Creating a Glorious Backdrop

Creating a Glorious Backdrop

buy e-book reader Your main actor or central 3D model needs some supporting elements against which to perform. If your main actor is a wooden mannequin for instance, it may be appreciated more if placed on a terrain with a sky in the distance, or on a floor in a room that has other artifacts. Sometimes, a simple color or a gradient of hues is enough to tell a part of the story, or perhaps a wallpaper-like pattern. It all depends on the story you’re telling — and the scene from that story being presented. Severe close-ups of your main actor may look best if the background is simple; views from farther off may benefit if you can see exactly what other elements exist in the actor’s environment. Selecting the right background is vital when you want to tell a visual story.

Using color hues as backgrounds

The simplest background is a single color hue. Color is also perceived as emotion by the human eye — reds indicate a more active sensibility and blues denote a calmer situation. Backgrounds can also consist of multiple hues, colors that blend into each other in various ways.

Creating single-color backgrounds

To create a single-color background that displays any color in the spectrum, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the Rendering Tab in the Tab Panel, and then choose the Environment Tab below it.

    The Environment Panel opens, as shown in Figure.

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    Figure: The Environment Panel.

  2. At the top of the panel, click the Color swatch under Background.

    The Color Selector: Background Color panel appears, as shown in Figure.

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    Figure: The Color Selector: Background Color panel.

  3. Use the left mouse button to click and drag in the color area until you select the color you like.

  4. Click Close to apply your chosen color.

That’s it. Your background is now the color you’ve selected.

Creating multicolor backgrounds

A Gradient Map uses a range of colors to create a smooth gradient. You can create a multicolor background by using a Gradient Map. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Open the Material Editor and select a material slot that has no material yet.

  2. Click the Map button to access the Material/Map Browser, and then choose Browse from>New.

  3. Choose Gradient from the list and click OK to accept your choice.

    In the Material Editor, the Gradient Parameters rollout opens (see Figure).

    Figure: The Gradient Parameters rollout in the Material Editor.

  4. Click each of the three color swatches under Maps in the Gradient Parameters rollout.

    The Color Selector appears.

  5. Choose a color from the Color Selector and set its color value.

    The value under position determines the blend zone for color #2. You can leave it at its default, or choose another value in the range 0 to 1.0.

  6. Choose the Gradient Type you want, Linear or Radial.

     Tip  For the time being, keep it simple. Other goodies are available for later experimentation. For example, the values under Noise and Noise Threshold are available to explore, though it’s best to leave them at their default while you get used to what the main controls do. Some controls under the Coordinates rollout for the Gradient Map allow you to change the direction of the gradient when it maps to a background: the W Angle and the Rotate buttons. Try them out after you get some practice creating Gradient Maps.

  7. Choose Rendering>Environments in the Tab Panel.

    The Environment Panel opens.

  8. Put a check mark next to Use Map, and click the Environment Map button.

    The Material/Map Browser appears. A dialog box pops up asking if the map should be an instance or a copy. Choose instance, which will link the map in the material to the environment map so that any changes in the Material Editor will be updated in the environment.

  9. Choose Browse from Mtl Editor.

    Your new Gradient Map Material shows up in the list.

  10. Choose your new material and click OK.

    The Gradient Map you designed is now your background image.

Using preset materials as backgrounds

You may think that absolutely any map you create, bitmapped or procedure-based, can be used as a background, and you’re right! This means that the same materials you create for using as textures on your 3D objects (Chapter 15) can also be used as backdrops, and vice-versa. Backgrounds, however, require no attention to UVW Map modifications.

Out-of-the-box presets

When you access the materials in the Browse from>New section of the Material/Map Browser, you get a number of items in the list that are ready-made for background use. A prominent example is the Gradient option (described earlier), and here’s a short list of others to try out: Bitmap, Bricks, Cellular, Checker, Composite, Dent, Marble, Mix, Perlin Marble, Planet, RGB Multiply, Smoke, Speckle, Splat, Stucco, Swirl, Water, and Wood. Figure gives you an idea of what to expect from them.

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Figure: Many presets in the Material/Map Browser are excellent as background textures. Top left to bottom right: Bricks, Cellular, Marble, Noise, Planet, and Wood.

Customizing a material preset for a background

You can customize any preset material you access in the Material/Map Browser if you alter its settings in the Material Editor. The parameter controls that appear for your use will specifically reflect the material you choose. Take, for example, Bricks.

After you choose the Bricks preset in the Material/Map Browser, two associated parameter control rollouts appear in the Material Editor — Coordinates and Standard Controls — as shown in Figure.

Figure: Bricks-associated rollouts.

The Coordinates rollout offers a choice between Texture and Environment mapping. If you want to use the Bricks texture for a background instead of a 3D object, choose Environ(ment). When you set the mapping as Environment, you have the choice of several ways to use the map. Screen will stretch the map to fit the rendered image like a flat billboard behind all of your scene objects. Spherical and the other environment settings will wrap the map around a distant sphere, and so on. Hint: A noise map with tweaked thresholds will make a 3d starfield background when mapped with spherical mapping. This holds for all texture types when you have this choice presented to you. The higher you raise the U and V Tiling values, the smaller the Bricks and the more of them. Altering the W Angle value rotates the Bricks texture on the background.

The Standard Controls rollout offers some interesting options for the Bricks texture. Here, accessing the available drop-down list, you can choose from a number of Brick types, including Common Flemish Bond and English Bond. This is just one example of how you can customize a preset texture selection using the controls and parameters in the Material Editor’s rollouts.

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