Pret-a-3D http://preta3d.com Makers of the Reality plugin. Reality is a plugin for Poser and DAZ Studio that connects your scene to LuxRender. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 01:22:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.7.3 Reality development update for Poser and DAZ Studio versions http://preta3d.com/reality-update-20140422/ http://preta3d.com/reality-update-20140422/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 01:22:22 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3091 Since version 1.0 for DAZ Studio, Reality had a great feature called ACSEL. ACSEL stands for “Automatic Custom ShadEr Loader” and it’s a system to achieve best results in your materials with the least amount of effort. You see, I was born on May 1st, which in Italy is “Labour day,” and is a national holiday. […]

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Rality Update

Since version 1.0 for DAZ Studio, Reality had a great feature called ACSEL. ACSEL stands for “Automatic Custom ShadEr Loader” and it’s a system to achieve best results in your materials with the least amount of effort.

You see, I was born on May 1st, which in Italy is “Labour day,” and is a national holiday. For more than thirty years I had my birthday off and I felt like I was the saint patron of lazy people. Laziness is a great quality, it’s the motivation behind so much work. I know that the previous statement seems self-contradictory but let me explain.

One of the things that I detest the most is to do the same thing over and over again. When it comes to 3D art we often have to adjust the materials in order to achieve a certain effect. That is perfectly fine and I actually enjoy doing it. The things is, if I use a certain skin for V4 I don’t want to re-adjust the settings every time I use that skin. Of, if I use a certain environment I don’t want to change the bump map values every time I drop it in a scene.

Unfortunately, when we use a different renderer than the default one we might need to make those adjustments often. This happens whenever we import a model into something different than the default application. Even if we import a Poser product into DAZ Studio often we need to make adjustments to the materials. If we import Studio or Poser objects into Carrara the adjustments needed are often quite laborious. Because I’m so lazy I decided to put an end to all that wasted effort by writing some special code in Reality.

ACSEL is the solution to the above problem. The “A” in its name stands for “Automatic”. Once you set the  material as you want you use ACSEL to save the definition in a special database controlled by Reality and form that moment on the material is loaded in Reality with the settings that you have saved.

Sounds pretty simple, isn’t it? ACSEL was implemented in Reality 1 and Reality 2 but didn’t make it in Reality 3 for Poser. The reason is that I simply didn’t have the time to write a version of ACSEL that could work with the more sophisticated materials of Reality 3. Reality 2 uses pretty simple textures. The only kind of texture available is the Image Map. In Reality 3 there are fourteen types of textures. We4 have things like Bricks, Clouds, Gradients, Fractal noise etc. The old way of doing things was simply not sufficient.

A Simpler ACSEL

As nice as the ACSEL idea is, I have to recognize that the first two implementations didn’t achieve completely the goal. I am to blame because I should have documented ACSEL better. Also, the UI could have being made simpler to use and more intuitive. Another reason for not implementing it in Reality 3 for Poser was that I wanted to design something easier and more approachable.

I am currently working on the new version of ACSEL, which will achieve the goal of simplifying the storing of custom materials and at the same time it will provide a simpler, more approachable interface.

This is great news for all Reality users. Since Reality is now a unified program, the same implementation of ACSEL will benefit all Reality users, regardless if the work with Poser or DAZ Studio. I plan on documenting the heck out of it and provide tutorials and examples.

The ACSEL logic is simple:

  • Load a figure or prop in Poser or DAZ Studio
  • Call Reality
  • If the materials need adjusting then change the material type, edit the parameters and do all the changes necessary
  • If you want to save your materials configuration save them as ACSEL shaders
  • Once saved those materials will be loaded automatically the next time you use the same model

For example, let’s say that I loaded V4 and applied the Dublin skin. After doing a test render I see that the skin needs a few tweaks in the bump maps and specular settings. Once my materials are all customized I can use ACSEL to save them. The next time that I apply the Dublin skin to V4 Reality will automatically load my customized materials. Nothing needs to be done. Reality automatically detect that there are custom materials for that skin and it loads them for you.

So, that’s what’s cooking right now with Reality.

Stay tuned for more news about Reality.

