Caffeine Abuse - The Blog

Wall of lights – How to set up a wall of animated light bulbs

Nine out of ten times you’re overegging the pudding by adding actual light source to the setup as you most likely could get away with a using really bright material on the object. But there is that one time you do need it, and this apparently is it.

Start by opening the scene Light_Wall.scn from this issues CD. There are several ways you can animate the lights switching on and off, but the perhaps most intuitive is by using an image sequence. Select the Wall object and from the Get > Property > Texture Map menu choose Texture Map. In the Clip section of the PPG, click the New button  and choose New From File. In the Browser, select the LightSwitch.pic sequence from the Pictures folder and click OK. Select the Texture_Projection in the UV Property section and then close the PPG.

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Rigging an accordion lamp

The distinctive design of the accordion lamp may look simple to rig, but don’t be fooled. As the lamp expands or contract the joints at each end of the arms moves in a circular motion, rendering the standard constrains useless.

The accordion lamp consists of a series of individual arms which are mounted in pairs creating an X-Shape. Rotating any of the arms will cause all arms to rotate which either expand or contract the lamp. Start by open the scene Accordion_Lamp.scn. The scene consists of a number of null objects and the arms, which are parented under the null representing their respective centre joint.

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Using render channels in Softimage

The typical use of render channels is to render the scenes components, such as ambience/diffuse, reflection or motion vectors into individual images. As most of these components are calculated individually by Mental Ray anyway they’re not going to affect the time needed to render the image. In addition, channels can be used to render partial or multiple render trees, adding ambient occlusion, outputting mattes or any other type of information within a single pass. In this case however, you won’t get them for free. 

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Shape blending in ICE using an image sequence

Since you’ll be using ICE to control the blend of the shape keys, make sure there aren’t any shape tracks added to the Animation Mixer and delete the Cluster Shape Combiner operator in the Shape Modeling stack of the object.

Open the scene Blend_Shape_Using_TextureMap.scn. Select the Can object  and from the Get > Property > Texture Map menu choose Texture Map. In the Clip section of the PPG, click the New button and choose New From file from the popup menu. Select the Gradient_Mask.jpg sequence and click OK to load the images. Select the Texture_Projection in the UV Property.

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Turbulize the position of a locator with ICE kinematics

Controlling the scale, transformation or rotation (SRT) of an object with ICE isn’t any different from doing the same when dealing with point or “particles”. The thing you need to keep in mind though is how you set the data. While you can read any of the SRT properties of an object you can’t set the individual X,Y or Z transforms directly nor their local transform values. In order to set any of the transform values you need to set the whole global transform matrix. Note that this is merely a structural thing and does not affect what you can and cannot do with an object’s SRT. 
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Particle sprites using ICE

Sprites are images or sequences of images which you map onto a surface, usually with an alpha channel, to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object or volume. Typical use of sprites includes populating trees with thousands of leafs or creating fire and smoke effects, as this is much more cost effective than rendering  instances of the actual objects or using volume clouds. And in most situations you wouldn’t be able to spot the difference anyway.
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Happy Holidays!

I guess this will be the last post this year, and with this I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you all on the other side…

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Squash and stretch

One of the most fundamental (and important) rules in animation is the use of squash and stretch which is used to give the illusion of weight and volume as an object moves.

Open the scene Ball_Rig.scn. Select the Ball and from the Get > Primitive menu choose Lattice. In the Lattice PPG, change the Subdivision on all three axis’s to 2 and close the PPG. With the Lattice still selected, press [T] to set the selection filter to points and select the top nine points on the lattice. From the Main Command Panel (MCP) > Edit menu choose Create Cluster with Centre. This creates a null object and automatically constrains the selected points to that null, meaning that if you move (or scale) the null the corresponding part of the lattice will move as well.

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Surface constraint and transformation

While constraining an object to a surface as such is a straightforward task and won’t require more than a few mouse clicks, it may still leave you with a sensation of not being quite satisfied. Once you add the constraint you loose the option to freely move the object with the standard translate tool and are left with two (somewhat less intuitive) sliders within a PPG. By adding an extra dummy object to the mix, you’ll effectively manage to get the most out of both approaches.

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Frame number as 3D text

From the Create > Text menu choose Solid Mesh. Unlike most other parameters in Softimage, the editing pane does not come with an animation icon and as such it does not offer a direct way to animate or control via expression. However, this certainly does not mean it can’t be done. You’ll return to the PPG in a second, but close it for now. There’s a slight difference between the standard primitives in Softimage and the text object. While the standard primitives creates a single object the text operator instantly renders your input text as curves which are then converted to a 3d object using the convert curves to mesh command.

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