Sunday, 20 October 2013

Which Future?

A bit of fun with robots over the weekend.  Looking towards the referendum, and beyond.

Also including a version without text - if anyone wants this image for further editing or adding your own text,  help yourself.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Ministry of Truth

From George Orwell's book 1984.

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One.  Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal.  When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities.  Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party;  they are drawn towards conspiracy.  Yet Big Brother will not tollerate dissent - even in the mind.  For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 ...

"More relevant to today than almost any other book that you can think of." Jo Brand

Ministry of Truth

This image has been trying to get out for a while,  here's why:  The amount of misinformation being pushed about the Scottish independence referendum at the moment is quite breathtaking.  Just take a look.   The behaviour of the state in deploying propaganda is reminicent of  1984,  Distracting the public by demonising foreigners, disabled, and the unemployed ,  to provide a common enemy - all too evident in real life.

Airbrushing out inconvienient facts and ignoring or rewriting history to suit a political agenda have real-life parallels that I recognise all around me.

1984 was written in 1949 when states could still control the message.  That is less true now.  It is not as easy to rewrite the story or hide the facts as Orwell imagined in his book. He didn't have Google, Twitter and the internet.

Don't believe what you are told - the information is out there - go find out, and while you are looking, think.  Learn how to seperate fact from deceit.  Check their sources, look for agendas, think for yourself.  

The film version of 1984 used Senate House in London as the Ministry of Truth.  A good choice given it's imposing and bleak form.

Wireframe of the model and some alternative shots below...

And finally...


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Old Aberdeen

Getting away from my keyboard for a bit and some long-overdue practise with watercolours.  This is a view of Old Aberdeen about 15 minutes walk from my house.

Amazing how much I have been leaning on software to handle straight lines and perspective.  More old-school practise definately needed. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Architecture Academy - Amsterdam Building

Completing module 7 in the Architecture Academy.  Putting my columns to good work.

Lots of arrays in use,  especially on the roof. Good practice at UV unwrapping too.  New techniquie learned this module was using a temporary cylinder to snap vertices to a curve,  this was used to curve the balcony railing.

Edit:  Adding the wireframe view (before rendered as above).

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Some columns,  this one a composite of Ionic and Corinthian styles,  complete with acanthus leaves.  The range of styles is actually quite interesting,  I can now tell my Doric order from Corinthians.  I am creating a Blender file with a model of each so I can link/append then to future models.

Composite Corinthian / Ionic Column
Edit:  So I got a bit carried away,  and modelled a full set of classical columns:


Pool Deck

This module from the Architecture Academy, introduces EIS lighting.  I had not used this before and it is a really powerful way of creating realistic light patterns from lamps in a scene.  Blender has an add-on to import EIS files from lighting manufacturers,  detailed in this Blender Artists thread.

 Another painful lesson is the amount of additional rendering time needed in dark scenes to get rid of noise.  The image below is still noticably noisy in areas,  yet was rendering for a whopping 3,000 cycles over 10 hours to get this far.  The long render time partially due to despite turning down all the subsurf levels on the furniture to zero,  the scene was still too heavy to fit within my GPU memory and  needed to be rendered using CPU.

On composition,  I tried to use lines within the wall art on each side of the upper floor to bring the eye to the middle bottom and then a defocussed fern in the foreground to guide over to the lillies.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


Back from vacation,  in catch-up mode now.  This is my render of the foyer of the Guggenheim museum in New York.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Not the Guggenheim

This week's module for the Architecture Academy was released late.  It was supposed to be the interior of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.   A bit frustrating, as I am on vacation this week and would have had time to give to it.  I'm off to Barcelona at the weekend for some R&R,  some relief from my keyboard for a change,  so not much prospect of rendering the Guggenheim anytime soon.

However,  not to waste time waiting,  I had another run through of the external building module.  This time working from a glossy brochure from a local builder.

I was quite a way into the modelling before I realised that the image in the brochure was also computer generated.  Some of the garden plants are repeated, and the reflections in the car are all wrong for the environment.  The image is too perfect,  the grass edges at cut with a ruler (and pasted in-place) and no grunge on the building whatsoever.

That upped the ante,  I wanted to do a better job at representing the building than whoever did the photoshopping in the original.  I don't think I have quite done that,  the original artist did a professional job.

Edit:  As is becoming traditional,  an update.  Improved on the garage door, main door, environment lighting and a couple of textures.

And the orignal for comparison:

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Skirting Board factory

I created a blend file with a bunch (x45) of skirting board profiles to make it fast and easy to add skirting boards to a room. 

The .blend file is available >>here<<

While many of these profiles are standard across the building industry,  some are registered designs.  We are grateful to for allowing us to include some of their designs in the set.

Each profile is created as a curve in blender,  each curve sits in a group named to make it easy to link/append the curve to your main scene.   In your main scene,  create your own curve that follows the edge of the room  (tip:  make sure you use vector handles for sharp corners).   Now in the settings for your main curve,  add one of the profile curves provided as a Bevel Object.   You should see the skirting board appear in your room.

It might be necessary to add an edge-split modifier to your main curve to create nice sharp corners.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Architecture Academy - Week 2 House

Week 2 of the Architecture Academy stepped through creating an exterior view of a house from a groundplan.