Subscribe to this blog using the form in this page to stay up to date with all the exciting news about Reality.

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Reality for Studio: beta testers needed http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-beta-testers-needed/ http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-beta-testers-needed/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:28:34 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3082 Reality for Studio is ready for beta testing and we need more testers. What we looking for Eligible testers need to have experience in testing software and being good communicators. To effectively test software you need to be able to clearly and succinctly describe software defects. Experience with a BTS (Bug Tracking System) like Mantis […]

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Reality for Studio is ready for beta testing and we need more testers.

What we looking for

Eligible testers need to have experience in testing software and being good communicators. To effectively test software you need to be able to clearly and succinctly describe software defects. Experience with a BTS (Bug Tracking System) like Mantis is a plus.

Please note that this is not a so-called “public beta” and there are serious restrictions about what testers can do. For example, it is not allowed to show artwork made with the software during the beta period. Also, it is expected that every testers participates actively to the process.

What is in it for you?

This is a chance to see the next version of Reality for Studio before anybody else. This experience gives the testers a special look inside the program and it’s valuable for gaining insight that would be difficult to obtain otherwise. Testers have a direct line of communication with the developer of Reality and that fact can help them greatly. Callad is one example of how that relationship worked out. We try to make the exchange as fair as possible for the testers. The reward that they get for their time and effort is to learn things about Reality that are not easily obtainable otherwise.

Above all we hope that this experience is fun and exciting.

How to apply

If you desire to apply to become a beta tester for Reality for Studio please send an email with the subject “Reality for Studio: beta tester” to reality at preta3d dot com. Email with a different subject line will be automatically discarded. In the email please include:

  • Your full name
  • What OS do you use
  • Number of cores in your computer
  • Whether or not you have an OpenCL-compatible GPU

For example:

Paolo Ciccone

- Mac OS 10.9.2
- Mac Pro 8-core
- GPU: AMD HD 5870

Alternatively:

Paolo Ciccone

- Windows 7
- 4-core PC
- GPU: AMD HD 5870

I hope to see many of you applying for this exciting new chapter in Reality for Studio.

Happy rendering.

 

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Reality development update – 4/15/2014 http://preta3d.com/reality-update-20140415/ http://preta3d.com/reality-update-20140415/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:00:59 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3072 Happy tax day to everyone in the US. Today is the day we get to give away our hard-earned money to the government, which in turn will spend it oh so wisely On a lighter note let’s talk Reality. For you Reality is a program that you use on your computer. But what you use is just […]

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Happy tax day to everyone in the US. Today is the day we get to give away our hard-earned money to the government, which in turn will spend it oh so wisely ;)

On a lighter note let’s talk Reality.

For you Reality is a program that you use on your computer. But what you use is just one seventh of the whole story. There are seven versions of Reality:

  1. Reality for Poser Mac. This runs at both 32 and 64 bits because Mac executables can be universal.
  2. Reality for Poser Windows 32-bit
  3. Reality for Poser Windows 64-bit
  4. Reality for DAZ Studio Mac 32-bit
  5. Reality for DAZ Studio Mac 64-bit
  6. Reality for DAZ Studio Windows 32-bit
  7. Reality for DAZ Studio Windows 64-bit

The versions for Studio must be separated in 32 and 64 bit variants even on Mac because DAZ Studio is not a universal binary.

Seven version means that they all need to be compiled, packaged, installed and tested. Just building the whole thing is a rather complex affair. Which brings up the topic of compilation.

Parlez-vous C++?

We know that programs are written using special languages but what language does a computer “understand”? Actually none. Computers, more precisely microprocessors, understand only numeric codes, in binary, that describe operations and operands. Operations can be something like “read from memory”, “write to memory”, “add two numbers” etc. The only way to make a computer execute something is to digest it into those numeric codes, called machine language, and spoon-feed them to the CPU (the microprocessor). As humans we completely suck at writing impossibly long sequences of encoded instructions. We are not machines.

