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  

                                        My 3d Portfolio


Monday, 16 September 2013

3ds max: Essential tips & tricks for Vray and mental ray

The above image borders were extended by 2000 pixels (in width) to each side using the “Overscan” script

Extending the camera viewport borders (vertically, horizontally or both) without affecting the camera’s original perspective

It’s worth mentioning that some of the subjects discussed here are part of my latest book published with 3D Total Publishing.

There will be times when clients will ask users to revisit old projects, with the purpose to redesign and/or re-render an existing camera view.

When re-rendering an existing camera view, the client may also require users to include more of the 3D scene in the same shot; preferably without affecting the perspective (e.g. almost like extending the borders of a PSD canvas).

In real technical terms such requirement is impossible to achieve, as it defies the physics of any real camera.

Having said that, that’s often what’s required from most users: To do the impossible.     

Until recently, many well-known studios (including myself) would “achieve” the above mentioned request by first decreasing the original FOV of the camera in order to cover new areas of the 3D scene; followed by increasing the original render output size (pixels) many times over in order to compensate for the reduced FOV values. 

The above described process was clearly a “workaround” to meet the client’s request…until I was introduced to an ingenious script called “Overscan”.

The script was created by Martin (martin@breidt.net) at http://www.breidt.net/scripts/index.html#overscan , to solve the tedious “workaround” described earlier.

The script only works with standard 3ds Max cameras.
It’s also recommended to save the current 3D scene under a different name prior to using this script, as a precautionary measure. 
To implement the script, users are simply required to do the following:
1- Download the script from the above mentioned link.
2-Open the 3Ds Max file, followed by dragging and dropping the script from the folder, directly onto your camera viewport.
3-The script's dialog box should pop up immediately, with the original output image size dimensions. 


The “New Width” and the “New Height” functions allow users to input new dimension values.
The “rel” button locks the original proportion dimensions, so that new added values will always be in proportion to the “Old size” dimensions.
The “Apply Overcan” button updates the camera with the new dimensions entered in the “New Width” and the “New Height” name field. If the “Copy camera” function is enabled, a new camera will be created and named accordingly.
The “Update” button updates the “Old size” dimensions with the new ones entered.

In the figure below, the height of the image output was changed from the original 3000 pixels, to 5000 pixels, without affecting the perspective.

A new camera was also created automatically, by simply enabling the “Copy camera” function and clicking on the “Apply Overscan” button. 


Since the original script was created for standard 3ds Max cameras only; users with a Vray physical camera in the scene, should do the following:

1- First open your VRay Max scene and go to the VRay camera viewport.

2- Press “P” from your keyboard to turn the current Vray camera viewport into a “Perspective” one.

3-Next, press “Ctrl+C” from your keyboard to automatically create a 3ds Max standard camera.

4- A new camera should be created automatically. Next, follow the steps covered earlier to apply the “Overscan” script.

5- Once satisfied with your new camera settings and the output dimensions, run a script to convert the 3ds Max standard camera into a Vray physical camera.

The script I often use is called “MaxCam_To_PhysCam_1.4_proc”. And can be downloaded from the following location:


To run the script, simply do the following:

1- After downloading and unzipping the file, simply click on the “MaxScript” main toolbar.

2-On its dropdown list, choose to “Run Script”.

3- The “Choose Editor File” dialog should appear.

4- Locate and open the “MaxCam_To_PhysCam_1.4_proc” from the list.

5- The “Physcam Converter V1.4” dialog should appear. Select the relevant camera(s) from the scene, and click on the “Convert Camera(s)” button.

A new Vray physical camera should be created, named accordingly and selected automatically.

To view the newly created camera, simply press “C” on the keyboard. Alternatively, simply right click on the camera name situated on the top left corner of the camera viewport, and choose the relevant camera.

6- Finally, copy the Vray exposure parameters from the original camera settings onto the newly created one. 

Overriding useless Backburner errors 
Most users would agree that, more often than not, the Backburner can be “spot on” when pinpointing valuable errors in the render(s). However, there are times when it can also be an utter nuisance and ultimately prevent users from meeting their looming deadlines.  

Very recently, I was involved in a project that was an absolute joy from the word “go”…until my beloved Backburner began reporting useless errors.

Some of the messages read the following: “3dsmax adapter error: AutodeskMaxDesign 14.12 reported error:JPEG- Memory Error”.

 And also: “3dsmax adapter error: AutodeskMaxDesign 14.12 reported error: “…jpeg—Failed to allocate filter tables for this bitmap…”.

