Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

This week I figured I’d get started on some Wilds of Organica-related items, since the last couple weeks have been pretty landscaping and decor-heavy.

Linden Lab have taken the past few weeks off, as far as Content Creation user group meetings – they will resume tomorrow (Feb 15, 2018) at 1PM SLT, on Animesh 1 region (on ADITI grid).

It’s hard to gauge how much longer the testing period will take. When we last met, it seemed like development was ongoing, but felt like we were moving a bit closer toward final performance and animesh limits testing. There has been some push in terms of increasing the triangle limit, however I’m still of the opinion that 50K is far more than enough.


With that said, I’ve begun development on a new WoO product this week that would likely see use as either an avatar, animesh, or both. We’ll see how development goes moving forward – I’m excited to see just how well it can be implemented, given the positive experience I’ve had popping in animations and some basic scripts for existing content thus far.

When I’ve chosen a real-world subject, typically I’ll look up some basic reference material to get the proportions down. In this case, it’s mostly been looking up corgis on Google Image search. It’s easy to get caught up researching cute critters and your search results are likely to be the same as mine, so suffice it to say that I use such references as a touchstone to develop an idea of what age and proportion I want my avatar to be.

My preference, from a stylistic point of view, is to avoid being photorealistic in my translation of a real dog to SL dog. I don’t really enjoy the uncanny-valley look that often comes from taking references completely from photograph to projected final texture, so usually these references become proportional and very general references later on when I paint my fur textures manually.

In this case, I was going for non-puppy, but still on the young side, just to get a nice balance between lovable huge ears and adorable elongated & lowered carriage. I’ve also elected to go the non-docked route, although a bobtail option might be in the cards at some point.

The early hours of my avatar making process usually start with something very simple – like a box with some very simple extruded faces, to block out limbs, head, etc. Once I feel i have the main proportions down, I will usually toss on a few modifiers to help me get a clear idea of what the final product will look like, even if i might not apply all of these modifiers by the end of the project.Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

 

By using a SubSurf modifier, I can non-destructively visualize how my geometry might look if i were to subdivide and smooth. I don’t typically ever apply this modifier permanently because it’s too easy to just apply it and call it a day, without addressing some of the geometry problems that it introduces.

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

In particular, SubSurf tends to cause geometry to form vertices which either branch off in three or five directions, which is not ideal from an edge-flow perspective.  Also, it’s typically a lot more efficient to add edge loops and rings in areas where necessary, as opposed to allowing a modifier to add them all over your model.

I tend to add some edge loops and rings to some degree at this stage, to get the basic silhouette established, but do tend to add more later on, during the rigging stage, for added flexibility and attention to specific bone weights. One might conceivably use the ‘simple’ subdivision method rather than Catmull-Clark, however that subdivision method will not apply any vertex to vertex smoothing calculation and, at least for this use case, does little to add to this workflow.

I will typically mix the SubSurf modifier along with a Mirror and EdgeSplit modifier.

The Mirror modifier allows me to model on one side-only and have those changes propagate symmetrically.

I usually add an EdgeSplit modifier to help visualize the edge-flow of my model – in this case to help define key features in the surface as well as to give some definition to the fur.

I usually turn off angle calculations for this modifier, opting instead to define my sharp edges manually by right-clicking a sequence of edges, hitting Control E, then selecting ‘Mark Sharp’. Basically I want to adjust the geometry based on shapes I want to add to it, rather than adjusting the geometry based on what I have so far.

This helps to give the mesh a more distinct silhouette and to give me a better idea of how the geometry will need to be broken down later from the standpoint of someone who needs to rig and animate. As with the SubSurf modifier, unless I actually need a very sharp edge in my final model, I usually don’t permanently apply this modifier permanently either, since the resulting edge-splits will cause duplicate vertices that are not always necessary.

Below, you can see the difference between my Mirrored model (with no other modifiers added, but faces rendered as smooth), my mirrored model with edge-split, and finally with SubSurface divisions.

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Once I am happy with this edgeflow and overall shape, I will usually begin modifying the Avastar Extended Bento skeleton to fit the avatar.

