This blog describes my journey exploring storytelling - words, images and the sensations they generate. The lot, basically.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Production Proven Shortcuts: Display Borders in Maya

Ever been handed an asset looking something like this?

The Gouraud shading obviously gives away, that there is something not quite right with the mesh. We got a funny border running along some of the faces on the sphere.

Outliner shows us that the sphere is indeed a single mesh, not a combination of intersecting meshes... 
Hmmm. What is your next step for trouble shooting this?

I would normally make sure all the normals are softened. Differences in normals across the surface make such edges in the Gouraud shading, and it is quite a common problem.

So we select all the faces and pick Soften Edge under the Normals menu.

No joy still. Now, may I introduce you to the humble check box for Display Borders (under Mesh Component Display in the Attribute Editor)?

Checking that (and setting the value higher than the default 1), will immediately show any borders in the mesh. In this case, we see that the problem is that our geometry has been combined by two pieces of geometry fitting each other perfectly.

Maybe these parts of the geometry once came from the same mesh, was separated for various reasons and then combined back together.

In any case, we have double vertices along the (now) visible border. So instead of it being a problem with normals, it is a vertex problem, which we can fix by merging the vertices sitting in the same space.


Since the Display Borders option is so fast and simple, I will push that a step higher up on my list of trouble shooting steps, before I start checking normals. This little corner of Maya was pointed out to me by a colleague, after I had been swearing fruitlessly at the normals for an hour.

Nifty to cut a few corners.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Notes from the Underground

"Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself."  

- Pat Conroy

I am told Beethoven filled scores of journals during his life. Apparently they ended in a room somewhere, never to be looked at again. But Beethoven believed that even if his writing was never read again, just the process of writing it down, would help anchor it in his memory.

One of Beethoven's many journals

In addition to anchoring, I also find that jotting your ramblings down in a journal helps free up mental processing cycles - as you are not trying to juggle a million unfinished thoughts in your head; Then there is the process of forcing yourself to explain yourself as you write and the wonderful clarity you gain from looking at your thoughts from the outside in; And of course the useful benefits of being able to painlessly look up what you wrote as and when you need to. 

To this end I keep an assortment of journals grouped into various broad topics.

Various journals focused on other topics
... and have done so for years and years. 

Some of my older journals
But this post is about a special journal of mine.

The Master Journal

Anybody who has worked with me, have picked this book up from my desk and inquired about its nature. This is the book I write all the things I learn about 3D, VFX and art - either through courses, own observations or things taught by more experienced colleagues.

Some of my many, many pages of scribbles
Obviously, this book is absolutely key to my work, but beyond that I have never given it too much thought. Then one day my Executive Producer picks it up, leafs through the pages and exclaims, "One day Marque will publish this book and become and a millionaire!"

Nobody becomes a millionaire from publishing books on 3D and VFX, but I appreciated the compliment all the same. What is more it gave me the idea, that perhaps others could benefit from these bits and pieces I have collected over the years?

Do we need yet another tome on VFX and 3D? I think CGWorkshops, Digital Tutors, Gnomon Workshops and cmiVFX are all doing a splendid job teaching a lot of useful techniques and getting people a good grounding in various software packages. 

But to be perfectly honest, what I find in a lot of courses and training materials may be great for teaching a beginner the basics, but 90% of it I rarely use in day-to-day productions. However in the trenches of actual productions, what is very valuable, are clever little workarounds, that save you time or simplify the work you need to do turn a shot around. These are the kind of things, which I definitely note down in my journal for safe keeping.

So if they help me, they can help others too. I will not "publish my notebook and become a millionaire", but I will share these bits and piece which I have found valuable as short blog posts. 

I think I will call them Production Proven Shortcuts. That's what they are to me.

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