Planet Tech Art
Last update: May 26, 2015 01:05 PM
May 22, 2015

May 20, 2015

The quest for the perfect gradient.

I often have to create linear or radial gradients to use as masks or UV input. I’ve always created them in photoshop using the gradient tool and I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that you cannot place them numerically.
Today I’m rolling up my sleeves and I’m going to sort this out instead of grumbling internally.

This might seem a bit extreme but this sort of issue gets on my nerves if I encounter them every single time.

Case study 1: Photoshop and the gradient tool.

My problem is: I’m eyeballing it. The snapping doesn’t work on the gradient tool so I have to use the grid or some guides and zoom in as much as possible to try and be accurate but I cannot guarantee I’m not a couple of pixels off.

I can prove myself it’s not perfect however. It’s subtle but look at the gif below (yes it’s animated I promise). I’ve flipped the ramp horizontally and vertically, and you can see it jump back and forth a few pixels. I’m not happy.

Case study 2: Photoshop again

I asked our UI guy for advice and he uses layer styles to create gradients.

Nice one. It’s editable, you can modify it at will and the align with layer makes it clean and fully accurate.
But hang on, what does the flipping test tell us? Dammit! Still not perfect!

Case study 3: Illustrator

I normally have a thing for illustrator, just like after effects. All that numerically placing everything and oh my, those smart guides… They’re just heaven.
But in this case Illustrator the Great disappointed me. The gradient tool is very neat, the UI is clear, contextual just where need be and super clever as usual but the smart guides don’t work with it. Shame on you Illustrator. I just have to leave you there.
(I still appreciate that your gradient can be either edited numerically in the gradient window or intuitively on the fly with the mouse cursor.)

Case study 4: After effects

Aaah, shape layers. What a bliss.
The gradient fill won’t disappoint you. The shape layer path will define the bounds, you can tweak the start / end positions on top of it using the well-named start and end options, and the whole gradient is editable.

Yet there again, the flipping test shows that the gradient is not perfectly centred. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Could it be I am asking for the moon?

Case study 5: Substance

I'm lucky enough to know a beta tester so I was able to quickly try it in substance. I definitely want to spend more time with substance which looks mind blowing but I’m still very limited with using it right now.
Using the Tile_generator with a paraboloid pattern type I was able to create a radial gradient. I have no control over the shape of the gradient with that option. There are obviously much better ways of doing it but that was the easiest way to test quickly it. 

And you know what ? It flips perfectly. Tadaaa.


 I thought about it for a second and it hit me. I always work with power of two textures. If I’ve got a 128*128 texture, surely that’s great caus’ my centre is at 0. Yeah but no. With any adobe method, it looks like the gradient won’t start in between two pixels. It needs a pixel to use as a centre, it seems. I tried it on a 129*129 square and the flipping would leave the gradient unchanged.
I suppose substance handled it better because the creation of the gradient comes from maths rather than a tool.


Unfortunately, substance isn't part of my day-to-day workflow. I hope it will some day.
I currently go with the Photoshop gradient overlay layer styles for all my gradients. If I use the gradient tool to create a gradient and want to modify it months later but I've forgotten to save it, then I'm screwed and I have to try and recreate it. The layer styles mean my gradient always remains editable.

by mkalt0235 ( at May 20, 2015 01:58 PM

3ds Max to Maya : Quick node translation guide

3ds Max® translation to Maya® Character TD jobs require cross discipline understanding and something we get often are artists transitioning to Maya from Max and have a hard time with the way Maya approaches things like transforms. To make it worse, often times the same name means something diffrent in both software but they almost […]

The post 3ds Max to Maya : Quick node translation guide appeared first on Rigging Dojo.

by Rigging Dojo at May 20, 2015 07:16 AM

May 19, 2015

Using Edge Slide and Falloff to Fix Lip Topology in Modo

Here is a new character I’ve been working on. I’m modelling him to be rigged and animated along with a face rig. The base sculpt and colors were done in 3D-Coat. I used voxel painting to lay in some rough colors without needing UVs.


Now I’m taking it into Modo to do some more technical topology clean up, and I’ll finish the UVs and texture maps in Modo. I’m quite new to Modo, but I’m already picking up some amazing new tricks, and I’ll show you a bit in this post.

