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Regarding particle textures

Posted: Wed, 16th Feb 2011, 9:55pm

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Helge

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Hi there,

I started putting together a little particle texture batch converter which turns normal black and white images into transparent PNGs. I still need to catch some bugs and do a lot of testing but some things already work as planned.

Because of this I've looked into VisionLabs particles and particle textures a little closer, over the last weeks. Maybe you could help me with a few things I could not figure out so far. Any ideas and comments will be greatly appreciated smile

1.) When I tried to import about 100 particle textures, the import stopped at the 50th texture. This seems to be the limit. Is there any way to get around this limit? If there isn't a way to get around this - do you know why this is limited?

2.) Is there a way to delete all textures from an effect at once? It takes quite some time to delete 50 textures one by one wink

3.) Is there a way to make a particle rotate? So far I haven't been able to achieve this without using multiple rotated (animated) textures.

I'd be glad if anyone could point me into the right direction here smile

Thanks,
Helge
Posted: Thu, 17th Feb 2011, 1:21am

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Axeman

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I think I can answer these.

1. 50 textures is the limit, you can't import more than that. I believe it is related to the impact on the performance of the software, as a measure to keep performance from getting to awfully slow.

2. I don't remember a way to delete all the textures at once. If there is one, its not readily obvious, but you already knew that. One option, if working on an effect that requires a lot of textures, would be to get the other settings close before importing any textures, then create a preset of the effect, with no textures imported. then, you could work from that preset to try a bunch of textures, and if they weren't working out, you could jump back to the preset and import some other ones.

3. There is no rotation control for the textures themselves. You can rotate the emitter, but not the individual particles or their textures.
Posted: Thu, 17th Feb 2011, 6:09am

Post 3 of 23

spydurhank

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This is one work around that I thought of to get the particles to actually rotate, it takes a little work but you can get some really great results.
Give it a try, hope this helps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pslMfTBFAEY
Posted: Thu, 17th Feb 2011, 10:54pm

Post 4 of 23

Helge

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Thanks guys smile

Sad to hear that there is no way around the 50 images limit. I wouldn't mind to trade some speed/RAM for more textures within a single particle effect. As most particle textures are quite small when compared to video data - I'd bet that VisionLab could handle significantly more textures. This might help to make the effect appear more random and minimize the number of duplicate particles on screen.

Regarding the deleting of textures: I think I'll go with the preset idea. This might indeed save some time. However, it would be great if some kind of 'clear'-button would be thought about for future releases smile Might come in handy when intensively playing around with textures and settings.

To add some life to my particle textures, so far I have been rotating the individual textures. (Just the way spydurhank showed in his video. Btw. - thanks for sharing the link.)

A few days ago I added a basic rotation feature to my particle converter. A particle texture can now be copied and rotated as many times as needed.
=>


I still have to figure out some issues but as soon as everything is basically stable, I'll set up a download for everyone interested. It would really be great if anyone would find the time to check it out smile

Posted: Fri, 18th Feb 2011, 12:20am

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spydurhank

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Good stuff, glad it helped. biggrin
Posted: Thu, 24th Feb 2011, 12:05am

Post 6 of 23

Helge

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And again, there is another thing which seems to be a bit strange. I was going to create a particle effect with 'speedless' particles. So I set the speed to the lowest possible value (I expected this to be '0') just to find that this value can't be set to something below '0.01'. When rendering a few test frames, the particles start moving eventually:



Out of curiosity I edited the project file by hand (using notepad) and changed the value to '0'. After reopening the file, everything worked just fine and the particles didn't move at all. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a bug from a feature - so I asked myself:
Is there any reason why the minimum can't be set to '0' within VisonLab? So far I could not find an answer... wink

Does anyone have any ideas on this one?

Thanks and good night,
Helge
Posted: Thu, 24th Feb 2011, 12:27am

Post 7 of 23

spydurhank

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I think you have to set your gravity to 0, try that and see if it works.
That's what I did for an animated hovering bat preset that I made for the particle engine. You can always download it and check out the settings.
Posted: Thu, 24th Feb 2011, 11:26pm

Post 8 of 23

Helge

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I just checked this. Unfortunately the gravity was already set to '0'. Just to be sure I tried your bat preset. If I cut it down to one texture (in order to be able to see the effect) I have the same small movement after a few frames.


(Actually, there are a lot of frames without movement between the ones shown above.)

I'm quite sure this is because of the speed which I seem to be unable to set to '0'. I guess the low speed value adds up over time and eventually results in a small pixel by pixel movement.
Posted: Fri, 25th Feb 2011, 12:21am

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Axeman

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You are correct, Helge. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind setting it up this was was, but I have mentioned it to the team in the past (a long while ago), so they are aware of it. Maybe because the point of an emitter is that particles get emitted, by definition they are moving? For a stationary effect, you can just use a still image. I can still see how it could occasionally be useful to have the option to stop all movement, though.
Posted: Fri, 25th Feb 2011, 9:40pm

Post 10 of 23

Helge

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Thanks Axeman, nice to know that I'm not the only one who wondered about this. Actually I think it is kind of sad that this hasn't been changed so far. As the software itself seems to be perfectly capable of handling a '0' speed value, it is only the GUI which prevents users from setting an effect up this way.

