Posted in Computer Graphics, TV and Films

The Fog, the Fog!

When I’m working in the Bryce 3D image application, I sound like Hammy the Squirrel from Over the Hedge. After lots of puzzling over something I don’t understand, such as a strange transparent boundary that’s ruining my object mask, the penny suddenly drops…

“It was the vapour! OHHHHHHH!”

Shortly afterwards: “what’s that radial light doing in the clouds?? I thought it was down in that dark bit. I wondered why it was still dark there…”

Total 3D scatterbrain. I just want to speed-speed-speed up and down the 3D hedge, but the Bryce renders don’t keep up with my ideas. Sigh.

Mum, after days of watching me poring intently over the rock texture of a recalcitrant volcano, said she’ll soon be calling me Slartibartfast. You wouldn’t want me as a real-world Slartibartfast, but I would love a nice big Slartibartfast desktop picture, preferably of Bill Nighy. Only I don’t have time, so I hope someone else makes one. 🙂

“That was one of mine. Won an award, you know. Lovely crinkly edges.”

I wish.

PS: the above picture was the render zapped by the Windows update. Or should I say, its successor… It took 12 hours 16 minutes, so I was spot on about the time. I’ve been tearing my hair out because it looks bright and clear on the new Mac, and murky and horrid on the old one! I bet all of Slartibartfast’s computers are perfectly calibrated.

Posted in Art, Technology and Software

Dabbling in Bryce

(Splutter… a slap of seawater down the wrong way).

A little sea picture from Bryce 5.5 (Mac version):

Sparkling sea waves with stormy clouds behind

It looks a bit bare… no boats, birds, swimmers or paddling dogs! No seaweed or barnacle-encrusted rocks. No planes in the sky with vapour trails, nor even a single rainbow.

But it took me all today and all yesterday to come up with something I was happy with!

I found that:

my sea waves didn’t look like waves;
the horizon left a bare-looking, cloudless gap above the waves… or the waves refused to go all the way to the horizon;
some materials and skies worked better than others… till something changed and I had to choose another;
reflections and shadows weren’t always where I wanted them, and I didn’t know how to pin them down (things can disappear completely if they move out of shot!);
the stars were either too gritty or too faint;
the comets were too faint;
the moon was too pink, and sometimes had a strange blue outline…

There’s no way I’m adding birds and boats; the waves are as much as I’m up to (and sometimes over my head)! But none of these woes have put me off. I’ll go through Robin Wood’s tutorials again; there’s a lot to grasp the first time round, but I notice that some things are already making more sense.

If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, Bryce 5.5 (for PCs and or Macs) can be downloaded free from CNET Downloads, or direct from the DAZ site. If it gets a bit hard, just dabble… it will start to come together in the end. Enjoying yourself is the most important thing.

Posted in Computer Graphics, Reluctant Landlord, Technology and Software

Brycian Worlds

Over the past few days I’ve been involved with Bryce 3D software again…

I’ve always loved the idea of creating and controlling my own world. It’s frustrating, though, when you have something on hand that looks good… it was rendering fine in the practice runs, but you make it even better by putting in a light here, a tree there, and vamp up the materials with reflections and transparency where needed… then you come up with a good lighting scheme with the right atmospherics, colours, and maybe a rainbow, or a handful of stars. The scene looks positively magical so that you start plotting to move in… and it takes forever to render!

It probably all slowed down when you increased the reflections and added a radial light (or two).

Perhaps it’s a message that you can’t just create a world of your own and explore it when the urge takes you… everything you do has a cost. The more glamour you add, the slower and more impossible it is. If you made everything ash-grey with no particular lighting effects, you could move in tonight.

But what I want to do is see how everything looks from every angle under every possible kind of lighting, using all materials and colour schemes! Instead, I sit watching the picture change, oh so slowly, from the last permutation to the new one. Further possibilities lie ahead — as yet unexplored, even though my mind already races ahead with them. Eventually I’ll get tired and find something else to do, forgetting about my plans for my new world.

My last two journal entries (edited!):


Can’t even remember the day of the week! Ohhhh.

