Monday, 19 January 2015

Google maps to StreetView Grabber

More often than Not, I find myself working on 3d photomontages, or verified views with set views/images chosen and taken by different Photographers.
Needless to say that, in all accounts, I've always wished I had a panoramic image/photo of the locations, to use as reflections for my 3d environment.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation and can not retake the photo/s with specialised high definition cameras such as the ones from; then Google maps are your best quick fix.

In conjunction with the StreetView Grabber software, you can find the location (using Google street view) where the original background image was taken from, and automatically grab a 360 view of the site.

To download the StreetView Grabber software, for Free, simply go to the following website:

Next, scroll down the page and click on the following link to download the software.

Once downloaded, unzip (extract) the software, and double click on its Icon to open the dialog.

To start, go to Google maps and type in the address/location where the photography was taken from.
Once the address/ is found( i.e. a red pin floating above the location map) in the Google maps, simply zoom in with the mouse wheel as close as you can, followed by clicking on the Google earth map thumbnail, on the bottom left corner. 

Once the earth map appears ( photo of the location on a plan view), simply grab the yellow silhouette man from the bottom right hand corner of the Google earth map, and drop it on the desired location, to get the Google street view.

It’s worth noting that, you can only drop the yellow silhouette man on areas where there’s a black dot blinking.
These markers indicate spots where the user can take a street view from. 

Once the street view is up on the screen; you can pick from any of the available views displayed in the thumbnails below, if desired. 
Otherwise simply click on the Hide imagery, to minimize the thumbnails on the screen.

As you move the mouse on the Google street view, note the transparent planes that follow it.
They indicate the perspective of the structure/object on the screen. 

While the StreetView Grabber dialog is still open, select the URL of the Google street view and press Ctrl+C to copy it.

Select the StreetView Grabber dialog and click on the Add Pano button.

The Use clipboard dialog should automatically appear. Click Yes to add the copied URL, and close the dialog. 

Before grabbing the 360 street view, you can choose the location to save the final Output image and the file format (i.e. Output JPEG or Output PNG.

In addition, always set the Quality to maximum, by simply moving the slider to the far right.
Also,enable the Weld Tiles and the Crop Panorama option.  

Once satisfied with the settings/parameters, simply click on the Grab button, to capture the panoramic street view. 

Once the grabbing process is finished, a dialog should notify you that the process is Done; click OK to close it. 

Also, open the grabbed panoramic image in Photoshop. 

The chances are that you’ll be required to flip the grabbed panoramic view horizontally before using it as a reflection in 3ds max.

To flip the image horizontally, simply click on the Image main toolbar and choose the Rotate Canvas option, followed by clicking on the Flip Canvas Horizontally.

You can also save the new flipped image under a different name (i.e. …flipped). 

It’s worth noting that, if the Photomontage/verified view happens to be  a Night shot; depending on your personal Photoshop skills, you might be able to turn the panoramic day map into a night one (with a considerable amount of effort, one may add).

Alternatively, you can try some of the Kolor cameras, on location. 

For more information about these High definition 360 cameras, please visit:  


To apply the newly saved panoramic bitmap in 3ds max, simply do the following:

In mental ray: Please refer to this article posted earlier:

In Vray:

Start by opening the Render Setup dialog (F10). 

Under V-Ray tab, expand the V-Ray: Environment rollout parameters.

To plug the previously saved panoramic bitmap from Google street view, simply click on the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle.

The Material/Map browser dialog should pop up. Click on the Bitmap procedural map to locate and load the previously saved Google street view bitmap.

Once the bitmap is loaded; you may be required to edit some of its bitmap parameters in order to make it fit correctly in the viewport.

To do so, open the Material Editor dialog (M) and drag the bitmap from the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle, onto any available material slot.

The instance copy (Map) slot dialog should appear. Choose the “Instance” method and OK to close it.
As instances, whatever changes take place in the Bitmap parameters, will also affect the Reflection/refraction environment override toggle. 

In order to control the position of the reflection map in the 3d environment; the reflection bitmap needs to be visible in the viewport, through the Environment Map toggle.

So the next step will be to open the Environment and effects dialog (8), followed by dragging and dropping the reflection bitmap from the Material Editor, onto the Environment Map toggle. 
Choose the instance option again. 

Next, we are going to select the camera viewport and open the Viewport Background parameters (Alt+B).

In the Viewport Background Parameters, first enable the Match Rendering Output function, followed by turning on the Display Background option, and the Use Environment Background.
Click OK to close the dialog and see the reflection bitmap in the Viewport. 

Back in the Material Editor, under the, Coordinates parameters, enable the Environ function and set the Mapping type to Spherical Environment.

