Author Topic: A personal introduction  (Read 4689 times)

Offline DutchDimension

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A personal introduction
« on: May 23, 2011, 03:53:16 PM »
Hi everybody,

after having been a reader of these boards for a while, I decided to register and introduce myself.
My name is Danny and I'm a Senior Matte Painter/Environments Artist and Texture Artist in the VFX industry for film and Television, going on for about 15 years now. My tools of trade range from Maya, Nuke, ZBrush to Mari, BodyPaint and a host of related applications.

After a 10 year hiatus (give or take) from Terragen, (having toyed around with Classic a long time ago) I decided to make a concerted effort to re-familiarize myself with the latest and greatest from Planetside.

Initially I had wanted to use Terragen 2 when working at Weta on Avatar, (in particular for the Floating Mountains sequences). But there really was no time available for us to sit down and learn new tools as we had to crank out shots rather quickly in order to make our deadlines. The lack of in-depth documentation and the fact that some of my colleagues already had a decent understanding of Vue, made us drop the Terragen route, much to my disappointment.

Now that I have some spare time on my hands I can finally afford to assess Terragen 2 properly and become thoroughly acquainted with it.
So far I'm really enjoying the exploration process, and I'm very quickly falling in love with this wonderful tool! It's truly amazing what such a small team of talented developers have created so far.

However, as I mentioned already, I'm findind the documentation somewhat wanting. As a consequence I have many questions and I hope the vast experience accumulated on these forums will be able to help answer some of them. Would this be the correct place to do so?

Thank you for your time. I hope to get properly acquainted with you all during the learning process. :)

Danny

Offline Tangled-Universe

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2011, 04:16:42 PM »
Welcome Danny!

Good to have experienced people from the industry on these forums as your areas of expertise are appreciated as well here.
Pity TG didn't make it into Avatar, but for understandable and well known reasons.
However, glad you decided to pick it up to give it a serious shot.

These forums contain a huge amount of information, but the search function is pretty good.
People here are very helpful and as you may have noticed as well response is always pretty quick and helpful/best possible.

Assuming your nickname you're Dutch (like me)?

Cheers,
Martin

Offline Seth

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2011, 05:06:44 PM »
welcome !

Offline rcallicotte

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2011, 06:59:22 PM »
Hi Danny.  Hope you find fun in Terragen.
So this is Disney World.  Can we live here?

Offline ChrisC

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2011, 07:10:14 PM »
In the meantime there is some helpful information here to get you started.   

http://forums.planetside.co.uk/index.php?board=6.0

And for regular documents which are being added to are here.

http://forums.planetside.co.uk/index.php?board=2.0

Of course i am very certain you probably came upon these already.    ;)

Weta, now that is a studio i'd die to work for.

Offline cyphyr

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2011, 07:22:45 PM »
Welcome to the gang Danny :)

I made an attempt to do the floating mountains a year ago or so link with mixed results. The main issue was that the accuracy of the displacements drops off the closer it got to vertical making aligning the top and bottom of the floaters difficult. I may re-visit this later as the renderer and my knowledge have improved over the last 18 months.

best of luck

Richard
www.richardfraser.co.uk
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Offline inkydigit

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 08:27:49 AM »
Hi there Danny, welcome, looking forward to seeing you around...
cheers
Jason

Offline DutchDimension

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2011, 05:47:14 PM »
Apologies for the late come back to this thread. I wanted some more time to gather my thoughts and not come up with unnecessary questions and sound like a total noob. But thank you all for the nice warm welcome. I feel at home already.  ;D

Tangled-Universe: I've been browsing a lot through these forums during the past couple of weeks and managed to get a lot of answers right here. It significantly shortened my (initially) extensive list of questions.
And yes, I am indeed Dutch as my name implies. Een ras echte Utrechter wel te verstaan. :)

ChrisC: Thank you for posting those links. There's a lot of info there which I found very educational.

Cypher: Those are looking very promising Richard. I would love to see how far you can take these inside Terragen.


Okay then, let me start with a few questions first. Please pardon my ignorance if I come across in a confusing manner.  :-[

Things I didn't understand:

•Displacements and imported objects. Currently this appears to be limited to the scanline renderer. No displacements possible when using the 'Ray trace objects' option is turned on. Is this correct? Furthermore, is there any reason why imported objects need to be triangulated for displacements to occur? When using a model consisting of quads, the displacement did not show up in my tests. Can we expect to render displacements on imported meshes in a future release of Terragen? I guess the same question goes for populations of imported meshes…
•Render farm. This is a big point. Can Terragen render on a Linux based render farm? I suppose not as the application is OSX and Windows only. I suppose I could conjure up a small cluster local Mac Pro workstations. Would Terragen be able to deal with that? Are there any links or tutorials available that explain how to set this up?
•Is there any way of adding one or more nodes to an already existing group in the 'Node graph'? Or conversely, a method of removing a node from it's group? I could not find a way.
•Can the front clipping plane of the camera be adjusted?
•I came across one situation where I had an 'Image map' Camera Projected onto the Planet surface. A default 'Surface layer' was plugged into the 'Image map shader's' input node so as to stack behind/below the projected image. Another image map shader was used to mask out the the effect of the projected image via the 'Blend by Shader' port. What I found strange was the fact that the GI prepass was visibly ignoring the blend shader, yet the main ray tracer rendered the image as expected. Is this normal? I'd think such behaviour would result into an incorrect GI cache… no?

