You may have noticed the addition of a new badge to the sidebar of the site. Down there it sits, positively beaming its ‘Google Street View Trusted’ status to all who wish to look at it. But what’s that all about then?
Simply put it means we have been through the accreditation process with Google to be recommended 360 photography professionals and get listed on the Street View professionals directory. The process requires you to upload over 50 360 images to the platform that must meet the eligibility criteria in terms of quality, stitching accuracy and resolution. To us it’s nice to be recognised and have something to show for the hard work we’ve put in getting this stuff right; for clients it’s a bit of peace-of-mind that we are an agency that can be trusted and that actually know what they are talking about!
Street View is a great platform and has revolutionised the way you find out about a location; I’m old enough to remember scribbling lists of directions down to go somewhere new (which would always have one key bit of info missing…maybe that was just me though) so having the ability to actually go to the street level and scope somewhere out before you get there is amazing. Giving that functionality to businesses is an amazing way to drive engagement and that’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about 360 and VR.
There are a lot of general questions we keep getting asked about VR and 360 work; with that in mind we’re putting together an FAQ on the subject as a handy reference for everyone so check back soon for the update.
So it’s been quite some time since we last posted an update (almost 3 years!) and there are a lot of reasons for this; the main one being that we’ve just been incredibly busy (which we’re totally not complaining about) but also because a lot of our posts can get pretty technical and, before you know it, that ‘quick’ post you were going to make has taken days to craft, edit, check and add graphics to.
But no more! This year we’re going to make a concerted effort to get simpler, shorter posts out that cover some of the great stuff we’ve been doing over the past couple of years and the new areas we have expanded into. So keep an eye out for more info on our adventures in 360 photography and filming, VR, real-time visualisation in Unreal Engine (did we mention we’d had our work included in the global enterprise showreel for Unreal? Oh yeah, no posts for nearly 3 years…tsk), interactive touch-screen experiences and app development.
Hopefully that lot will give us something to talk about; plus this post didn’t take days so we’re off to a great start!
Design Corps officially joined the NewTek Developer Network today to offer a range of unique, user-customisable virtual set designs for use with NewTek TriCaster multi-camera video production systems.
Design Corps, a UK-based creative agency providing design, visualisation, animation and interactive services to clients worldwide, are pleased to announce their collaboration with NewTek through the NewTek Developer Network.
Design Corps provide a range of unique virtual sets for use with TriCaster systems and the Virtual Set Editor (VSE). The sets come with user-customisable features and are supplied ready to use. Design Corps also offer extended customisation on existing sets as well as a bespoke design service so that clients can have a set that is truly unique to them.
Virtual sets are an excellent way to have your own impressive studio set but without any of the overheads of actually building a real-world one. Design Corps’ sets are designed and rendered to the highest standard and are full of all of the tiny details that help sell them as a ‘real’ image. A virtual set can be customised to increase ROI and can be easily replaced with a new design when the time is right for an update.
Michael Kornet, executive vice president of Business Development for NewTek said, “We are pleased to welcome Design Corps into the NewTek Developer Network. Virtual sets provide video producers an incredible opportunity to add high production value at a minimum cost. Design Corps provides Tricaster users with unlimited creative possibilities to customize their virtual sets to enhance their brands and distinguish themselves to their audience.”
Chris Trill, MD of Design Corps said “We are extremely excited to be joining the NewTek Developer Network. We think we have a unique approach to set design due to our background in visualisation for Architecture and Engineering and we’re looking forward to working with the global network of TriCaster users on some great sets.”
International 3D community magazine 3D Artist asked me to write an expanded version of my iPhone texture photography tip recently and, of course, I jumped at the chance. It was great fun writing it and I even developed a few new methods as I was creating the files to go on the CD.
Now don’t just rush out to buy the mag because I’m in it, there’s also an excellent interview with concept vehicle designer Daniel Simon, a BTS article with WETA Digital on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and a great article on VR headsets; for a detailed listing of what’s in the magazine click here. You can pick the magazine up from all good newsagents (Ha! Always wanted to say that) or order it from their online store here.
As before if anyone uses this approach in their work I’d love to hear about it and see the results!
