21/11/2012No Comments

Ard Digital has moved!

So after weeks of solicitors, estate agents and of course DIY, I have finally now moved office / home!! No longer am I in a pokey attic room, struggling for headroom, but instead I'm now in a "cosy" box room! It's all very nice, and I even have a kind of view, even if all I'm seeing is clouds and rain at the moment!

Please drop me an email or give me a call if you need the updated address!



09/10/2012No Comments

Crazy times = no blogging :-(

Crazy times at the Punchard household has meant I have neglected my blog over the past few months. I would like to admit that the

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craziness isn't just down to work, but also down to a house move (we still haven't actually moved yet!), and also my little boy still won't sleep through the night!

Anyway, I thought I would post something that caught my eye the other day on a project and thought I'd share it anyway in an attempt to kickstart the blog back into action.

This image caught my eye whilst creating masks for a restaurant scene (to be added to the portfolio soon), and in its own right created an interesting image.

Anyway, that's it for now, back to the craziness!!



03/08/201210 Comments

Viewport to Vray Physical Camera

OK just a quick post, along with a new script. This script automatically generates a Vray Physical Camera inside 3Ds Max, in much the same way as you create a standard camera.

Earlier today Mark Hunter (@Hunter_1st) challenged me to create a script which converts the viewport view to Vray Camera inside 3Ds Max, in the same way as you create a standard camera by pressing "CTRL C".

So with a little lateral thinking, I have knocked up a script that hopefully will serve his purpose, and maybe be of use to others (and possibly even myself!).

Anyway, here is the script.

Run it inside 3Ds Max and assign it to a short cut (if you soley use vray you might just want to assign it to CTRL C and override the standard camera), or do as I normally do and assign it to a button on the UI.

When you click the button (or use the shortcut) the Vray camera is created, and a dialogue box will pop up where you can rename the camera. This is useful for two reasons, firstly you should rename things anyway!! And secondly, the script is simple, and if you plan to create more than one camera, you will need to have renamed the previous cameras, otherwise the script will just move the old camera to your new view.

If this script is useful to you, or you notice any bugs, please let me know!




27/07/2012No Comments

Augmented Reality Testing & Development

During non-project time, I like to get stuck into some to something further my skills, improve my portfolio,  or sometimes to do something different. Recently I have been pondering the use of augmented reality applications.

I have always had an interest in real-time applications, mainly architectural walk-throughs or gaming, but augmented reality feels more exciting and more engaging than walk-thoughs. The idea that you can hold something digital in your hand, or view the world around us differently to what is perceived by our eyes, is a very strange concept. It's also something very hard to explain unless you can show someone, but I guess this is the same for 99% of new technology.

The other reason why I'm taking an interest to augmented reality is the craze with "3D" TVs and films. "3D" TV isn't really 3D, it's just some added effects to try to trick our brains into adding depth to what we are seeing, and to be honest, I think it ruins good films, and is a gimmick to sell bad films.

Augmented 3D, or even 2D, is different, and allows the user to see the content how ever they wish (to an extent). This for me is 3D, and this is what makes it exciting.

This quick video shows 3 examples I have put together to simply explore the workings and possibilities of actually making something useful and deliverable. The main aims for these test was to see how well it worked on various media, how quickly an app could be made and to try to see it's limitations. All of the tests are very basic, but each explores different techniques and features.

Ard Digital | Augmented Reality Test 01 from ArdDigital on Vimeo.

Ikea's 2013 catalogue looks like it will feature some augmented elements, as well as links to videos and other content. I believe this is Ikea's way to get customers to interact on-line and through their mobile, rather than using augmented reality as a tool, which is fair enough, so long as it engages and doesn't become tedious or boring.

So the future does look slightly more augmented, but will we see much more in the coming years? The technology is here and evolving fast, but maybe it needs a games console, film, or something else to really spark it off. Sony are creating the Wonderbook, a Harry Potter augmented story telling game, using a magical book, allowing the user to interact with the game. Maybe this will be a massive hit, or maybe it will pass by as simply "another game for kids". The possibilities of augmented reality, for me, are very interesting, and I can't wait to experience some real 3D in the coming years!

Be sure to keep an eye out on my blog for more updates, and testing, as I'm sure there's more to come!




Sources -



18/07/20123 Comments

Effect ID Changer Script for Vray

Hello again!

I have been working on a new script for some time now, and it's finally ready to be shared!

The script is called Effect ID Changer, and like my other scripts, it does exactly what it says on the tin!

First, you'll need to download the script from here.

