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Digital Design & Production | IoA Institute of Architecture | University of Applied Arts Vienna

ADVANCED CGI 2021

The course will address various topics within the field digital imagery and CG production. By introducing advanced tools and techniques and through productive experimentation we will also address the ongoing discussion around the digital realm, image sciences and the iconic turn. Students are invoked to further develop their technical abilities as well as define/refine an attitude towards their style of visual communication.

CGI production overlaps the domain of architectural production although approaches and methods are slightly different. Where architects need to measure and keep a consistency between the existing physical space and the artifact, CGI production just operates in the realm of visual content.  CGI tools are more derived from sculptors painters photographers animators than from constructors or engineers.  CGI production needs to be fast, imaginative, consistency is needed just when you can see it. Think of a set design from the movies.

Due to Covid restrictions you can register for a ZOOM Session here (in case).
ZOOM BOOKING PAGE Here!
Each slot is limited to 4 participants.

Please Download this File for next Session (29.11.2021): Here

Shedule

Please check the room assignment as it changes between SR 5 and SR 9!

  1. 11 October 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 5 (first meeting)
  2. 18 October 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 9 Main Session
  3. 08 November 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 5 Group Split
  4. 15 November 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 5 Group Split
  5. 22 November 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 9 Main Session
  6. 29 November 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 9 Main Session
  7. 06 December 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 9 Main Session
  8. 13 December 2021, 12:00–13:45 Seminar Room 5 tba.
  9. 10 January 2022, 12:00–13:45 Desk Crit
  10. 24 January 2022, 12:00–13:45 Desk Crit

Outline

What we need:

A laptop computer (Windows or Mac) set up with the latest stable Blender Version:
https://www.blender.org/download/
For now this would be 2.93.5

To get started i prepared a template for the main tutorial: TutorialTemplate

The course is divided into two phases: “Tooling” and and a “Project”.

Tooling Phase 1

For those never worked DCC software like Blender you can start with this tutorial:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MRonzqYJgw
by Grant Abbit giving you an overview over Blender.

When you are confident with the user interface, the basic tools etc. you can switch to the main tutorial which we will follow throughout the first part of the course:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jHUY3qoBu8
This tutorial by Stefan Persson is quite a comprehensive guide into low poly modeling. Techniques and tools explained here cover key techniques when working with Blender. So please get started with Blender right now! Try to follow the tutorial and try on your own. I know it is a bit fast specially all the different shortcuts maybe hard to remember. Make your own “Cheat sheet” for some of the common keys. Using a standard PC-keyboard also makes life easier.
Becoming comfortable with Blender needs some while, so we will focus on the basic modelling mainly. You will find out when projects become complex that many tools and techniques build up on proper geometries and scene managment. Even working with game engines later require optimized assets like we try to build throughout our “Tooling phase”.

I was asked many times how to build a “precise” model. Ist it even possible? Short answer: Yes but as poly modeling works a bit different than Nurbs or solid modeling you need to think different. Here is nice tutorial giving you an insight in precision modelling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSR6bVFe5LM


After some training you can apply your knowledge on a series of simple Low Poly models:

  • The Box – like in the tutorial
  • A tree – like in the tutorial
  • A displaced landscape – like in the tutorial
  • The stone: You can do if you like
  • A low poly spaceship – Not shown in the tutorial. Do your BEST as it will be your first masterpiece.

Keep all out-comings including variants (and failures too) in one file so we can discuss it during the course. I want to see you “Hands On” at least 2 times! In case you are stuck please come back to me as often as needed. As soon as you own the basic skills and your “Masterpiece spaceship” is finished, I will tell you to go on with your project…
For this “training phase” there is a deadline : 06.Dec 13.45h !

About the spaceship:

Please try to stay with the tool-set we acquired during the “tooling- phase”. As we want to get more familiar with poly modelling our main tools should be: extrude inset, loopcut, knife tool etc… Keep in mind we want to compare CAD-Style modelling with low poly modelling- it’s a research!

Don’t try to “construct” your model, rather try to “shape” it. Keep the polycount as low as possible for as long as possible. This makes adjustments much easier. Less is more! Define typology proportions and scale of your spaceship elements in this stage. Use a mirror modifier in case your spaceship is has symmetries. Don’t use too many separate elements- at least stay within one object. You can already start assigning materials, this will also help you to select faces later.

