Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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Rhinoceros 3D

Just as with Bryce 4 my experience with Rhinoceros 3D (commonly called Rhino) showed me that computer graphics programs could be stable, capable and easy to use, allowing you to concentrate on what you want to create more than the hurdles in your way.

Rhino is a NURBS modeling program. NURBS stands for Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines. In layman's terms a spline is a curve whose shape is controlled by control points that also have handles. By dragging out these long, straight handles you can control the way the line curves. Splines were created for automobile design but they are commonly found in 2D drawing applications. NURBS is a modeling method that uses crossing groups of splines to designate a surface between them called a patch. Whereas in polygon modeling a complex, curvy surface requires a lot of polygons which must be modified one by one, a NURBS patch can be easily modified in complex ways just by moving the points controlling the curves around its perimeter. Animation Master (mentioned previously) uses their own brand of NURBS patches. But whereas Animation Master's NURBS-type patches requires you to build and control them point by point Rhino allows you to simply describe the shape you want and it figures out the patches necessary to build it.

Whereas some people like to just grab things and move them around as though they are pushing paint around on a canvas I much prefer, in most cases, to tell the program specifically and accurately what I want. For example if I want a dome for a building I probably want it to have some kind neat geometric shape. Often you want a curve to be a pure circular arc, not a rough approximation that may not mate to another surface smoothly. Often you want to connect one line to another with a curve but it must pass through some point so that things fit together nicely. Many people 'accuse' Rhino of being like a CAD (computer aided design) program because it allows you to easily build models with this kind of precision. I say 'accuse' because CAD-like seems to be a bad thing among many 3D CG artists. I am not sure why. Maybe it makes them think of software that is inflexible or does not easily lend itself to organic shapes. Rhino is certainly very flexible but it may not be the best choice for modeling organic shapes. I think one could do a very good job modeling organics with Rhino but a freeform clay-like modeling program, such as Amorphium or Organica maybe be a better choice for that. However, if you have learned more about NURBS by really studying Rhino you may be better prepared to understand Animation Master and it is certainly very good for both modeling and animating organic shapes. Realsoft 3D is a program I will discuss at greater length later. But I want to briefly mention it here because the way it has you model NURBS makes you work more directly with the mechanics of how NURBS work which turned out to be a good tool  to help me understand better how both Rhino and Animation Master do things. Rhino 1.1 is a modeler only, not a renderer or animation program. Rhino 2.0, currently undergoing late in its public beta,  adds a vastly superior renderer but the touted animation will apparently be simple spinning and fly troughs for the camera and that sort of thing. Mostly for showing off architecture and product design models. There is a third party plugin for converting from Rhino to Animation master but it is about $100. Realsoft 3D has a true NURBS render that is quite good so it is a very good choice for animating and rendering NURBS models built in Rhino but the third party conversion plug-in costs roughly $200. I have tried it on a number of my own Rhino models and it seems to work quite well.

The Rhino web site has a very large image archive of works by users with a wide range of skill levels. They tend to illustrate just how capable Rhino is. It is also interesting to read which programs were used to render the images.

http://www.rhino3d.com/

Because Rhino before version 2.0 has an extremely weak renderer nearly all of my Rhino models are rendered in other applications.  Because of this my Carrara page is probably a better page to browse for things I have modeled in Rhino.

http://www.computer-music.com/graphic/carrara01.htm

My current web site logo (at the top of this and every page) was modeled in Rhino and rendered in trueSpace 4.2.A few the shaders including the cycle of hues (rainbow colors) use the Darktree Textures Simbiont tS texturing plug-in.

Rhino is made me very happy but I still did not have an animation and rendering program that I with which I was comfortable. At this point I could see how the dollars were being spent and that it could easily add up to a whole lot more. Drastic measures were required. I decided to try to see as far down the road as I could to figure out where all this searching was likely to end. The main programs I had heard about were Lightwave 3D, Cinema 4D XL, Softimage, 3D Studio, Houdini and Maya. Purely from what I had seen and read my first choices seemed to be Maya, Houdini, Softimage, then either Cinema 4D or Lightwave. The full version of Maya, called Maya Unlimited is roughly $15,000. No I didn't type too many zeroes. It really costs that much. It is supposed to be a wonderful program but it was way, way, way out of my budget. If my professional work was as a 3D artist I would consider the investment though. Houdini is supposed to be up there in quality with Maya and one of their people told me it has all sorts of cool ways that MIDI and audio can be used interactively with the animation and texture data. Naturally that really appeals to me. But Houdini is somewhere around $14,000 last time I looked. Softimage is used quite a bit for movies, TV and computer game development and with some very nice results. But I have also heard from various people it is more bug prone that a $14,000 program has any right to be. I would have to know more before I spent that much on Softimage even if I had it to spend. That brings us down to the range around $2,500 with Lightwave and Cinema 4D. At the time I made my decision there were two things leaning me towards Lightwave. One was that Lightwave had a few more advanced rendering features than C4D such as true caustics and radiosity rendering. Maxon, makers of Cinema 4D and quite a few artists I have met, make a very good case why radiosity rendering is next to useless and is more of a gimmick than anything else, mostly used to show off lighting schemes for architectural design. But I am lazy in this respect. I prefer to put lights where they would be and have the computer give me a realistic result. I don't have the patience for adding all kinds of fill lights to make up for the lack of reality in the rendering engine. Unfortunately radiosity rendering is always very time consuming and can have quite a few serious complications that usually make it an inappropriate rendering method. Caustics are another issue where I prefer things to work more like the real world. It involves bending of light through surfaces and reflected light illuminating new areas of the scene. Without caustics light reflected off a mirror will NOT fast light onto the area the reflected rays would normally illuminate. This is a limitation of most renderers where they skimp on reality to save vast amounts of rendering time. I guess people want these features in spite of these limitations or maybe because faster computers are making them increasingly more practical to use because Maxon announced that version 7 will have both of these features. So maybe I should have chosen C4D in the first place. But the other reason I chose Lightwave was that I could work out a competitive upgrade path that would get me from trueSpace to Strata Studio Pro 2.5.3 then from there to Lightwave 3D 6.0 for about $1,500 total and I would be getting Strata to boot. So decided to take the plunge and buy what still is, by far, the most expensive software purchase of my life. Lightwave 3D 6.

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