Some early frustrations with Mr Price on the plans provided,  there was no way to make the side view and the top views match up,  and no front view provided at all,  so it was necessary to fill in some gaps and imagine what the front looked like without a front elevation to go on.

With the modelling out of the way, the topic moved onto texturing,  I learned quite a few tips and tricks for UV unwrapping and layering textures to get the right effect,  even for the bits I did know,  some useful guided practice.

Then adding foliage,  straightforward.

Finally adding grass - what a nightmare.  My trusty workstation, which is a couple of years old now,  my  fairly recently upgraded Nvidia 580  GPU rendered useless as it didn't have enough RAM to hold the scene,  really stuggled to handle the  particle systems.

There really needed to be around 250,000 x 20 child particles to make the grass look convincing.  Max I could handle was 100,000 x 20. 

After a lot of messing around,  simplifying the scene wherever possible,  loading lower res texture files, dialling back a few subsurf levels and bevel amounts, I managed to get a render going that would not crash my system.  Then,  tweaking was painful,  two hours to see the result of any adjustment and a further hour each time to get back in balance where my system would not crash.   Time to get really precise on the adjustments,  it just took too long to be thrashing about in the dark.

I ended up making the ground texture look as much like moss as possible with heavy "bump" applied, colour matching the ground with the grass, and weighting the secondary clover particle system to the area immediately infront of the camera as much as possible.  Even with that,  I needed to add additional vignetting to the bottom of the image in post-processing with a box mask to take the eye away from the close-up areas of lawn. 

The final render took 4 hours to get 500 passes.  Although it was a struggle,  I am quite pleased with it.

Edit:  I should know better by now.  Every time I rush to post a result,  and say I am pleased with it,  I look at it next day and I'm no longer pleased with it.

At the very least, you should, time permitting, let your images rest and cast a fresh look on them before pressing the "send" button. {Bertrand Benoit}
 Here is the better version:

Furniture and plants scaled down to 75%,  re-did the grass and daisys,  lowered the environmental lighting for stronger shadows, dropped the over-done bottom-half vingnette,  desaturated the sunflowers, and rendered for another 4 hours.   

I've kept the original below for comparison.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Architecture Academy - Week 1 Lounge

So,  just completed week 1 of the Architecture Academy,  a modern lounge.  Took quite a long render time @ 800 passes = 2hrs 47mins.  Andrew's rig apparently took 20 mins. 

Blender 2.68 was released just as I was completing the scene,  so I was able to render out using GPU for the particle systems,  although I needed to upgrage my NVIDIA drivers to handle the scene as I was getting errors when trying to render with GPU.

My PC specs:

Quad core Intel @ 2.66GHz
8Gb Ram
Win7 64bit
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580  (512 CUDA cores) 3Gb RAM

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Andrew Price launches a new course - The Architecture Academy

Andrew Price has just launched a new follow-on from The Nature Academy - The Architecture Academy.

To promote the launch,  there is a preview tutorial on producing a simple interior scene,  which I have just completed:

Ontop of the tutorial, I retextured one of the book models,  pretty easily achieved by taking one from my bookshelf and scan the cover using my muti-purpose printer/scanner.  Messed around with the blind textures and adding a different image to the wall hanging. Also added a wee dram for the side table, modeling the bottle from a real one I have tucked away.   The whisky level in the real one is a bit lower than shown in the model by the time I finished.

The tutorial was basic,  and although I did learn some tips on using HDR files,  not a lot of new information in here.  However, where Andrew excels is in boiling the task down to its essential elements with attention to composition and colour to come up with pretty decent images.

As an individual tutorial on architectural interiors,  I learned more in the CGCookie tutorial last April.

The price-tag for The Architecture Academy course is a hefty $500 US. Since I am using Blender for my own enjoyment, and not a career move or anything I plan to make money out of, the price is off-putting.  However, I am still seriously considering signing up.  I really enjoyed The Nature Academy,  and following that course definately took my skills to a new level. My output has slowed in recent months and the timetable for the course is the sort of push I think I need.  With the added bonus of being able to fall behind and catch up later as real-life work inevitably gets in the way.

Update:  I went ahead and signed up - on the understanding this is my birthday gift sorted out for this year ;)

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Small Fishing Boat

A small fishing boat,  modelled for fun.  Created in Blender and rendered in Cycles, with wave flecks added post-production in Photoshop.

Update:  Went back to edit the ropes,  sort out the lifebelts, add some more deck detail, increase the sea resolution and so on,  I am much happier with this version below...

Update: So I have been learning a bit more about using HDR files for the environment in the Architecture Academy.  These fishing boat images used an old-school sky-dome set-up.  Using an HDR (High Dynamic Range) file from the free intro to the Architecture Academy as an environment texture instead gave some immediate improvements.  Voila...

Monday, 25 March 2013

The date is named

This week we learned the date for the referendum on Scottish Independence,  some inspiration for some quick Blender work..

Sunday, 27 January 2013


It has been a while,  work is pretty busy at the moment.    Amusing myself for an hour or two over the weekend,  voila, meet Spikey!