You may also choose to offset its U and V coordinates, if desired. 

In addition, in order to increase the amount of reflectivity seen on the glass/reflective surfaces, simply scroll down to the Output rollout coordinates and increase its RGB Level values.

Once Satisfied with the reflection settings and its coordinates, go back to the Environment and Effects dialog clear it from the Environment Map toggle. 

To do so, simply right click on the toggle and choose to Clear, from the pop up menu list.  

It’s worth noting that, clearing the Environment Map toggle will only affect the Environment display image, Not the reflections from the Reflection/Refraction environment override toggle.

At this stage you can now load back in your original background image being used for the verified view/s or Photomontage/s, in the Environment Map toggle. 

Note: In Vray, when using photographed image/s from verified views or Photomontages as back plate renders, it’s important that the background photography renders with its original colour and gamma; especially when matching lights and colours directly in 3ds max.

To ensure consistency, one might need to change the image Gamma settings to, Override 1.0. 


Furthermore, you’ll be required to set your V-Ray: Color mapping NOT to Affect background. 

Finally, once satisfied with the reflections, the environment map colours, the lighting and with the cameras; you may choose to save the render presets for each camera (i.e. cam 1, cam2, etc).

To save render presets, simply click on the Save Preset option. 

When the Select Preset Categories dialog pops up, I often choose all of them, because it saves the render output size, the render elements, the reflections, the environment, etc.

However, some users prefer only few specific categories. 

To save different light settings and positions, choose the Manage Scene states in addition to render presets. 

Unlike render presets, scene states are NOT saved outside 3ds Max; instead, they are only stored in the 3d scene they have originated from.

So if you choose to merge your 3d scene (with presaved scene states) into a new one Max file; the chances are, you will automatically lose all your pre-saved scene states. 

The Save button allows users to save their parts/categories.

Note: After saving a scene state, ensure that NO new objects or lights are added into the scene; otherwise you might be required to resave all the scene states again.

The Restore button allows users to restore their presaved scene state/s.

Note: You need to select your saved scene state first, before restoring it.

When selecting the Parts/categories of the scene to save, make sure you don’t save the environment settings again (override), if already saved from the render preset. 
Only save light related parts/categories and layers.

Some users may prefer to make things less complicated (No render presets), by opting to use the Scene states only, when saving the light properties, layers and the environment settings.

However, they should take into consideration that, when using numerous cameras and environments; different reflections will also be required. 
And currently, the Environment Part/category from the Scene States doesn't have the option save the V-Ray Environment settings.   

I hope you have found this article somehow interesting!


Monday, 5 January 2015

Photoshop tips for 3D production_Part 2

Happy New Year to Everyone first and foremost:

Remember the laughter, the joy, the hard work and the tears. 
And as you reflect on the past year,also think of the new one to come.  
Because most importantly, this is a time of new beginnings and the celebration of life

Photoshop tips for 3D production_Part 2


Optimising 2d file sizes using the “Save for Web & Devices…” tool

When sending drafts or pre-finalised images to clients for comments and/or signing off, most users tend to use the “Save as…” tool, or/and resize the image/s.

With pre-finalised images, the above mentioned approach may prevent clients from making the right judgment about the image/s and subsequently NOT signing off the image/s as quickly as anticipated.

When using the above mentioned approach (i.e. Save as, etc.), clients often comment on the pixel quality and the image size.

In addition, it may prove to be, a bit of a challenge to send multiple files via email.
To address all of the above issues (when sending pre-finalised images), some companies tend to use the “Save for Web & Devices…” tool, instead.

1-To do so, in Photoshop, click on the “File” main toolbar, and choose the “Save for Web & Devices…” tool from its drop down list. 

2-If the pre-finalised image is exceedingly big in pixel dimensions (i.e. in this example it was 7360x4912), you’ll be prompted with a “Save for Web” warning dialog related to memory errors and slow performance.

Accept it by clicking “Yes” to open it.  

3-With the “Save for Web & Devices” dialog open, Photoshop automatically chooses the “Optimized” tab with its “ideal” “optimized” values (i.e. Quality=60), without compromising the quality of the original image. 

This useful dialog offers users the option to compare between the “Original” tab, and the “Optimized” tab parameters.

On each tab, the user can see and compare the quality between, the file sizes (i.e. at the bottom); set the “Image Size”, etc.
Always pan (using the pan tool) to areas of the image that are more prone to scrutiny by the client. 
In this example, we have focused mainly on the rendered areas of the main building.   

Furthermore, we (at the visualiser), changed the “Preset” quality to 30 and left the “Image Size” parameters untouched.

As one can see between the “Optimized” and the “Original” tab below, the image went from 103 MB, to 3.692 MB in size, without affecting the overall quality of the image or its dimensions.

