Free Landscape Pack, UI Designs & Blender Motion Graphics Update

Blender files for these shots are also included! :)

Another big update this time, as it's been a busy few months.

First off, check out this free landscape pack I created!
It's licensed under the public domain, so you can use it however you want. All of the texture sets are 8K resolution and include displacement maps, flow masks, height masks, normal maps and more. All of them were created using World Machine and the source files are also available. That way you can generate endless variations yourself if you have World Machine!

There's also fairly high resolution meshes included in OBJ format, as well as nine example blender files to take a look at. There's also an included PDF overview and a quick start video to get you rolling quickly.

So why did I license this CC0? Well, to be honest, I'd rather people use these and be happy with some free stuff, than try and monetize all of this. I created all of them in my free time exploring World Machine and just wanted to share it without limitations. Of course, if you end up using them and want to send me a link to the result, I'll be more than happy to check it out! ;)

You can download it in a variety of ways, as the full pack with all the content is about 5GB. I understand that not everyone can easily transfer this amount of data, so here's all you options:

  • Download the full pack with everything included. (5GB)
  • Download just the textures and meshes. (3GB)
  • Browse for individual files.

All of this can be found on the Resources page of the site. (DOWNLOAD LINK)

Download this scene and more!

Download this scene and more!

A few weeks ago, I ended up creating a few UI designs (like the one shown) which are available as a free download from the Blender Cloud. After creating one for the Blender Motion Graphics series, I caught the UI / Hologram bug a little and had some fun. So be sure to check those out as well!

There's 5 available right now, and I might add more in the future if / when I end up creating them.

Speaking of the Motion Graphics training, it was an absolute pleasure working with everyone over at the Blender Institute, and I want to thank them again for giving me the chance. I'm very pleased with the end result and I hope I can help some people along with the variety of content included.

It was definitely an interesting experience doing many short videos, rather than just one long YouTube tutorial and I learned a lot from it too. All the feedback I've received is very welcome as well and for that I thank everyone who commented. :)

Over on YouTube, the WEIRD SH!T series has slowly continued as well and we're already up to episode 5! More Workflow Logs have been added too and I should be able to get back to recording more of them soon.

Compositing Blender Cycles Render Passes in Natron

Hi there,

This time around we'll be looking at how to comp the render passes coming out of Cycles in Natron. This method can be applies in any compositing package but I chose to use Natron for this example. Version 2 released recently and contains a lot of new features, which is why I decided to highlight it. Download it for free here.

As with the previous Natron tutorial, you can download the EXR file used to follow along. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask!

Blender 101: Learning Blender as a 3ds Max user

The next tutorial in the 101 series is all about Blender. This is mainly aimed at 3ds Max users, as it discusses how to set up Blender to make learning it easier with the knowledge you already have. There's plenty of other websites out there that can get you started with the basics of learning Blender, so I decided I wanted to start off with something else.

It's always good to add new software to your personal toolkit and I've been experimenting a lot with Blender lately. Why Blender? Well, it's got a lot of great features for a free application. Dynamic topology sculpting, fluid and smoke sim capabilites, and a built in modern path tracer, to only name a few things. It's really evolved to become a software package that can rival some of the "bigger" packages out there. Oh yeah, don't forget it's free. (Download it here)

EDIT: Check out the Cosmos Laundromat Pilot to see Blender in action.

I'll always love working with 3ds Max, but challenging yourself with new or different software teaches you to adapt your workflow and improves it in both packages. One is not better or worse that the other, it's just different. (And that's all I'll say on that subject)

The Blender community are also a great group of people, so I wanted to include some of the resources and websites I've been learning from in the last few months.

Natron 101: A Practical Guide To Node-Based Compositing

Hi there,

This tutorial is all about the basics of node-based compositing. Rather than doing a ramble on the interface and explaining every button, I decided to work with a practical example. This way, you'll get a real-world project with the software to get you started quickly.

This tutorial is mainly meant for people who already have a little bit of experience with applications such as After Effects of Photoshop, and working with render passes.

The software used for this tutorial is Natron. Why Natron, you might ask? Well, the interface and shortcuts are very similar to Nuke, but Natron is open source and thus free. So it's a great way to get acquainted with a node-based workflow without spending money. You can also use it on commercial environment, so you're not limited to a student or personal learning edition.
Don't get me wrong, Nuke is a wonderful application to work with and even has a free learning edition with a few limitations. One of those limitations is that it's not meant for commercial work.

EDIT: The workfiles have been updates to work with Natron 2.0.

As always, enjoy the video and don't hesitate to ask me questions!

Corona 101: Hit the ground rendering

Hi there!

With the release of Corona 1.0 recently, I wanted to make some videos for new users to get acquainted with it. There's 3 videos which talk about material creation, basic lighting and render settings respectively.

I've been using Corona since one of the first alpha builds and it's been my main renderer for over a year now, with most of the work on my blog being created with it. As I mention in the videos, this is just my opinion on why I like using it. There's no need to start a discussion about which renderer is better, because it all comes down to the workflow you like to use.

That's why these videos are intended for people who are new to Corona to have a look at, outlining basic usage.