So, a few decades ago we got clever and invented the programming languages. A programming language describes commands in a sort of shorthand notation that is more easily understood by humans. Here is an example of computer language, C++ in this case, that we saw a few weeks ago. This code is a sample from the LuxRender codebase:

LuxRender Code excerpt

As fancy as that looks, it’s just a piece of text. There is nothing in that text file that can make a computer do anything. So, how do we get to turn it into a program? There is a special software called a compiler that scans that piece of text, checks if the syntax is indeed correct and then converts that text into machine language. Each language has its compiler. The above code snippet is in C++. If you don’t have a C++ compiler you cannot turn it into a program. There are dozens of programming languages, each one with a different syntax. There is C++, Objective C, C, Pascal, Prolog, Java, Fortran, and many more.

Having a compiler is just the beginning of the story. To do the same exact thing on two or more different Operating Systems (OSes) often requires to write the same code multiple times. Each OS has a different set of conventions. For example, recently I wrote the installer for Reality. One of the issues that is showing every now and then is the installation of Reality with the wrong bitness. For example, installing the 64-bit version of Reality with 32-bit Studio or Poser. I know that the subject of “bitness” can be confusing for the non-technically inclined and so I decided to write a verifier in the Reality Installer. If the user tries to mismatch the bitness the installer will refuse to proceed. That meant that I needed to find out if the existing installation of Studio, for example, is at 32 or 64 bits.

The code below shows how to perform that test on Mac OS. executableFile is a variable that contains the path to the program to test:

    QFile appFile(executableFile);
    if (appFile.exists()) {
      ifstream app;
      app.open(executableFile.toAscii(), ios::in | ios::binary );
      if (app.is_open()) {
        unsigned int magic;
        // The very first 4 bytes of the file contain a magic 
        // number that declares if the program is 32 or 64-bit. This is
        // according to Apple docs.
        app.read( reinterpret_cast<char*>(&magic), sizeof(magic) );
        app.close();
        if (magic == MAC_OS_APP32) {
          retVal = 32;
        }
        else if (magic == MAC_OS_APP64) {
          retVal = 64;
        }
      }
    }

The same operation for Windows:

    
    QFile appFile(executableFile);
    if (appFile.exists()) {
      ifstream app;
      app.open(executableFile.toAscii(), ios::in | ios::binary );
      if (app.is_open()) {
        // Offset in the header where the offset for the beginning of
        // the PE header starts. This is according to MS specs
        app.seekg(0x3c, ios::beg);
        unsigned int peOffset;
        app.read( reinterpret_cast<char*>(&peOffset), sizeof(peOffset) );
        app.seekg(peOffset, ios::beg);
        char peStart[4];
        app.read(peStart, sizeof(peStart));
        // Let's verify that we have indeed reached the PE header
        if (peStart[0] == 'P' && peStart[1] == 'E') {
          unsigned short int magic;
          app.read( reinterpret_cast<char*>(&magic), sizeof(magic) );
          if (magic == WINDOWS_APP64) {
            retVal = 64;
          }
          else if (magic == WINDOWS_APP32) {
            retVal = 32;
          }
          app.close();
        }
      }
    }

As we can see, even if we don’t understand the code, the two fragments are completely different. That is one of the issues that every programmer faces when writing for multiple platforms. Both Apple and Microsoft have solid good reasons for doing things differently in the OSes. The fact is, it doesn’t matter that both OSes have a C++ compiler and that they use the same Intel processors. The end result is that the programmer has to code for both OSes. Of course writing the code is just the final act. The fragments above don’t tell you how long it takes to find and digest the information.
So, seven version distributed across two OSes. Plus there are two versions of the installer, which bring the total of the program that I have to manage, compile and build to nine. The installer needs to be tested as well.

One last thing. Different compilers interpret the same language in a slightly different way. For example, it happened several times that C++ code that was perfectly fine under Mac OS did not compile under Windows. When that happens you need to take perfectly valid code and alter it simply because the Windows compiler does handle some parts of the language in the same way of other compilers. Sometimes the workaround can take days to be finalized and tested.

You might wonder why I’m telling you this. Just to explain a bit what happens every day. If you use Reality on Windows, for example, you might imagine that all I do is to write that one program, the version that you use. In reality I have to work on 8 other variants, between the program and the installer. And that doesn’t cover the documentation, the lights and the props. I’m just explaining where the time goes. Even working 12-14 hours a day, 6 days a week, the amount of code to be written and tested is enormous.

