Xmas Ball Ornament

With the holidays just around the corner and learning how to create generated textures in Blender, I decided to create an ornament and try out different textures after seeing some examples on another site.  Get the blend file here:  Xmas Ball 01.blend

Here are some examples using the wave texture:

xmas ball rendered

 

 

Want to try this texture? Here’s my node setup that I got from another site. Play with the colors and settings! And also some variations uploaded to Second Life.

Wave texture node setup

Xmas balls imported into SL

Dirty Vertex Colors

One of the things we learned about in our Blender Bender group is using dirty vertex colors to create shading on our 3D models. What a wonderful and powerful tool!

You can apply dirty vertex by going into vertex paint mode and apply dirty vertex via “Paint.” Or, to have more control you can use nodes by adding an Attribute node.

See my node setup below:

Dirty vertex node setup

 

 

 

Want to learn more? Come into Second Life and look up the group Blender Benders.

I also found this short tutorial on the web:  http://adaptivesamples.com/2013/08/07/commonly-ignored-feature-6-dirty-vertex-colours/

 

Fireflies – removing them from rendered images

Fireflies in a forest at night can be quite magical, especially when they just hatch and there are thousands upon thousands of them all emerging and flowing between the trees.

However, fireflies (all those little white specs) in your rendered images in Blender 3D can be quite frustrating. They are usually a result of lighting in your scene.

But there are some different options to try to reduce and/or remove those fireflies. One good source I found is on BlenderGuru.com.

https://www.blenderguru.com/articles/7-ways-get-rid-fireflies

Stripes in Blender 3D

Found the coolest tutorial today!  It shows you how to create a procedural texture to make stripes. Once set up you can make all sorts of adjustments.

I used it to make a tire “tread” for a bicycle. Below is my node setup. Click it to see the full-size so you can actually read it.

Node setup for stripes

 

 

 

And here is the website where I found it! He does a great job explaining what each node does.

 

Learning Blender in SL

Even though I had used Blender many years ago, I had not picked it back up until a little over a year ago, and specifically with the idea of uploading mesh into Second Life. People were creating all sorts of amazing things, and I wanted to create them, too.

I knew I could do it, but had not been in Blender for some time. And the interface had changed somewhat. There were tutorials all over Youtube, but none that took you from the ground up in an instructional way. So I found a good foundational course through Udemy.

Then a group I’m in, Blender Benders (in SL), started Blender classes in Second Life. Graham Dartmouth started us out at ground zero. We’re at Week 25 and learning about advanced texturing techniques, etc. These classes have been amazing!

I’ll be posting some of our projects we’ve worked on along with some projects in build-off contests we’ve participated in.

Daybreak

Inspired by La Digue du Braek in Second Life, a stretch of road and sand between ocean and canal that is near Dunkerque in northern France.

 

I squint my eyes, watching the orange tinted horizon. Dark, motionless clouds hang in a feint sky, mimicking the glassy surface of the sea.

Water and sand meet in a hard unwavering line that delineates them, one not daring to disturb the other. Stalks of sparse grasses scattered across the sand stand like sentries, their rigid form silhouetted against the reflected light.

The sky is silent. The water silent. Neither inhaling nor exhaling. My own breath stops in accord with the elements. The air before me left untouched.

Time becomes frozen. Time becomes limitless. Time is nonexistent.

I close my eyes and see the horizon in its perfect formation, a crease in the fabric of time reflecting back on itself. Sky becomes water, becomes sky. Circling endlessly, silently.

The cry of a seagull pierces the blanket of stillness. I open my eyes.

Only then do I see the lifeless bodies among the grasses. The plumes of sooty smoke sifting toward the sky.

Only then do I hear whimpers escape the cracked lips of a nearby soldier. Only then do I hear the staccato fire of machine guns in the night, the grind of tank treads across the sand, the roaring boom of explosives, the anguished cries of men.

Only then do I see the flashes of light against shadows moving in the dark, the red splattered faces of men dragging fallen comrades to safety.

Only then do I see…

Only then do I remember…

Only then do I exhale…

 

by Barbara Seaton/Helena Kiama (SL)
February 7, 2017
Copyright 2017

Depth of Field in Macro Photography

In our September 2016 meeting of the North Georgia Photography Club I gave a presentation on Depth of Field in Macro Photography. I’m far from an expert, so this sent me in search of information from the experts. The result was far more knowledge under my belt and a couple of new pieces of equipment. And there is nothing I like better than to pass on what I learned.

What is Depth of Field (DOF)?

  • Depth of field (DOF) refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp.

DOF is important in all types of photography, whether it be landscape, street scenes, portraiture, events, sports, close-ups, or macro. However, DOF becomes a difficult challenge in macro photography.

Why? In macro photography we experience extremely small DOF. So much so that it is nearly impossible to get the entire subject in focus in one shot. And we are usually so close our lense is almost touching our subject.

So what’s a macro photographer to do?

We have a few options, but each presents its own issues:

  • Close down the aperture. That helps a little bit, however, then we lose overall sharpness and light. Also, it might require us to slow down the shutter speed, which increases the chances of magnified vibration.
  • Open up the aperture. Doing so lets in more light and lets you use that sweet spot for maximum sharpness. We can also increase our shutter speed. However, it can make your DOF even smaller.
  • Move back from the subject. That helps a little more, however, now our subject is smaller in the frame and we lose a little more detail each time we move further back.
  • Focus stacking. Requires a tripod, a lot of patience, and post-processing, but this approach allows you to set your aperture at that sweet spot (for maximum sharpness). You take several shots, each time changing the focal plane. When done, you should have the entire subject in focus at some point within all those shots.

