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special effects Archives - Firebelly Productions

Modeling studies and what’s been learned

As you know, I’ve been studying modeling and learning a lot in the process. These modeling studies and what’s been learned from them will be put to use in future books.

Why study modeling? Well, sometimes I just can’t quite find what I want in ready-made models. I might have a very specific idea in mind and just can’t find something to match. What to do then? I’ve very clumsily made my own models in the past and gotten lucky when they did what I wanted or looked close within reason to what I had in mind.

Lately, I’ve gotten the idea that if I can make reasonably good-looking models I can also sell them. Okay, it’s going to take a lot of practice to get to that point, but having that as a sort of sideline to the comics will help them, too. From that point of view, that makes these modeling studies worth the time, wouldn’t you agree?

One thing I’ve become particularly proud of is the ability to create my own dynamic cloth. Dynamic cloth being simulated cloth that drapes realistically on the 3D model. The theory with that being that used together with the cloth that’s not dynamic and simply has morphs to simulate the wrinkles and appearance of cloth, it can step up the look and feel of the characters to help against the “stiff and lifeless” complaint.

So, between being able to model my own stuff, use more realistic-looking clothes on characters, camera tricks and lighting that sets an effective mood, it’s safe to say future books will look even better than ever. It just means being patient while these new skills are learned and practiced. Don’t forget to come keep an eye on the activity streams page, though. I’ll be posting goodies there occasionally!

New book!!

The first new book of 2016 has been released! Dream Angel #21: Guardians of the Tower is a breathtaking example of how much has been learned in the last year! Even how much has been learned in the last week.

I’ve learned that for the moment, I can’t put more than maybe 10 characters in a scene before DAZ Studio simply closes on me. This was especially problematic yesterday as I had a scene that called for over 40 of my characters to be in the scene. So, I had two options: Buy the $100 Decimator plugin from DAZ that simplifies the 3D models or render 2D images and put them on primitives. (Yes, I’m sharing a secret here!)

Since I’m saving up to get tables at local comic book conventions later in the year, the plugin was pretty much out of the question at this point, so, I started rendering posed characters with the same lighting I used for the scene so it would be consistent.

I wish I could show you some of these character renders and the process, but the site’s media library is on the fritz, so you’ll have to be imaginative as I describe this.

Together with a transparency map, these 2D renders on primitive planes got to play “stunt double” for the regular 3D characters. Seen from above, they’re like cardboard cutouts, but since they’re lit and seen from the front, they seem lifelike and appear to belong. All day yesterday I was rendering the characters and creating those transparency maps. The result made the effort worth it as the 2D plane characters played their parts very well and created the illusion that they are full 3D characters – which technically, they are, in a way.

Another impressive piece is the projections this part of the story called for and learning to make them glow effectively. The projection was good without the glow, but with the glow it gives the scene just the right touch!

If you want to see these tricks in action, the new book is waiting! Dream Angel #21: Guardians of the Tower is live and ready for you! You can also come enjoy the Facebook release party with its sneak peeks and teaser pages.

There’s learning happening!

Taking a break and learning new things

In taking a break from rebuilding this site, I’ve been learning new tricks. The shop’s ready, but this site’s still got a long way to go before it’s once again able to become a thriving community of fans. Along the way, a few snags have been hit and the extra time is being put to good use for other things on the “to do” list.

What would I be doing if the site hadn’t been hacked? Well, the plan was to study up more on DAZ Studio and start learning some of the finer features. One such is shaders. Admittedly, I’d dabbled with them a little before, but didn’t fully understand them and found myself frustrated, so I moved on in my projects instead of taking the time to learn. Well, now I’ve taken the time to learn a little about them. Want to see? Yes? Okay, take a look:

fur shader learningfur shader learning fur shader learningAs you can see, I was playing with fur. There’s still some kinks to work out, as evidenced by the third image and the character’s eyes being covered so it looks like “Cousin It” from Addams Family, but a promising prospect for improving the look and feel of the feline characters in particular.

Adding to the learning, is more RAM for the computer. This opened the door a little more to slightly more complicated rendering. For instance:

lighting learningThe lighting used for this would’ve made DAZ crash before the additional RAM. It’s a special rig of lighting that uses 12 lights. Any more than 1 and DAZ used to slow to a crawl. These might not look like much, but they’re also simple tests for new things. With the added RAM, I’ll be learning as many new tricks as possible before beginning rendering of Dream Angel #21 in January.

There’s been one more new thing that’s helped DAZ work a bit faster as well and that’s been to eliminate some of the duplicate files in the Library along with extra empty folders that really didn’t belong that clogged things up and slowed it down. Happily, things are moving a great deal faster as a result.

Ready to see the result? Yes? Okay, here it is:

You can watch it here, if you’re on Facebook. Oh, and while you’re watching, feel free to join the group! Why just a link? Unfortunately, it appears videos posted in a group can’t be embedded on web pages like this one.

If you pay close attention to the clip, you’ll see that outfit and cape are dynamic cloth. That is, they have natural cloth simulation to look as realistic as possible. Initially, it was a full scene with a complete background, but the background slowed down the render considerably. That is to say it took 2 hours to render 14 frames. If you start doing the math for a 298 frame render, that’s a very long render time!

Without the background scene, it was about 4 hours for the 217 frames that did render. Why 217? Well, I forgot to adjust the timeline to include all 298 frames. Nevertheless, the test is quite successful since the lighting used would’ve caused the program to crash before the upgrade. With the upgrade, I took some creative licence and rotated a series of 14 lights on a rig for a very colorful effect on the character. The character’s nobody in particular, just a quick test subject.

Happily, I can announce the shop is fully available and now login capabilities are as well.

You’ll find a small set of buttons on the left side of the page in the sidebar that enable you to login to the site. Definitely a long way to go before the rebuild is 100% complete, but at least the key capabilities that are important are ready for use.