Blender Landscapes

Started by efflux, July 20, 2011, 11:35:10 pm

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July 20, 2011, 11:35:10 pm Last Edit: July 20, 2011, 11:40:42 pm by efflux
This short movie demo is made in Blender (not by me though). It's not all 100% 3D. There are some 2D cloud backgrounds for example:

Recently I was doing some quick tests in Blender for Landscape stuff. Terrains are Mojo mesh exports but you can in fact do pretty good terrains inside Blender. These are the results:

The last one was created ages ago but with some new tweaks. Right click to view in a separate window if you want to see it bigger. I could now easily massively increase the data in that scene. Blender is now getting quite cool for this type of thing. It obviously lacks features that TG2 has. No volumetric clouds or at least hard to create this. It can't create an entire planet, it has some smaller details that are not so realistic for example with water. I had some trouble with water transparency hence why you don't see it in the rocks at shore render but that was my problem in the way I set it up. Displacement isn't handled that well. Most of your scene has to be mesh that is completely subdivided at render time to get small displacements from procedurals. This is not very efficient it terms of RAM but since most of the bulk is sculpt-able mesh it means you can easily create overhangs etc in any way you want. Very small detail can be handled with bump map which is perfectly satisfactory.

Some benefits are:

Most importantly, very fast render times making animation easy. A priority of Blender appears to be speed to get usable results any which fast way possible. I haven't managed to push a large render past one minute of time on a quad core.

Efficient memory management (if you are on Linux) meaning huge mesh data is no problem. Everything in your scene can be very easily manipulated since this is a full modelling and animation app.

Like most full 3D animation apps, mesh can all be arranged in multiple scene layers any of which can be rendered individually or in any combination and post processed and composited within Blender. You have a lot of control of render attributes of everything. Output can also be EXR.

Good procedural texturing, way more choices of procedures than TG2 (this is my second biggest gripe with TG2 apart from no Linux version).

Physics engine and particle system. This is extremely cool not just for animation but for arranging objects i.e. where boulders land etc. This is much better than messing with things like altitude and slope to distribute stuff and especially cool with huge particle systems of objects which can into millions. This particle system adds immensely to the physics engine side of things since you can use physics to control the particles.

There is no question that you could do some pretty impressive scenes in Blender with some perseverance.

Dedicated landscaping apps such as TG2, Mojoworld and Vue excel in various areas but this is the problem. They have severe limitations in other areas.

Personally I am moving back to 2D work which is what my new computer is mostly for. You need a lot of power for huge res painting. I may well use 3D elements within 2D but I'm really a 2D artist so I am going to use those skills. This way I can make pictures exactly how I want with no 3D limits. All Linux apps of course. Mainly Mypaint and Gimp but also Lightzone.


Not bad for Blender, a software i have never been able to grasp. The UI and workflow is just odd. Anyways, that is funny you bring the fact that you are getting back to 2d work as am i, although for many different reasons. Always been a doodler and as much as i wanted to get into 3d, you need the serious computing power, a great understanding of software functions just to get anything remotely real and the limitations of the software itself just irked me over the years. But for those who are well into 3d and enjoy it, that is great. I tend to feel the same way in terms of making pictures exactly how one want's them. Being a windows person myself, i use Art Rage, SAIPaint and dabble in Photoshop. Real world pen and pencils is great as well. I tend to think 2d is becoming lost within the arts because 3d has taken hold of the world by storm. It seems sad to me. What can i say, i am old fashioned and do not blend well with popularity, trends and new technologies. At times, it just creates more problems and complexities in life.


I've been looking at a lot of 2D work lately. Mostly things done in Photoshop.

Gimp on Linux is OK but there is a very cool little app called Mypaint. A lot more powerful than you might think. I'm currently using the development version. It's developing very nicely. It's artist friendly in it's UI. This is crucial.

Anyway, having looked at some of the awesome 2D stuff around now it occured to me how high quality this was in terms of art. For a couple of examples look at these sites:

Notice the painterly look but a painterly look that is not just real world brush emulation. It's truly digital in look. I love this. They are so expressive. Beautiful forms and colours. 3D rarely has this richness.

I would actually say that a straight 3D render with no postwork is hardly ever very successful. You have to do at least some 2D enhancement.