Bryce can be frustrating — every time you try to do something perfectly straightforward, it never seems to work — and after lots of tinkering, you discover that you forgot a vital step, or the preview was just very slow refreshing and you couldn’t see your changes right away. And clicking on some bits is not very good, as they just wink at you, and the box of options you wanted flashes on and off — till finally it stabilizes. I think it sometimes has trouble deciding whether we’re in Bryce or on the desktop. And some things just never do what you expect, and there seems no reason for it.

But when it works, and when it looks good, it’s very nice.

I’m trying to put a light on inside my house, but I can’t tell yet whether or not it’s on! Perhaps that’s a good description of me. Someone’s home, but no light is on.

?? Tuesday? Not sure.

My ‘scaly tenants’ (very nice tenants!) are taking my house again… good news!

In Bryce I’m rendering a little house for Stargazer the dragon. Stargazer’s going to live in it (rent-free) when it’s fully rendered, as Mum told him all magic houses have more space inside than outside. I’m doing it at 1920 x 1200. When I went to bed, it was 33% of the way through anti-aliasing.

The next day (today) we went to town. At the time we went out, Stargazer’s house had reached 42%. “That’s ridiculous!” Mum cried, and I said I’ve been reading a lot about how slow Bryce is compared to other 3D software.

As I write this post (near bedtime), it has reached 55%. I think Stargazer’s losing the will to live.

Stargazer the dragon (small cuddly toy) sitting watching the laptop
Stargazer waits...

Posted in Desktop Pictures, Fantasy and Science Fiction

Dressing up the Desktop

I went looking for some nice new desktop pictures. I found this elegant phoenix and fell in love with it; not just as a design but as a living presence! You sense there’s a real bird there, even though it’s the white hot heart of the flames. If you reach in to touch it, it won’t burn you – it’s soft and warm. Gorgeous. Who said there are only three ways of beating the winter blues?

Here are links to other pictures I liked – there should be something for most people here:

Blue Rain – if we had scenery like this around here, I’d never get any work done. Oh, wait…

Compass of the Soul – a luxurious, expensive looking desktop.

Galaxy Wars – an amazing abstract in blue.

Guardian of the Darkness – this one will worry your office colleagues.

Impatient Jungle – Now I want a little zoo too…

Innocence (quack!)

Liverpool Echo – did Rapunzel’s prince fall into a rose bush like this?

Misty Sunset – lovely snow scene for your winter desktop.

Sydney Bridge at Night amazed me, though I usually avoid city scenes.

What! An individual who would outmatch our cats, glare for glare and talon for talon.

Wild Blue – it would be an extra special dream, flying over a land like this.

Going Home – I have a special affection for this fantasy scene. I also love the song of the same name by Runrig.

Land of Nod – where I keep fetching up. I don’t see anywhere to spread my duvet, though.

I reckon I was a locust in a former life. Humming through the verdant stretches of cyberspace, when I hit a desktop picture site or similar, I gobble it up till nothing is left but bare stalks, then off I flit to the next place. The trouble with is that I’ve met my match. It’s like trying to drain a goblet filled with the sea. I’ve browsed the images till my Mac is burping, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. The gallery for new images boasts over 300 items and they’re still coming in. The three pictures featured on the main page refresh randomly. There’s a voting booth, which is horribly addictive – you don’t get to choose which to vote for; it’s chosen for you, and you always wonder what’s coming next. The main bad point with this is that sometimes you see a picture that has plenty of votes but is underrated (or deliberately voted down, maybe) but because it’s high enough on the vote map, you won’t get the chance to redress the balance. And then there are pictures which (in my opinion) have been rated too high – will they always be at the top of the charts?

I saw something on the site saying that you can only upload a picture after you’ve voted for ten images in the voting booth – interesting idea. I wondered if it would work on a blog site, but I don’t think it would. By the time I’d commented on ten Blogigo blogs, I would have forgotten what I was going to blog about.

Dishing out TLC to unloved images is not easy. You sit staring at a distant stick insect on an over-exposed stump surrounded by dry yellow grass, trying to think of something encouraging to say about it. I’m sure my forebears (whether human beings or locusts) never had this problem.

