Thursday, 6 October 2011

Mudbox Life Saver Mini App

okay dokey boys and girls time for a nice little life saving app for all you mudbox users.

Now you know the one thing annoys all of us that have used mudbox and has can be a right old
nuisance in production? When the mudbox preferences get corrupted and can cause all manner of crazy errors and bugs to crop up that use up your time, my time, autodesk tech support's time...time better spent in a much more productive way, so when it crops up basically everyone is the loser.

So what casues it?

the preference files can become corrupt from time to time for any one of a shed load of reasons. Wher they do mudbox can have one of about 200 hissy fits throwing what seems like bugs but are actualy due to the preferences being corrupt. Hence the #1 rule if your having a problem with a bug in mudbox is you'll be asked if you have 'deleted the mudbox folder in your documents folder' So that this is then recreated next time mudbox starts up and usually 90% of the time solves theproblem you may be having.

So as I had a couple of mins spare, I've knocked up a very simple EXE that'll work on win 7 and delete the contents of the Mudbox folder in your Documents folder (I've been using a varation on this since the 2009 version and just never got around to sharing it.) Yes you can do ths by hand, and no its not very hard at all to code. (its simply a fact that I don't think anyone bothered to upload it for anyone to use lol.) One good thing is its both 'future proof' and 'past proof' and doesn't matter what pc version your running 2009,2010, 2011 subscription advatage pack, the latest does not care.

So to remedy this, here ya go, comes complete with absolutely no tech support at all (so please no emails if you are having issues) and if you can already set up a batch file instead to do it, go right ahead. This is for those of you who want a quick 1 click fix and who maybe aren't coders, chances are if you are and your a mudbox user, you've probably wrote your own anyway.

Just stick it on your desktop, double click on it when needed and it will come up wiht a promot asking you if your sure (just in case you hit it by accident) , proviign you say 'yes' it will then proceed to delete everything in the "Users\Documents\Mudbox" folder along with the folder itself for the current user. (so please remember to back stuff up if you have other stuff in there if you want to keep it, you shouldn't really be storing models etc there anyway!)

I also have a far more elegant solution that restores your brush prefernces and settings but alas it'd be a nightmare to convert so it'd be useful for
everyone else on the planet except me. Should I ever get time I'll be sure to upload it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

'Cathedral' ::: Interior Establishing Shot mock up

A very rough mock up using a still of the 1st interior establishing shot. with roto as rough as a donkeys arse. Final will be full animated,tracked & cleaned up. There will be about 15-18 shots in all in my version of this.

Now, see if you can spot the hidden 3d max teapot ;)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wayne's Reviews:: Render man pro server & Renderman for Maya

To most digital sculptors Renderman makes them think of one rendering of displacement maps. So it may surprise you to learn that for me that's not the thing I like most about it. My favourite feature in the pro server / Renderman for Maya combo I'm using is the Renderman relighting controls. As I mentioned in my last review lighting a scene can be a pain sometimes if you're not getting the right feedback from your viewport. Renderman has a nice way around this by bypassing the viewport altogether if you wish and relight fairly fast. This mean you get to see EXACTLY what you're going to get at render time and not a viewport approximation.

So the ability to change your lights settings, colours etc is a great boon, although there are certain times when you will need to rebuild your shadow map. One thing would say is that for a scene such as the cathedral you really are going to have to wait a fair old bit. Because even though there is no displacement at all in the cathedral render in either Renderman or Mental ray version (its basically a game model on steroids), when your pushing that much information around even Renderman is going to take a while to catch its breath.

When Pixar were nice enough to let me have a free copy of the latest Renderman for a while I have to admit coming from non Renderman compliant render engines it was a culture shock. Renderman is at its best when arguably it's at its least 'intuitive' to a non coder. If you are prepared to write your own shaders, you can really make it do tricks as can be seen on virtually 80% of all major Hollywood films. If you don't then you are I feel almost gutting th heart out of the render engine in some ways.

While I was using Renderman for Maya, I was also using Renderman pro server alongside some apps of my own that aren't available publicly such as Exodus. This enabled me to take a look at pro server in a less modicodelled environment and use it 'in the raw (and by that I mean without a UI...not naked lol).

I did find both a bit of a pain to set up, although some of that was due to my extremely flaky development machine which is renowned for throwing errors no other machine on planet earth seems to. The one area I would like to see improved is the installer as messing around with environment variables if something goes wrong is no one's idea of fun! But again Pixar came to the rescue and managed to get me up and running in no time with some of the best customer support I've seen anywhere .

So how did I cope with having to use Renderman in Maya when I am mainly used to 3dmax and as a Mental ray user? I'm not going to lie and say it was all very easy , there was a lot of information I needed to take in, in what was a very short time. If you're looking to pick up Renderman and use it in a day or two to its best from nothing then you'd going to be mistaken.