When thinking about particles I can see a whole lot of things that could be done with non moving particles. Bullet holes or eyeballs on a hill are examples which just came to my mind wink


=> see youtube for the animated version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gHLZsqYHNY
Posted: Fri, 25th Feb 2011, 9:55pm

Post 11 of 23

spydurhank

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Nice job.
I've always thought that it would be a good idea if you could add your own textures to the optics engine, the same way you can for the muzzle and particle engine. It's a small feature but it would enhance the hell out of V.L.
I only say this because... once you give the user the option of introducing original textures into the software... well dang! you've got yourself some limitless potential. All you need is some good imagination on your side and you can come up with some pretty clever and amazing stuff with V.L. my all time favorite software. biggrin

EDIT
Oh and Gimp is a close 2nd... I Vulcan love Gimp.
Don't even get me started on Blender, that program just keeps getting better and better. biggrin
Posted: Mon, 28th Feb 2011, 11:43am

Post 12 of 23

Helge

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I really hope someone with 'source code access' is reading this smile It would just be great to be able to add your own textures to the optics engine. Giving the users more control will most definitely lead to new and unexpected possibilities. About 15 years ago I was using a very basic 3D-Application. When you set the shadow density to a negative value the shadows started glowing - which wasn't intended by the programmers, but finally proved to be a great way to fake caustics effects.

Btw. I think it would be great if (particle) textures could retain their colors. I guess this might have been very useful for your 'falling leaves' example as well.

Regarding Gimp and Blender: I really like what these can do. As I have been using Cinema4D for years I didn't feel the need to look into blender that deeply, but as I haven't updated my C4D license for years now - and will probably not do this any time soon - Blender might be worth another try (especially with the new GUI).
Posted: Mon, 28th Feb 2011, 5:04pm

Post 13 of 23

spydurhank

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That's a great idea, it would be prime if you could use colored textures and yeah, it would've been good to have for that leaves tut, the things I could do with that feature. eek

I've been learning a whole bunch about Blender and it's way easier with the new UI. I've been doing all my texturing in Gimp as well.
This may be a weird workflow but... I've been doing some matchmoving in Voodoo and Icarus on my girlfriends XP lap top since those programs won't work on windows7. I then import the tracking data into my PC and into Blender 2.49, save the scene as a .blend file then open that file in Blender 2.56, weird like I said but that's the only way these programs will work together for now. I load the footage that I used to matchmove as an image stream for refference and place 3D elements in the scene, light then animate them. I then render out all of the passes and composite everything together in V.L. Sounds like a lot of work... that's because it is.


Here's a short I found, it was done entirely with Blender 2.5 and Gimp I believe, there are a few "making of" videos on Youtube as well, pretty amazing stuff.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO0yXC0oyIA
Posted: Mon, 28th Feb 2011, 10:06pm

Post 14 of 23

Helge

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I really shouldn't watch 3D-animations like this one. This has been VERY nicely done and I really like the fact that Blender is the software behind it. Since Blender made its jump from in inhouse software into the free world, I checked it out every few years. I fear, now might be the time to do that again ... I just don't know where to take the time from...

When it comes to combining 3D and real life footage I had a very similar (ever though less painful;)) workflow going with C4D. I really should find a way to do more 3D stuff again. But as you said - this can be a lot of work and a lot of work usually takes a lot of time smile

Unfortunately I tend to get exited at too many projects at once, which leads to an awful lot of unfinished, barely functioning prototypes...

For example: about a year ago (right after I got VisionLab) I started working on a way/tool to inject motion tracking (2D match moving) data into VL project files. This thing is about 90% (well, maybe 80%) finished but there is always something else (like particle textures, photography, C4D ... and now Blender) which seems to be more exiting.

I certainly hope the mean life expectancy keeps rising - as it seems, I might need hundreds of years to get something done tard

Hopefully the FxHome guys don't have the same problem - I'd really like to see some of our texture ideas in action!

And again: thanks for sharing the link. I think my 3D-genes are starting to come back to life!
Posted: Tue, 1st Mar 2011, 1:07am

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spydurhank

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Awesome, that is so weird, about a year ago... after not being able to get Voodoo or Icarus to function properly in Vista or Windows 7, I looked into software writing and such... kinda in hopes of maybe being able to write my own matchmoving software.
I was all exited about it... only for about 20 minutes though.
My spirits came crashing down when I realized just how much work it takes to write or develop software.
If you can get your software completed and somehow incorporated with V.L. that would be about the best thing ever. I'm telling you... every single fxhomer would simultaneously take a big ole dump. And I for one would love to see how it works.

I have 1 or 2 recent Sims and 3D model renders on my youtube channel which aren't too bad. Still working on lighting and textures... that sort of thing, but Blender is so easy to learn and use now and it's awesome that it has updated features. Some things do take a lot of memory to run but that's a simple fix... just get more ram. biggrin
I'm so stoked about it right now. It's almost like when I was 4 years old and started learning how to play guitar... it was all I could think of... all of the time. That's how I am with V.L. Gimp and now even more so with Blender.
I'm telling you, every time we get to use or are introduced to a new feature in whatever software... a whole new level of possibilities opens up for us.