Posted in Desktop Pictures, Trolleys

Halloween Treat

It’s the last day I see Mum on this side of Halloween, so I set her Mac to randomly show a folder of Halloween desktop pictures which I accumulated secretly. I had just finished, and was sneaking away, when she appeared in the doorway and stared at the Mac.

She burst out laughing.
“Where did you get THAT?”

‘THAT’ was Midnight Trooper, the free Halloween picture from Digital Blasphemy. The Mac just so happened to choose it first.

“It’s from a computer art site. It says down here in the corner – Digital Blasphemy,” I said

I had finished walking the dog, and the day was already getting dim around the edges. “I better go home before it gets dark,” I said. “I don’t want to be caught when the ghosties and ghouls come out. Especially as there’s no Jolly the Trolley to protect me.”

“In that case,” said Mum, “he would probably get home before you.”

Posted in Computer Graphics, Desktop Pictures, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Technology and Software

Endless Blue

This should be subtitled ‘Computer Artists Beware’. I’m going to have to set up a separate blog category for graphics.

I discovered some fantasy desktop pictures by Ryan Bliss at Digital Blasphemy. Most are not free (what a fantastic way to earn a living!) but he has a gallery of free wallpapers which had me happily downloading. My favourite is Endless Blue.

Ryan says there will be a Halloween picture or two dropping into the free gallery in time, and the pictures will regularly change, so if you like them, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Gazebo 2003, Archipelago and Coalescence are all better than they appear in the thumbnails, despite the fact that Gazebo 2003 is at the bottom of the ‘download’ list and something called Orthohedron (which I didn’t like) is in the top five (now the top two).

I also (thanks to Timothy at stumbled across a site called Moodflow. My absolute favourite (of all my collected wallpapers so far) is Walking with Orion. Another one I love is Paradise Cove, but it’s not alone in the beauty parade.

There appear to be a lot of dreamers in the human race. Any time I’m going through an ‘everybody’s a rat’ spell, I will have these fantasy wallpapers to remind me otherwise.

One good thing about all this, displaying the same wallpapers on both computers, was that I finally focused on a big difference between the PC and iMac monitors. The PC’s monitor was dimmer and bluer – seemed to show less of a range of colours. Makes me wonder how any of my Paintshop Pro graphics ever worked out! Certainly explains why some look good on the PC and terrible on the Mac. I remember one in particular that shaded nicely into black (I thought) and then I got it on the Mac and you could see the stark edges. That was very disappointing. Next time you see graphics and photos that are absolutely horrible, consider that the owner’s monitor might be on the blip, or set wrong.

Meanwhile, my PC’s display had ‘drifted’ so that there was an annoying black strip down one side. Dug out the monitor manual, which was satisfyingly fat because it was published in a thousand different languages. ‘See Section 4’ it says, and ‘section 4’ turns out to PART 4 in Italiano. The English section 4 is on page 17, still within Part 1. Having worked that out, I centred the display. Wasn’t allowed to change colours or colour temperature – something to do with the sRGB mode. I’m lost – will have to consult Internet later. Currently the PC is in a state of Endless Blue.

At any rate, I was able to raise the brightness. Is there a normal level of brightness? Mine was set at 40%, and it was a little like swimming through the depths of a lagoon. I raised it to 50%, and now the violet star in Space Dust by Anders Fernström looks fractionally more violet and less blue. In future most of my wobbly graphics will be done on my Mac.

I’m trying to think of something non-wallpapery to discuss, but my mind has gone blank. Remove the wallpaper and the colour vanishes. ‘Solid Aqua Graphite.png’, perhaps. That’s Apple for endless grey.

Edit Feb 2008: A comment to this entry when it was hosted on Blogigo:

Pacian wrote at Oct 28, 2006 at 10:27:
Sorry this took so long, but I have these links on my other computer, and this is the first time they’ve both been on since I read this. When my old monitor drifted, I used these sites to try and get it back to normal:

My current monitors show everything just nicely, so I can’t be bothered to calibrate them properly according to these things, but you can waste a lot of time fine-tuning on these two sites.

(It took me about a week to realise that my old monitor wasn’t remembering the settings when it was turned off for any length of time, so they turned out to be useless for me.)