Skydomes and the Background Map Export Setting

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Many scenes benefit from having a skydome in the background - an image of a sky that replaces the flat background color of a scene. The easiest way to do this with an OSG Export is to take advantage of the exporter's "Background Map" feature. This feature automatically generates an infinitely distant skydome that will never accidentally cut off our models or mess with your model's clip plane.

At the moment HDRI skydomes are not supported, but this feature may be coming sometime in the future.

Where to Get a Sky Texture

You can start off by grabbing high quality skydomes off of places like https://www.cgskies.com/, stock texture sites, or make your own with a 360 camera on a tripod (such as the Ricoh Theta) and capture through its associated remote shutter app. Various other solutions for capturing professional panoramas exist as well, such as incremental nodal camera mounts (e.g. Nodal Ninja) or automated heads (e.g. Gigapan), though these methods may have trouble stitching together moving objects such as clouds.

Here's a sample spherical panorama you can grab for testing, captured with an older Theta. The Theta has some stitching artifacts where the edges of its two lenses come together, but this is most noticeable when placed directly on a flat surface instead of a tripod. This version of the Theta also has a noticeable amount of color noise, even when shooting in well-lit situations with a low ISO.

In this example the tripod was originally visible, edited out in Photoshop using the polar coordinates filter and content aware fill, and the photographer (yours truly) was also removed using content aware fill. This sky texture has a small worldviz logo watermark at the very bottom which should not typically be visible unless a user manages to look underneath the ground.

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Storing and Loading Your OSG Export Settings

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OSGExp preset files are a great way to store and share exporter settings for your own use and for sending your export settings to customer support.

To load a settings file, such as this one (wviz_default.OSGExp), make sure you have the latest version of the 3ds Max OSG exporter from the plugin download page, then open up the exporter dialog, load in the preset using the dropdown list in the lower left, and hit OK.

Load Preset

The default file above contains the settings that WorldViz uses internally for most of its projects. Most of the time the only settings that change from project to project are the "Turn Off Lighting" setting (for disabling realtime lights from affecting baked scenes) and the map type and object type filters (the "maps" and "export objects" rollouts).

Saving a preset works the same way. If there is a setting you need to come back to later, use the Save feature to store it with your project files.

What is … PureRef?

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Pureref is a image display program designed to streamline the display of an artist's reference images. It is simple and straightforward program that works better than just about anything else for it's intended purpose. In addition to displaying reference material, it can also be used for storyboarding. Pureref is also incredibly cheap to buy, at an optional 5£ donation.

Pureref works by dragging pictures into its window, from desktop or web. This places each item on a scalable virtual tile that can be arranged on on the virtual surface, and zoomed in and out as needed.

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Glossary: Geometry in 3ds Max


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Basic Terms

Vertex:
An individual coordinate in 3D space, represented by a dot.
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What is… Textures.com?

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Textures.com, formerly CGTextures.com, is a subscription based stock resource website for texture maps. Depending on the subscription level, the user has a certain number of credits per month to use on textures. There is also a free option with a small number of credits that regenerate on a daily basis.

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The textures are royalty free for both commercial and noncommercial use, are high resolution, and have been processed to remove distortion, color cast, and in some cases to add tiling. They are distributed at multiple sizes, with larger sizes requiring more credits.
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Point Cloud Integration with Vizard

Point clouds are a set of data points in a coordinate system. In 3D applications this coordinate system is designated by X, Y, and Z coordinates and shows the external surface of an object represented as individual points.
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How to… Work With Realtime Shadow-Casting Lights in Inspector

Vizard R5: Adding realtime light to a scene and enabling shadows.
Sample Files: Realtime Lighting.zip (7.5Mb)

Starting with an unlit scene in Inspector:
- First, Go to Create -> Light -> Directional Light
- Then, in the properties window check the box for "Shadows"
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- Next, name the light node so it can be accessed through code
- You can set the angle of the sun node using the rotation controls
- The position of a directional light does not affect its output, but can be used to move the node's icon to a more convenient location.

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What is… Crazybump?

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Crazybump is a tool that analyzes a source texture such as a diffuse map and attempts to generate additional supplementary maps based on that analysis. It has been in use by numerous professionals in 3d graphics since its beta was first released in 2007.

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Crazybump is especially useful for generating tangent space normal maps, but can be used to create approximate height and specular maps, and a few other types. Many of these types of maps can be slow and difficult to create by hand or with freeware tools.
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Controlling Imported Animantions

The following types of animations can be exported with OSG models from 3ds Max and played in Vizard:

  • Transform: ¬†Animations based on translation, rotation, and scale
  • UV: Animations based on changing texture coordinates
  • OSG sequence: Mesh animations that cycle through a series of saved meshes, one for each frame

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Underwater Effect

The example script in this article simulates the type of visual distortion that occurs in an underwater scene. It uses a custom post-process effect created using Vizard's vizfx.postprocess library and GLSL (OpenGL shading language).
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