Twinmotion, Flowscape, and Visual Art

Desert.PNG

Photo_3376x1368_2019-09-28_14-13-38

Recently both Twinmotion and Flowscape have been introduced to the digital artists’ arsenal. The developer of Flowscape calls the software a game, at least on their Discord channel. To be honest I think it’s just a money grab. Truth is who would play a game just building landscapes that they could use for nothing. Maybe I just don’t get it. The power of the software is its ability to create appealing surreal animated landscapes extremely quickly while giving the users the ability to import their own OBJ files. While there are technical aspects to the import (outlined on the developers’ Discord), once it’s figured out this software can be used for hundreds of applications related to visual and digital art.

Twinmotion’s library and ease of use make it a viable solution for archviz on a budget. Until now, there weren’t many options for architectural rendering that allowed the import of architectural files that didn’t cost several thousand dollars a year. I believe the makers of Twinmotion understood as technology has grown this shouldn’t be the case anymore and are working hard to develop a more applicable solution for smaller teams which will democratize the field, even more, making it accessible to anyone around the world.

 

C++ and the Unreal API

Of course, I’d fall in love with Unreal as a C# programmer. I mean, who doesn’t want to take the most difficult path to everything, am I right? Since I refuse to let my obsession of Unreal go away (primarily due to its volume effects and lighting/sky system), I’ve decided to dive into their API trying to understand the architecture while grasping the nuances of C++. Thankfully, the basics of C++ and C# aren’t that different. I can read the C++ language. That wasn’t the case when I went from Lisp to C#. That alone puts me light years ahead of where I was when I started with C#. For example, I didn’t expect to be able to understand the tutorial I followed to construct a C++ Unreal project with a pickup system and custom blueprint in a matter of a few hours. I noticed I essentially struggle with the details in C++ that I would struggle within C#. Great news because those challenges others often run into and generally get solved with a little research or asking questions in forums; this tells me that for me understanding the structure of a language is probably more important than understanding the specific details for every aspect of it.

The system I constructed involves a C++ project using the First Person Template. The person walks around picking up industrial-like barrels. I began the project using Unreal Engine 4.22. Since the tutorial I found was about four years old, the code had to be modified/corrected due to API changes over the years.

industrial barrels

The first step was to generate a new class in the editor.

editor

After that it was a matter of locating the correct classes to include and adding the text in the below images to the header (.h) and cpp files.

header

cppfile.JPG

In a few hours, I completed the task I set out to do and am confident that I can dive and start to push things considerably further. It took me a few years with C# and various APIs before I got to that same level of confidence. Since I can’t up and quit my career to find a mentor, I pursue this stuff on my own.  Because of that, I was hesitant to dive into something new.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that C++ is considerably different than C#, but realizing the differences and having accomplished my first task using the Unreal Engine API quickly enough makes me more excited to dive in.

Dynamo for Civil 3D Part 4 – Node Colors

Personalizing content is often why people dive into customization.   I noticed a few examples online with different colors for their nodes in Dynamo.  It turns out we can adjust the theme and colors by altering the DynamoColorsandBrushes.xaml file here: Autodesk 2019\AutoCAD 2020\C3D\Dynamo\Core\UI\Themes\Modern. Unfortunately, to see the updates we have to close out Dynamo and Civil 3D then reopen them both.

example

Dynamo for Civil 3D Part 3

It was a bit of a speed bump to figure out the proper way to work between the Autocad and Civil 3D API through the Dynamo interface, but I’m there, and I love it. The information people have made available online is convoluted, difficult to understand, and frankly filled with unnecessary work (maybe even errors, misdirection). Perhaps they don’t understand they are making it harder than it needs to be.  Locating the libraries and understanding what the limits and capabilities of the Dynamo version of its “objects” took some time, but realizing that it’s not necessary to convert objects from Civil 3D types to Dynamo types and that I can use typical extensions and the API as is opened my eyes to a whole new world of visual programming. Now, with the ability to use the visual aspects of the node-based system, I can combine the power and functions of Dynamo with coding through Visual Studio to generate endless, scalable, dynamic, ever-growing procedural and generative designs.  You ever see something so big in your head it looks like a giant white whale, and wonder can you tackle it, or should you give up before it kills you?

potential

Dynamo for Civil 3D

I used Dynamo for Civil3D for the first time.  I love that I don’t have to close Civil 3D constantly just to load and test code, and after writing hundreds of thousands of lines of code over the years it’s exciting to not have to dig through a few hundred for simple actions.  There is an enormous amount of power in its parametric abilities right away, as demonstrated by the Autodesk’s team themselves, but I’m excited to try and use it for production and geometrical challenges.

example

#UnrealEngine, My New Favorite Thing

I absolutely LOVE Unreal Engine.  Of course I would, because I love C#.  Why wouldn’t I love the program built for C++ users when there’s an alternate, more popular viable option for C# writers. I don’t care. A guy can’t help who he falls in love with and this adventure will fall in line with everything other thing in my life (choosing the hardest possible path to my objective).

Tweaking a few materials online I was able to generate a pretty cool fading and rotating emissive material.   Looks like a Predator / Star Trek type armor shield or something. Probably completely useless for anything I’ll ever do (unless I get a night visual project in Vegas where Neon lights struggle for power XD). Still, was fun to play with.

example1.PNG

example2

Zbrush

Adding a section on Zbrush. First post covers the curves helper plugin. Using this plugin is the simplest way to generate wires, cables, curves, rope and more for ZBrush.  To use the plugin all we have to do is use ZSpheres to construct our path and then select the generate button. This will trace the center of the ZSphere path.  After that we select a subtool and then choose the option to create the curve.  You can read about it more here:

http://www.zbrushcentral.com/showthread.php?208308-Useful-small-ZScripts-and-Macros-for-ZBrush-4R8&p=1222584&viewfull=1#post1222584

Only reason I am posting is because this is one of those trade secrets artists don’t like giving away so finding it in the first place was a major pain in the rear.  Hopefully I dropped in enough keywords in this that other people won’t have the same problem.

Computer Vision, ReCap, and Photoshop

Google generates their surface for Google Earth using a concept called computer vision.  Those of us not on the infinite-internet-funded budgets don’t have the pleasure of using that costly equipment but essentially the computers semi-automate the construction of a 3D surfaces, or meshes from flights.  The tech has advanced enough that mapping materials and textures has become more streamlined as well.  The rest of are stuck with a more budget-friendly (and labor intensive) approach to generating a 3D surface for our modeling and presentation purposes.   ReCap is software developed by Autodesk that can help to generate computer models from aerial photography, especially useful for someone with a a drone and the right permits.  Permitting for urban areas of major cities can be delayed by a year or more though, so many of us resort to manually modeling our surfaces the best we can in time constraints using whatever methods we can. One such method is using Recap and Google Earth.  By recording a 360-degree video rotating a surface in google earth we can convert those video frames to images and upload them to ReCap for processing.  Manually modeling high-priority buildings is best, but for low levels of detail (outlining areas and background), this has potential.  During my escapades I found Photoshop opens videos, allows me to crop them however I wish, and then render the frames to images. There are other methods but the simplicity in cropping and converting has made this my favorite.

 

export