I also thought it might be nice to write down just a few of the things I was pleasantly surprised by:

So here are a few things I really like:

•It's stability. Granted, I may not have pushed Terragen as hard as some have, but in all my playing around with it I think it crashed… once? Awesome! If only Maya was as stable as this.
•Ability to pause and continue the render. Very convenient if you quickly need to divert 100% CPU resources to something else. Again, why don't more applications have this?
•The way the Anti Aliasing levels scale. I remember reading somewhere Matt mentioning that if he were to start writing a renderer from scratch he'd probably limit the sampling to a geometric sequence with integer powers of two (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc.). But from a user's point of view, being able to dial up the sampling along a much more gentle slope really helps keeping rendering times in check by fine tuning AA settings. Cool!
•The soft clipping, compensate and contrast effects under the 'Extra tab in the Render nodes. Really reigns in that raw 32bpc look one so quickly gets when working in linear floating point. Plus it's nice and easy to reproduce in Nuke with a ColorCorrect and a SoftClip node for virtually identical results. I suspect Matt's tenure at Digital Domain brought him in contact with Nuke as parts of Terragen have that Nuke feel to it… which is great as it's my compositing app of choice.
•The vast amount of geometric detail it can handle. Here at last is a application that literally can handle planets to sand grains and everything in between and does so elegantly and reliably.

Kudos to Matt, Jo and Oshyan.

And lastly some things I would love to see in future versions of Terragen:

•A slight modification to the Colour picker where RGB an HSB sliders are displayed at the same time. Right now you have to select either set from a pull down menu (at least in the OSX version I'm using).
The way I arrive at choosing colours is almost always by modifying both sets of sliders. Having to constantly switch between RGB and HSB in the the pull down menu is a tad annoying and unnecessary. I see no reason why the two sets of sliders can't be displayed side by side in a single menu. Like in Nuke for instance. Very handy.
•Procedural plants and trees. Right now I'm using Onyx Tree, XFrog and Maya's Paint Effects to generate my personal Arboretum's worth of trees, plants, grasses and shrubs and bring them into Terragen via the OBJ format. This works well. However, I can't help but fantasize about Terragen having it's own procedural tools to generate such forms of life. It would free us from large, static OBJ files, long ex- and imports, expensive Ram usage, etc. An procedural plant/tree system of sorts inside Terragen could potentially introduce natural variety/unique trees (akin to Vue's Eco-system where every tree is different), proper dynamics for wind and other effects, shape/growth adaptation to surroundings etc.
•Displacements and populations on imported geometry. For obvious reasons.
•Arbitrary Output Variables (excuse the Pixar/PR-Man talk). For those unfamiliar with AOV's. It's basically a function of Pixar's PR-Man renderer which, at very little cost, is able to generate additional render channels/passes as it renders the beauty pass (the actual image). These can range from a simple 'diffuse' channel, to much more involving passes such as 'reflection', 'normal direction', 'Y-height grads', 'Matte/ID' passes, etc. It would help tremendously with tying Terragen into a VFX pipeline where a lot of work is done in compositing packages, re-building the image from it's constituent render channels, allowing for a lot of post render tweaking and flexibility.
•Render View with history. I'd like to be able to store test renders inside Terragen's Render View window. Ideally not handled in the clumsy way that the Maya Render View does this, but with access to previous renders via a catalogue window of sorts. It would be great if certain important render settings were recorded alongside each render. So if I like how a certain render turned out in terms of detail, anti-aliasing, sampling, etc, but I've deviated from those settings since then (and can't remember what those good settings were), I would be able to look this up in the Render View catalogue. Some in-house Render Buffer tools I've used go as far as offering options to copy/paste those recorded settings right back into the render node.
Also, the ability to re-arrange the order of the renders stored in the catalogue would be a big bonus.
•F-curves/TCB-curves for animation in an accompanying graph editor. Would lend itself well for controlling animation in anything other than a linear fashion.
•Better documentation. Right now it's scattered all over the place and is patchy to say the least. There are so many tools, options, nodes, etc. that really have no explanation at all and leave the user to experiment or resort to Google.
ZBrush has an awesome feature "hidden" inside it's tooltips. When hovering over a button, or a slider, you get a default tooltip displaying the tools name and it's hotkey (if assigned). If you press CTRL when hovering, the tooltip expands into a very helpful, concise description. Usually this is enough to inform the user of what said tool does. I'd love something like that inside Terragen.

