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======Animating Falling Snow====== * Unordered List Item
Animating Falling Snow in DAZ Studio
for Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest
Illustration 3: Jake runs through the alley
Of course there were a variety of ways we could have created the falling snow for this scene. Not only did we want our falling snow to look convincing, with variation and depth, but we also wanted it to be versatile enough to be used in several different illustrations. We needed to be able to manipulate the snow easily and in real time, according to the art direction for any particular illustration. To accomplish this we choose to animate the snow. This allowed the Art Director to find a specific frame best suited for the final still image. Ultimately we achieved our goal using a few tricks and tools that are all available within DAZ Studio.
The following tutorial will show any DAZ Studio user how they can easily accomplish the same results.
An Adobe PDF version of this tutorial is available at www.givingchest.com - Behind the Scenes.
Step 1 - Create Planes
This is just a fun preview of the falling snow inside of DAZ Studio that we are going to create.
Explanation: To animate falling snow in DAZ Studio we will create several planes to which we will add opacity maps. We will use DAZ Studio's D-Form plug-in to manipulate the snow. And in the end we will animate several of these objects.
There are several plug-ins that you may have received when you initially downloaded DAZ Studio 1.0. We will use the D-Form plug-in and the Primitives plug-in.
If you don't have those plug-ins or DAZ Studio 1.0, you can download them from www.daz3D.com. You can still finish this tutorial without any of these plug-ins, but you will need to find workarounds.
ALSO, if you don't have the Primitives plug-in, or a 3D application for creating planes to import into DAZ Studio, I have attached a DAZ Studio scene file to this tutorial that already has 9 planes ready to use. Simply download the file and unzip it. (File found right above the beginning of Step 1, it's called “Planes.zip”)Let's get Started
1.Create a plane by choosing Create – New Primitive on the menu bar. Under Type, choose Plane and make sure Divisions is on at least 8. see image02
Tip: If you do not have the New Primitives plug-in, you can always import planes from another 3D application if you have one.
Scale and rotate the plane so you get about the same result as the plane shown in the image03 example .
Redo the process so that you have about 9 or 10 identical planes fairly evenly apart from each other as also shown in image03.
Step 2 - Parenting the Planes
2. Parent the planes together by selecting all of the planes but one (Plane 2 – Plane 9) and then drag and drop onto Plane, or the one that you didn't select. see image04
Rename Plane to Snow Planes, or something fun like that.
Tip: When you place objects under other objects as we did above it is called Parenting. Parenting is a good way to organize and work with content in your scene. The highest object in the group ('Snow Planes' in our example) is referred to as the parent. The objects under the parent are referred to as the children. The children will always follow the parent. Meaning if you translate or rotate or scale the parent, the children will do the same. see image04
Step 3 - Painting the Opacity Maps
3. In a painter program, like Photoshop, we will need to make an opacity map that will later be placed on the planes that we created earlier in DAZ Studio.
Tip: The opacity map will tell DAZ Studio which parts of the geometry to show and which parts to hide. When creating an opacity map, remember that anything black will not be seen (not renderable), and anything white will! Grays will result in a transparent object proportional to the value of grey.
4.To get the effect of snow we will need a map of mostly black, with a bunch of random white spots.
- see image 05
Save the file as a JPG and put it in a logical place on your hard drive.
Tip: When making maps, whether they be for texture or opacity or whatever, it is generally best to do them in increments of 64 X 64 pixels.(i.e. 128 X 128, 256 X 256, 512 X 512, 1024 X 1024, etc.)
The higher the resolution on the map the higher the resolution on the final render, but keep in mind higher resolution maps take up more resources and can potentially cause things to slow down.5. Back in DAZ Studio, open the surface editor, Windows – Surfaces. In the top right corner click on the right arrow and make sure the Show Surface List is checked on. - see image06
In the left column, select any one of the surfaces of the planes.
Now under the Advanced tab, scroll down to Opacity Strength and click on the down arrow next to the Opacity Strength Percentage Bar.
Select Browse for image and browse to the folder where you saved the opacity map you created earlier. Select the file, and press open.
- see image06
Tip: DAZ Studio allows you to set windows anywhere in the interface. Select the tab Surfaces and try dragging it around to different parts of the screen to see how it sets itself inside different windows. It can be placed in several different locations. Choose the place that works best for you and leave it there if you'd like.
Notice if you have placed it next to another tab, you will have to select the other tab to toggle back and forth between the two. This tip can increase your optimal workflow. Repeat the process so each plane has the opacity map as its source for opacity.
Tip: you can also use the copy/paste buttons found on the bottom of the Surfaces window. - see image07
Click in order: red, blue, purple, yellow.
Step 4 - OpenGL
6. In the top-left corner of your viewport next to the camera selection button, click on the right arrow and select Texture Shaded. - see image04
Tip: DAZ Studio is Open GL, which will allow us to see all of the texture and opacity maps in real time without rendering. This is a huge benefit and will also result in optimal workflow.
Tip: In the same drop down you can find the option to change your background color, I changed mine to black to be able to see the snow better.
You should now see something like image08.
Step 5 - Create snowCam
7. Now we want to parent the snow to a new camera for a convenience we will use later on.
Make a new camera by choosing Create – New Camera under the menu bar. Rename it to something logical, such as 'snowCam'.
Under the camera selection pull down, choose the camera you just made, you should now be looking through that camera.
- see image09In the viewport spin your camera until you are pretty much looking straight at the snow. Dolly in so you are close to the first plane.
- see image10We need to offset the planes so we don't get such a uniform look. Translate the planes so each is in a little different x, y, z location. Now is a good time to play around with the initial look of your snow, feel free to play around with the location of each plane, bring some closer to the camera, or farther, until you get the look you want.
