Category Archives: Technology

V-Ray Ptex Normal Displacement

Disney’s Ptex technology means that 3D artists should never have to spend endless hours on UV-map our models for painting/texturing. Autodesk Mudbox 2012 and V-Ray 2.0 for Maya has Ptex built in, so we can already start using this amazing technology. One thing is to get ptex textures painted and rendered, but another is to get normal displacement working. I had some troubles with this, and with the help from the Chaosgroup forum’s and their support guy Vasil, I managed to get it working.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Import your model into Mudbox, sculpt it however you want. Once you’re finished, go to Mesh>Ptex Setup and turn your model into a Ptex model.

2. Export your low-level mesh (level 0 or 1, or whichever you want) as an obj or fbx

3. Go to Maps>Export Texture Maps> New Operation and select Displacement Map

4. Set your target model to the level of your low-level mesh (the one you exported)

5. Set your Source model to the highest level of your sculpting

6. Use either ray casting or sub-division

7. Set your output to a 32-bit Ptex file with either Good or High quality

8. Open Maya and import your low-level mesh

9. Apply a V-Ray Material to your mesh

10. Open your Hypershade and add a Ptex node, and connect it to the VRayMtl through the displacement channel.

11. Set your cache size to a reasonable size. This usually depends on the size of your ptex file

12. Select your mesh, then go to your Attributes Editor, select the shape node and turn on Attributes>V-Ray>Displacement Control

13. Choose Normal Displacement, turn on Keep Continuity and change Displacement Bounds to Explicit

14. Click on the black color square (Minimum Value) and set these values in the HSV areas: H=0 S=0 V=-5 . Then click on the white color square (Maximum Value) and set it to this value: H=0 S=0 V=15. These are arbitrary values, so they can be adjusted to your specific value. You could always just set them to -100 (min) and 100 (max).

15. There you go, render and all should be well!

It’s amazing how well Ptex works with V-Ray and Maya. This will shave of hours and hours off your production time!

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V-Ray for Maya Displacement Tutorial

I learned this the hard way, so here’s my contribution to the Maya / V-Ray community.

So you want to get your Mudbox model displacements into Maya and V-Ray 2.0?
Technically this should be quite simple, but if you’re using a 32-bit EXR, it’s a bit harder. Here’s a very quick and dirty way to get it working. Sorry for not showing step by step images or videos, but I just don’t have time right now. I’ve got a baby in the house, sorry! 😉

Step by step:

1. Export your displacement map from Mudbox using Raycasting or Subdivision. Subdivision is faster, Raycasting is more accurate but takes a while to export. Use 32-bit EXR or 16 bit. You can use 8 bit PNGs or whatever format you want, but to be more accurate, we’re using floating point 32 bit EXRs here.

2. Export your lowest level model from Mudbox as an OBJ file.

3. Import the lower level geometry into Maya.

4. Put a VrayMtl onto the model.

5. Make a file node in the Hypershade, attach it as a displacement node to the VrayMtl.

6. Load your 32 bit EXR into the file node. Turn off filtering!

7. Add a VRay Extra Attribute in the file node called “Allow Negative Colors” ( if using 16 bit, then this step is probably not necessary. Haven’t tested though)

8. Turn on V-ray displacement options on your mesh (Quality+Options, etc) so you can set the values of your displacement.

9. Turn on “Keep Continuity”

10. The default (1 and 0) Displacement Amount and Shift should be correct.

11. If you want to change the Displacement amount and shift, make sure that they are inverted values.
ie. Disp. Amount = 1 then Disp. Shift is -1.

12. Turn on subdivision on the object via the Vray Extra Attributes. Set the value from 256 to the upper level of the mud box hires model. So, if the upper level of your model is 7, then set that to 7 (duh!).

Click render and it should work!

Interviews and reviews

We released Jack and Joe for the iPad and iPhone, and now we get to reap the fruits of the media blitz that it created! Well, alright, it wasn’t really a blitz. More like a pfffofohhhhhftzzzz…z..zz..whaaateverrr… I guess we had high hopes, but that’s a good thing in the end. The Norwegian version is selling like hot cupcakes in a fire sale where everyone’s super hungry so far, we have had almost 1300 sales in only 10 days. That’s pretty good for a book with no promotion, no marketing department and no fancy publisher behind it. Our budget was about 400 dollars. Time spent: ahmm…let’s not talk about it. It’s been a fun ride so far, and the coolest thing of all, is that we’ve MADE THIS. We actually have a fully working, pretty good (in our humble opinions) app! One that’s on the App Store, sold by Apple! And about 1400 people have downloaded it and had fun with it! That’s incredible! A giant pat on the back to ourselves.

