August 30, 2016
Facebook recently introduced a panorama viewer which lets a consumer view a 360 degree image by panning the mouse or moving a mobile device. The viewer requires an equirectangular image with a 2:1 aspect ratio and certain embedded metadata.
I created a scene in Blender with an equirectangular camera placed in the southern courtyard of the Alamo.
This site does not support panoramas but the scene can be viewed on my Facebook page: Alamo 2.0 or with a direct link to the post: Panorama Image (link may not work if you are not signed in to Facebook).
Panoramas give an immersive feeling–especially when viewed on a mobile device that can pan the image as the device is moved around. They are quick to download and work on just about any modern browser that supports HTML5–unlike a game engine presentation. Panoramas even support 360 videos.
An app could display a map with hot spots for 360 views or even use geo-fencing to pop up a view when the user walks to a certain place in San Antonio. Adding characters would place the viewer in the middle of a battle scene. Rendering in stereo for Google Cardboard would complete the VR experience. I am pretty excited about the uses of this technology for presenting my model.
July 29, 2016
Southeastern corner of the Alamo Church
This is a view of the southeastern corner of the 1836 Alamo Church from my model. The render was done in Blender Cycles. For this render, I completed the texturing of the walls and made improvements to the “door of the dead.” I lowered the tower a bit and added some cross supports. I am learning to create more realistic vegetation using the Blender Sapling add-on and the Grass Essentials product from Blender Guru.
See full resolution photo in the Gallery.
June 28, 2016
A short animation featuring my improved facade on my Alamo model.
June 21, 2016
Alamo Facade (see Gallery for full size)
Seven years ago I posted a video of my first Alamo 3D model on YouTube. Since then, I have been gradually improving my technical abilities and tools to create a more photo-realistic result.
The render above, represents my latest work: reworking the Alamo church facade. For comparison, here is a render of my model in 2009.
Here is a summary of the improvements:
- Using a physically accurate render engine with global illumination (Blender Cycles) produces realistic lighting.
- The lighting source is from an HDRI image (Hyperfocal Design). This is another important contribution to realistic lighting and background.
- Color grading. The rendered result was corrected to improve color balance.
- More geometry. The new model has a higher level of detail. For example the spirals in the pillars.
- Higher texel density. The size of the textures is sufficient for a sharp image of objects that are 1-2 meters from the camera. Also, the texel density is more uniform across objects in the scene.
- Bump and normal map textures add detail without increased geometry. For example, the decorations on the doorway.
- Physically based material workflow. Materials were created using Allegorithmic Substance Designer and Painter.
- Hand generated textures. The stonework textures were created by hand using a workflow involving Photoshop, Inkscape and Substance Painter. This allowed the addition of realistic weather, dirt and damage effects.
Not visible in this render are the other improvements like the complete modeling of Bexar and more realistic landscape around the San Antonio River.
April 24, 2016
Animation of a soldado walking in front of the San Fernando church in the Main Plaza of San Antonio de Bexar.
Continuing my study of animation, this render is an improvement of the previous try. The feet make good contact with the ground thanks to a feature of MakeWalk. I fixed some problems with the skinning of the model to the rig and I used the Blender compositor to reduce the render time by only rendering the foreground for the full sequence.
April 18, 2016
This weekend I took a break from model texturing and investigated the workflow for animating my Alamo characters. The video above shows a test in which an early soldado model was animated by retargeting a motion capture file (BVH) from CMU using the MakeWalk add-on in Blender. The character is one of my first characters based on MakeHuman. I created the clothes in Blender and textured them using Substance Painter. The result was animated and rendered in Blender (Cycles).
There are some obvious deficiencies: the skinning to the rig breaks down in places, the feet contact with the ground is not perfect and the motion blur seems extreme.
Despite these problems, the process was fairly easy.
April 6, 2016
Rendering animations in Blender can be time consuming. Depending on the quality and image size, one frame can take 1 to 3 minutes (or longer!) Since a second of video is 24 frames, it can take hours or days to render a movie of any interesting length.
So I am studying the use of more realtime solutions that trade some quality for speed. In particular, I have explored Unity and Unreal game engines. At the present time, the consensus seems to favor Unreal for graphical quality so that is what I am concentrating on at the moment.
I have spent the last few weeks developing a workflow for translating my model to Unreal (a.k.a. UE4). So far, I have created a terrain model by making a height map from my Blender mesh and worked out the techniques for porting assets (objects and textures) to work with UE4 materials. Some additional details that have been worked include the lighting, animating a camera, and rendering an image sequence that can be turned into a video.
The video above is a first test render of the Veramendi buildings on the un-textured terrain.