We’ll cover this, along with rigging our corgi, next week.


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Fresh Cut Roses

Right in time for Valentines Day, these fresh-cut roses are now available in-store and on Marketplace and they are great for both buying for yourself or gifting to others!

Mod, copy, no transfer. To gift, left-click the vendor and choose the ‘gift’ option (or buy on Marketplace).


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

New Flowers this week at Organica!

This week, we turn to Spring! Sorta.

New Flowers this week at Organica!

It’s still pretty solidly winter here in Canada, so I figured we could use some flowers to brighten things up.

This week, you can pick up one or more gerbera varieties in store or on the Marketplace!

2LI at packaged size, these flowering plants feature vibrant colours and detailed materials – perfect for any outdoor garden! Pick ’em up now seperately or as a fatpack!


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

New Furniture and Decor at Organica this week!

Today, I thought I’d share a new thing I’ve been working on, on top of a few other things that I can’t discuss quite yet.

I’ve always loved older furniture and one of my prized finds this year was a Duncan Phyfe drop-leaf table. It’s sort of hard to pick these up any more. Most are at least 75 years old at this point and they only come available every once in a while in Toronto, even though the occurrence of downsizing and estate sales seems quite high.

I managed to bring home one for a good price this past fall and it’s been both a beautiful yet unobtrusive addition to my kitchen, mostly in that it is so flexible in the way of footprint.

In any case, I decided to put together something with similar functionality, and here is the result.

New Furniture and Decor at Organica this week!

For the moment, this table will come as three static versions, with movable drawers, all in one package. Ideally, I would like to take this in to an Animesh format in the future, so that a single scripted object would be all that is necessary to rez. We’ll see how well this works in practice in the following few weeks, provided available time.

New Furniture and Decor at Organica this week!

This current version is mod, copy, no trans, 5LI ea and available in 8 colours. It will be eligible for free updates if/when an Animesh version is made available.

New Furniture and Decor at Organica this week!

 

Additionally, there are a few light decor items being released this week as well, including some vase and table accent pieces, as well as some original inkwash artwork by Florence Chan (me).

New Furniture and Decor at Organica this week!

Each are mod/copy/no transfer.

Everything mentioned above is now available in-store or on the Marketplace!

Background environment is Scarlet Creative’s Mountain Lodge gacha rare, by Charlotte Bartlett.


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Kitten Avatar Update + New Coat Announcement!

Today, I’m glad to announce that the Kitten avatars are undergoing a long-awaited update, which includes additional Bento functionality plus a brand new animation override. This updated avatar is now available in shop, along with one completely new line – the Bicolour coat pattern!

If you already have one (or more) of either the Tabby or Cheshire avatars and purchased it off the Marketplace, you can expect an automatic delivery for each within the next twenty-four hours. A limited number of recent in-store purchases will also receive this automatic update. If you do not receive your update by Jan 17 2018 (EDT), please see below before contacting me by IM:

If you purchased in-store prior to Christmas and do not recieve an update automatically, please come to the main shop and rez your update token (found in your original Kitten package). There may be a delay but you should still get your update that way. If it times out, please contact me (Aki Shichiroji) directly by IM.

Kitten Avatar Update + New Coat Announcement!

This new bicolour pattern is very much intended to reference the ‘tuxedo’ look that many bi-colour cats have. Five colours are available in this line and these new kittens will include Bento functionality, just like the updated originals!

Changes (2018/01/15):

– Facial and tail Bento support
– New Animation Overrider HUD featuring advanced facial animations specifically for this avatar
– Update system now also uses the blue circle exchanger system (Read the included notecard for full details).

Known issue: RFL Purple Cheshire has not been addressed in this update but will be within the week. Please stay tuned for further info.

Relevant inquiries:
Will the applier system used for several other recent releases also be used for the kitten avatar?
– While the possibility is not closed to this, the logistics are non-trivial. The Applier system will not be applied to the kitten avatars at this time.

Will dev-kits and/or clothing be made available for these avatars?
– Both are being taken in to consideration at this time and both are very likely. Again, the logistics of packaging and managing a growing number of coats for this avatar are something that I need to become accustomed to before I will have time to address either. Please IM me to let me know of your interest!

