Monday, August 12, 2013

The location of this blog has been updated!

Please be aware that this location for our blog has been discontinued. We are blogging directly on www.ascensionstudios.com, and all of that content also appears on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beware load-time settings for HDRs for network rendering

Another entry in the "heads up" category of max/backburner funkiness. If you're trying to light your scenes with high dynamic range images, be aware that both HDR and EXR file types contain load-time settings when they are brought into a copy of max (that's why you get that pop-up window setting white- & black-points, etc when you load the bitmap into max the first time). The settings you put into that window DO NOT always make the transition to other machines on your network when it comes to render time, meaning the gamma/output of these files will be inconsistent from machine to machine and create terrible flicker artifacts in your final rendered frames.

To avoid this issue, if you know you'll be network rendering an animation of a scene lit by an image, convert that HDR or EXR to a Floating Point TIF instead. You'll have to tweak a couple of the bitmap settings inside max (like Output Amount, perhaps some exposure control stuff), but you won't have the load-time errors with a TIF file.

Pretty sure no max user would end up reading this warning until it's too late and they're googling how to fix the problem...so first, sorry it happened to you, and second, hope this solution helps!

There's some more detailed info on the issue HERE.

3ds max 2013 batch network rendering bug

Just came back to the computer after a night (or god forbid) weekend of network batch rendering only to find a single frame on your hard drive rather then the 1000's you were expecting? Welcome to backburner bug #103,947.

Backburner is such a common headache inducer that I get to the acceptance stage of grief much faster these days. The latest quandary had to do with setting up a batch render across the network for several different clips. As my typical projects rarely have animated objects but several animated cameras, I'll usually set up a batch to queue each camera clip into backburner so I don't have to babysit the entire sequence. The benefit should be that you can define the camera, the file save path, and even scene states (hacky...use at your own risk) and render presets. Of course, most camera clips will have different lengths (i.e. frame ranges), so I need to use the "Override Preset" checkbox to define those ranges. HOWEVER, be warned that this check box does not have an effect on the submitted job if the main render dialog still has "Single" chosen for the Time Output. If you don't change this, all of your network render slaves will render the frames from each sequence as they are supposed to, but backburner/max will have them simply override the previously saved file with the latest one...so you end up with a folder per clip each containing a single file (the last frame of the sequence). Be sure to click the big render button in the main render dialog after changing this setting (to Active Time Segment, Range, etc...just not Single)...you can cancel this rendering immediately, but you have to submit it for the change to take effect and for the signal to be passed to the Batch Render/backburner system.

I know you might be thinking this kind of bug would be absolutely unacceptable from a program of this caliber and so dependent on delivering on tight deadlines. Well, does it make you feel any better to know this bug has been around since at least max 2009? No? Ok...all shame on Autodesk then.

You can read a little more about this issue HERE.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alpha transparency with PNG in Photoshop

Almost every compositing program out there has a simple option to view or hide the transparency in an image based on its alpha channel for file types like PNG, TIF, etc. However, Photoshop is the stubborn holdout that doesn't make this process obvious or easy. Plugins have worked in the past (like SuperPNG) but sometimes don't work as expected when saving or loading images.

But rest assured that even though Photoshop doesn't display the areas of an image masked by the alpha channel by default, the data is still there and can be retrieved with the following steps:

1. Open  your PNG as normal (either File>Open or drag-n-drop)
2. Click Layer>Layer Mask>From Transparency
3. Right click the newly created layer mask in the Layers panel and chose Disable Layer Mask.

Now you not only have your image information back, but you also have your alpha as a layer mask which is generally very helpful in compositing.

Thanks go to conroy for his help at this post on the Adobe Forums

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3ds max network rendering issues

There are a novel's worth of issues that could be written about how to deal with networking rendering (and its associated problems) in 3ds max and backburner...a workflow that seemingly hasn't changed much over the years. I seem to encounter hair-pulling problems with every new project. In an effort to compile the best solutions to the most common problems, I'll keep this post updated as I go with solutions I've used to get successfully completed rendering projects. I'll break the solutions into their relevant categories below.

INSTALLATION

Starting with 3ds max 2013 (since I skipped 2012), the program is installed by default with the entire Autodesk Design Suite (or whatever relevant suite you may own). This can cause many problems as installation steps happen in the background and you can't necessarily see exactly what is failing or giving you problems, and if a problem can't be overcome during installtion, the WHOLE thing is rolled back and you have to find a solution and start over from scratch...a process that chews up countless hours of your day, usually during tight deadlines.

If you have older or isolated systems on the network that are only used for rendering, installation on those systems can encounter "unknown" errors that usually center around conflicting items already installed on the machine, like DirectX, .NET, or Visual C++. If you can, I recommend just uninstalling everything you can on those machines and let you latest installation of 3ds max reinstall those items for you. If you need to get clean uninstalls of Autodesk products, try this link and this one.

If you need to install 3ds max without using the default setup.exe for the suite installer, this page gives a breakdown of the steps needed to do a manual install (scroll down near the end of the article). This is 3ds max 2012 specific, so you may see slightly different screens on older or newer install screens.

Since I was encountering the mental ray satellite service error on 2013 and wasn't presented the option to disable or reassign the TCP port, I used the VERY manual instructions in this PDF to force max to assign a different port number during install, and that worked for me (search for "port conflict"...I used port # 7516 instead of the default 7515, but I'm not a network administrator so I don't know what other issues it may or may not have caused...all I know is max installation and network rendering worked using this method).

