Thoughts on Lost

http://www.zspline.net/blog/wp-content/gallery/tvshows/oceanic.jpgLost has ended.

The excellent finale closed a TV series which had the potential to become one of the best drama ever to be seen on the small screen, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable disappointments instead.

(Only season 4 spoilers.)

I loved the first two seasons. The story, the actors, the mysteries all worked well and I expected that everything will make sense eventually.
However at the end of the second season I started to feel fooled. Tons of questions with no answers and those long, boring background stories made me frown.

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Flashback-light

The Flashback-light is a flashlight which can reveal a past state of an object.

Video of the DirectX viewport in 3DS Max 2011.
Download full size video.

The effect is produced by a shader which reacts to light of a certain color: it blends between two sets of textures.

Modeling and UV creation was done in modo 401, I used 3DS Max 2011 for material setup and baking while the XMSL shader was made in MentalMill v1.1 .

You can download the scene and the related assets: FlashbackLight.zip

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Impressions of 3DS Max 2011: Material creation and baking

http://www.zspline.net/blog/wp-content/gallery/misc/slatemated.jpgDuring the past week I rebuilt almost all shaders (for my latest project) in Max and had a few rounds with surface baking as well.

The new, node based Slate Material Editor is a great (although long overdue) addition to the package. The material system does have a fine selection of quirks, but debugging and fixing stuff is fast and simple. MentalRay has a ton of useful nodes out of the box, not to mention the shaders made by the community.

MetaSL shaders work well in the realtime viewports, but they have some nasty bugs when it comes to offline rendering: for example bump mapping and sell illumination has no effect, but they are known issues and MentalImages is working on bugfixes.

Unfortunately a much bigger problem arises when one tries to bake a surface with MetaSL shaders: every single baked texture is black. It’s a bug on Autodesk’s side, but they don’t seem to want to fix it, since this is a problem since the first release of Max 2010.
As soon as it gets fixed one will be able to produce complex surfaces on high poly objects with realtime feedback (no more test renders hah) and then bake the result onto a low poly mesh.

The baking process is quite straightforward and it just works usually. Most issues I had were due to the fact that I model/UV objects in modo and then transfer them to Max via the FBX format. The export/import can screw up smoothing groups, but with some care, it’s cool.

So using Max has worked out well so far. The only rendering feature I miss is modo’s bloody fast preview renderer. (But there is hope.)

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Sneak peek: Project “FBL”

I’m working on a quick project about a few old toys:

It also involves the new, v1.1 version of MentalMill.

I’ve reached a point where I’m refusing to use modo’s shader tree for anything more than simple materials. I tried, I really tried to be understanding, work around problems and all but it’s so broken, rigid and user unfriendly, that I just can’t take it anymore.

I wasted days on things which are simply a non-issue in proper, node based material editors. So from now on, I’m going to do the surface setup, rendering and baking in 3DMax, at least until Luxology produces a usable material workflow.

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