SSDs and Spinners

Reality is now made up of more than 210,000 lines of code. Building seven versions of it means that a lot of files, hundreds of them, are shuffled in the process. They need to be compiled, copied, zipped, copied again, packaged in different shapes and forms. This takes time even on a fast computer. Copying and arranging hundreds of megabytes every time I build Reality was taking a toll. To improve the time for each build I decided to finally get a Solid State Drive (SSD) to replace my old spinner (Hard Disk). SSDs can be 20 times faster than standard hard disks and that translates into time saved for each build. Less time spend building the program means faster time to delivery for the product.

This is a sizable investment of money because the SSD that I bought could not be smaller than 480GB and SSDs are still quite expensive. But I did it gladly because this will help me getting Reality 3 for Studio out as fast as possible. With the new hardware and some optimization, now the time for building all seven variants of Reality is slashed to a few minutes. It used to be about an hour and a half. Now it can be done in about 10 minutes. That is really, really useful.

As you see I’m doing everything possible to deliver Reality 3 for Studio as quickly as possible.

As I write this the first builds that include the new installer are finally coming out. The Reality Installer works really well, making things for you much simpler. It’s now time to finish the lights and props and then send the whole package to the beta testers. We are getting closer!

Stay tuned for more news. If you are not subscribed to this blog consider doing it. You can subscribe from the entry in this page. You will receive automatic notifications when a new article is published.

Happy rendering!

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We are not affected by the OpenSLL bug http://preta3d.com/affected-opensll-bug/ http://preta3d.com/affected-opensll-bug/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:16:46 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3068 Hi. I just wanted to give you a quick reassurance that this site is not affected by the “Heartbleed” OpenSSL bug reported in the news. Just in case you were wondering. We don’t gather confidential data on this site, all transactions are processed by PayPal and we don’t store any credit card data. The only […]

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Hi.

I just wanted to give you a quick reassurance that this site is not affected by the “Heartbleed” OpenSSL bug reported in the news. Just in case you were wondering. We don’t gather confidential data on this site, all transactions are processed by PayPal and we don’t store any credit card data. The only information stored here, in encrypted form, is the login to the site, in case you did create an account here. I know that often people recycle passwords on several sites and so it could be a concern if you recycled your password for your Pret-a-3D login. Just for your peace of mind, we are not affected by the OpenSSL bug.

Cheers.


Paolo Ciccone
Prêt-à-3D

http://www.preta3d.com

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Reality for Studio development update – 4/7/2014 http://preta3d.com/reality-for-studio-update-20140407/ http://preta3d.com/reality-for-studio-update-20140407/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:53:29 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3058 Hello again. I hope you had a chuckle at my April Fools’ Day joke of last week. Toonality is not going to replace Reality To make amend for the joke last week I’m providing a “supersized” blog this week . Before we look at what’s happening with Reality I just wanted to say that I am blown away […]

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Hello again.

I hope you had a chuckle at my April Fools’ Day joke of last week. Toonality is not going to replace Reality :) To make amend for the joke last week I’m providing a “supersized” blog this week :) .

Before we look at what’s happening with Reality I just wanted to say that I am blown away by the incredible amount of followers in our Pinterest board. Just a few weeks ago we were counting 160 followers and now we have 5,000 of you following our boards. 1,000 were just added in a day recently. This is really incredible and I wanted to thank everybody who is showing their support. If you have not looked at our Pinterest board yet you owe it to yourself to check it out. We have so many resources non only about Reality, but about Art in general.

Pinterest-5000

 

Installer galore

We are at a good point with Reality 3, it’s almost time to send it to the beta testers. While the program needs some more features, see below, it is now able to export to LuxRender a full scene so it’s time to send it to the beta testers to find the first batch of bugs beyond what I was able to discover.

This situation brings up the issue of making an installer for Reality 3. Installing is a crucial step in the delivery of the program but it is really nothing special. If you ever wondered what happens during an installation the answer is simple: files are copied to your hard disk. That’s it, that’s all that needs to be done. The installation is nothing more than a glorified copy operation. There is no magic, no “secret sauce” involved in the process. What is important is that the files are copied in the right location. If you knew how to do it, you could do it yourself. In fact, on the Mac many programs are installed just with a simple drag and drop.