Will animesh support be provided with this avatar?
– It’s a bit early to comment, but animesh for this avatar is quite likely. In all likelihood, Animesh support will involve a customized kit that can be dropped in, but given that these details are rather abstract, the final execution may be somewhat different. There are also some non-mesh and non-rigged components which would need to be converted for use with Animesh should a conversion occur, so I would need to account for the additional time cost for this work.

Stay tuned to the Subscriber Kiosk or the in-world group notices for further news about this or other releases from Wilds of Organica! Join the Subscriber kiosk ( here ) or the in-world group ( here )!

Thank you for your ongoing support!


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) – Rigging and animating

A small amount of downtime over the past couple of days has given me the opportunity to move forward with my Animesh Willow experiment.

At this point, I have to mention that this is all it is – an experiment. In the course of playing with animating a tree, I ran in to a number of hurdles which I’ll have to consider whether I want to get around before any possible release. (I’ll go in to these a little later).

From the hint that animesh might be a thing, I’d been thinking about using it for more efficient modelling of animated vegetation. Willows are the most obvious candidate for me, since I’ve long avoided creating more.

Original solutions for willows have historically included flexiprims and while these may still prove useful, I wanted to see what I could come up with that wouldn’t be so taxing on the viewer. The opportunity to create something that isn’t so heavily dependant on SL wind is also promising.

My willow tree armature required  some significant modification of the default Bento avatar armature.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Currently, Avastar allows a user to select and move bone joints for either the blue/purple SL armature or green Control Bones in edit mode, then to align them to their counterparts. This is what I did and (so far) I haven’t needed to adjust any of the parenting for this rig.

I opted not to make use of the lower limbs (for now) because doing so can present some orientation issues due to how bones are parented. If i need to in the future, I may put in more time to figure this out, but in this particular use case, I chose to just use the bones from torso up, arms, hands, wings, neck and head (no face), simply because these would handle the geometry sufficiently.

The result is, in a very general sense, positive.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

For the most part, the trunk was parented to bones which are logically closer to the middle of the skeleton. So it got torso, chest, collarbones, upper, lower arm, neck, head, etc. Most of the fingers got assigned to equidistant areas around the trunk for foliage.

In hindsight, I would probably rig and model concurrently. Because there was a significant amount of foliage geometry mixed together, selecting appropriate foliage and assigning it to its nearest bone was a bit tedious. Doing this a bit at a time to ensure proper movement would have been the better way to go.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Fortunately, Avastar offers a means of checking for unweighted verts, so this process was made a bit easier as a result.

Weighting was undertaken mostly using the weight painting brush, but occasionally I would also hold down Ctrl while making my brush strokes to create a gradient of weights for my selected vertices.

Because there were so many vertices in relatively close proximity, I selected the bones I wanted in weight-painting mode, then hit ‘V’ to show vertices. I then selected the vertices I wanted to paint (rather than painting on everything)  and brushed on only the areas highlighted by the selected vertices.

Animating the tree:

Once all of the vertices in the geometry were assigned, it was time to try some basic animation. So far, I’ve just put together a basic sway animation as a test case, but I may continue to create a variety of other animations the tree can play on command.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

In order to create an animation, I split off a window pane in Blender and switch it to ‘Dope Sheet’ view. This gives me a frame-by-frame listing of bones for which location and/or rotation* has changed, over time (in frames). There are other more detailed and useful views you can use for animation, but this is the most basic view you’ll need right away.

(* Scale changes are ignored by SL, both on the armature and animation side.)

The Dopesheet operates mostly from left to right, although it does list off bones which have been weighted, on the left hand side as ‘channels’. When a bone is selected in 3D view, the appropriate channel will highlight in the Dopesheet view. On the flipside, you can also left-click the name of the bone in Dopesheet view to select the bone in 3D view.

To animate, we need to ‘keyframe’ a set of changes in rotation and/or location and have Blender interpolate these transitions from keyframe to keyframe. In this case, the chief translations we need to make will be rotational.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

To begin, I select every bone in the armature and keyframe the current rotation as a keyframe (Hotkey I, select ‘Rotation’). This will be my starting frame.