Make sure the planes farthest away from the camera do not end inside of the renderable viewport, bring them closer to the camera if you need to. - see image10_b
Step 6 - Create D-Former
In your Scene window, parent SnowPlane to snowCam.
- see image11
Because we have parented, anytime we decide to change the position of the camera in our scene the snow will follow.8. Now we need to set up some deformers. (If you don't have the D-Formers plug-in, skip this chapter and go to number 9)
Start off by selecting ALL of the planes. (the children and the parent)
Goto Create – New D-Former on the menu bar. In the Scene window it should have created a D-Former_1_Base, a D-Former_1 and a D-Former_1_Field, unless you changed the name. We will use all of these.
- see image12
Tip: D-Formers are a powerful tool and can yield some great results. On the menu bar under Windows you can find a D-Form window. This window will give you more tools for D-Formers such as adding nodes, editing the splines, and even spawning morphs for you figure. We will not use those tools in this tutorial, but they are worth learning.
Step 7 - The Timeline
9. We will first animate the Snow falling. On the menu bar go to Windows – Timeline. Set the values as you see in image13 for: Total, Range, and FPS.
Make sure the playhead (large red triangle pointing down, see image13 red circle) is on frame 0, we are going to set a key on it. Let me explain a few tools found on the Timeline. See image14.
1. Loop – when you press play (7) it will loop the playback.
2. Add Key – will add a keyframe to the frame the playhead is on.
3. Delete Key – will delete the keyframe of the frame the playhead is on.
4. Playrange Start – will bring the playhead back to the first frame in your range.
5. Skip to Previous Keyframe – will go to the next keyframe to the left of where the playhead is.
6. Step to Previous Frame – will move the playhead back one frame.
7. Play – will play the animation in the range.
8. Step to Next Frame – will move the playhead forward one frame.
9. Skip to Next Keyframe – will go to the next keyframe to the right of where the playhead is.
10. Playrange End – will skip the playhead to the last frame in your range.
I will refer to several of these next
Step 8 - Animate the Snow Planes
We are now setup to animate the snow. Select Snow Planes, or the planes 'parent' in the Scene window. (at this point you should still be looking through snowCam)
Translate Snow Planes up so the edge of the snow is visible.
Add a keyframe at frame 0 on your timeline. (button number 2 [add key] from image14)Move the playhead to frame 600, the last frame in your timeline. Now translate Snow Planes down so the edge of the snow is visible.
Notice: Here we won't have to add a keyframe since we created one on the first frame. Because we have translated our object Snow Planes, the last frame holds a different value for the translation. So DAZ Studio will create a keyframe for us. Keep this rule in mind, if you already have a keyframe and you translate, rotate, or scale your object, it will set a keyframe where ever your playhead is. If you're not paying attention this could add more animation then you may want.
- see image16
Scrub (move) your playhead across the timeline to see if the snow moves. If it does you're on track, if not, go back and figure out what you missed.
Step 9 - Animate D-Former part1
Now we are going to animate the D-Former Field, so select it in the Scene window. Under the Parameters window set the Opacity, found at the bottom, to 100%. This will allow us to see what we are doing.
Let's get into a different camera view. Under the select camera pull down choose your perspective camera.
Scale the Field so it is about 2 or 3 times larger than all of the planes. It should look something like image17.
FYI: All of the dots represent the vertices of the geometry. The more red a vertex is, the more the field will influence it. The more yellow, the less the field will influence it.
Make sure the playhead is at the beginning of the timeline. (button number 4, [Playrange Start] from image14). Translate the D-Former Field so that its origin is behind the camera.
- see image18
Also, make sure you don't go too far, you still want the last plane to be inside of the field. The vertices farthest from the camera should be yellowish.
Step 10 - Animate D-Former part2
Move the playhead to the last frame on the timeline (button number 10, [Playrange End] from image14) and translate the D-Former Field so that its origin is on the far side of the planes.
- see image19
Notice how everything has also translated down, this is correct and good. We will now animate D-Former_1. Select it in the Scene window.
Also, let's go back and look through the camera we created, snowCam.
Make sure the playhead is at the beginning of the timeline. (button number 4, [Playrange Start] from image14).
Translate D-Former_1 to 100 on the Z-axis. Look in the Parameters window under the Z Translate dial to get it accurate. (or you can right click and type in the value 100)
- see image20
Add a keyframe at frame 0 on your timeline. (button number 2 [add key] from image14)
Move the playhead forward so you are on frame 200. And translate D-Former_1 back to 0. (or type the value in the Z Translate dial) A keyframe will be made automatically by DAZ Studio.
- see image20
Move the playhead forward so you are on frame 400. And translate D-Former_1 back to 100.
Move the playhead forward so you are on the last frame (button number 10, [Playrange End] from image14) and translate D-Former_1 back to 0.
Step 11 - Customizing and Final Notes
TA DAH!!! We're Done, scrub the playhead across the timeline or press the Play button and watch your beautiful snow blow in the wind.
Feel free to play with the values of the keyframes we made. For example, if you want it to feel windier simply change keyframes 0 and 400 from 100 on the Z Translate to a much higher number, like 200. Also, to get a less uniform look, change the location of your keyframes (by deleting and re-adding on a different frame). You could also add new keyframes on different frames.
Save the file as 'Falling Snow' or something like that, and in the future when you have a scene you want to add snow to, simply open this file and there ya go. Scrub the timeline until you find the perfect frame for your scene and your set.
The falling snow that you learned in this tutorial was made to meet the needs of a specific still image. Although it has proven to be versatile, the animation is still rough. If your final product was an animation rather than a still image, you would want to spend more time refining it.
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and behind the scenes look at
the making of Illustration 3 in
Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest
Please visit www.givingchest.com for more on Mr. Finnegan's Giving Chest.