I was trying some modelling. Checked out Groboto which is a cool app but the time taken to map something out even in Groboto is literally hundreds of times more time than just drawing using my Cintiq. I got one of these recently second hand. Great device.

A few apps like ZBrush, 3D Coat, possibly Groboto and maybe some others I haven't tried are the only apps that attempt to make things easier. Many of the apps are dreadful. Even Blender is in fact a total pain to model in but this is standard in these apps.

I intend to try to use elements of 3D. This is what I'm currently trying to sort out. Groboto is quite good for this but still has some tedium. Most pure 3D rendering doesn't cut it (yet) as far as I'm concerned if you look at this in terms of art. This is because it is way too tedious and artists lose interest.


I've been spending some time looking at CG renders, photos and paintings.

Putting aside that painted stuff has expression in shapes and marks made by the painter's hand (which is obviously a hugely important component) most problems in 3D scenes are to do with mood created by light and atmosphere.

Apps such as TG2 usually succeed best in brightly lit sunny scenes but even here there are subtle deficiencies.

Atmosphere is rarely as even as it is created by simple CG fog and how that is lit.

More use of volumetric clouds for low level atmosphere is needed or this can even be postworked (not difficult).

Light bounces around a lot more than we see it happening in CG scenes. Things like this can always be tweaked in post if not achievable in the render.

There are certain effects with cameras. A camera does not see as we do. I've talked about this before. EXR output from TG2 is a solution. Then that can be post edited. Everyone should be trying this.

If you look on Sparth's site (look at the archives - there is a lots of great work in there) you will see paintings that absolutely brim with atmosphere and mood because the light is all bouncing around through irregular foggy atmospheres creating variations in colour and value. It's enhanced but this does happen in real life. Obviously a lot of his stuff is scifi where extremes are more plausible but that makes the difference all the more obvious.

Or look at this Sebastien Larroude picture:

As far as TG2 renders are concerned there is usually something about their basic atmosphere and depth (specifically mist) that gives away their plastic CG nature. That's assuming everthing else in the scene is up to decent standard but it often is. Atmosphere is the hardest part - even harder than getting the sky colours right which can be difficult. TG2 needs to be photorealistic to work. Possibly default settings are at fault and a lack of experimental tweaking. Light is not shining through the fog and things are not disappearing within fog scattered light and shadows the way they should. There is a lack of large depth in large scenes. Oddly enough, even although they do not react to light as well as TG2 does, other apps seem to create a bigger sense of atmospheric distance.

Having said that, I think this atmosphere problem ties in with attempting to create a photographic like render by tweaking the straight rendered scene in TG2 in a way that a camera can't actually ever display without post work. This leads to creating thinner mist than would really be there to try to exposure compensate the whole scene. Landscape photos nearly always have various filters and post processes used. EXR is important. A lot of other apps can't actually even easily replicate a photo like result and it's faults.

Turner was a master at painting light and atmosphere. Compare this to your standard CG nautical scenes:



I looked into Mypaint. Not bad for a small project.

Those renders from those sites reminds me a lot of the conceptual work styles i look at almost daily. Conceptual design is something i toy with from time to time.

I am dying for a Cintiq. Some day hopefully.

Those other painting speak in volumes. There is something deeply personal with illustrating and painting that 3d can never attain on it's own. I wish the industry could somehow balance that out for the two to be equals but a increasingly fast paced world, convenience and the latest tech trends seem to overpower what used to be.

Nothing wrong with progression of course but it seems to me the older ways are being flushed down the toilet.


Quote from: ChrisC on July 21, 2011, 05:46:47 pm
I looked into Mypaint. Not bad for a small project.

Those renders from those sites reminds me a lot of the conceptual work styles i look at almost daily. Conceptual design is something i toy with from time to time.

I am dying for a Cintiq. Some day hopefully.

Those other painting speak in volumes. There is something deeply personal with illustrating and painting that 3d can never attain on it's own. I wish the industry could somehow balance that out for the two to be equals but a increasingly fast paced world, convenience and the latest tech trends seem to overpower what used to be.

Nothing wrong with progression of course but it seems to me the older ways are being flushed down the toilet.