With something like Reality the installation is a little more complex than usual because Reality is not just a program. It’s also a plugin and that plugin component that needs to be installed inside another program: DAZ Studio or Poser. This means that some program files need to be added to a program that is supposed to be already installed on the user’s machine. In the case of Reality 3 there are actually two components: the plugin and a stand-alone program. The stand-alone program goes into something like /Applications/Reality_DS (Mac) or C:\Program Files\Reality_DS (Windows). The plugin component for DAZ Studio needs to go in the plugins directory where Studio is installed.

Reality 3 for Poser, still today, has no installer. The installation for Poser is very simple: you unzip the archive that contains Reality and copy the resulting directory into a specific subdirectory of Poser. It’s less than optimal, from my point of view, but it was doable because of the simplicity of it. In a year since the release of Reality 3 for Poser  I can count the customer support help calls for the installation on one hand. I mention this to highlight that there was no install program to use and possibly adapt for the Studio version.

With Reality 2 I took a classic approach: I used the installer facilities provided by the OS. For Mac OS Reality was delivered as a Mac package, for Windows it was delivered using the popular NSIS installer creator. Both approaches were unsatisfactory. The issue with that approach is that I had to use two completely different systems which forced me to write the same installer twice, with two completely different tools. It was a maintenance nightmare. The two installers are completely different from each other, and required double testing. Plus, the documentation for the installer had to be written twice because the choices and screenshots were specific to a particular OS. But at that time it was the only option that I had.

I did not want to repeat that experience with Reality 3, but the problem is that there are no viable installer creators in the market. There are a couple of products but they are incredibly expensive, out of my reach. In addition you need to learn a new tool that has a pretty steep learning curve and that makes it pretty complex to do some of the things that I need to do during installation.

Then it suddenly dawned on me: installer managers are tools that are designed for non-programmers. They allow people with little or no programming experience to create installers. On the other hand I am very familiar with creating multi-platform programs, so there is no problem in writing a  installer from scratch. The time that it would take for me to learn the scripting language of an installer creator can be simply used to write the installer in C++. So I did and the result is shaping up very nicely.

I’m adding the finishing touches to the Reality Installer, a program that is custom-built to install Reality on your computer. It does everything that is needed at installation time to verify if Reality can be installed on your machine. Some of the features are:

  • Determine the right path for installation
  • Check if Studio 4 is present on your system and where it is located
  • Check the version of your OS, if it’s compatible with the software
  • Run all the other checks that need to be performed before Reality can be installed.

The Reality Installer is exactly the same program on both Mac OS and Windows, the UI looks exactly the same on both OSes, bringing a unified experience that is consistent, no matter what environment you use. One change to the program reflects immediately on both versions and the documentation can be updated with screenshots that make sense to every Reality user, no matter what OS she uses.

Here is a preliminary screenshot of the Mac OS and Windows versions side by side:

Reality Installer - DAZ Studio

The installers use exactly the same configuration file, which allows me to adjust the functionality of the program very quickly and avoid version-specific bugs.

Once the installer is finished, probably in a couple of days, the first delivery to the beta testers will be done and we will be one more step closer to the delivery time.

What needs to be done

There are a few crucial features that need to be added to Reality 3 for Studio before releasing it. Since there are many Studio scenes out there that have been made with Reality 2 it is necessary for the new version to be able to import and convert the material data from Reality 2. That is a bit complex and needs to be tested very thoroughly. Then we need ACSEL and the ability to import the old ACSEL shaders into the new ACSEL 3. Lastly we need to update ACSEL Share to support the new format.

Tempus fugit

I want to address today the matter of the Reality 3 for Studio timeline. Exactly a year ago, this day, Reality 3 for Poser was released. A year later we don’t have a Reality 3 for Studio yet and some of you might wonder why. There are no dark reasons, there is no conspiracy here. The answer is simple, if you can lend me a couple more minutes. Writing Reality was an enormous effort. In about a year I re-wrote Reality from scratch using some very advanced technology. Reality 3 is a separate program that communicates with its plugin counterpart running inside the host, that being either Poser or DAZ Studio. Writing this kind of program is very complex and debugging it is a fierce nightmare. Reality 3, when released, was about 180,000 lines of C++ code, some of it the most complex code I’ve ever written. To make it happen in the established timeline I had to work insane hours. At some point I coded for 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week for several months. These things take their toll.

