VR Project Workflow Notes

VR Project Workflow Notes

More notes for just myself, so please don’t mind the gibberish.

  1. DEM (general area). ASTER in GEOTIFF has best satellite data with little artifacts, more detail, and most up to date data.
  2. SAS Planet: Make selection (general area) and download tiles at level 18 (ensures tiles are at highest resolution when exporting)
  3. SAS Planet: Level 18, export into 1-large-JPG with .map and .kml positional data.
  4. Photoshop: Equalize color and brightness for 1-large-JPG.
  5. GlobalMapper: Load DEM. Load 1-large-JPG. Change projection to UTM. Use square tool by holding down T and Shift. Drag out a square. Crop both DEM and satellite imagery into square. Export as image tiles with u#_v# format. When you do this, make sure that you hit “Reverse” checkbox next to “Rows” and rows should be “V” and columns should be “U”. Also hit checkbox next to “Reverse naming conventions (Columns first then Rows).” Keep checkbox next to Columns blank. Note Unreal Engine limits to 8192px textures. Do the math to see how many tiles would be closest to that. Export DEM as elevation grid format .XYZ with space as delimiter. If you’re having issues when you import to MeshLab, you might have skipped changing the projection to UTM.
  6. MeshLab: Import mesh.
    1. Filters–>Normals–>Compute Normals for Point Sets.
    2. Filters–>Remeshing* –>Screened Poisson
      1. Reconstruction Depth set to 10 (detail)
      2. Scale factor set to 1 instead of default of 1.1 (gets rid of frame)
      3. Check pre-clean
    3. Filters–>Normals –>Invert Faces
    4. Filters–>Remeshing* –>Simplification Quadric Edge Collapse
      1. Preserve Normals checked
      2. Planar Simplification checked
      3. Type in target poly-count of what you think your computer can handle
    5. Export as .OBJ
  7. Import in Maya
    1. Modify–>Center Pivot. Move as necessary until center. Make sure camera far clipping is set to 1mil+ and units are in meters. Add Sky (Render settings, add Physical Sky. Then under Arnold in main window, add SkyDome. In Hypershade, connect the SkyDome Color to the Physical Sky. Change SkyDome radius to expand beyond mesh.
    2. Hypershade aiStandard, multi-UV, select any. Apply texture to mesh. Planar mapping. Adjust in UV Editor as necessary. Select–>Faces, drag to select, then use Transform on the right-side window (scale, move, etc). Definitely scale as close as possible to actual image, thus cutting off/letting the border fall off the edge of the model.
    3. Render settings, make sure convert to .TX automatically is checked off if you want to save time rendering instead of waiting for all the huge textures to convert. Covert the textures overnight under Arnold settings, “Make .TX.”
    4. Transform size to match real life.
    5. Camera settings, make sure focal length is set to 50mm with a 35mm sensor. Set to Arnold settings of Spherical lens.
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DEM -> Displacement Map -> .XYZ -> (finally) Maya

DEM -> Displacement Map -> .XYZ -> (finally) Maya

As you–my imaginary audience (because I have no followers)–may know, I’ve been trying to map the area around Bagram Airfield for the sake of remembering a beautiful memory. It’s also to supplement my novel-to-be. I’ve hit a few snags along the way, and I’ll document what I’ve been doing so far.

First, I used Global Mapper to capture the hi-res satellite imagery. I enjoyed the colors/continuity of one particular zoom (as you zoom in closer, the tiling becomes ever-apparent), but required the details. A picture will show this better than I can explain:

SAT_Difference
The bottom part, where the coloring is consistent, is the more zoomed out tiling, which has a consistent color, but less detail (things become pixelated when you zoom in). The top part, where there appear to be many tiles, is the more detailed zoom, where you can see individual houses; however, the coloring is off (due to the varied time the tiles were taken, as well as the weather conditions at the time).

Well, I found the best solution was to create a blend of the two images to bring out the details while maintaining a consistent color. This is what I got:

SAT_CombinedAs you can see, there’s consistent color with detail.

So, we have the color, but how do we get an accurate 3d model? This is where I ran into some hiccups.

First, I tried using Digital Elevation Models through 1 arc resolution data from USGS found here: https://gdex.cr.usgs.gov/gdex/

This is what you get: DEM5

Now, this imports beautifully into Global Mapper, as it is a tool made for accurately depicting this type of data. It does some guess work as to how the terrain would react despite the limitations of basically having 256 levels of elevation (8-bit grayscale offers 256 shades of gray from black to white). It does a good job of it.

However, in Maya, this becomes an issue if you’re trying to use this image as a displacement map. With just 5 or 6 Catmull-Clark iterations, it doesn’t look too bad. However, with around 10, the limited levels of elevation become apparent, as seen here:

stepsThose mountains look pretty good. In fact, I need 8 to 10 passes of catclark to give them the detail I desire. However, the subtle incline at the foothill doesn’t look good. It’s stepped.