Using the right equipment like a sturdy tripod, macro lens or a regular lens with close-up filters), a camera rail (optional), a remote shutter release, and post-processing software allows us to take advantage of focus stacking, where we end up with the maximum sharpness of our subject, artificially increasing our DOF.

How Do I Learn More?

There are lots of excellent tutorials out there and I’ve listed a few here (no sense in repeating what they do so well):

Below are links to the Power Point slides and handout I used in the presentation. Feel free to save them and use them. If you’d like the original Power Point presentation, please email me at barbara.seaton@hotmail.com.

Resources:

Upward Movement

Inspired by the Memento Mori cathedral in Chouchou, Second Life.

At the top of the long sunlit staircase I pause. A single arch leads into the cathedral, its brilliance setting me in shadow. Filtered light fades the arches on either side into an iridescent white glow. A single piano note wafts through the rafters, riding on the wind, followed by another hesitant note, then another.

Standing in shadow, white spiral staircases race above me into the sky, their patterns shaping the light. My eye follows their path, feeling the pull of their upward movement as if I was a small white bird, alone in the sky, catching the updraft. Piano notes fade, and the wind is left alone to create its own harmony as it flows through the lofty spires above.

Caught in the brilliance of the light tipped spires, I turn in place, blue gossamer skirts softly brushing my skin. The wind catches the feathering of my hair, sending it scurrying across my face.

Slowly, I lift a hand to brush the fine strands back when a searing pain averts my eyes. I withdraw my hand and step back into the shadows. Small gray wisps curl lazily upward. The once pale whiteness of my fingers are tinged with gray surrounded by a slight charring. I pull a long breath through my clenched teeth and realize the reality of what drew me here.

I remember the years of my life. Of those I loved. Of one I loved. Of my white fingers tracing the words on his grave stone. His life, long and full.

Through tear-filled eyes I look up into the light-filled room. Long had I waited for this moment, and now, I hesitate. Its beauty draws me. Its beauty scares me.

The first time I came to this place, I was so overcome by its beauty, I knew. This was my salvation. This would be my sanctuary. And now, I come for the last and forever time.

I draw a deep breath and step forward into the light, letting my robes fall behind me. White skin exposed to white light. Curls of smoke rise. My skin on fire without flame. I keep walking, leaving trails of ash of what was once my existence.

Before I reach the end, the light takes what is left of me. All that remains are swirls of smoke, caught and gathered by the wind.

Flowing upward and through the spires, I am a small gray bird, alone in the sky, catching the updraft. Piano notes fade, and the wind is left alone.

by Barbara Seaton/Helena Kiama (SL)
May 2, 2016
Copyright 2016

Memento mori cathedral, Chouchou, Second LifeMemento mori cathedral, Chouchou, Second Life

Creating a Bowling Ball and Pins

In the course I’m taking at Udemy.com, one of the projects was creating a bowling ball and pins.

First we had to gather our references so we’d have the correct size ratio between ball and pins, and a way to easily convert the ratio into Blender units.

Bowling Pen Layout Dimensions

Our next assignment was determining what type of sphere to use for the bowling ball. We had 3 choices: UV sphere, ico sphere, or cube (yes, a cube can be a sphere). The ico sphere seemed to be the best choice as we needed to put 3 holes in the ball at uniform intervals.

Bowling Ball in edit mode

Then we created an outline with curves and spun it to create a pin.

Bowling Pin in edit mode

So I had my first bowling ball and pin.

Bowling Ball and Pin

Then I found a diagram as a background image for determining distance between pins.

Bowling

We created additional pins using the array modifier and the diagram helped with placement.

Bowling Pin Placement

The final assignment was to move the pins into a position to appear they had been hit by the ball, then render our scene.

Bowling Ball Scene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Blender

The question comes up again and again in Second Life, “Where is the best place to learn Blender?”

Yes, there are many video tutorials out there for free. Some are excellent, some not so. It’s really a hit and miss as to how well done they are.

I had worked in Blender years ago, back when there was a version 1 (yes, that long ago). After a hiatus from Blender, and realizing the need to update my building skills in Second Life with mesh imports, I took a look at Blender again, and realized I was lost with the new interface. I had also forgotten many of the skills I used to have.

So I shopped around for tutorials. I ran across many video tutorials on Youtube, but usually they only addressed tools just for the object they were making, and sometimes assumed you knew the shortcut keys or where tools were located.

Then I found a course, “Learn 3D Modeling – The Complete Blender Creator Course” at Udemy.com. It had at least 100 lectures and started you from installation of Blender to modeling some complex things. At first the cost seemed to be more than I wanted to pay, but I signed up at the site and soon the course was available for a huge discount (I think I paid $10 US at the time.) For that cost I get lifetime access to the course.

The course is self-paced, so I take an hour for lunch and jump in to do another lecture. Michael Bridges and Ben Tristem that teach the course are professional, consistent, and amazing. They follow up with your questions and check to see how everyone is doing.They update the course all the time and add new materials and lectures (I think they are up to 273 lectures now).

So far in the course I’ve created a simple “periscope,” built a model plane, bowling ball and pins, a low poly chess set with board, and an animated lamp. Next I’ll be doing a bunny (with particles for hair, sculpting, etc.), then a project for a game asset pack, and a gothic church. Throughout the lectures they keep in mind that you may be exporting your models into another program.

The sale price has gone up a little but it is still pennies compared to the instruction and content you get. Want to learn Blender? Sign up at Udemy.com and buy the course “Learn 3D Modeling – The Complete Blender Creator Course.” You’ll get an excellent foundation in  Blender and 3D modeling, as well as learn many of the tools available to create those fantastic mesh objects.