When the program was finally finished I was mentally exhausted. Please keep in mind that in addition to writing code I do all the rest: customer support, sales, marketing and website programming/design. The effort simply depleted my mental energy and I had to take a break.

So, this is the reason it’s taking longer than expected. I started working on Reality 3 for Studio a few months ago, later than planned because I was simply too mentally tired to start it again sooner. I apologize for this. I know that there are many of you, loyal Reality for Studio artists, who are anxious to use the new version. I appreciate your support and patience. I’m working as hard as I can to bring you the program that you deserve.

We are now at a very good point in the development. A lot of parts are now in place and we are finally in beta. If you can bear with me for a little longer you will see that it was very much worth the wait.

Thank you.


Paolo

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Reality for Studio development update – 4/1/2014 http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-update-20140401/ http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-update-20140401/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:45:08 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3053 Hi. I’m very excited to announce a breakthrough in the development of Reality. After reading numerous reports that people are not interested in realism anymore, I made the decision to change direction in the development of  Reality and turn it into the ultimate cartoon rendering solution. Starting this week Reality is no more: Toonality is born from its […]

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Hi.

I’m very excited to announce a breakthrough in the development of Reality. After reading numerous reports that people are not interested in realism anymore, I made the decision to change direction in the development of  Reality and turn it into the ultimate cartoon rendering solution.

Starting this week Reality is no more: Toonality is born from its ashes and Studio artists will be the first people to enjoy the benefits of this great software. With a single click of the mouse you will be able to generate infinite cartoons from the styles of the early Disney “Mickey Mouse on a boat” to the “Sin City” look. A special configuration option has been added to turn any instance of V4 into Jessica Rabbit with a simple click of the mouse. Work is in progress to enable the same shader for Genesis and Genesis 2, although the effect of turning the Genesis Male into Jessica Rabbit have been a bit disappointing.

A new UI, named CanvASS (Cartoon and Vignette Augmented Surface Service) has been created for Toonality, to keep the artist “in tune” with the artwork. Software User Interfaces, we’ve been told by our customers, look too “computer-like” and are not enough “artist friendly”. We take your feedback seriously and so we are happy to reveal the first screenshot of CanvASS:

Reality-for-Studio-April1st

 

We are confident that the new UI will help you realize new levels of artistry by the virtue of its artist-friendliness. A customization toolkit, called SmartASS, is in the works for the people who desire to change every bit of the UI.

Toonality replaces the old ACSEL shader system with a brand new shader manager that allows the artist to customize every aspect of the final result, from the ink strokes to the size of the color dots. From the direction of the “pencil” to the effect of the “paper” on the smudges of color. This new system of “Intelligent Cartoons” has been named “iToons” and will be part of Toonality when it will be released. iToons is a Registered Trademark of Pret-a-3D.

Stay tuned for more updates on Toonality. Subscribe to the blog to receive timely updates.

 

 

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Reality 3 for Studio development update: March 25th, 2014 http://preta3d.com/reality-3-studio-update-20140325/ http://preta3d.com/reality-3-studio-update-20140325/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 19:51:48 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3043 Hello. Today I get to show you a video that demonstrates some of the new features of Reality 3 for Studio. First of all, we have a brand new look for Reality. This new “skin” is now the default but it can be switched to the native OS look with a simple toggle in the Advanced tab. […]

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Hello.

Today I get to show you a video that demonstrates some of the new features of Reality 3 for Studio. First of all, we have a brand new look for Reality. This new “skin” is now the default but it can be switched to the native OS look with a simple toggle in the Advanced tab. I hope you like the new look. It integrates well in both Studio and Poser and, like Studio and Poser, it’s one single version of the window for either Mac OS or Windows. The new UI also has the benefit to be smaller and to require less screen space.