My brother has done a fantastic job coding this app. He had to learn Objective-C from scratch in just 6 months, and then put all of this together. He’s got two kids too, so getting this done and on schedule with this sort of quality has been an amazing achievement. I couldn’t be happier with what he’s done for our book!

So, what’s this about a media blitz? Let me tell you…
So far, we have gotten two AWESOME things:


An A- rating and review from the big-league iLounge.com. We really couldn’t have gotten a better review than what iLounge wrote about us. These are the nicest things they said about us:

“Our top pick in the bunch is Jack and Joe.(…) a two-brother writing, illustration, and programming team that has more combined talent than most of the larger children’s book developers in the App Store.(…) Jack and Joe is a really cute little book that has plenty of art, audio, and fun for the price; it’s certainly worthy of our high recommendation, your attention, and further editions.”


And a super fantastic interview/review with the amazing illustration resource FuelYourIllustration! .This was a really fun and entertaining interview for me, so I hope what I wrote was interesting to their readers too! Check out what Nikki said about “Jack and Joe”:

I loved the illustrations! Bright, colorful, good movement! Very cute and great style for kids. The illustrations were really engaging and I felt the artwork went along perfectly with the story.
The interactions build into the book are fantastic. The hide and seek page was one of my favorite parts! There are also pages you can shake and some where you can pet Jack! In talking to Bard, I learned that in a future version of the story there will be even more interactive pages.
Jack and Joe very much felt like characters that could be on Disney or Nickelodeon – the voices were good too and there was a good pace to the book and the reading.

Many thanks to the wonderful Miss Nikki Jeske and the gracious Mr. Jeremy Horowitz!

Jack and Joe v1.2-Developer preview

On December 29th, we released the iPad version of “Jack and Joe”, our interactive children’s book, and now we’re working on an update that will let kids color in a page themselves. It’s something we had to cut for the first version, but we definitively had it planned for the end result.

So here’s a preview of the new feature in action. It’s a rough setup, we’ll have proper colors in the final version of course!

Donut Man Disco

Donut Man is a character I created mostly to try my hand at rigging a character in Maya. He’s fully rigged for animation now, so I tend to use him for every test project I do. I was initially just testing the Fisheye camera function, but realized that this would make a pretty awesome animation. I’ve done a couple of camera moves and I might just make this into a 30 second disco dancing short. We’ll see where it goes when I get some time. He sure looks great in a disco setting though!

SSD vs. Hard drive in a Mac Pro

To get a little more speed out of my Mac Pro from 2006, I decided to upgrade my system harddrive to a Corsair 128 GB SSD Performance disk. I had heard that SSD drives could boost system performance by quite a great deal, and wanted to try it out. At 500 USD, it was a bit pricey, but worth a shot. It’s a lot cheaper than buying a new Mac Pro anyway.

Installation was super easy. The drive is 80 grams in weight, and pretty tiny. I just put it inside my Icy Dock 2.5 SSD to 3.5 SATA drive converter, flipped the cover down and swoop. It was connected. I screwed it onto the Mac Pro’s hinge and it was ready to go. I initialized it in OS X, and just ran an OS X install directly to the drive. Easy.

Shut-down/Boot up time:
To get this 100% accurate, I decided to use the restart function to gauge boot times. Basically this also shows how much time the computer uses to shut down and then restart.

Standard harddrive: 1 minute 26.6 seconds
SSD harddrive: 26.7 seconds

Application start-up time:
I also did a test of how much different the application startup time was between the two harddrive types.
All running Snow Leopard, no plugins installed.

Adobe Photoshop CS5
Harddrive: 22.6 seconds
SSD: 4.4 seconds

Adobe Illustrator CS5
Harddrive: 21 seconds
SSD: 5 seconds

Adobe After Effects CS5
Harddrive: 35 seconds
SSD: 29.9
seconds

Autodesk Maya 2011 64 bits (1 plugin)
Harddrive: 30 seconds
SSD: 8.3 seconds

As you can see, some of these apps launch at incredible speed on an SSD drive compared to a standard SATA harddrive. Maya actually takes 22 seconds longer to start on that drive. So far, this is looking like a very good upgrade to my Mac.And it worked a lot better than the voodoo curse I tried putting on it last week.

So to sum up:
Superior SSD Technomonology 1 – Voodoo 0.