Before installing the script, open the script in notepad or similar, and read the notes / disclaimer / credits at the top of the script. If you are unsure about using this script, or unsure as to it's effect, please do not use it. Also, always test this script on none important and none production work before including it into your workflow. Sorry to be pessimistic, I just have to cover my own arse sometimes!!

Anyway, to install the script in 3Ds Max by going to MAXScript, Run Script. Once you have done that, assign it to your UI. I personally prefer to add it to my tool bar for quick access.


If you then open the script, you will see the interface -


You will see there are 30 mask buttons, well 31 if you include the reset button, and two buttons at the bottom, which I will explain in a bit.

Firstly, let me explain what this script does. In Vray 2.2 (possibly earlier versions too), in the vray

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materials, options, there is a tick box called "Override material effect ID" and the Effect ID value is greyed out. By ticking this box, and changing the ID number, you can generate masks at render time by adding the MultiMatteElement to your render elements passes.


This script automates this process, and makes the task very quick and very efficient. It might sound a little complex, but bare with me! This script removes the need to have a wire colour pass, or the need to generate mask after the rendering is complete, thus saving quite a chunk of time, and we all know how unreliable the wire colour pass can be. Also the wire colour pass will only give you a selection of an object, not the material. For example a car has many materials, and if the car is one collapsed mesh, the wire colour pass will only allow you to select the car as a whole, where as with this script you can give the glass, paint work, tyres, etc all different masks, even for collapsed meshes!

The key thing to remember when using this script is is that it works on a material level, not a object level. If you have two different objects with the same material, they will appear on the same mask. This is my preferred way of working, as it makes sense to adjust the materials rather than the objects. You can have more than 1 material on a mask, for example you might have the grass and roof tiles on the same mask, as you know the grass and roof tiles will never overlap (OK maybe on aerial shots!), but you get the idea, right?

OK so that's the principles behind the script, but how does it work? Simple, select the object that has a material that you wish to mask, and click on the mask slot / button that you would like to use. The script will find the vray material, even if it's inside multi sub, blend, two sided, etc and change it's ID.

The only slight downside to this is that if you have a multi sub material, such as a car, when you click for example on mask 10, all the vray materials inside the multi sub material will change to ID 10. Sadly the only way to control this is to manually edit the vray materials inside the multi sub material to a different ID.

And now for the really good part. I bet some of you are wondering how on earth you keep track of the masks you have just assigned. Well this script has a little trick up it's sleeve. If you right click on a mask button, you can edit the text!


This script also saves the button text when you close the script window, and saves the data to a .ini file inside your 3Ds Max temp folder. On my PC it's saved to c:\Users\Dean\AppData\Local\Autodesk\3dsMaxDesign\2012 - 64bit\enu\temp\ so as long as you installed 3Ds Max to the default location, the file should be stored here.

Knowing where this file is saved could be very important, if you change PCs just copy and paste this file and the script will read it. Also, if you are in a studio, and you want everyone to be using the same ID numbers for the same masks, you can drop this .ini file onto each users PC.

So now to the bottom two buttons. The Select Unassigned button simply selects objects that have materials applied to them that haven't had any mask ID assigned to them. It's just a pretty quick way to see what has and hasn't been assigned a mask.

The + Render Elements button is the last part of this script, and this adds the correct render elements to your Render Elements tab in you render settings dialogue. Click this button once (clicking more than once will only add duplicates and is very pointless), and the script automatically creates 10 new render passes, and configures them to that when you render you image (or animation) the correct passes are rendered.


Each MultiMatteElement will contain 3 mask. MME1 contains mask 1,2,3, and when rendered mask 1 will appear as red, mask 2 as green, and mask 3 as blue. This is repeated through the other MultiMatteElements, thus having 30 masks in total.

So all that's left to do now is to render your scene and open it up the RGB and MultiMatteElements in Photoshop. The easier way to extract each map from the MultiMatteElement is to hide the channels you don't need, and simple select all , and copy.



Then paste the mask into your RGB file. You can then use this pass as a mask for any post-processing adjustments or masking.


As you can see here I used the mask as a Layer Mask to badly adjust the grass! You would then repeat the process for any mask.

I think that's just about covered everything, and if there's anything I've missed, or if you experience any bugs please let me know. Also it would be great if you do use it, and it works OK, please let me know which version of Max and Vray you are using.



17/07/2012No Comments

Olympic Park Images in 3D Artist Magazine

Just a quick blog post to point out, to my surprise actually, that the images I created for Uniform are in this months 3D Artist Magazine(issue 43, page 36), to accompany an educational section, with a few words for Uniforms own Mark Lee.


Check out the

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renders in the portfolio section here.

14/07/20122 Comments

Two Simple Workflow 3Ds Max Scripts


Sorry I haven't blogged in a while, things have been a wee bit busy!