I can imagine and also share a bit of your concern.
However, like many many things in life, they come and go and come and go, by (sinusoidal)waves...
Don't want to sound philosophical, but it's the same like fashion.
Just look at Freddie Mercury's sneakers he wore at Live Aid ;)

What I especially like about 2D is the complete limitless possibilities you have with your creation. Your mind is your limit.
However, again, with 3D your mind is also your limit and sometimes it's not the creative part which makes it difficult. Mostly not actually.
It is the technical side of things which make it (perhaps too) difficult, but often enough you see people mention "it's not the tool, but the artist".
I'm not exactly sure to agree or not.

Regarding the Blender renders:

That guy, Andrew Price, is a nice fella and certainly very proficient with Blender :)
Unfortunately I have never seen anyone been able to translate his "tutorials" into a personal work which looked different than the "tutorials".
In my opinion they aren't really tutorials since they often show a step by step procedure with a fixed outcome.
Therefore if you see Blender grasses with a sky, it's always from that Blender tutorial.
Now with this Nature Academy, if you see snowy mountains, it's always from that Blender tutorial.
If you see rocks, also from that tutorial.
I wonder what the real use of it is and whether people really learn from it.
You can teach everyone a specific order of pressing buttons and entering values.

This is also a little bit of the reasons why I haven't done much tutorials yet, as I sometimes find it difficult to express myself exactly and am not sure how to "transfer" my knowledge in such a way that I do not learn people to push buttons only, but to really integrate new things into existing or future work.


Well, with the whole 3d movement, i think as technology continues to progress that the need or requirement into 3d will only grow stronger as more folks will have better access to 3d. Who knows what will be possible in five years time? PCs will become more powerful and so will programs but it is a game of catchup. For every new software, new hardware is needed. e-on's Vue is a good example of this. An almost non-stop cycle. At least this is what i am seeing. It allows an opportunity to create more real worlds and as time goes on, these worlds will become more real but with a price.

The folks that want to draw and paint may get left behind for various reasons. There are still pockets of folks that do want to hire comic book artists and oil painters so it is possible to remain a success but you have to be real good. I see 3d as more then a trend that comes in waves. It may become common mainstream culture where anyone can make a 3d realm with the push a some procedural perimeters. Again, nothing wrong with this per say but i see matte painters for example in the same boat. Where you can have a glass matte painter like Ellenshaw being replaced by current painters using Photoshop and photo stock. It is just not the same quality. There is something that speaks to become to real and lacking that dirty gritty feel of a real matte painting.

I think with 3d and some 2d it can be both the tool and the artist. Tools can have limits based on what they are coded to be capable of, however artists can have limits to there own creativity. No offense to anyone out there, but not everyone can be a great imagineer. Case and point, Deviantart. Loaded with self-similar works of art but the majority of those works are well, dull and not very inventive.

Too conclude, i still like playing with Terragen every now and then. Anything that assists in visualizing worlds is a good thing. I think for my case it would work well as a previz tool to assist in paint overs or at least using it as a reference tool.


July 23, 2011, 01:06:16 pm #8 Last Edit: July 23, 2011, 01:11:35 pm by efflux
The problem with Blender is that there is a big learning curve but it's not much different from similar apps that do a similar job.

Andrew Price has taken the time to explore what Blender can do. Other people have not. I suspect this is because they aren't forced to in a job. Most Blender users are hobbyists. There are some great methods in Andrew's tutorials (the free ones). It seems nobody thinks what those methods can lead to and just copy them.

I just tried that Paint Tool SAI. Absolutely excellent app. I haven't spent much time with it but already I'd say this is one of the best painting apps. It is simple but high quality and VERY efficient. I had to get my Windows drive out to test it because there is an issue starting it on Linux. An admin problem due to Linux security permissions which I might get around.

The latest Mypaint GIT version (development version) has some new features. The UI now has dockable Windows, you can assign mouse (pen) buttons from within Mypaint but most important it now has preserve alpha brush or whole layer. Gimp development version has now also gone for dockable Windows and has better painting tools.

The main drawback of Mypaint is the initial dab shape of the brush and how this effects opacity. It is too soft around the edges. There is code you can change to get a square brush. Much better for some things. The best thing in Mypaint is obviously the unique nature of it's procedural brush engine. You have to spend some time with this.

