Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Custom Build Graphics Workstation

If you're thinking about a new workstation for the new year, take a look at the configuration options from Hardware-Revolution: http://www.hardware-revolution.com/high-end-workstation-dual-cpu-ssd-nvidia-quadro-tesla-esi-julia-xte/. The same computer from Dell or HP will run you twice as much as buying the parts and assembling the computer yourself. The task isn't quite as daunting as in years past, especially with a good recommendation of parts that work together, sometimes the hardest thing to figure out on your own.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vray 3.0 Licensing

Chaos Group has caused a bit of a stir over the last few months with the announcement that Vray users will now have to pay a fee for render nodes with official release of ver. 3.0.
The licensing policy can be found here: Vray 3.0 licensing
There is of course a lot of chatter on the forums with comparisons to the downfall of the Brazil render engine and an interesting note that this was similar to old Mental Ray before it was fully integrated into the Max core package. Hadn't really thought of that one. I don't think this policy will have a big impact on the larger production houses that already have a commitment to a Vray pipeline, but could affect some of the decisions made by smaller firms and enthusiasts. In addition, many users may stick with their Vray 2 licenses for a little (or a lot) longer to avoid the additional costs of rendering with 3.0. Vray 3.0 is still in beta, but that should be ending very soon.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Autodesk Material Converter updated

Near the end of November the "Autodesk Material Converter" (AMC) maxscript from 3dstudio.nl was updated to 3.0 build 3. A great script for converting entire scene materials quickly from/to Mental Ray Arch & Design, V-Ray, and Standard. Cost is about $70 but totally worth it if you work in these different render engines. The purchase process can be a bit clunky and time consuming with their office in the Netherlands. Best not to wait until the moment you need it on a project. Registered users should have received the announcement and the updated script in their email. I also noted that Joep van der Steen, the long time mental ray guru, is now the contact.

MaxScripts update

Several of the DAS MaxScripts have been updated. Most notably, each download now contains a help file. Also the "Scene Notes" script has been updated with some new features including the ability to quickly insert a time/date/user stamp (Thanks J) as well as output your notes to an external text file. These are available at the DAS web site http://www.digitalanimation.net as well as scriptspot but I haven't had a chance to update all my scripts at scriptspot yet. If you haven't looked for my free scripts there, just search for Digital Animation Services in the search bar at scriptspot and you'll find 'em (amongst others).

An additional script for selecting objects based on their path constraint is offered for download at the DAS web site and is not yet available at scriptspot.

mr Materials: Alpha Color Values

Be careful when copying and pasting color values between swatches in Max Standard Materials and Mental Ray Materials. The Mental Ray materials are expecting colors with  an "Alpha" value as well. This option is not in the color picker for swatches in Standard Materials and when a value is copied and then pasted into a swatch for a mr material, it sets the value at "1.0"

That's fine in most cases but if you paste this color value into the "Camera Mapped Background" setting of a mr Matte/Shadow/Reflection material you'll be wondering why the object with this material keeps showing in your alpha channel! Gotta set the color value's "Alpha" setting to 0.0 in this case.

Speed Tree 7

I received an announcement recently that SpeedTree 7 was released. It hasn't been a plugin for max for several years and in fact I had forgotten about it. The last time I used it was in release 4. I recall IDV ending development as a plugin and devoting their efforts to integration with the game industry's real-time engines, something they were always doing as a high-priced license option if you wanted it. I thought their trees looked very good for what they were as opacity/billboard mapped leaves, branches and canopies. Perhaps not something best suited to Mental Ray and V-Ray but it looks like they have several products now including "SpeedTree Architect" using models from their "Model Tree Store" with the option to export as fbx for Max, Maya, and Rhino including support for V-Ray and Mental Ray.  It seems the software includes a modeling application as well. There's also a much more pricey version for Cinema and VFX with some more robust options for growth and animation. Trial versions are available. Looking forward to trying it out.

Prices very quite a bit:
SpeedTree Cinema going for $4995
SpeedTree Studio (budget version of "Cinema") for $895
SpeedTree Architect for $495
Looks like you can buy individual tree models as needed for about $50 each.

Remove Materials from Objects in Max

It's been a while since I had to do this and it took a few moments to remember how. There's a Utility in Max called "UVW Remove" that also offers the option of removing the material and assigning a default wireframe color to an object. One of those quirky things you get asked in a training session and that you actually want to do in production once in a while.

Visualizations for On Deck Sports

After taking a look at some project folders recently, I was surprised to find that DAS has completed over 40 facility visualizations for On Deck Sports. Keep 'em coming Joe!
Though these are not high quality marketing renderings, as draft previews of the facility layout for their clients, they still represent a significant time investment and DAS has developed quite a unique library of model content to populate these scenes.
Below are a few examples. I plan to add some more samples to the web site soon. These are essentially Nitrous Screen captures from Max. The quality is sufficient to provide the client with a quick representation of what their facility might look like with On Deck's design.

Bay 12 and DAS are back!

After a long hiatus I'm happy to announce that the new DAS web site is up (you may have come here from the web link on the site so no surprise there). Likewise, I hope to keep up with some more frequent blog postings. As one of my colleagues suggested, many of these posts might serve as simply a place to keep a record of technical and production issues as they come along and get resolved for my own purposes, not necessarily as great insights for other users. Of course, I welcome feedback and input if you find yourself here with something to say!
Thanks to all my friends and colleagues for their help and patience over the last few years.