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December 2013 – daveleack.com

Month: December 2013

Oh, Christmas Tree

I can highly recommend a viewing of Andrew Price’s tutorial on making a Christmas tree in Blender.
I stopped watching when I became thoroughly engrossed in what I was making using the techniques shown, but I’ve since been back to check out the part where he makes tinsel, baubles, a star for on top etc. and there’s some great tips in there too.

I’m part way through creating a scene using the tree making technique as a starting point, and I did a couple of extra tricksy things that Andrew didn’t mention in his tutorial which are as follows:

1. Rather than trying to manually weight paint the tips of the branches to scale down/remove the particles, I created a tapered cylinder that was a similar shape to the outline profile of my tree, then I used that object as the source for a Vertex Weight Proximity modifier on the branches themselves. What this allows you to do is smoothly gradiate the weight from 0 to 1 from the tips of all the outermost branches to some distance away from the surface of the surrounding object.  I then did a similar thing but used the trunk of the tree to prevent particle growth at the very start of the branches. I think this gives a nice effect. (I’ll post some pictures of the resulting weight group later)

2. Instead of manually placing the curve for my tinsel/lights, I added a mesh circle, extrude-scaled it to make it a ring of faces, ripped one edge and pulled it up with Connected Proportional edit turned on, so that I ended up with a sort of spiral, added an array modifier to “copy” it a few times vertically so I ended up with several loops of a spiral.
Then with this loopy spirally string of faces, I added a Simple Deform modifier to taper it toward the top to a similar profile as my branches and positioned it roughly where I wanted it to be.
The next step was to grab a copy of the branches and apply a Decimate modifier to them set to a ratio of somewhere around 0.005 (I think this means it’ll try to remove 99.5% of the faces, which is roughly what I wanted) to create a really low poly tree “proxy” which I then made into a collider. I set up a cloth sim on my loopy spiral and played it for fifty or so frames, letting it jiggle about and come to rest on my tree proxy, then I grabbed one edge loop of the spiral, separated it from the mesh and converted it to a curve for beveling and conversion back to mesh for the core of the tinsel (I could have used a skin modifier, but I wanted the curve for other things too).

Here’s a 25 sample test render of where I’m up to with the scene:

Christmas Tree Test Render
25 sample test render of my Christmas scene built in Blender

I’ll post more when I get more done 😀



On the Questionable Wisdom of Sculpting Someone You Know

Sooner or later I was going to have to get serious about sculpting.

Time and again I’ve watched videos of folks squishing and sliding verts around to amazing effect, producing fantastic sculpted models in Blender (among other packages).

I really love the sculpt tools in Blender. They’re great fun to use. More so if you have a pressure sensitive input device of some kind. I’ve been practicing here and there, mostly making humanoid, although not all of them are immediately recognisable as humanoid, especially in the early days.

It struck me the other night that my imagination is pretty poor at coming up with characters to sculpt, so I had in mind the idea that I might have a go at someone who actually exists.

If you want to see some amazing sculptures of people who actually exist (or have existed), you *really should* check out Doris Fiebig’s work over at zbrushfun.wordpress.com. It really is something else, and while inspiring, made me a little apprehensive to try my hand at creating a likeness.

So I considered a few options and came to the conclusion that if I did a sculpt of someone that I know personally, but that isn’t an instantly recognisable celebrity (is that harsh? I didn’t mean it to be love…) then I still have somewhere to hide when it comes to “Oi! That doesn’t look like such and such…” comments.

You may have guessed from the previous paragraph that my whizz-bang idea was to sculpt a likeness of my lovely missus.

It’s altogether possible that anyone reading this who has experience of painting/sculpting/photographing loved ones will at this point be saying, “well, that was a mistake” and it’s also possible that I’d agree, but not entirely.

You see, I’m fairly familiar with the subject’s face, so that helps, and I have access to the subject most of the time, so that helps too. I wonder if she minds being called “the subject”…

The difficulties begin when I want to show off work in progress renders. Now, I think that it’s pretty good work, but I also feel that it’s got to hit a certain level before I can show it to anyone, because of my relationship with the subject, and the possibility that I might get strangled in my sleep if I’ve done a poor job of it.

I’m really, really, really enjoying it though. It’s *great fun*. Even when I screw it up and have to smudge the crap out of it to get it back to a workable state, it’s all fantastically enjoyable.

So there’re ups and downs, but I’m glad I’ve had a go at this, and, with the subjects permission, will post some renders soon.