Next, we need to create the second position for the appropriate bones. Since I am only moving the hanging foliage, I select the appropriate bones (mostly just finger bones) and rotate them in the general direction I want.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Then, since I just want to test and loop motion between these two keyframes, I select all of the points from the first keyframe, duplicate them and move them to where I want my end frame to go, allowing the animation to seamlessly move from the last frame to the first when it loops.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

 

Next, we need to define our export settings to convert these keyframes to a full blown animation that can be used in Second Life.

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Of note: Normally, frames per second (FPS) is set around 24. This particular animation has been slowed down significantly such that only two frames play per second, for a much more subtle effect. This can be played with depending on application – sometimes I will tinker with this to speed up or slow down walk-loops for avatars.

By default, I export .ANIM files instead of .BVH files – I don’t play much with the system morphs that come with .BVH and in this case, such morphs (system avatar-based facial expressions, hand gestures) are not applicable to this sort of content.

Once I have defined the start and end frame for the animation as well as the start and end frame for the loop (not always the same!), I click ‘Export: AvatarAction’ and save it with an appropriate file name.

In-world, I enable my willow as an ‘Animated Mesh’ object and drop the animation in to the mesh. Some additional scripts are needed to make use of this animation – some sample scripts to get you started can be found on the Animesh regions on ADITI grid currently. Hopefully we’ll see some more sample scripts on the wiki soon too.

The result:

Willow Tree Process (Part 4) - Rigging and animating

Current downsides:

  • Animesh currently can’t be resized. They make use of the armature, where the size is defined upon upload. It may be necessary to create several different sizes for variety and, depending on application, special attention to scaled animations may be necessary as well.
  • Transparent textures placed upon Animesh-enabled geometry currently do not cast a correct shadow.
  • Base 200LI – this is likely to change for the better. Vir Linden has always maintained that the current 200LI base is boilerplate and mainly intended to be more restrictive than the ultimate release. Once I have a better idea of base cost, I’ll have a better idea of whether I’d like to move ahead with further LOD optimization and more detailed animations.

So for now, this willow will be on my backburner until we have more info from the weekly content creation meetings (Thursdays at 1PM SLT, Animesh 4 region on ADITI grid).

In any case, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

I’ve had the fortune of being able to pick up more work in the past year and also the opportunity to present my thoughts and new releases with you lately here on the blog – I’m really looking forward to keeping the ball rolling in the coming year and hope to have more to share with you soon!


If you found this or any other of my articles helpful, please consider becoming a Patron! Doing so supports further articles of this kind and my content creation in general.  Alternatively, if you like the sorts of things that I make for Second Life, drop by my Marketplace listing or my in-world stores and check out what I have to offer!

Unless otherwise noted, I (Aki Shichiroji) and this blog are not sponsored in any way. My thoughts are my own and not indicative of endorsement by any associated or discussed product/service/company.

 

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) – Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!

Last time, we left off with the start of some great foliage for our willow tree, but the placement overall was a bit sparse.

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!

Today, we’ll look in to ways of bulking up the foliage so that it looks more healthy.

At this stage, the easiest way to develop a stronger silhouette from all angles is to consider the foliage as multiple pieces of a whole, each varying in size but as a whole ‘mounding’ or ‘padding’ in key areas.

There are a few different techniques available for the tree-making process, but because we’re dealing with a tree that has somewhat out-of-the-ordinary foliage, I’ve chosen to create planes of geometry which have been mapped to parts of a larger texture and to have each of these planes intersect at a common area, to simulate a branch.

 

Here, I’ve used much the same process as last time to create a variety of different foliage shapes based upon some underlying branch drawings.Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!

The same leaves and stems we used for the sideways texture are repurposed here, again with the help of bezier curves, which allow for non-destructive manipulation of geometry when a ‘curve’ modifier is added to the mesh object.

A gentle sweeping shape is added to the plane to simulate the slight upward growth, then strong downward plunge of foliage due to gravity. Once I have a shape I’m happy with, the geometry gets duplicated and resized, then I’ll take the geometry and map it to a different strand of foliage within the same UV map for some variety.