Some of my original rough sketches done in the online sketch tool, Scribbler

chris_lesage_alien_turtle_sketch1 chris_lesage_alien_turtle_sketch2

While this guy sort of resembles a turtle with his shell, I’m going to make his skin translucent and colourful like a frog.

Editing the Mouth Topology Using Edge Slide & Falloffs

3D-Coat has some amazing topology tools, but I find it a bit difficult to do very precise and complex operations in very small areas like the mouth cavity, lips and eyelids. I feel a lot more confident to make these changes in Modo. You have great topology tools as well, but it is well integrated with all of the snapping, falloff and modelling operations. So you can seamlessly switch between sculpting and modelling, and do things like Bridge or Bevel or Thicken.

You can even copy/paste polygons to make new geometry like eyebrows or clothes or break apart existing geometry to make big fast structural changes. (With all the powerful features of Modo, the simple ability to cut, copy and paste geometry as easily as text is one of my favourite parts of the whole program.)

First I need to make a topology fix in the corner of his mouth.

I went from this topology with square poly-turns right in the corner of his mouth:


To this, with a radiating pattern around the entire lips. The first version might have worked, but having the radiating rings is more flexible for making cartoony lip shapes like puckering and a small mouth OOH. Making this change was relatively easy with the Topology Pen.


BUT, now there is a slow turning of the lips. The outer edge of the upper lip slowly rolls inwards, so that by the time it gets to the bottom, it is inside the mouth. I’ll fix this.


I’ll use Edge -> Slide to handle this. The amazing thing about Modo is that all of these poly modelling tools integrate with snapping and falloff. So you can use Linear Falloff so the Slide happens more near the center, and less towards the corner of the mouth.


First I drag a Linear Falloff which you can see as a triangle with two transform gizmos in the following image. Then turn on “Ease-In” in the falloff’s properties. Then any modelling operation I do has a nice soft falloff.

This is powerful!


After sliding all the edges of the lip outwards a bit, I now have some nice clean lip topology!


Thanks for reading. If you want to see more posts like this including character art, skinning, rigging and Python tutorials in Modo and Maya, make sure to sign up for updates.

by Chris Lesage at May 19, 2015 04:00 PM

May 18, 2015

Anomalia – Rigging Dojo Summer Mocap Rigging Workshop

This is sadly the last year that ANOMALIA as we all know it is going to be able to run their amazing workshops. They are experimenting with MotionCapture to help get students stories told and we are going to help rig up their characters for them. This mean that we will as a team, mentor […]

The post Anomalia – Rigging Dojo Summer Mocap Rigging Workshop appeared first on Rigging Dojo.

by Rigging Dojo at May 18, 2015 09:00 PM

May 17, 2015

Dummy Update

I’ve been sitting on a dummy puppet update for a while, since he’s only really useful as a showcase I haven’t had too much incentive to keep him up to date, but I still think he’s good for showing where Puppeteer development is at. The biggest update I’m testing with this release is the puppeteer context menu:dummy_puppetContextMenu

In theory if you have the script in your scripts directory, this should be the menu you see when you right click on any of dummy’s controls. Having these sorts of tools quickly and easily accessible can really help with animating efficiently.

If you download the latest dummy zip, it contains the latest ml_puppet and ml_utilities which is required for this menu to work. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Version: 8
900.4 KiB

Dummy is the poor unfortunate character I used for testing rigging concepts. He's a robust but basic rig, with generic human proportions and simple segmented geometry.