Once satisfied with the final optimization, simply click “Save” and choose the location to save the file in. 

It’s worth mentioning that, one can also use Photoshop actions to automate this process for the subsequent images.
For more information about Photoshop actions, please check the previous post:

4-Alternatively, users can also use the “Batch” tool to automate actions.
To do so, simply click on the “File” main toolbar, followed by choosing to “Automate” and “Batch” from the drop down list.

The “Batch” dialog box is broken down into five groups: Play, Source, Destination, File Naming and Errors. 

Play: This group allows users to pick and choose pre-created action parameters such as Set and Action.

Source: This group allows users to locate the folder where all the files will be sourced or collected from.

To choose the folder, simply click on the “Source” toggle.

The source folder comes with four functions:

Override Action “Open” Commands

Include All Subfolders

Suppress File Open Options Dialogs

Suppress Color Profile Warnings

Alternatively, users can simply click on the “Source” drop down list and choose the “Opened Files” option.

The “Opened Files” option automatically sources the open files in Photoshop.

Destination: This group allows users to determine the location of the Saved file/s. 

Users can choose from the following options:


Save and Close


The "Folder" option allows users to choose the file destination and to Override Action “Save As” Commands.

File Naming: This group allows users to add numerous variables from the drop down list of the name field.

The most commonly used variables from the drop down list are:

Document Name



The variable under the name of “EXTENSION” in fact adds the file extension name in front of its name (I.e. name.GIF).   

The “Starting serial#” function, automatically adds a serial number/s to the file name. 
To omit file numbering, simply keep this field clear, by simply “deleting” the number/s in this section.  

Errors: This group allows users to either “Stop for Errors” (if any) during the file batching process, or to simply “Log Errors To File” (if any).

I hope you have found this article somehow useful. 


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Photoshop tips & tricks, for production (part 1)

Importing render elements

Nowadays, using render elements have become part of the production process. As such, companies often find themselves having to come up with quick ways to help speed up the transition between 3ds max and Photoshop

The one technique that’s widely implemented by most companies to import render elements, is the “Load Files into Stack” script”.

The script essentially “does exactly what it says on the tin”, by simply collecting and stacking multiple files in one PSD document, whilst preserving each stacked file with its original name.

To use this script, simply go to the main Photoshop toolbar and click on the “File” button.
Choose the “Scripts” option from the dropdown list, followed by selecting the “Load Files into Stack” function. Its dialog should pop up. 

By default, its “Use” is set to “Files”. However, when all the relevant files are in one folder, it’s preferable to use the “Folder” option. 

To choose the “Folder”, simply click on the “Browse” button, followed by locating and selecting the relevant folder. 

If perchance the “Files” option is chosen, simply repeat the above mentioned steps, in addition to selecting all the relevant files inside its respective folder.

Creating PhotoShop Actions

During production, there are instances when users are required to apply identical image effects and/or edit transforms to multiple files. This operation can at times be tedious and time consuming.

Numerous companies tend to create Photoshop actions to help fast-track this process. For the purpose of this simple exercise, we’re emulating a basic string of actions.

To do so, simply do the following:

1- Open the relevant files in Photoshop. For this exercise, it’s also worth creating a brand new folder to save your new files into, as a precautionary measure.

Select the first file/document in Photoshop and Open the “Actions” dialog by pressing “Alt+F9” on your keyboard; or by simply clicking on the “Window” main toolbar and choosing the “Actions” function from the drop down list. 

2- Its dialog should pop up. To create a new action folder, simply click on its toggle on the top far right corner, and choose the “New Action” option from its drop down list. 

3-In the “New Action” dialog, rename it according to the actions you’re planning to execute.  The dialog also allows users to create a “Function Key” for the action/s.
The “Function Key” is an alternative shortcut to the “play selection” button.  Click “Record” to begin capturing your actions. 

4- As mentioned earlier, for this exercise we've simply recorded basic actions such as re-sizing the image/document, blurring, saving the file in a new folder, and closing it thereafter. However, feel free to record more/different actions.

Note how each action is being added orderly in the newly created “Resize, Filter & save as”” action folder. In addition, the record button is turned on/red.  

5-Once finished, simply click on the “Stop playing/recording” button to stop. 

6-To apply the previous actions to a new file/document, simply pick the relevant document, followed selecting the action folder in its dialog, and pressing the “Play selection” button.

Please note that, once a file/document is closed, Photoshop selects the next existing file/document automatically. Hence the “Close” action was also recorded in action folder. 

Photoshop actions can also be used for a variety of different purposes such as setting up PSD files/layers/adjustment layers, etc.   