Renderman needs time to be learned and does to some degree at least ask (rather than demand) you to do some coding to get the very best out of it. It's not the fastest ray tracer out there and physically accurate lighting and shading out of the box while not impossible is far harder to achieve than mental ray. But comparing Renderman and Mental ray, although both are render engines is like comparing a fish to an apple. (While both apples and fish are good at being apples and fish, but you wouldn't want a fish on your fruit salad.)

There is no 'best render engine' the best render engine is the one you have and the one you can get the results you require out of it the easiest. I wouldn't call Renderman a good engine for a beginner to learn unless they have a lot of time and are prepared to go quite deeply into rendering theory. Its only as good as the artist behind it and not a magic wand. Overall I like Renderman and can see m using it for jobs that fit it best, the same as I use mental ray for jobs that fit that best. (Plus a little one ever said you can't mix and match passes from both engines.)

Renderman's renowned fast displacement times are not ironically as big a deal for me as you would think, as that's a very small piece of a larger puzzle that is your rendered frame. But a nice plus is that Renderman can render a Mudbox vector displacement map without any special shaders or complex set up. It's a tried and production tested industry standard render engine an as you would expect it does what it says on the tin.

Wayne's Reviews:: Autodesk Maya 2012

When it comes to the big 3 apps (3D max, Maya and Softimage) I'm a max guy. It fits well with me and I know it very well. What's less well known is I actually stated in 3d (if you discount Bryce etc....) in Maya back in version 5 I think it was. After a brief flirtation for 2 weeks with 3dmax years earlier and famously throwing it at a wall in my flat and tell a mate 'it'll never catch on', when I came back to 3d I went for Maya.

Why did I choose Maya? It has a very simple and very stupid reason as its answer: because It was used by ILM lol. As I was (and still am) a massive star wars fan, if ILM used it, then to me 'not knowing a thing at the time' 3d mind, it must be the best. So I went on to use it for about 3-4 years and became back then rather proficient with it I like to think. So I can hear your brains asking...why did you move to 3dmax then? well actually I didn't I moved to Softimage 1st, because I'd worked out that while knowing 1 3d app was good, if you knew all 3 big apps you were far more marketable as an artist.

The move to 3D Max came only after realising that it was the only one of the big 3 left that I'd not went in-depth with, and I had kept putting it off until I had no choice. I still had bad memories of it back before there were any tutorial on the internet about 3d max (if there were I never found them!) To put this into focus, back then the internet was seen as for star wars fans, porn and that order.

So although I use max more than any other app (yes including Mudbox), I have also kept a hand in with the ones I use less often, because only an idiot learns something only to let his skills fade away. Maya when it comes to films is seen as king of the hill. Part of this seems to be that clients ask firms to use Maya as they probably think like I did that if ILM uses it 'then it must be the best and do shit nothing else can'. So firms use it because their pipeline has evolved over years to be based on Maya and that's not an easy thing to change, and maybe because everyone else also uses it.

Maya and me are like that at least twice a week I want to tear its throat out lol. Maya can do some crazy things at times that seem to be for no rhyme or reason. Yes it does a lot of things well and to be frank I'd far rather be painting skin weights in Maya or Softimage that 3d max, ut there are still many things that make you want to shake it until it bleeds to ask why it does crazy things that are so easy. (Don't get me started on its 'selection highlighting that doesn't highlight until your bloody actually ON a vertex...near won't cut has to be ON, which negated the whole idea of a visual selection aid really. So bottom line is that in many ways like my brother, from time to time Maya drives me insane. The rest of the time we get on nicely and it does its job.

The viewport support for PTEX is a very good idea and one 3D Max should steal blatantly for a future release. As mentioned weight painting in Maya is far more painless, and it works far better with a graphics tablet than the max ui does in my opinion. With MEL and python you have powerful control over scripting to help your pipeline and even develop your own tools using that or the SDK. Also a side effect of this is that it's easy to get help or information if you're stuck on something with MEL as there are a lot of people with high end knowledge of it.

Maybe it's just me, but the UI seems 99.999% the same as when I used it back in version 4 or 5.... there is an argument for 'if it isn't broke don't fix it, but some tweaks would be nice guys. I also far prefer Mayas control of render passes over max's, some stuff more complex passes are far easier to do (althoughn3d max scene states also help vastly in this for max users).

When people ask me which big app to learn I always say 'all three' as in this financial climate you don't want to make yourself unattractive to an employer as some places still refuse to let the artist choose their app they use. So I would say to the Maya dev team listen to your users biggest complaints and address them as you are able to, this is advice for app dev teams really. it's far too easy for heads to go down and almost a siege mentality of 'us against the users' to start. ...and that never ends well for anyone.

Maya has some nice viewport controls and although some could use further refinement its nice to see some parts of it heading in the direction I personally would like it. But not everyone may want Maya to head in the direction I want, I'm only 1 bloke sitting here typing , not a demigod. So while there is nothing to make me want to change for max to Maya 2012, if your a Maya user then it's all probably good...baring that crazy shit it does every now and again of course.

The next review's will be Renderman and Zbrush, (and I won't be approaching it in anything other than an even handed way I can promise you that)