As has been mentioned before on here, part of the CG process that I really enjoy is creating custom texture sets. I think it’s a rewarding process anyway but it makes a lot of sense as a CG artist to create your own texture library that you know you can fall back on.
All textures begin life as a photograph of course and the higher res you can get on the initial photography the better. I like to keep a look out for interesting textures whenever I’m out and about but lugging a load of camera kit around with you everywhere you go isn’t really an option (especially not when you’ve got 2 kids and a wife who frowns at you whenever the camera bag comes out!). Fortunately pretty much everyone carries a camera round in their pocket these days and I reckon the humble camera-phone is a perfect tool for this particular instance.
Let’s get some stuff out of the way first though; this is a camera-phone we’re using so you can forget huge resolution (although there is a workaround for this that I’ll go into shortly), focus can be iffy, there’s no manual mode and you will be working with jpegs as opposed to RAWs. However, if you’re just shooting interesting textures as you find them it doesn’t really matter too much if some go a bit wrong. Another advantage of shooting with a camera-phone is that every image is geotagged, so if you mess a really good texture up or you need to shoot a high-res one with a big camera you can easily find where it was shot and go back there.
The other issues we mentioned; iffy focus and no manual control, can be tackled by just making sure you tap the screen to focus then check it before you start shooting and purchasing some of the other camera apps out there that do offer (a bit) more control. However these apps will have one important thing missing that we need for the high-res workaround.
I’d been trying to think of a way to get better res out of the images taken with my phone; initially I thought of just shooting lots of images from close range but then the thought occurred to me, why not use the panorama tool to create one long, close image, that way you get much better res and can grab huge textures in one shot. Another thing this is good for is ‘unwrapping’ cylindrical objects (trees for instance), you can just start your panorama in one position, walk around the object and presto, instant unwrapped texture!
Ok, ok, so it’s not quite ‘instant’. For a start it can be a bit of a fiddle to capture properly, my first attempts had a lot of wobbles and repeats in but, with a bit of practice, it gets better; the trick is to move slowly and keep the arrow in the centre line…do that and you can get a pretty clean image. You will also need to edit the edges to create a proper tile, but you’d need to do that whatever image you use. I’ve included a shot I took at the weekend around a tree, the ground was slightly uneven so there are some repeat patterns but these could be cloned out easily; this one was just another test and, if I were actually using it, I’d have done a few more circuits of the tree at different heights. Still, not too bad, to get that resolution (21MP) out of a phone! If you’d like to have a look at the full res version click here to download it.
It should be blindingly obvious that you’re not going to get textures that can hold up to ultra-close renders at 8k; however for anything up to middle distance the images you grab with your phone will do just fine and your life will be (relatively) frown-free!
Has anyone else tried this method? Be interested to see the results if so.
NOTE: The phone I’m using is an iPhone 4S that shoots images at 8MP (3264 x 2448px) which is quite measly compared to some of the Android/Windows based phones. I’m using the standard camera software; as mentioned above there are other camera apps but these tend to focus on normal photos and don’t have panorama modes. There are dedicated panorama apps but none of them seem as suited to this task as the Apple one; I’ve been on the lookout for one with image stabilisation but haven’t found one yet (so if you know of one please mention it in the comments). If image wobbles are an issue you could break out a tripod and a dolly…but that then kind of negates the whole ‘quick and easy shots with a camera you put in your pocket’ thing!
Shout it from the rooftops, tell your family and friends, corner fillets are finally in Illustrator! Well, perhaps don’t go that far…but it is pretty exciting to have this feature properly implemented at last.
Easily editable corner fillets have been in 3DS Max for years and it always struck me as odd that Max had it and illustrator didn’t. The drawing tools in Max are fine but I would always choose Illustrator for doing anything beyond very basic shapes as it is simply a lot more capable in that department (no big surprise really as that is what it was designed for) but when it came to round corners Max, bizarrely, had the upper hand on Illustrator.
Sure there was a round corners effect, but it was just a visual effect, the underlying path didn’t change which, more often than not, made it useless to me. There was also a script you could get called ‘round any corner’ which was better than nothing but was a bit clunky to use and, as there was no ‘preview’ option, there was a lot of back and forth with guesswork. Then of course there was always the option of just drawing everything, a bit time consuming but definitely a possibility. So, as you probably gathered from the opening line, I was extremely pleased to read at the start of the week that the new CC updates had a feature called ‘live corners’ for Illustrator which seemed to be the answer to my corner rounding prayers.