I hope you've found the above tips useful.

Finally, the next article will focus in other commonly used techniques to help speed up your production workflow!  


Sunday, 2 November 2014

3ds max: VRayPattern

Hi All,

Recently, I was fortunate enough to have been involved in an amazing project for a top notch 3d visualisation company called The Visualiser

The initial brief from the client was to create an exquisite high rise building, with a specific pattern throughout its external surface.

After having exhausted all options  while trying different techniques and using alternative applications such as Zbrush, AutoCAD, etc; we've finally decided to outsource the 3d modelling to an external company renown for creating complex 3d models, very quickly!

Few days later, they've returned back to us with the disappointing news that, after having tried numerous techniques/approaches, they simply wouldn't be able to deliver on their original promise.

The shocking news left us with no option but to look for an alternative solution, immediately!
With the invaluable help of an outstanding senior artist by the name of Vempalle Sudhakar, we were able to create and visualise the building accurately, and according to the client's specific requirements.

The complex building patterns were accurately created, by using an outstanding plug-in called VRayPattern.

This easy to use plug-in allowed us to quickly create one set of pattern in 3d, to be later wrapped around the organic shaped building structure.

While the VrayPattern plug-in can be used in a variety of different ways, and for numerous purposes, we've quickly achieved our results by doing the following:

1-We've begun by first importing a specific AutoCAD pattern supplied by the client

2-This AutoCAD drawing was used as the basis to create the exquisite building patterns.

Before introducing the VrayPattern, users are required to first create the relevant pattern and the building shape, in 3d.

In addition, it's worth noting that, the 3d pattern needs to be smooth enough to fit the building structure accurately.   

a- We've started by creating a 3d plane and setting its "Length and Width segments" to about 100. 

Please note that, the value of 100 worked well for the amount of smoothness required. 
However, feel free to use different values, if necessary. 

b-Next, we've begun recreating the circled patterns using the "circle" shape.        

We've also ensured that, its default "interpolation" value  was set to 100 "Steps", to achieve a smooth and accurate surface, as described earlier.

While increasing the "steps" value improves the quality of a surface, it will not affect the display or the rendering performance.

The subsequent shapes were created by simply  unticking the “Start New Shape" function, and creating new circle shapes. 

The shape was later extruded and booleaned against the plane created earlier. 

4- Once the building pattern was created, we've used some of the drawing splines to create the organic building shape/shell.

It was achieved, by first selecting one of the drawing's splines/shapes, followed by opening the "Modify" panel.
Next, we've enabled the "Cross Section" function and selected/attached each relevant building spline in a "top to bottom" sequential order.
To exit adding/attaching splines simply right click. 

To finalize the building shape/shell, we've simply applied a surface modifier on top. 
Note how the building gradually decreases in size, from top to bottom.

5- The final stage was to create and wrap the exquisite building pattern, with the help of  "VrayPattern" plug-in.

a- In the "Geometry" command panel, we've opened its dropdown list and selected the "Vray" command from its list.

b-In the "Object Type" group, we've selected the "VrayPattern" function, followed by clicking and dragging/scaling its icon in the viewport to create it. 

c- While the "VrayPattern" was still selected, we've opened its "Modify" panel.

In the "Base parameters" group, we've enabled the “in the scene” function, followed by selecting the previously created "plane008" in the scene viewport. A gizmo should immediately appear around the "plane008" pattern/shape.

b- In the "Surface" group, we've picked the building surface/shell, previously created.  


It's worth mentioning that, the "Pattern" (i.e. plane008) works like a tiled bitmap over the "Surface" (i.e. line003). For this reason, users are required to apply a "UVW Map" modifier onto the "Surface"(i.e. line003).

For this project the mapping parameters depicted in the image below worked best. However, users are often required to tweak with its values (quick test renders) to achieve the desired results.

Furthermore, the "UVW Map" length and width values need to be entered in the "VrayPattern" crop size values.     

Note: By default, the colour/ material of the rendered building with the pattern, comes from the "VrayPattern" icon in the scene. To change this, simply apply a nice Vray material to the "VrayPattern" icon in the scene.

For this project, we've applied a nice Vray metallic finish to it. 

Moreover, it's worth noting that, the Vray pattered building cannot be converted into a mesh. Therefore, any changes/tweaks need to occur on "Surface" and/or "pattern" level.

For more information about its easy to use parameters and installation process, please visit the following page:

The circled window details (i.e. circled frames) were created by using some of the techniques covered earlier.

Finally,the remaining building details were physically modelled on top of the building itself (i.e. Line003).

Please see below the complete rendered image, with lights and other features.

I hope you like the final result: 

                                        The Visualiser

                                        Autodesk/3ds max  

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