Anyway, I thought I would share 2 small scripts I made and use on a daily basis. Both are very simple, but both are real time savers.

OK so the first script is "Reset Material Editor". This script does exactly what it says on the tin. Run this script, assign it to your UI or shortcuts (you will find it under the catagory "Ard Scripts"), and when you click the script, all slots in your editor will be reset with blank vray materials.

This script doesn't remove any materials from the scene, so as long as your materials are assigned to an object you wont lose any materials.

I find this script useful when you either quickly want a clean material editor, or very occasionally when you either have a corrupt material, or a very slow loading material. The material editor can be closed when running the script, hence why it is very useful if you have a corrupt or slow loading material.

And the second little script is the "Find Undefined Materials". Again, the title pretty much gives away the scripts function! Run the script, and assign it to your UI in the same way as the first script.

When you run the script, it will select all objects that have no material assigned. This is especially useful if like me, you prefer to model your scenes first, and then material everything afterwards. This script makes selecting all objects without materials very quick and easy, and means when you come to render your scenes, you avoid that horrible colour bleed from some un-textured part.

OK so that's it, and here's the download links -

Reset Material Editor

Find Undefined Materials






21/05/201222 Comments

Remove NoteTracks from 3Ds Max Scenes

Recently, I have been struggling with some weird issues with 3Ds Max, mainly some stupidly long load and save times on very small files. Even if I merged in the objects into a completely empty file, the problem would occur on the new file. This was not only a problem for opening and saving files, but also it meant some files were timing out in Backburner, so I had to render locally.

The other problem was that 3Ds Max would not close properly, and I would have to kill 3Ds Max via the Task Manager, not ideal at all!

Initially I suspected that maybe there were a corrupt piece of geometry, but deleting the entire contents of the file, and saving would make no difference. I also tried changing the save location, different drives, moving maps, merging into a new scene and pretty much every other trick I could think of. I then suspected it might be a RAM issue, so I upgraded from 8gb to 16gb, and although this helped with the loading of the files, it made no difference to the saving or rendering of the files.

After sometime searching the web, it appeared that I wasn't alone, and although it wasn't a common problem, some other people were having the same hard time as myself!


What the problem actually turned out to be was that my files had millions of NoteTracks hidden inside them. I have no idea how they were generated, but I know I didn't put them there! The easiest way to check for note tracks I have found is to run the Cleaner2 script from http://www.scriptspot.com/3ds-max/scripts/cleaner

When you run the script, it will show you how many NoteTracks, and other info which can probably be "cleaned". You can click "Clean all selected" which will remove the NoteTracks and other info, but I have found this to be very slow, especially if you have over 10 million NoteTracks.

The other solution I came across was found here on the CG Architect forum. Using 2 lines of code the NoteTracks are very quickly removed. To do this open the MAXScript Listener, and type / copy and paste -

trackViewNodes[#Max_MotionClip_Manager].track = copy trackViewNodes[#Max_MotionClip_Manager].track

Hit enter, then type


And hit enter again. Now if you run the Cleaner2 script you should see you have no NoteTracks in your file.


A word of warning, only run this code / script if you are

Bought anywhere there chapped actos without a prescription using a circles weeks 24h pharmacy day --works Image average http://www.hallsgaplakeside.com/wp-includes/wp-main.php?online-medications-without-prescription did irons can http://www.pmopc.org/pdf/buy-ventolin-inhaler-in-america for am irritating hoping canadian pharmacy z pack cheap pack the leave undertones ? On brand viagra next day delivery Bit Overall control http://www.mattmckee.me/sre/ventolin-hfa-90-mcg-inhaler/ order? Most often cialis rush delivery simple combination shade received...sure you wish to delete all NoteTracks. NoteTracks are used in animations, and probably other areas of 3Ds Max, so be careful, and only "clean" your file when you are sure you are not deleting or destroying something that you actually need!

I have put this code inside a script file in-case anyone wants to add it to a short-cut or button.

Click here to download. Once downloaded please open the file in Notepad or a similar program and read the disclaimer before running the script.

If you have found this useful, please let me know!



18/05/2012No Comments

Mobile 3D Interactive Walk Through Test 001

Recently I have been exploring the use on 3D applications on mobile devices, and the first step was to build a basic scene, and test to see how well a 3D environment would work on a small mobile phone.

This is a quick video showing the test application which uses Unity3D to create an interactive first person walk-through on a basic smart phone. The phone used was the HTC Desire S.

