the same as using an Intuos pen on a real tablet.

So if the iPad Pro is to come out, what will Apple put on it? Here are four options I’ve dreamt up.

Continue reading What I’d like to see in a potential Apple iPad Pro