If you're interested in trying it out for yourself, you've got two options:

- A free fully functional 45-day trial: No watermarks, no resolution limit and you can even use it for commercial work.

- Corona Alpha 6: This version works up to 3ds Max 2014 and will remain free forever. Even though it's an alpha version, it's very capable.

Check out the Corona website for more info.

If you're looking for more, the Corona documentation also has some great resources. Because it's a very community driven project, posting in the forum is also a great way to ask questions.

Enjoy the videos!

EDIT 12/03: Now in stereo! Audio has been fixed. :)

Spanish Tutorial using the Grass Generator

Alejandro Valverde has made a great tutorial showcasing all the Grass Generator features in spanish. He's using Vray to create the final image, so it's more than just an overview of the settings.
Big thanks to him for taking the time to do this! Be sure to check out his YouTube channel as well. I'll be making a english overview myself once a new release is ready, at this point I don't feel the need to do one just yet.

The importance of high quality HDR

When it comes to lighting your scenes with an HDR, it’s easy just to find one online and start lighting away. Some information that isn’t as widely spread though, is the importance of a good quality HDR image.

In this article, we’ll look at how to measure an HDR image and determine if it’s suitable to get good lighting from. We’ll also look at the difference in lighting between good and bad HDR’s, and what you can achieve by creating your own. The custom HDR's created for this article are available to download at the end of this post.

Measuring HDR for dynamic range

When using HDR, it’s all about dynamic range. So, what is it exactly? The dynamic range of an image describes how many stops of light have been captured. The higher this is, the more information your render engine will have to light your scene, giving you better shadow detail, resulting in an overall better looking image.
Using an application such as HDRSoft’s Photomatix Pro, we can look at the HDR levels of our image and determine how much dynamic range is contained within it.

These are screenshots of the “HDR Curve” window in Photomatix Pro. The “Estimated Dynamic Range” gives us an idea of how much information has been captured within the image.

The more range we have, the better the shadow detail in the resulting render. In the images, we can see the “Estimated Dynamic Range”. In the first image we have a reasonably low range, while the second one is a lot higher. Now that we’ve gone over the theory behind all this, let’s look at a practical example.

HDR for outdoor lighting

The following examples have each been rendered three times. First with the low range image, then with the high range image, and a third time with a “corrected” low range image. The corrected image has had a gamma correction applied. (Inverse gamma value of 0.65 in the VrayHDRI map) This increases the shadow darkness (though they’ll stay blurry), but messes with the actual lighting. While this hack can help you in a pinch, you’re better off looking for a better image in the first place.

Both HDR’s are of a sunny daylight scene,where the sun is shining without obstructions.

As you can see, the first image has very undefined shadows. A bright, sunny day would produce sharper, more defined shadows, as seen in the second image. Here we have a more realistic looking lighting thanks to the range in the second HDRi. Then lastly, we can see the corrected image which has darker shadows, but still less defined. Also note the lighting has taken on a different tint compared to the first image.

HDR for studio lighting

Now let’s have a look at what a custom HDR can do for a studio scene. Now that we’ve had a look at lighting, we’ll focus more on reflections in this part. As a test, I grabbed a T800 head model from user MarcuSCatu89 on Turbosquid and weathered it a bit, for a more stylized look. This also shows the importance of the reflections in our scene.

For the first image, I used a downloaded HDR from user zbyg’s packs on deviantArt. For the others, I created custom ones using HDR Light Studio.

While the results of the first image look pretty good, it only took me about 15 minutes apiece to make the custom HDR’s. HDR Light Studio’s Lightpaint feature makes it really quick to get the reflections just where your want them. It makes working on studio shots a breeze. I highly recommend taking a look at it if this is the kind of work you’re doing.

Another example of a custom HDR really helping to sell your image is in automotive rendering. Again, the first image was rendered with the downloaded studio HDR. The second was rendered with another custom HDR created in HDR Light Studio, again made in about 15 mins. Even after such a short time, you get get some pretty good results.

So, where can you find these outdoor HDR’s that have a large dynamic range? Some great ones can be found at CG Source (a free 1K sample was used in this article). These are commercial HDR’s, but the quality of them is amazing.

Click here to download all the “custom made” HDR’s from this article.

Resources used for this article:

TUTORIAL: Hidden line rendering in 3ds Max

I came across a post on the Autodesk Area 3ds Max Forums asking about how to render a hidden line look (with a glow). My first quick attempts with a Standard material set to "Wire" didn't quite hit the mark. I noticed using that using this material tends to override any other shaders you combine it with. (Blend, Composite,...)

So I tried to approach the hidden line effect from a different angle. A gradient map set to "Box" and its interpolation set to "Solid", combined with and UVW Map modifier set to "Face" can produce a hidden line look. This could be enough to use in production if you're not concerned with the alpha channel being fully white for your entire object. Setting the render to Add / Screen / Plus in your compositing package can yield the result you want when using black are your base colour in the gradient map.

I like to be thorough though, so combining this technique with a Blend shader and a Matte shader not only gave me the desired result but also a clean alpha channel containing only the lines. I decided to make a quick tutorial explaining the process. This is the first tutorial I've made so if you have any comments for improvement, let me know.