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December 12, 2012 / mistergasman

Part 0: Computer system requirements

Realistic nature environments contains billion of polygons. So it’s imported before you start that your pc meets the software requirements.

Blender and Archicad are programs that don’t need high requirements. That’s because the models are pretty basic, low poly.

Photoshop is a different animal. When using large textures (with multiple layers) it can uses a vaste amount of memory. So for example if you have a 2×2 km terrain, and uses 8x8k pixel textures (so 0,25m detail per pixel), the memory can exceed 16 GB Ram, so 32 GB will be the best option. For 4x4k pixel textures, 16GB should be enough.

E-on Vue uses everything from your pc. The higher your specs, the faster it will go. It’s not possible to say what amount of memory you need. It depends on the scene.

The more plants are populated, the more memory it used. Also the terrain detail (heightmap) is important. From experience it’s you can compare it to Photoshop.

A 8x8k terrain requires 32 GB, a 4x4k terrain 16 GB.

The times it takes to render images and animations depends on your computer processor. The higher speed, the faster. Also the number of cores is important. I suggest to use minimum a Quad core cpu if you need animations. For example:  60 seconds animation at 25 frames a second = 1500 frames to render.

If you have a Dual core and it takes 20 minutes to render 1 frame = 1500 frames  x 10 min =15000 min =250 hours = +10 days

A quad core with the same speed will do it almost 50% faster = 1500 frames  x 5 min =7500 min =125 hours = +5 days

So at the end, it’s sometimes better to invest in a higher CPU cause it saves time!

 

The graphics card is also important for all these software as  it uses the GPU to make the editors visible. Slow graphics cars creates a lag while working. Also photoshop uses the card to speed up brushing etc.

The memory on the graphics card should be at least 512 Mb Ram, but better +1 GB Ram.

 

For all these large textures and 3D scenes, sizes increase fast. So +100 GB of harddisk space is not over the top.

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December 12, 2012 / mistergasman

Part 0: Software used

Archicad is a procedural modeling program, mostly used by architects.

+Every object is created by parameters. And can be adjusted any time.

+You can model in 2D and 3D.

+Very sustainable, even after 12 years the files can be opened and adjusted in the most recent version!

+Large library of extra objects available (to buy).

-Not a free hand modeling program, so difficult when specific shapes (rounded) are needed.

-Export to limited 3D formats.

-Limited texturing settings

Function in this project:

The models of the village we use where already created 12 years ago in Archicad software. They are updated this year though.

Blender is a free open source program.

+ Hand build everything!

+ Free and open source, always access to the source code.

+ Wide range of functions: modeling, texturing, animation, sculpting, video-editing,…

+ Wide range of 3D formats to export.

+ Light software to run on the pc/mac

+ Large community

– Not procedural, so difficult to adjust.

– Loat’s of functions, but sometimes lacks specific tasks.

Function in this project:

We use Blender to adjust/add textures on the Archicad models and create specific models that needs hand modeling.

Photoshop is an image editing program.

+ Most used image program (.psd)

+ Uses layers, easy edjustable.

+ Can import/export to many formats.

+ Very sustainable.

– Pretty expensive (free alternative: Gimp).

– Can use huge amount of computer memory.

E-on Vue is a nature modeling program.

+ Can handle billions op polygons

+ Uses ecosystem layers (plant scattering algorithms, procedural so based on parameters).

+ Procedural textures

+ Large scale terrains with high detail.

+ Animation ( sky/cloud moving, wind on plants, water,…)

– Small community

– You can never have enough ram and cpu speed.

– Sustainable?

– Serious amount of bugs.

Function in this project:

We use Vue to create the terrain and all the vegetation textures and plants. All the rendering and animation is done in Vue, so every model has to be imported.

December 12, 2012 / mistergasman

Part 1: create vegetation layers

So,

We need to find a way to create vegetation (textures and plants) on a terrain. As E-On Vue is thé nature reconstruction program we have to think ahead.  Vue uses a square terrain. That terrain uses layers like photoshop, every layer is a seperate vegetation. Vue uses a black and white texture to determine what’s visible from the current layer and what’s not. It works like an alpha channel. The black is opaque, the white is transparant.

So the first step to find a way to seperate every vegetation and save it to a black and white texture.

We export the Archicad files to .obj and import into Blender. We like to use Blender as our ‘base’ program. And leave Archicad as an external program.

Archicad_01  Archicad_02Archicad_03

It doesn’t matter in which software you’ve created your models, you just need to import it into Blender and start from here.

Once everything is imported in Blender, we need to render a top image. From that image, we seperate every vegetation in Photoshop.

We don’t want any perspective. The best way is to create an ortographic camera, as it uses real dimensions as the rendering region. In this case we use a terrain size of 2×2 km.

Always use a scale of 1024, as it performs better on the computer. In this case 2048 x 2048 m.

Blender_02

Now we render from the camera, at a resolution of 8192 x8192 px.

That means we have 8192 pixels per 2048 meters, so 4 pixels a meter. Every pixel is 0,25 m. That’s our finest texture detail on the terrain. It’s enough in this case

Don’t forget to deactivate the texture rendering in the camera, we only want a flat color. It’s easier to select in photoshop. Tip: Add a hemi light to lighten the scene even without shading.

Blender_03

We render the image once with all the objects on the terrain, and once only the terrain.

We can then select easily in Photoshop all the vegetations but can still see where the houses are located.

Photoshop_02 Photoshop_01

Place both renders in one photoshop file, so you can hide for example the render with the objects. To make it more clear and workable, i use groups (folders) to sort my vegetation layers etc.

Photoshop_03 Photoshop_04

create a new empty layer, and name it for example ‘gras’ or ‘road’.With the Magic wand tool or the Color selection tool you can select a vegetation (or add multiple selections). Fill the selection with black. Now you have a vegetation layer created. It’s possible to blur it also if you need a more graduate change in texture. Remember the black is 100% that vegetation, mid grey 50%, white 0%.

Now repeat these steps for every vegetation you need. Important to know is that Vue uses black and white textures for the vegetation ground color, and seperate for the real physical plants.

So if you want physical gras on the complete gras vegetation layer, you can use that black and white texture. If the grass is only allowed on a part of it, you need another texture with that smaller part filled in black. That’s because Vue uses seperate layers: for the ground texture ( In Vue: ‘material layer’)and for the physical plants (in Vue: ‘Ecosystem layer’). both have alpha channels so you can handle them seperatly.

The last step is to save them seperatly as a png or jpg. And always try to name them consistently. The next step is to load them all into Vue on the terrain!