The frustration was that, all bitmaps bigger than 1500 pixels were proxied in the scene. Furthermore, the Backburner would render the entire frame with its elements perfectly; followed by re-rendering it over and over again, due to the above mentioned errors. 

After few Google searches on the subject, I quickly realized that this was clearly a problem that had many professionals pulling their hair out (if any left) so far.
I nearly threw in the towel on this one... until - Jordan Barlow (jordan_barlow@hotmail.com)- came up with an ingenious way to override this niggling “bug”. 
Please do the following to emulate his approach: 
1- Open the “Backburner Manager” dialog first, followed by clicking on the “Edit” toolbar, and choosing the “General settings” option from the dropdown list.
2- The “Backburner Manager General properties” dialog should appear promptly.  In the “General” group, enable the “Use Task Error Limit Max Errors Per Task” function, and set it to 1.
This action will limit the amount of times (1) the Backburner will continue to mistakenly try to solve (re-rendering) an error that doesn’t exist, or an error that’s Not affecting any aspect of the render(s). 

Create and snap a grid helper perfectly to any given geometry and/or spline, in any angle
Ever wondered how to create/snap a grid perfectly to any geometry/spline regardless of its position/rotation or angle in a 3D scene?
While this subject was covered to some extent in my latestbook, I have never addressed this specific issue before.
To address the above mentioned issue, users should simply resort to a script called “Create_Grid_At_Object_Pivot”.
The name of its creator is paul.hormis@hypercent.com (assuming), and can be found in:


Furthermore, to access the above mentioned script one has to download the entire bundle of scripts by clicking on the “Tim-Scripts-Complete-543.exe”.
Once the exe file is downloaded, one should simply click on the exe file to Run-install the entire bundle of scripts.
Through the installation wizard, users can choose the location to create the appropriate folders, the relevant scripts, etc.
The script relevant to this article (e.g. “Create_Grid_At_Object_Pivot”  ) will be inside a folder under the name of “Create”. Ensure to have it ticked on.
Alternatively, simply keep all the listed scripts ticked on, and install the entire bundle.

To run the “Create_Grid_At_Object_Pivot” script, simply do the following: 
1-Open 3Ds max and create a shape or geometry. Also, rotate/position it in an awkward angle.

2- Next, while the shape/geometry is still selected, click on the “MaxScript” main toolbar and choose to “Run Script” from its drop down list.  

3- The “Choose Editor File” should appear. 
Locate (… Tim Scripts; scripts; TiMScripts; Create) and open the script under the name of “Create_Grid_At_Object_Pivot” . 


4- A grid should automatically appear in the correct angle/position, and enabled by default. To test its accuracy, simply begin creating anything in the viewport.      

Using the mental ray connection to access a displacement shader
In the past, a number of people had asked me if there was a way to override the default Arch & design displacement shader with a better one, in order to achieve better results.
While this subject is covered in my latest book, I thought it would be nice to share some of its content here with you.
To access a new displacement shader from the Arch & Design, simply do the following:
1- Open the “mental ray Connection” rollout and scroll down to the “Extended Shaders rollout” group.
2-Unlock the padlock button by clicking on it, and click on its toggle to access the “Material/Map Browser” dialog.
3- I personally choose the “Height Map Displacement”  shader from the list, as it’s faster to render. However, feel free to choose another one, if desired.
4- The “Height Map Displacement”  shader parameters are simple and self-explanatory.  

As mentioned in my latest book, the more segments (detail) an object/geometry has, the better displacement results one will have.

Vray subpixel mapping function
Again, while this subject was covered in my latest book, I thought it would be nice to share it with those that don’t have the book (yet).

Ever wondered how to correct the artifact depicted in the render below? 

The above described artifact can be instantly corrected by simply enabling the “Sub-pixel mapping” function.  

V-Ray:: Irradiance map Interp. Samples
When using the irradiance map, at times the default “Inter. samples” value of 20 may work for a 1920x1080 pixels render. However, when rendering a 5000x2813 pixels image, it may yield artifacts such as the one demonstrated below. 

Note: Such artifacts are more noticeable on white or bright surfaces.

To rectify such artifacts, users should simply increase the default “Inter. samples” value to 70 or as high as 90, if necessary. There are extreme cases when one might need to enter higher values.


Note: It is suggested that, by increasing the “Inter. samples” values as mentioned earlier,one may cause the scene to lose depth. 
If such happens (debatable), one can still add more depth by using key VRay render elements such as VrayRawTotalLighting; VrayRawLighting; VrayTotalLighting; Vrayshadows; etc).           
 As mentioned earlier, these subjects have been covered in my latest book.


I hope you have found the tips and tricks useful!