Surprisingly, the demo runs very well, and although the HTC Desire S that I used is only a year old, it is by no means the most powerful smart phone out there. The release of the Galaxy S3 with it's more powerful dual core processor and slightly larger screen, is likely to be perfect for this type of hand held 3D application and, I'm sure pretty intensive 3D environments can be achieved as better and faster hardware is made available.

Also what was useful to learn from this demo was the navigation, which after only a few minutes of playing, I was able to quickly navigate around the environment. It also felt very comfortable and easy to use, which is very important.

This simple test gives a quick insight into the use of 3D applications on mobile devices. This demo was by no means a finished project, but a demo to show how it works, what it looks like, and how well 3D performs on an average smart phone. It was also good to try to figure out a work-flow for this type of project. Moving from 3Ds Max, to Unity3D, then to the mobile was tricky, but relatively straight forward after some testing.

If you would like to know more about this application, or would like to try it for yourself on your Android phone, please drop me an email!

As mentioned in the video, the 3D environment was created by Marko Dabrovic and can be downloaded here hdri.cgtechniques.com/~sponza/files/

03/05/20122 Comments

HDR lighting?

As most of us 3D professionals know, HDR lighting allows us to light a scene using a High Dynamic Range image. Providing the image has a good range, i.e. isn't just a standard photograph, and is of good enough quality, you can generally use various techniques (such as a dome light when using Vray) to light your scene. The idea is that all the lovely colour, light, and other details from the HDR image are being used, and as such you would expect the scene lighting and reflections to look pretty good.

But I find things with HDR lighting to never be as simple as this. I find are numerous problems with HDR lighting, that really make me doubt whether the nice lighting, reflections, and other effects are really worth all the hassle.

The set-up time involved in using a HDR system can be pretty quick, you select your HDR image, apply it to your lighting set-up, maybe adjust the intensity, and render. But suppose you don't like the angle of the light, the reflections aren't quite right, or maybe the overall colour isn't what you are looking for, then the time consuming part begins. You will probably have to trawl though your catalogue of HDR images and try to find one that will work, then repeat the process. I am yet to find a quick and easy way to test different HDR images, maybe someone knows a way, if so please share with me! Anyway, eventually you might stumble over a HDR that would work, but by this time, you might have spent an hour or more just looking and testing. But suppose you haven't found a HDR image that does what you want, then you have to start looking on the net for alternative HDR's to buy (free ones rarely cut it, and freebies from commercial sites are sometimes downsized or restricted in their use anyway).

I know in the grand scheme of things HDR images aren't a huge amount of money, especially compared to buying software and hardware, but if your project is on a tight budget, and you perhaps want to try a few to see some variations, then is it definitely a consideration on whether to purchase or not. Then there's still always the risk that you might not still be happy even after 100 HDR's!

I kind of ran into this problem when I wanted a nice render of the Tom Dixon chair model I had created. I have a collection of studio HDR images, which should have done the job nicely, but no matter which one I picked, rotated and adjusted, I wasn't satisfied. Some worked to an extent, and might have been OK, but I still found myself adding lights here and there, trying to almost compensate for the HDR. It was beginning to become annoying, especially as it was only suppose to be a quick job!


So I fired up VrayRT, ditched the HDR lighting, and spent around 15 minutes playing with a few lights, moving, rotating and adjusting them, until I was happy with the results. In the end I used a handful of lights, each light was used in a specific way to add something to the image. Some lights just added light, whilst others picked up reflections

and speculars.


The reflections generated by HDR lighting might be something I may miss out on with not using HDR, but again I find using reflection planes, and 3D objects, I can generate great results, and plus, I find post production is where a lot of reflection refinement happens, along with backplates, and sky maps, rather than using the rendered background.But it's the lack of flexibility of HDR lighting that ultimately puts me off making it first choice for me. The added noise and longer render times is something I could deal with, and in the future I am sure these issues will become a thing of the past, but not having full control over such a key part of images is usually too much of a compromise. I need to be able to pull the sun light down slightly, and move a light so it doesn't flare badly where I don't want it too. With a HDR system I cannot do this quickly, which is a shame really.

I'm not saying HDR lighting is bad, and should be avoided, I just feel that sometimes we need to take a step backwards from the latest trends and technology, and use the correct tools at the right time.

Maybe in the future we will have some kind of dynamic HDR systems, where perhaps we can make tweaks to sun / light positions, and other variables. Maybe even some kind of time lapse footage in HDR format might work, allowing the artist to pick a time of day, and ultimately the sun position, will appear in the future? Perhaps integration of Vue inspired software and plug-ins will give us better computer generated HDR lighting, that will be as good as real-photography HDR lighting, but with greater flexibility?

Who knows, maybe I'm totally wrong and I've been using HDR's wrong all along?!






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