Application research and Windows woes

In the past two weeks I’ve been looking closer at Vue 8 xStream to see whether it can help me create the vegetation I need for the ICA. I’ve had a closer look at how good Vue is integrated with 3ds max, how easy it is to use and how well it copes when rendering out passes in 3ds max with Vue elements thrown in. Though I can’t say I know the application that well yet, I’m pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found so far. The 3ds max integration works really well and my biggest fear – that ambient occlusion passes and z-depth passes would fail because the tree leaves are just textured cards with opacity maps is put to rest:

This is a simple tree from Vue, rendered with Mental Ray in 3ds max. As you can see, the z-depth map works very well. The exaggerated zblur test done with Nuke underneath shows how this might help me apply depth of field during compositing.

All I really need to find out now is how I can customise trees to convert them into branches and that sort of thing. I’ll ask Chris about that next week.

I also had a quick look at FPHoe this past week as an easier and cheaper alternative to PFTrack, but found it to be too simple. PFHoe has no built-in tool for masking and the lens distortion tool feels very crude. I think I’ll stick with PFTrack.

Finally, because my Windows 7 RC installation was about to expire, I had to reformat a perfectly good system and install a fresh copy of Windows 7 this week. This turned out to be quite a hassle as the new Windows 7 drivers provided by the computer manufacturer caused the system to crash every 30 seconds or so. I’ve got everything running again now, but it took me almost 16 hours to get things back to how they were. Next up, now that the computer is all sorted is to create the final 3D scene. I have a fairly good idea of how to do this now, given my tests during the previs and poking about in Vue, so I hope to get that done fairly quickly.

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