3D can never take over from 2D primarily for reasons of speed. A 2D artist can churn out a complex concept in seconds. It has to start 2D before 3D so 2D never dies. There is another angle though and I see this happening more in 2D. The marks you create with 2D are not possible in 3D. The gestures of the stroke and effects of brush.

As for Cintiqs. They are awesome but only the 21 inch ones in my opinion which is what I got. The 12 inch one is not a huge upgrade from a tablet PC which can cost peanuts. Best to try to get a second hand 21 inch Cintiq. I can't deal with standard graphics tablets easily. I hate the hand eye coordination detachment. However, I just tried SAI with an old Wacom Graphire. It is kind of cool for some things because your hand doesn't cover the screen. For line work where the gesture of your hand stroke is crucial then the Cintiq totally wins out.


I think the primary reason why 2D will never disappear isn't mentioned yet and that's that it is a key aspect of any graphics work.
Concepts like composition, colour theory, perspective etc. founded by 2D are key things to learn and understand (be)for(e) 3D work.


Yup, the Blender learning curve. Never could grasp that one. Modo on the other hand was easy when i had that trial.

SAI is great. Simple but it does what it is supposed to do. Another good one is Autodesk SketchBook Pro. It is mainly for just the illustrator in mind, very basic but fast and a no-brainer UI. The latest version has some additions from Copic. Those bloody expensive markers.

I have a Bamboo tablet and i feel stuck. I agree you need that hand and eye coordination for sure.

@ Tangled-Universe



July 24, 2011, 03:47:56 am #11 Last Edit: July 24, 2011, 03:55:26 am by efflux
Yes you learn the basics like colour, composition etc in 2D then that helps with everything else even photography. What you also learn is the hand eye coordination of drawing. This is the one aspect that is lost when you go 3D except maybe slightly in sculpting apps and say using a wacom Cintiq but it's not crucial. I think some people with no drawing skills do however have some of these basic artistic abilities when they use 3D.

Just playing further with SAI. Really great app. I've emulated a lot of things from other apps in Mypaint. You can do more than you might think in Mypaint. You have to avoid certain pitfalls that you'll see the results of in a lot of the work. Nasty blurry images. You'll see them in the gallery but SAI seems like a real benchmark to me. It has everything you need for painting short of extreme effects like impasto paint etc that you'll find in Artrage and Coral Painter. I'm not so keen on that kind of extreme fakery though. Corel Painter is pretty poor as well. I tried that on my Mac. Bad UI and not efficient. Artrage is also slightly problematic with large res pictures and brush editing is limited. SAI is the best I have tried. I really can't fault it in any way. Mypaint does have the capability for extreme procedural brush editing though which is it's strength.

I actually have Modo. I got it a while back. Old version. I found it to be a bit tediously over the top and not entirely intuitive UI. Fantastic renderer though. I think this is the best part of it.

Groboto is a cool app. It gets around the poly modelling tedium by using booleans that you can keep adjusting any which way until you are ready to create the mesh and you see these booleans beautifully in the UI instead of a bunch of polys and poor preview which is what you get in most apps. Polygons are sorted out at the end when the Booleans are welded together. I think this is a very good app.


Just tried this:

This is joke software compared to SAI. I can't believe how brilliant SAI is. I've got into how all the brushes work. How to create textures etc. The brushes are amazingly smooth. It also has just enough other features to allow you to do almost everything from a painting point of view. Why is this not the standard that everyone is using? This is seriously underated software. There is no comparison between this and crappy Open Canvas which tons of people seem to be using. Mypaint is way better than Open Canvas and old school apps like Corel Painter are uselessly inefficent.


I just don't get it. Why can't people distinguish between brilliant software that is cheap and even often free and crap software or extremely expensive software like Photoshop. Photoshop is OK but there are alternatives and Photoshop is not ideal for painting anyway.

Talking of this, how bad is Windows 7 compared to Vista because Vista is dire? I use mostly Linux here which is dramatically superior to Windows but I just need Windows to work on basic level for a few apps and nothing else. I fix computers for people here and every Vista system I get is a complete disaster. Bear in mind that I won't connect Windows to the net anyway so no virus issues. I have a Macbook for that and Linux systems. SAI has issues under wine so it means Windows. My PIV that I can run XP on is old but surprisingly usable with SAI because it is the most efficient painting app I have ever used.