Phew... I write too much, so I better leave it at that and get back to Terragen. Thanks all for reading my blurb.

Danny

Offline Kadri

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2011, 06:19:48 PM »
Things I didn't understand:

•Displacements and imported objects. Currently this appears to be limited to the scanline renderer. No displacements possible when using the 'Ray trace objects' option is turned on. Is this correct? Furthermore, is there any reason why imported objects need to be triangulated for displacements to occur? When using a model consisting of quads, the displacement did not show up in my tests. Can we expect to render displacements on imported meshes in a future release of Terragen? I guess the same question goes for populations of imported meshes…
...

Welcome , Danny !

Basically you can get diplacement for imported objects. Please look here:

http://forums.planetside.co.uk/index.php?topic=12248.msg123398#msg123398
Further below are some other basic things too ( A little hmm... convoluted! thread but i hope it helps :) ) .
« Last Edit: May 31, 2011, 06:25:30 PM by Kadri »

Offline Oshyan

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2011, 06:34:40 PM »
Great post, lots of great questions and points. I'll try to address as much as possible in the order you asked. To avoid a complex quote/unquote formatting mess, I'll just go point by point.

Displacement on imported objects only works when not raytracing objects, however when raytracing is used for objects bump mapping is used instead of displacement, so at least you get some impression of the dimension that would have come from displacement (but of course the edges of the object betray the limitations of the effect). I don't know whether triangulation is required for displacement, but I wouldn't think so, as long as your object is otherwise rendering correctly. Passing the object through PoseRay can help in some cases. We do hope to allow more displacement capability on objects in the future, including in raytraced rendering modes (or an equivalently optimized method).

As you note, TG2 is currently only Mac and Windows, so no Linux rendering yet except under Wine. Wine may be worth looking at as I think the overhead with commandline-only rendering is not bad, and the main issue running TG2 under Wine is GUI compatibility which is irrelevant in that case. Otherwise a Mac OS render farm is perfectly possible. There are no built-in tools for assigning frame ranges and doing batch render jobs, but TG2 is compatible via the commandline with a number of 3rd party render manager tools, both free and commercial. Some of them are listed on our TG2 Resources page: http://www.planetside.co.uk/content/view/52/88/

As far as I know there's no way to add a node to an existing group. Group add/remove is handled by the capture/release functions on the right-click menu of a group, or for creating/deleting new (non-default) groups by using the group/ungroup shortcuts when 1 or more nodes are selected (on the Edit menu, Ctrl-G/U). Group functionality is a bit clunky still and will be improved in the future, either being adapted to "Macro" type functionality, or being augmented with it.

If by the clipping plane you mean in the 3D Preview, then yes. The bracket keys [ and ] do this.

Regarding the possible incorrect GI prepass, I'd have to see the scene to know for sure if that's an error. It sounds worth looking at so if you can post it here or send to support AT planetside.co.uk that would be great.

On your list of likes, first I'm glad you are enjoying some of the aspects we've focused on in TG2. It's always good to see that focus pay off and be recognized. Second, I can confirm that Matt's time at DD has certainly influenced TG2 and that Nuke in particular has also had an impact. But I think you knew that. :)

Interesting regarding your idea to have RGB/HSB displayed at the same time. I suppose if the size of the color picker window were increased that would easily be possible. Something to consider.

A procedural plant system is a very interesting and exciting possibility, but also a *tremendous* amount of work. It's something we always keep in mind and I hope it will be possible at some point. In the meantime Xfrog and others offer good 3rd party options and we'll continue to work to make TG2 utilize these great external resources better.

We're working on a render "layers" (or "AOV") system already. This will definitely be available in a future release.

We also have plans to improve the render viewer in ways similar to what you describe. I'm not sure if we'll get as sophisticated as that, but definitely multi-image viewing/comparison, and viewing of multiple image output layers (already you can view r/g/b/a separately with hotkeys).

Animation curve editing is also planned for a future release and is being worked on right now.

Documentation is a long-term WiP. We are about to roll out a new Node Reference now in our Wiki, which should make the information more quickly updated and easily accessible. Along with this will come active links in the UI to a node's description and setting information. The node reference entries themselves are being updated over time, with some already having a lot more (and more correct/updated) info in the new wiki version. Here's a link to the index, we're still finishing up the migration though. We'll announce when complete:
http://www.planetside.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Terragen_2_Node_Reference

- Oshyan

Offline jo

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2011, 10:27:59 PM »
Hi Danny,

Quote
•Is there any way of adding one or more nodes to an already existing group in the 'Node graph'? Or conversely, a method of removing a node from it's group? I could not find a way.