 

 

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!

At this point, I split up my 3D view so that one view is using a rendered view and the other is solid or wireframe to properly place each piece so they intersect properly.

Once I have a cluster of this type of foliage that I’m happy with, it gets placed in strategic places where the other foliage type was lacking. It can also be helpful to hide the other foliage material temporarily to aid in clear placement.

It’s important to take multiple angles in to consideration here; while it’s not always possible for an object to look good from all angles, the goal here is to create visual interest through a play between areas where there are foliage and areas where there are not.

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!
There’s still a ways to go in terms of filling out volume from the top-down view, but progress is being made!

My immediate priority is to create an effective silhouette along the top surface of the tree. Then, I do the same working from a top-down view, taking care to create leaf cover in trunk/branch areas which are still bare.

It’s during this stage that some experimentation in balancing the different foliage geometry shapes is important. I started out using a variety of upright planes to create the impression of volume from the front view, but adding rounded foliage makes a big difference! There’s still a lot of push and pull to go, but this has come a long way compared to the tree we were left with by the end of last week’s post.

Also, you might notice that I got around to texturing the trunk; this was accomplished by importing a .OBJ copy of the trunk to Substance Painter and working with the tools therein.

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!

I usually start with a base wood material, but never leave it as is. For one thing, Substance Painter still isn’t smart enough to figure out how to hide seams, and for another, I like to add a lot of little touches to make the look a little more unique.

In this case, I created another layer overtop of the wood and used a scratchy brush to create the deep furrows this tree’s bark tends to have. The brush included both a diffuse and height element so that I could give the impression of accumulated dirt and shadow, paying particular attention to seams and minimizing the tonal differences in these areas.

I then also made use of a particle brush to blow some dust and grime all over to add a bit more age and wear to the texture.

These textures were then exported using my usual PBR SpecGloss configuration (the default preset in the exporter) and added back to the model in Blender for one more rendering pass, since I wanted just a bit more kick than the plain textures would provide, given SL’s existing material shaders (somewhat limited).

Willow Tree Process (Part 3) - Foliage In the Round, Trunk texturing too!Moving forward, I’m likely to do a bit more balancing of foliage to make it a bit more subtle, but the basics are there.

Next week, I hope to have enough time to experiment with rigging & animations, plus consider the feasibility under current testing conditions.


If you found this or any other of my articles helpful, please consider becoming a Patron! Doing so supports further articles of this kind and my content creation in general.  Alternatively, if you like the sorts of things that I make for Second Life, drop by my Marketplace listing or my in-world stores and check out what I have to offer!

Unless otherwise noted, I (Aki Shichiroji) and this blog are not sponsored in any way. My thoughts are my own and not indicative of endorsement by any associated or discussed product/service/company.

 

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

Today, I figured I’d touch on my process for creating textures.

While many folks prefer to use a photograph for their texture, I’ve always worked from scratch, creating my own textures digitally, while referencing a large number of photographs for ideas and clues about growth habit.

With respect to trees, I usually start with a few variations on a base leaf, taking care to work out the base silhouette.

In the case of weeping willows, the leaves are narrow,oblong, and taper gradually. While the final  product will ultimately be much smaller and not show small details like serrated edges, I usually add them anyway, along with veins so that these elements can give hints of themselves later.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

It’s usually a good idea to create a variety of different leaves, even if they are a slight modification of one base shape. This allows the final branch texture to have some variation to it, even if, at a distance, the differences are small.

Sometimes, the use of traditional media for texturing is helpful too. I have used my share of drawing tablets but (even considering the use of Cintiq tablets) none of them can truly replicate the intuitiveness of simply taking pen or pencil to paper and simply drawing.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to sketch out a base to work from, clean it up or paint over it, rather than drawing and erasing ad nauseum via tablet, and this is what I’ve done here.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

This and some other branches were drawn with pencil, scanned, cleaned up and painted over.  Using this process, I was able to put together a sideways branch, which is now at a prime stage for the addition of leaves in Blender.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

