Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and, to celebrate, we're having a Treasure Hunt at Livingtree, my island in Second LIfe.

Part of the whole thing, of course, is to have a spot with plenty of piratical ambiance at the end of the hunt (X marks the Spot,) and part of that, I decided, would be to have candles in rum bottles to provide light for those who found the place after dark.

Which, of course, necessitated making a rum bottle, which, in current SL time, means a Sculpted Prim, or Sculptie.

Now, the normal method of making sculpties is to take a sphere with the proper UV Map, (one where each poly has exactly the same area, and the map is completely filled, for technical reasons,) and push and pull the vertices, or points, until you have the shape you want.

The thing is, I hate working that way. I'd rather just use SL Prims. For me, moving the vertices around is a hideous, inefficient, and just plain nasty way to work. Besides, since the only requirement is to have that absolutely even UV Map, I was pretty sure that using UV Spider in LightWave would work just fine.

So, yesterday, I made a bottle, roughly based on a Captain Morgan Private Stock bottle, and used UV Spider to generate a perfectly even UV Map. Which was a little tedious, but nothing like as horrible (for me) as making the bottle by moving the vertices. I mean, okay, it's repetitive, because you have to enter the numbers to map each row of polys individually, but the bottle looks the way I want it to. :D

So I did that, and got the map. No problems. Time spent - about 15 minutes.

And then I proceeded to spend almost 3 hours bashing my brain on various ways to get the silly thing out of LightWave.

See, there's a LW plug-in to make sculpt shaders, from the superb dStorm site (and if you use LW, and don't know about dStorm, do yourself a favor and take a look at it.) But it works with LW 9 and up, and I have LW 8. So it won't work for me.

There are, in fact, many solutions to this particular problem, using a host of 3D applications; but not a single one I could actually use. Either I didn't own the software (like Maya), or the software was free, but I haven't a clue how to use it (like Blender) or the solution requires a rigid number of polys (like Wings 3D) or it's PC only (I'm on a Mac) or I have it, but just got it recently and don't really understand how to use it (like Modo.)

By the end, I was feeling frustrated, very stupid, and ready to just give up the whole thing.

So, in desperation, I used the LightWave "Manual Method" - which is extremely clever, but still a hack that leaves you with a Sculpty that isn't centered on the axes.

Exhausted, drained, and on the last fraying thread of my proverbial rope, I logged into SL, uploaded the sculpty texture, and slapped it on a prim.

And lo and behold, the thing actually worked! Okay, it's off-center, but I knew that was going to happen. The important thing is that it's a squarish bottle, with a round neck with a bump in it, the bottle is modeled inside and out, and I didn't have to push a single vertex to make it!

I must learn Modo!

(I'll post a picture when I can. Right now, SL is offline, and I forgot to take shots last night.)

Addendum: Make that absolutely must learn Modo. I had heard that there's something in Modo called "UV Peeler" that is like UV Spider, but better... I just found it, tried it, and made the absolutely even UV Map in three mouse clicks (including the one to set the Uniformity to 100%.) So making the models will now take nearly no time at all. And there was much rejoicing.


JackalE said...

Hey Robin, for a very intuitive approach to sculpties, might want to try out Zbrush (website is ) - it's like playing with clay! I got it a few weeks ago and it's rather easy to use, even for a total 3d noob like myself.

Robin Wood said...

Hi Jackale!

I own Z-brush; but it doesn't look like Pixologic is actually going to have the upgrade from 2 to 3 for the Mac. (The PC upgrade was months ago; in fact they are up to 3.1 now. We Mac users are still waiting. They have offered us a free PC license, instead, but since I don't have an Intel Mac, that doesn't do me any good at all.)

The new version of Modo has sculpting tools, too. You just paint on your model, and it changes the geometry.

And it's as useful on the Mac as on the PC. :D

Besides, with Z-brush you still have to work on one of the mapped spheres.

Which is the very thing I'm not willing to do; mostly because I've been working with 3D modeling for more than a decade, and it takes me a couple of minutes, at most, to just build a simple model from scratch. Pushing the vertices of an existing sphere into the shape I want takes far longer; and the resulting model isn't as successful.

For those of us with years of 3D experience, it seems stupid not to be able to use our existing skills to make sculpts. And, indeed, we can. :D

That's the gist of my post. We don't have to settle! YAY!