Contrary to what Oshyan says :-):

- To add a node to an existing group it should first be moved over the group. Next you can context click on the title bar of the group and choose "Group: Capture Nodes" from the context menu. That adds any nodes over the group to the group.
- To remove a node from its group simply select the node and choose Ungroup from the Edit menu or use the shortcut.

Regards,

Jo

Offline Oshyan

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2011, 10:30:02 PM »
Clearly I was not clear (hehe) in my reply. I meant it was not possible to add a *new* node immediately to a group. But I realize now that was probably not what was being asked. Yes, of course there's a way to add an existing node to a group. Face:palm. Heh. Glad that the Ungroup works with other groups as well, it was removing a group (that was now empty once ungrouped from its sole node) in my tests.

- Oshyan

Offline DutchDimension

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2011, 11:46:50 PM »
Kadri: Thanks for posting that link. On first glance it looks like there's a lot of good info there. I'll make sure I'll read through it all thoroughly.

Oshyan: Wow. Thank you for the detailed response.

I had indeed noticed the bump effect occurring on the imported geometry but wondered why my surfaces weren't displaced. With regards to triangulation, I triangulated the meshes inside Maya (not sure if Poseray has an OSX compile as I'm not familiar with this application) which worked fine, apart from the odd un-smoothed vertex normal (causing faceted shading) here and there when rendered in Terragen. Are there any tips on getting rid of those, short of tessellating the mesh into oblivion? Ticking 'Use smooth normals' did not suffice strangely enough.

Regarding the clipping planes, yes I did mean the render preview. Great to hear there's a control for this.

As for the incorrect GI prepass, it occurred while I was messing around familiarizing myself with the logic behind the node network and blend shaders. A scene not worthy of saving. But I'll see if I can recreate the setup and perhaps reproduce the anomaly.

Hurray for AOV's being in development already. That's gonna make a lot of matte painters and compositors in VFX real happy. :)
I can only hope the next version of Terragen will come soon. As right now I'm the process of attempting to pitch Terragen to some CG and VFX supervisors on an upcoming (and highly ambitious) film project. And I already know their first question/demand will be "what kind of passes can a Terragen generated element give us?" I suppose one could get creative with shaders and run passes the old fashioned way (one at a time), but boy would AOV's help here.

Another hurray for the Render View update. And thanks for the tip on the r/g/b/a hotkeys. Didn't know that one, though now I'm tempted to try a host of Nuke-esque hotkeys just to see if they reveal anymore easter eggs like that. :)

Congratulations on the new updated Node reference. I had a quick browse and from what I saw it looks much, much better. As a suggestion, to help explain some of the more esoteric nodes, I would recommend adding short real world examples of how said nodes could be used. How they need to be combined with other nodes to obtain certain results. Maybe post a screenshot of the node graph. It would be a lot of extra work no doubt, so perhaps examples could be harvested from the vast database that are these forums. I think it could take a lot of the (perceived) voodoo out of the equation (no pun intended).

Jo: Thank you for chiming in on the grouping functionality. I can't believe I didn't try a right click on a group title bar. I had seen the Edit menu options and was baffled not to see add/remove node to group options present. This explains it. Cheers!


Offline Oshyan

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2011, 12:13:25 AM »
The normal smoothing option should normally take care of faceted shading, provided the normals are present and oriented correctly.

You can do manual passes for many different things, some quite easily including separating atmosphere and terrain, depth/distance, etc. But yes a native system for this will make things much easier and faster (not least because it won't require re-rendering the scene multiple times). It's definitely one of the upcoming features we're most excited about.

All the hot keys should be documented in the About->Mouse and Key Settings menu option.

The new node reference is definitely still a work in progress as I mentioned. The most important change is that now documentation isn't bottlenecked by one person. In fact theoretically anyone can edit it, just like Wikipedia, and we can of course revert any undesirable changes. We may decide to lock down editing to longer-term members, but at the very least everyone at Planetside can now contribute. So updates should be faster and more frequent, new nodes will be documented sooner, and ultimately we do hope to be able to provide some of the details you suggest. That being said it's a lot of work to do so for every node, so that's the kind of place where I see user contributions being helpful. An active forum user could easily pull some info out of the forums and put it in the wiki as an example without affecting the rest of the content of a node entry.

- Oshyan

Offline DutchDimension

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Re: A personal introduction
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2011, 03:01:33 PM »
The normal smoothing option should normally take care of faceted shading, provided the normals are present and oriented correctly.

Hi Oshyan, the mesh I tested this with was but a simple Maya pSphere. I also noticed the partly faceted shading happening on the native Terragen Rock object. Despite having 'Use smooth normals' enabled for both.

As for the contribution of active forum members, that's a great idea. There are some very skilled people on these boards from what I can tell whose input wouldn't go amiss in the docs.

 

anything