Date:23 February, 2014

by Morgan Loomis at May 17, 2015 08:27 PM



I’m planning one of the worst things that can happen to a TA: a big massive file move-and-rename operation. Much as I love my team, we have a poor record as a company when it comes to spelling, and it occurred to me that I’d like to at least have some degree of automatic spell checking on the names of the new files, folders and assets.
It turns out that there’s no good spell checker for Python that doesn’t come with some kind of extension module (BTW, I’d love to be wrong about that - if you know one definitely post it in the comments). PyEnchant for example is great, but it’s got 32-bit only Windows extensions that I can’t distribute without a hassle.
I did, however, find a very neat example of Python Power in a little post by Peter Norvig, who put together a simple spellchecker in a few dozen lines of plain, readable Python code and great explanations here.
I shamelessly borrowed his structure, with a couple of minor and not very creative tweaks. Peter’s original is built around Bayesian analysis: it guesses the correct word by looking at the relative frequencies with which variants show up – if ‘meet’ shows up 1000 times in your database but ‘mete’ shows up 5 times, that’s a good indication that ‘meet’ is the correct first guess.
Since I’m in a rush, I didn’t use that functionality very much. I scrounged around for as many sources correctly scored words. Unfortunately the only free source I could rely on turned out to be the venerable ‘GSL’ or ‘General Service List’, which has great data but only for about 2000 words (I used the version found here, by John Bauman as a the core of the list, and then scrounged the internet for other free sources. Since all of these were less common words than the ones in the GSL I gave them pretty arbitrary Bayes scores (4’s and 5’s for common words, 3’s for variants, plurals and participles). This is not sophisticated linguistics, but it’s close enough for horseshoes.
The result is up on github as spelchek, which I affectionately refer to as the cheap-ass spell checker.
It is hardly rocket science, but it does work. You can do something like:
   import spelchek
# 'vehicle'
# ['filed', 'flied', 'flies', 'lied']
I would caution against using this for hard-core text work where perfect accuracy matters -- like database stuff, a customer-facing website, or a word processor -- since I did not go with high quality commercially or academically vetted word lists. I’m reasonably certain that there are some mis-spellings or oddballs in the 75,000 or so words I ended up with from various sources. Still, the module useful for my intended use, which is making sure that we don’t get things like ‘floder’, ‘frunishings’ and ‘vetegation’ (all of which shipped with in State of Decay, I’m sorry to admit).
As always, MIT licensed so go to town.

by Steve Theodore ( at May 17, 2015 12:45 AM

May 12, 2015

Red9 Production - First outing of our new rigging systems

Over the last 6 months Red9 Consultancy has been gearing up and in the process getting some really nice gigs. This is the first TV commercial to use our new rigging systems, lots of squash, stretch and full quadruped rigging. Great project to be involved with and this is just one of a series for the client.

More production examples coming soon showing off our Facial rigging systems which has kept us very busy indeed!



by Mark Jackson ( at May 12, 2015 07:15 PM

Red9 ProPack - First Sneak Peak - Animation ReDirector

We'll we thought it was about time that we started to show you what we've been up to with the Red9 ProPack. This first demo is the Animation ReDirector, a powerful tool for doing just that, taking a current animation and non-destructively and dynamically re-directing the animation. Hope you like it, plenty more to come over the next few months as we gear up to release the new tools pack, we just need to work out the licensing options and the back-end of the code!



by Mark Jackson ( at May 12, 2015 07:05 PM

May 09, 2015

Tech art for art directors

I see that the slides from my 2015 GDC talk, Technical Art For Art Directors is now up on the GDC Vault. paywall warning Enjoy – and feedback in the comments is very welcome. I can post the slides if there is interest, but if you watch the video you’ll see that they don’t really work without the verbal context. I defy anybody who wasn't there to make sense of this image, for example....
I’ll say in passing that – despite the lack of text in the finished presentation – I had great luck putting this talk together in Markdown using DeckSet, which let me do the first 90% of the presentation without ever opening PowerPoint or Keynote. The slides were just one big plain text file, which let me put them up on github so I could version them and track changes without getting bogged down in the finicky formatting nonsense that ultimately consumes all slide decks. I particularly liked this workflow because I could work as if it was text but still run it as a slide show very early on, which gave me a chance to get my patter down and listen to the words instead of getting hung up on formatting text. Plain text FTW!

by Steve Theodore ( at May 09, 2015 04:13 PM

comet poseDeformer for maya 2016

Another maya version, another plugin update. When I updated the archive I noticed that it contains a version from 2005 that works in maya 5. I wonder if anybody in the world is still using maya 5. From what I can tell, people still use the poseDeformer though. For 10 years I've been able to recompile […]

by david at May 09, 2015 08:58 AM

May 08, 2015

fStretch plugin for maya now gnu gpl

Matthieu Fiorilli from has just released v2.0 of fStretch for Maya as "Donation Based" under a GNU General Public License. "The idea behind the plug-in is to be able to drive blendShapes that are turned on and off based on the tension and angle change that happens on a geometry. These blendShapes are sculpted to adjust […]

by david at May 08, 2015 02:26 PM