Next on the list is the demonstration of the live update, something that needs a little introduction. If you are a user of Reality 2 for Studio you know that when you call Reality its window blocks the input for Studio. In technical jargon Reality’s UI uses a “modal dialog box.” That modus operandi has another implication. Every time Reality is called it has to collect the scene information, which is not terribly efficient.

With Reality 3 I took a completely different approach. The plugin running inside Studio collects data as you work. You add a light? Reality takes the information and stashes it away. When you call the Reality 3 UI you actually call a separate program. The program connects with the plugin side, they exchange handshakes, business cards, socialize a bit and then the UI/App displays the data. There is no scanning, all the data was found before and it was done only once. That is a much more efficient approach. Since Reality is now a separate App it doesn’t block Studio so you can merrily switch between the two without a thought. Pretty cool so far. But what happens if you launch the UI and the go back to Studio and make some changes? Do you need to click on a “Refresh” button? Nope! Everything is updated live.

Last but not least there are now material previews with the shapes for Hivewire’s Dawn and Genesis 2. This allows you to setup the face materials for those figure while seeing the effect of the texture wrapped around a face. I also updated the V4 face preview to be better. All face previews are similar to the original shape of the model so they provide a good reference for material design.

Here is the demo:

Please consider subscribing to this blog to receive timely updates about Reality.

See you next week!


Paolo

 

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My GPU runs on motorcycle grease http://preta3d.com/gpu-uses-motorcycle-grease/ http://preta3d.com/gpu-uses-motorcycle-grease/#comments Sat, 22 Mar 2014 04:47:50 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3032 A little less than two years ago I bought an AMD Radeon HD 5870  GPU card. By today’s standards this is an aging card but it still runs strong and I really don’t need anything bigger right now. It handles two monitors, an Apple Cinema display 30″ and a ASUS 24″ perfectly and it shows […]

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A little less than two years ago I bought an AMD Radeon HD 5870  GPU card. By today’s standards this is an aging card but it still runs strong and I really don’t need anything bigger right now. It handles two monitors, an Apple Cinema display 30″ and a ASUS 24″ perfectly and it shows good performance for graphics work. The GPU has been running without problems for a while but every now and then I would hear a bit of fan noise from my MacPro. In fact it sounded like a small Cessna plane was trapped inside the Mac. With fan noise I generally shut down the machine, open it and vacuum it thoroughly. One of the great features of the MacPro is that you can open it with your bare hands, down to removing the tray with the two, massive, CPUS. Dust tends to deposit on fans and throw them out of balance, which makes the wobble. The noise is caused by the wobble.

Last week the noise became just too much and I decided to get to the bottom of the problem. It turns out that the $400+ GPU uses actually a pretty cheap fan and that fan gets very noisy just after  a few months of operation. I looked on the web and I could not find much information on how to fix the problem. The card is large, it takes two slots inside the computer because it has a massive heat sink:

amd_hd_5870

Underneath that black enclosure there is a standard finned heat sink. The fan, made by Foxxcon, provides circulation. It takes a little bit of work to remove all the screws that hold the heat sink. Once that is done you have to remove a tension bracket behind the main processor and then pry the sink out of the card because it’s held in place by the usual dab of thermal compound that guarantees perfect fit of the surface of the processor with the heath sink. Before I try this kind of operations I usually check that I have a fresh tube of Arctic Silver, to restore the connection during re-assembly. This is what the card looks like without the heat sink. The messy stuff at the center is the residue of thermal compound that covers the processor. That gunk is easily removed with a bit of rubbing alcohol:

AMD-5870-naked

 

This photo is not mine, I found it on the web, but it shows how my board was after dissasembly.

So, I finally got all the heat sink stuff out of the way and managed to separate the fan and open it. To my disappointment I found that the fan spins inside a little plastic well instead of using proper ball bearings. This is quite incredible since this fan runs all the time and every day. My machine often runs for weeks without sleeping, as I do several batch activities during the night. For $400+ I would have expected better quality. You can see a similar fan at this video:

So, the well where the body of the fan spins was dry and the plastic started becoming brittle. I didn’t have the time to order a new fan, the machine was down and I needed a replacement fast. So I went in my garage and took my big tub of motorcycle grease, which I used on several projects. It’s great stuff that makes the bearings for the handlebars and other parts run smoothly for a long time. This is what I’m talking about:

BelRay Greaze

 

I pushed a nice blob of that stuff in the spinning well, put the fan together and then prayed that it would work. Wouldn’t you know it? My Mac is now whisper quiet. In fact it’s so quiet that I can hear the fan of the Drobo, which is a good four meters away (about 13 feet).