I usually start by unwrapping the UV of a plane to fill the whole area of a UV layout matching the proportions of my leaf texture. In the Node Editor, this object gets assigned a material with the leaf texture as a diffuse map. I additionally assign transparency to the material, using transparency from the texture to be the deciding factor in what gets rendered.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

The plane gets cut up so that each piece of geometry gets a different leaf. I then also bring in the branch texture and put it on a vertical plane object (using a similar node setup as above) by adding it to my Diffuse Map node in the Node Editor.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

Once this is in place, I divide the Blender windows such that I can view a preview in Render mode on one side as well as edit in either Texture or Wireframe mode on the other. This allows me to move leaf textures to match the branch texture relatively quickly, while still seeing the results (and how the transparent textures interact with each other) in real-time.

In this case, leaf geometry was laid out and duplicated with an Array modifier and also given a curve modifier, so that the geometry would conform to an extruded curve (to act as a stem). This allowed me to move and deform the long string of leaves in any way I wanted.

Special consideration is made to maintain variation and depth. Being able to use a 3D program to put together this texture means that I can take the time to create parts of the foliage which move forward or recede. Setting my texture workflow up this way also means it would be easy to replace the leaf texture later for other texture sets (fall colours, for example).

Once I have an arrangement I’m happy with, I add a solid emissive blue background, set up some appropriate lighting, position the camera and take a render (F12) of the camera view.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

The result gets saved and opened in Photoshop. I select as much blue as possible, then delete it from the layer, leaving behind a transparent background. I then add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and de-saturate any remaining blue colour on the preceding layer.

Any additional cleanup should be done to the texture at this stage. I save a .PSD file as well as a .PNG at full size, then I repeat the placement process for branches along the full trunk. Once I have finalized placement, the file gets saved again as a .TGA, with an appropriate background & alpha channel and at a more SL-appropriate image size.

Willow Tree Process (Part 2)

There can be a lot of experimentation at this stage and the solution, for trees, isn’t always a flat billboarded texture. As it stands, this tree still looks a little spare!

In my next article, I’ll show what additional geometry and texture work goes in to making the tree look believable from multiple angles.


If you found this or any other of my articles helpful, please consider becoming a Patron! Doing so supports further articles of this kind and my content creation in general.  Alternatively, if you like the sorts of things that I make for Second Life, drop by my Marketplace listing or my in-world stores and check out what I have to offer!

Unless otherwise noted, I (Aki Shichiroji) and this blog are not sponsored in any way. My thoughts are my own and not indicative of endorsement by any associated or discussed product/service/company.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves

The last week has been a bit nuts!

Family is up from the States this week, so there was a family dinner. I also took a bit of free time earlier today to pick up a lovely vintage table for my kitchen, which is sorely lacking in the style department.

I am overseeing and creating content for a couple of new work projects and hope to be able to talk more about them soon – in the mean time, I figured I’d touch a bit on some work in progress I’ve got in mind for an upcoming Organica release.

It’s been a *long* while since Organica offered a weeping willow. Simply put, it’s mainly because I am not real big on flexi prims being linked in to mesh and, back when I did make some, we only had alpha blending (and not masking) – so it would be common to run in to issues where some textures would overlay others in an undesirable fashion.

With those caveats in mind, I figure it’s a good time to revisit willows, because let’s face it – a naturally moving  tree would be a great example of non-animal Animesh.

While I won’t touch on the rigging just yet here, I will at this point discuss my general modelling & UV layout process.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves

The process begins with a simple cylinder – usually with no more than 12 sides, and with the length divided a multitude of times. I usually create the UV layout for this cylinder pretty early on (even though I do later unwrap the geometry again) because multiple copies will be made of this cylinder and it’d be nice not to define seams for each and every one.

While I could probably define the shape of the geometry by moving the verts around,  lately I’ve taken to adding a Bezier Curve nearby and applying the curve as a modifier to the cylinder, taking care to apply scale and location before any heavy modification takes place.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves

By using a modifier, non-destructive changes can be made, allowing for a considerable amount of experimentation in placement and rotation prior to committing to a final shape. In this case, I am moving various nodes in the bezier curve to direct the overall direction of the mesh.