By sheer coincidence I’ve been working on a series of infographics this week that feature a lot of very precise curving lines that form together and flow around each other. A perfect opportunity to get a lot of live corner use straight away then; so is it any good?
Basically, yes. It is incredibly simple to use, gives you instant feedback (as the ‘live’ title would imply) and, best of all, is non-destructive so you can just keep tweaking the corner values as much as you like and always have the option of going back to the initial point/corner. Using live corners to work on that infographic project has saved me at least half a day of annoying faffery (yeah, it’s a word) trying to get all the curves looking right; I would either have been using the round any corners script (and a lot of guesswork) or plotting loads of guides to help me draw everything by hand…either way would have been a pain and would probably have made me look at other, less curvy, options.
So yeah, nice work Adobe!
I got this infographic through from Autodesk recently highlighting some good points about the use of 3D Design Software in product development, it is presumably based on US data but I’m sure the same things happen worldwide…and across different industries for that matter.
Just goes to show the value of good design; and the cost of bad design (9 billion dollars…ouch!). Click on the image to view a bigger version, or view the original page over at Autodesk here.
I was pleased to read an announcement in the latest newsletter from Realflow that they have not only reduced the cost of the learning edition license but also expanded it to include a node and renderkit. This makes it much easier for freelancers and small studios (like me) to purchase a license and get to grips with software that they may not use very often but would come in handy from time to time.
This seems to be a growing trend alongside the move to subscription models by the likes of Autodesk and Adobe (although AD has been doing this for a while now and the subscription is great value). Houdini also offer an apprentice edition for free (with a non-watermarked version for $99) and I’m sure the standard bundle of Krakatoa has dropped in price recently. Is this a representation of the hard times the VFX industry (and the rest of us) finds itself in? Is it a measure to counteract piracy? Or is it an answer to the way people are finding themselves working (less large studios, more freelancers)?
Whatever the reason, this must be the way forward. As a freelancer the ability to have your main software (Max and Creative Cloud) on subs with all of the benefits it brings is great. Having the other software that you ‘don’t really use but would like to’ available (legitimately!) either for free or for a small fee means that you can easily pick it up and then pay for a full commercial version only when you need it (Realflow has an On Demand license which is charged weekly for example).
I wonder who will be next?
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
My festive greeting this year is a corner of something I’ve had in my sketchbook for quite a while now but hadn’t actually got around to visualising. Needless to say what started off as a ‘quick’ personal project to be done over an evening or two soon spread into a while longer (much to my wife’s annoyance) as I fiddled about with various finishes as well as adding (and removing) a load of lovely elements like chairs / lights / pictures etc. to get the look I was happy with.
Stuck with some design classics in the end (Eames / Noguchi / Gyrofocus) paired with my 3 favourite festive films. Anyhoo, best wishes to everyone and I hope you all have a fabulous holiday 🙂
Oh yes, and check out the full size image by clicking on the gallery link below!
Last week I took advantage of one of Autodesk’s ‘Open Doors’ events to visit one of their Authorised Training Centres and take a free accreditation exam in 3DS Max and, despite the fact that I’ve been using Max for about 12 years, I was slightly nervous about it.
Firstly there’s the whole ‘exam’ thing of it; I’ve not been in examination conditions since I was 16 (which was quite a while ago!), but there was also the nagging feeling that the exam would be filled with questions on the stuff I never use in Max, I don’t really do character animation for example so I was dreading a load of complex question on IK solvers or the like.
I needn’t have worried though as the tests were not that fiendish and I got through both the Associate and Professional exams without any problems (what was it Chris Tarrant used to say; “the questions are always easy when you know the answers”) and I’m now the proud owner of a shiny badge from Autodesk that says I know what I’m doing; I pretty much knew that anyway but still, the approbation is nice 🙂
I’d recommend taking advantage of the ‘Open Doors’ events to anyone else considering an accreditation exam in Max (or any of Autodesk’s other software), and would like to say a big thanks to James and the team at Cabs-CAD where I took the test.