So, now I have a $400+ GPU running on motorcycle grease. I don’t know how to feel about it but I do love how quiet my computer is :)

 

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Reality for Studio development update – March 19th, 2014 http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-update-20140314/ http://preta3d.com/reality-studio-update-20140314/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 03:12:20 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3027 Hello. Just a quick note because I’m deep in development and I have very little time to do other activities. Last week we saw that the the first draft of the geometry exporter was done. I mentioned that it was not complete and more work needed to be done. There were some issues with some […]

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Hello.

Just a quick note because I’m deep in development and I have very little time to do other activities.

Last week we saw that the the first draft of the geometry exporter was done. I mentioned that it was not complete and more work needed to be done. There were some issues with some figures, especially the Gen4 (Victoria 4, Michael 4 …) ones. The issue has been resolved so now the exporter runs like a charm and it works equally well with Genesis, Genesis2 and V4 and friends.

I also added support for the Genesis 2 materials so that they get converted to the right type automatically. So, all the materials that are skin use now the new Skin type.

I’m now working on the support for instances, something that takes a little work to be done. This is because Studio (or Poser) and LuxRender use completely different coordinate systems. In Studio the vertical axis is Y and the depth values increase toward the camera. In LuxRender the vertical axis is Z and the depth values increase away from the camera. To transform things correctly between the coordinate systems it takes a bit of work and I’m in the middle of it.

In other news, Kim Frick, the force behind the Reality social media pages, had the chance to come to California and so we had the opportunity to finally meet in person in the beautiful town of Monterey, home of the world-famous aquarium. The visit was short but it’s always great to connect with people in person. Here is us enjoying a dinner at a local Italian restaurant:

kim-paolo-monterey-20140313

 

That’s it! That is the whole Reality team :) If you have not checked our social media pages you definitely need to take a look. Kim has created some amazing Pinterest boards that are filled with inspiring images and quotes. Our Facebook and Google+ pages have a wealth of information about Reality, and so has our Twitter feed. Finally you have to look at our deviantArt Gallery, that is the official Reality Art Gallery. There are tons of absolutely stunning images. Thank you Kim for your hard work and for your personal touch in holding the Reality community together.

Stay tuned, next week I will give some more details and possibly some cool data about rendering with instances.

Cheers!

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I beg you! Don’t call them fireflies! http://preta3d.com/beg-dont-call-fireflies/ http://preta3d.com/beg-dont-call-fireflies/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 20:44:26 +0000 http://preta3d.com/?p=3022 I often see people talk about fireflies in their renders and it kills me. The “grain” that we see on screen, while the image is still unfinished, is called render noise. Render noise is gradually removed as the scene renders. The time needed to achieve this is depending on many factors, including: Number of CPU […]

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luxrender-logo-600x150

I often see people talk about fireflies in their renders and it kills me.

The “grain” that we see on screen, while the image is still unfinished, is called render noise.

Render noise is gradually removed as the scene renders. The time needed to achieve this is depending on many factors, including:

  • Number of CPU cores and their speed
  • Size of the image
  • Number of light or light sources in the scene • Amount of glossiness in reflective surfaces

Sometimes we see the term “fireflies” used to indicate render noise. That is not correct. Fireflies are mostly a thing of the past and they don’t happen today with LuxRender, except in the most extreme cases. Fireflies are not render noise. Instead they are large “specks” of white pixels, much larger than render noise, and they don’t get resolved over time. In fact they tend to become more pronounced as the render continues.

When we use the wrong term publicly we do a disservice to others. It spreads the use of the wrong term and it covers what is really happening. It also makes the work of supporting Reality much harder.

I beg you, please use the expression “render noise” when you refer to the grain and only use fireflies when is appropriate, which is usually never.

Thank you very much for your help.

 

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