Okay... rant complete. biggrin
Posted: Tue, 1st Mar 2011, 3:46pm

Post 16 of 23

Helge

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Back to ranting:
Very nice dragon. Blender seems so have developed quite a bit over the last few years. (But as always: its the artist, not the tool:) - so congrats on that one.) The cloth simulation is very interesting as well. But I fear I'll need to get a new computer before getting into that... which might be a good thing as this leaves more time for other projects.

Speaking of which, once I have a first releasable (beta) version of the particle texture converter, I'll try to put together some kind of alpha version of the tracking data importer. Similar to you, at first I looked into the possibility of writing my own motion tracker. I abandoned that idea really soon, because of a lack of knowledge and time. Besides that, there are a lot of solutions which already exist, so I didn't see a point in doing this all over again (with little chance of success). But I think there might be a relatively simple way of getting this done:

This is what I have in mind:
1.) The actual tracking is done in one of the existing tracking/matchmoving programs (e.g. PatchMaker)
2.) The tracking data is then exported to some kind of exchange format
Now my tool will step into the process:
3.) The tool imports a Vision-/EffectsLab project and the tracking data file
4.) A new project file is generated/saved, including the updated frames/keys
5.)If everything goes as planned, the new file can then be opened in Vision-/EffectsLab.

This way I do not have to do the actual tracking and by editing the *.vlab/*.elab files I can change a project without the need to be integrated into the software itself.

Some of this is already working, but (as always) there are a lot of details which make programming this thing a real pain in the... - well let's say everywhere... For now, I'll just try to make it work - I can think about usability when I'm retired! You see, there is still a lot to do before we get to the 'big ole dump'-thing (I didn't know that saying - the picture is kind of disturbing wink), but I think this whole thing should be possible.
Posted: Sun, 6th Mar 2011, 11:27pm

Post 17 of 23

Helge

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Another weekend is leaning towards its end and (as usual) I have another question regarding particles. This time it is rather strange:

I seem to have a problem with scaling particles. After rendering, the scaled particles are far from smooth. I'm not sure what might cause this. I wouldn't mind this happening to the preview images but I'm also experiencing this distortion in the final images:



The top bubble is what I hoped to get. The ones below are what is rendered. At first I thought about a video/graphics card problem, but as this is also visible within the rendered image, I'm not sure about that anymore... Does anyone have any idea what might cause this and how I could fix it?
Posted: Tue, 8th Mar 2011, 6:28pm

Post 18 of 23

Helge

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As nobody else seems to have experienced this problem I hope that this is something that can be fixed. It would be really sad if this was the way the software itself handles scaled particles.

Below is the particle texture (png) I have been using for the example above:



I really could use a little help with this one smile

Thanks guys,
Helge
Posted: Tue, 8th Mar 2011, 6:36pm

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Axeman

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I do know that the particle engine in its current state wasn't really designed to work with objects as textures. Which is why you don't see many presets of his type of effect in the Library, for the most part, they were rejected because this isn't the type of effect that Penguin was built to handle really well.

Are there any alpha channels involved in the renders you are doing? Its possible that a slightly softened or anti-aliased\ edge on the bubble could create that type of result in an alpha image, if you view it with the alpha un-multiplied.
Posted: Tue, 8th Mar 2011, 11:36pm

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Helge

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Thanks Axeman. I'm sorry to hear that this might be caused be the engine itself. I can think of a lot of great visuals with 'object based' particle effects.

You are right, I use an alpha channel in my base images. I just did a quick test with one of the original textures which came with VisionLab (zok.png). I'm having a similar effect with that one:



Do you know if this renders/looks the same on every system or if this is unique to my configuration? Is there any way I can increase the anti-aliasing precision?
Posted: Tue, 8th Mar 2011, 11:45pm

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Axeman

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Sorry, what I meant to ask is, "Are you using Alpha channels in your rendered footage? There will be alpha channels in the textures themselves, of course, to control the shape, but I was referring specifically to the rendered footage.

I'll try make some time soon to render some stuff myself and see if I get similar results. Does it make any difference what codec you render to? What codec are you using currently?
Posted: Wed, 9th Mar 2011, 12:02am

Post 22 of 23

Helge

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Oh, sorry I didn't get that. The day might already have been to long wink

Actually this is how it looks within VisionLab. The examples above are from rendered single frames. (But I could have used simple screen shots instead.) For these I have been using the png format. As I use a background image without any transparency I don't expect the rendered footage (image files) to contain any relevant alpha data/transparency.

Thanks so much for looking into this. If we could find a solution this would be great!

Have a nice evening. Good n8 wink
Posted: Thu, 9th Jun 2011, 9:42am

Post 23 of 23

Leo Bao

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The top bubble is what I hoped to get. The ones below are what is rendered. At first I thought about a video/graphics card problem, but as this is also visible within the rendered image, I'm not sure about that anymore... Does anyone have any idea what might cause this and how I could fix it?