DEALING WITH PLUGINS

...more coming soon...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Grab Viewport" very slow in 3ds max 2013

If you're having issues capturing your viewports for quick animation previews (basically, the processing of the frames going WAY slower than expected), be sure to turn OFF "Improve Quality Progressively" by unchecking it in [Viewport shading style]>Configure...>Display Performance tab. Hopefully this saves you a bit of time and headache!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Get back your 3ds max legacy explorers/browsers

Seems like I posted an article for this a while ago, but couldn't find it...and since I'm tring to solve the same problem again, here are the areas where you can reset the 3ds max SelectByName dialog and Material/Map Browser to the legacy (i.e. FASTER) versions. (Note: small variations in the path may apply to your 3ds max version and OS)

Change Scene Explorer to old SelectByName Dialog
Location:
C:\users\[username]\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMax(Design)\[version]\ENU\[en-US\]defaults\[preset]\CurrentDefaults.ini
Change:
[Scene Explorer]
SelectByNameUsesSceneExplorer=1
-to-
[Scene Explorer]
SelectByNameUsesSceneExplorer=0

Change Material/Map Browser to old style
Location:
C:\users\[username]\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMax(Design)\[version]\ENU\[en-US\]plugcfg\SME.ini
Change:
UseOldMtlBrowser=0
-to-
UseOldMtlBrowser=1

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Just one more reason why Internet Explorer is the worst software ever made

If you haven't already determined for yourself that Internet Explorer is the absolute worst piece of software ever conceived of by man or beast, just do a little reading about "Compatibility View" in IE9. This little gem 'helps' you out by saying "this website you're trying to view doesn't use the *ah-hem* latest and *ah-hem* greatest technology available in Internet Explorer, so we're just going to turn on this mode that will break everything in the site and make you not be able to surf the internet like a normal person".

But seriously, before this turns into too much of a rant, if any of you out there are just absolutely stuck on why certain pages (like my website!) won't load properly on your computer with IE9, it turns out it has to do with good old Helvetica. There's some major bug in IE that breaks its ability to display a webpage if the CSS declares fonts with Helvetica listed first and you have a particular version of the Helvetica font installed on your computer. So, you could uninstall Helvetica (which would be dumb), or you can change your CSS files to make sure Helvetica isn't listed first (e.g. place it after 'Arial' in the same line). For good measure, you can also disable the GPU rendering in Internet Options>Advanced and be sure you're running the 32-bit version of IE. This of course is only to resolve issues for testing purposes, because no sane person would use IE to do their functional web browsing.

It really is a shame that so many people think IE is the way to surf the internet because windows slaps it on your desktop and calls it "The Internet". Please help spread the word to all your friends and family to stop using the god-awful software and use something like Chrome or Firefox instead. You'll send Microsoft a message and save yourself (and your friendly local web developer) a lot of aggravation!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just outside town & into the wilderness

Made some time today to get outside the confines of downtown Vancouver and see more of the Canadian wilderness. These images are from the Capalano Suspension Bridge park, where you can walk for miles across giant chasms and through the tops of trees. Very touristy, but very well done and quite a bit of fun. Also including a couple pics of the nearby lake and dam.









From the CGarchitect party

It was really great to see and catch up with friends at such a beautiful spot with such fantastic food. Thanks again, Jeff, for putting on a great get-together!






More views around Vancouver








Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some miscellaneous views around Vancouver










SIGGRAPH sure is eggciting!

Or are we just having an eggcellent time? Sorry, these puns are eggscrutiating.


Feel the music

PocoPoco, in the emerging technologies area, is like a tenori-on that pushes back. They had 4 guys performing some pretty wild tunes. Might go back tomorrow to try it myself.


Expo floor opens today

Time for the slow trudge from booth to booth, winding between hundreds of people, to pick up all the cool swag from the vendors!


Monday, August 08, 2011

Rapid prototyping out in full force

Including the makerbot ($1200... full kit with all electronics, prints ABS plastic) and Bits from Bytes 3000 ($1500... full kit minus acrylic box, material felt very light and stringy with low detail)



Finally made it out into the sun

<p>Here's a quick glimpse at the surrounding area</p>


Must be a lot of people on wifi!

Man, the connection seems slow here, and the photos are really holding up the blog posts. Here's one with just text for an accurate test.

The whole world is here at SIGGRAPH!

Just arrived in Vancouver... getting ready to check out all the cool stuff at the SIGGRAPH conference.
We'll see how this mobile blogging works... Stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Has 3ds max disappeared from your "Open with" list in Windows?

Click the title of this post to see the full source article

After installing so many version of 3ds max over the years (including beta releases), my Windows environment had no idea how to open .max files when double-clicked in Explorer. Additionally, when using the Unity game engine, it did not know how to decipher the .max file type since there was no program associated with it. Trying to add the "3dsmax.exe" file from the appropriate version in 'Open with>Choose Default Program' list didn't have any effect. So, since I"m working on 64-bit Vista (same process for Windows 7), it was time to dive into the registry and fix the problem. Summing up the source article, here are the keys I had to change on my system (slightly different from what they say in their instructions):

To get double-click work for .max files:
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\3dsmax.exe\shell\open\command
Keeping the quotes, I changed the path of the (Default) entry to "C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max Design 2011\3dsmax.exe" "%1"

To get right-click 'Open with..." working:
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\3dsmax.exe\shell
Create new key called "3ds Max Design 2011"
Inside that key, create another called "command"
Keeping the quotes, I changed the path of the (Default) entry to "C:\Program Files\Autodesk\3ds Max Design 2011\3dsmax.exe" "%1"

Adding both of the items to the registry fixed open max files both in max and Unity...hooray!