I tried various other settings to no effect. Then an idea hit me. I could use Global Mapper’s more accurate interpretation of the grayscale DEM and export that data into an .XYZ format (text file with many XYZ coordinates creating a cloud of points). That way, I can get the more precise heights along with the approximated heights of the points lost between the pixels of the grayscale DEM. In order to export correctly from Global Mapper, you need to set the map’s projection to UTM (found under Configuration –> Projection).

From there, I used MeshLab to import the XYZ coordinates, and then went to “Filters -> Normals* -> Computer normals for point sets” to normalize the vertices, and then used “Filters -> Remeshing* -> Screened Poisson Surface Reconstruction” to connect the vertices to create a mesh with faces. Result seen here:PoissonMesh

I’ll take a pause here and continue this in Part 2.

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Blog redesign idea.

Blog redesign idea.

Just notes for myself since I know the blog’s current design isn’t optimal and could be improved:

Me standing in front of my gallery. Black and white me. White walls and floor. Back turned toward audience.

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Once more, and this time with feeling.

Once more, and this time with feeling.

It’s been a while, but I’ve decided to blog again. After a trip down memory lane and meeting someone remarkable and enthusiastic about writing, I felt compelled to restart something that was once important to me. My novel-to-be has taken a turn away from my own life, so it no longer serves as a means of recording my present thoughts. I doubt anyone will read this in the coming months, but this is not for them.

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The Artist

The Artist

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Stephen stepped off the BART train and into the San Francisco crowd. He wore his headphones as he followed the herd up the Embarcadero station escalator, across the street, and toward the shadows etched by buildings towering above in glass and concrete. His eyes adjusted to the daylight. He paused and looked up at the towers scraping the sky, recalling moments in his childhood where he did the same. Still awed by the illusion of buildings tumbling forward with the low, moving clouds, he smiled.

He continued walking north-east on Market Street, past Main Street, and toward the tower in Ferry Plaza, framed by the blue sky and buildings at either side. When he reached the Embarcadero, the buildings disappeared and only piers and the vast bay were ahead of him. The Bay Bridge stretched far and towered above the waters. He was always struck by humanity’s ability to create something so massive, fighting against the torrents of sea.

As he crossed to the side closest to the waters, bikers and runners passed him. He continued westward as he stared right at the expanse of the San Francisco Bay–whenever the piers of restaurants didn’t interrupt.

He passed Piers 9, 23, and 35. The crowd started getting thicker. Tourists with DSLRs, point and shoots, and camera phones twirled around and snapped photos with clicks and shutter-snaps. When he reached Pier 37, the crowd stopped moving. They surrounded professional video cameras and boom mics on cranes and tripods, elevated and pointed downward toward the center. As he moved through the crowd, the camera clicks and snaps grew frequent. In the middle, a lone artist–dressed in a top hat, large, lens-less glasses, a hip, yellow shirt, a vest, and torn jeans– stared at a wooden panel while holding a large brush in hand. Surrounding the panel were tin-cans full of paint. Stephen couldn’t see the panel fully and expected a magnificent work of street-art–art he so frequently browsed in magazines. Instead, as he got to the inside edge of the crowd, he saw random splotches of paint and clashing colors. The artist dipped his brush in red and whipped it downward toward the panel. Steve shivered as he remembered Staff Sergeant Verne’s blood splattering on his boots and ground as he carried him on a litter. But he knew it was just paint splattering onto black, hurried streaks, painted with a large priming brush. It looked like shit to him.

He looked at the crowd’s reaction. They all stared approvingly with camera phones. A professional cameraman followed the artist’s every move; he seemed to feed at the attention, exaggerating every flick of his brush, every ponder of his next stroke, and every step around the panel. Temptation to buy art supplies at the local art store and paint a masterpiece next to this exhibitionist weighed high. What would he paint? Sisyphus crouching in defeat? A lone woman standing in a ruined cathedral covered in snow? But instead, Stephen looked on. His scoffs soon transformed to envy. He realized the artist was around his age.

As a member of the faceless crowd, Stephen walked off toward the edge of the pier. He imagined himself painting freely, surrounded by an attentive audience. His talents could have been appreciated. Famous, even. Instead, he fought a war for a foreign land and returned as a nobody. He looked off at the ocean, tempted to jump into the torrents of the cold expanse.

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The Valley

The Valley

Mornings got cold mid-September. After a pass of rain, the dirt and sand which typically followed the wind upward and obscured the horizon were dampened and grounded. Chen looked into the distant mountains and deep into the valley, where he saw the morning rains travel far in the distance, obscuring the separation of land and sky in a hue of blue, sun rays seemingly streaming down with the falling rain. He saw dwellings cling onto the valley walls afar.

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