When the basic shape is fine you can start refining it. One way would be to use subdivs. When hard elements become too “blobby” you can stabilize them by inserting loop-cuts. Another way would be to use textures to fake detail, also a technique called “greeble” can be used to add detail. Last but not least you can start chamfering for round edges. But getting rid of bad chamfers can be quite annoying, se be careful with this technique.

Here are two tutorials, again from Stefan Persson:

This is done out from one basic mesh, there are no separate elements. So subdividing would be an option here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVXuPJuAMJ4

The second one (starts at ~37:00)is more sketchy and fast (again), but here Stefan Persson generates various elements within one object. Also nice to see how to model already in a “style”, so materials lights etc. are set up in advance:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtWPh3hXpTg

Ok. when done we need to present the outcome, either the scene setup is already done while modelling, or done afterwards. At least we need to render out one or more images for presentation. Please be serious with this phase, a good camera setup, a nice background and some materials are key for a successful project!

Techniques you need to know:

  • Using the different interfaces for modeling shading and texturing (enough for now)
  • Various selecting and manipulation techniques: Loops, Rings, by similar, moving/scale/rotate, using constraints…
  • Organizing the scene properly using collections, proper naming.
  • Joining and separating meshes, fixing broken meshes (doubles, normal issues etc…)
  • Low poly techniques: Loop cuts, insets, extrusion, basic knife.
  • understanding Quad style vs. patch modelling.
  • Basic camera, light and material setup.
  • Rendering out an image with Evee Renderer vs Cycles.

Your project : “The garden of …”


Please don’t think of a Garden now, at least do not look out of the window as there might be a garden as we know. Please think of a garden as something different than a “garden”. The term garden is meant as an idea that can bracket our undertaking getting more into 3D avoiding to get lost in post modern “whatever-ism”. This is not easy i know. So i simplified the definition of a garden first: ” A garden is a plot of land cultivated with natural and artificial elements”. And second herewith i supply a recipe to follow to get into your garden(design):

  1. Take a surface (Quadratic) with dimensions in mind (120/120m max.) and generate a topography out of it.
    The landscape must be generated by procedural techniques not done by hand! We need to find a good workflow for this procedure as Blender is not really powerful when it comes to procedural texture generation. A tool that might be intersting is “JSplacement”, a free displacement generator…
  2. Do some (short) research finding out what your garden should be about. Find some references. To refer to a painting (the older the better) existing photography etc. references for style etc. will help. Give your garden a proper name. Don’t think of a garden that pops up in you mind in first place. We look out for a Garden that should be specualtive, futuristic, utopian, dystopian, strange whatsoever but NOT a lawn with some flowers and a fountain in the center! If you like to work with plants, fine, maybe they are strange genetic mutations whatsoever…
  3. Look for assets (>5<20) in the web or create them on your own if you like. Take whatever you like, but care about meshsizes (not too big in size ). Go for assets you find interesting and don’t think of the later use!
    Look up the term “Kitbashing” to get a better understanding. These elements define your “basic kit” .
  4. Back to our landscape use your “basic kit” to build your garden. Use techniques like cloning copying scattering mesh deform to define your superset concept. Avoid manual operations with intention, let “it” grow.
  5. Finally we want to see at least a garden view and an overview to understand the overall design.

Q&A:

Can we also do an animation?
Sure, specially if things in your garden “behave”, but also if you want to experience your garden by moving through, an animation was really nice. But please with intention and not for it’s own sake.

Can we change the landscape after generation?
Yes but please do it without destroying its generated qualities. Rather try to work “with” the landscape.

Shall we do some post production?
As we did not focus on post production during the course and nice image qualities you can achieve within Blender this is not a must. At least if you want to do some effects like fog, glow etc. i would rather do it in PS/AFX than trying to do it in Blender.

Can we use other Software than Blender?
At least the composition and the rendering must be done in Blender. Where you get your assets from and also how the landscape is generated is up to you.

References:

Does not belong here but at least some ideas for the “spaceship”:
https://kitbashed.com/blog/a-complete-history-of-the-millennium-falcon

Actually not a garden but a good example how to create variety with a limited set of repeating elements.(A Future Athens Mega-block by Liam Young)
https://www.artstation.com/artwork/3drOBv

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