How does one use Bezier curves?

Assuming you are already familiar with how to move, rotate, scale and extrude vertices, edges and faces in geometry, Bezier curve nodes are similar to individual vertices (although more accurately, they are very similar to NURBS nodes).

A Bezier Curve in Blender (in object mode on left, edit mode on right)
A Bezier Curve in Blender (in object mode on left, edit mode on right)

Basically, each node along a curve is accompanied by a pair of handles which control the direction of the curve directly before and after the node. They are always 180 degrees from each other. The closer these handles are to the node, the shorter the area of influence they will have.

The default bezier curve will give you two nodes. You can add nodes in between by dividing the space between the two in the same manner as you would between two vertices. You can also extrude additional nodes from the start or end of the curve.

You can either apply this curve to existing geometry (using the ‘Curve’ modifier’) or extrude some basic geometry along the curve (using the ‘Curve’ properties menu, when the curve is selected). There are some additional advanced things you can do to this extruded geometry (such as non-destructive tapering or bevelling) but for the purposes of this demo, I have only applied my curves to geometry as a modifier.

It should be noted at this point that, even at top level geometry, I do not subdivide at this point. This is important, since fixes will later be necessary to clean up the results of proceeding workflow. It’s way less hassle to redirect and merge fewer vertices than more. If smoother, more curvaceous transitions are needed, subdivisions should occur after the final UV layout has been finalized (IE: not now!)

After the trunk has been defined, I select both the mesh and the curve and duplicate them at the same time, adjusting basic position, scaling and rotation at the Object level, then editing individual branches for variety by selecting the appropriate curve and editing in edit mode.

After I am satisfied with all the branch placement, I join each branch to the main trunk using a Boolean Modifier (‘union’ setting) to create the branch geometry in the same object as the trunk and also to join it with the trunk. This leaves behind a copy of the original branch, which can either be archived to a different layer or deleted entirely.

I do this for all of the branches, then go back and check each of the joints between the branches and trunk.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves
Before (left) and after (right) some vert cleanup at the branch/trunk joint. Also, seam assignment.

Typically, use of the boolean modifier will create extraneous verts, showing the point at which each face intersected with its adjacent geometry. This is, by and large, undesirable and I will usually either merge several extraneous verts to converge on one desired vert OR i’ll select edge loops and slide them in the correct direction, taking care later to remove any remaining duplicate vertices. Checking for N-gons (polygons with more than 4 edges) should also be done at this stage.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves

Cleanup is done around each joint, after which I attempt another UV unwrap to achieve a nice layout that is fairly clean, not overly stretchy, correctly scaled and laid out in a convenient direction.

Willow Tree Process (Part 1) & Bezier Curves
Tree trunk & branch UV layout

The overall silhouette and UV layout have been achieved. Further modifications  within these constraints (additional edge loops to create more curves, for example) would be ideal at this point.

We’ll leave it here for now. Next week, I’ll discuss foliage geometry, layout and general texture creation.


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Two More Candy Fair 2017 Releases!

As promised, a number of other new items are now also available this week (thru Dec 1!) at Candy Fair!

Alongside the Cat Ears & Tails, there will also be the following:

Two More Candy Fair 2017 Releases! Two More Candy Fair 2017 Releases!

Much like the Cat Ears & Tails, these Bento attachments come with the short ear & long tail AO, which is intended for layering over existing human AO animations. They come with lifetime updates and are optimized for use with viewers which use the Advanced Lighting Model. They are mod, copy, no transfer , with some no-mod scripts.

Two More Candy Fair 2017 Releases! Two More Candy Fair 2017 Releases!

This Candy Fair edition of webbed wings is much like the original release, in that it includes both small and large mesh, as well as AO, for various body shapes. They come with lifetime updates and are optimized for use with viewers which use the Advanced Lighting Model. These, too, are mod, copy, no transfer, with some no-mod scripts.

You can pick up the Cat Ears & Tail, Mouse Ears & Tail & Candy Fair Edition Webbed Wings at Candy Fair here until December 1! (Some previous years’ Candy Fair gacha releases are also available again at the Gacha Gardens there too!)

See you there!