19/10/20154 Comments

Udemy 3ds Max & Vray Arch Vis course coupon for FREE access

The guys over at Udemy have given me 50 free coupons to allow my lucky followers to receive this course for free!


The course is aimed at beginners, but as always there might be some tips and tricks even the seasoned pro's might have missed.


To receive the coupon, all you need to do is subscribe to the ard Digital newsletter, and in the comments section of the sign-up form type "free course", and I will then email the coupon code to the lucky first 50 subscribers!


16/01/2014No Comments

Inspiration: Small spaces

I think I've always be inspired by small, clever design. I've never been the type of person who thinks bigger is better, I drive a small car, live in a small house, and of course live in the UK, where space is always at a premium.

I find small spaces very inspiring, and this inspiration literally comes in all shapes and sizes. Recently I have found myself being fascinated by incredibly clever and beautiful design that utilises very small spaces. I love the constraints of small spaces, and the challenges they give. Living in a small house perhaps give me a personal connection, and a need to learn and be excited by how others have developed small spaces.

Designing for large spaces where space plentiful is still a great challenge, but when a small space needs to be functional as well as look good, then it becomes very tricky, but very interesting. I love these small spaces and the thought and design that been put into them, from the hidden storage, to the flexible living spaces. Every inch is treasured, and none is wasted.



www.hankboughtabus.com is something I stumbled across a few months ago, and was immediately in awe of. From the outside it looks like a classic America school bus, but when viewing the inside you can the incredible transformation of spaced achieved by Hank. The converted bus is used as a mobile home and a base for a road trip.



Instead of Hank designing a huge building for his final year project, he instead set about creating a design that he could create, build and actually make use of.

One of the reasons I love this space, is the unexpected. From outside you would never expect to see what lies behind the windows. The external metal shell of the bus is still complete, but the inside is where the transformation to modern, warm and homely design happens.  The simple and straight forward design gives a very functional, rather than a design classic feel, however in using simple, but beautiful materials, the design has it's own unique beauty. I personally love the curved ceiling, the way the arch disappears behind the horizontal panel is fantastic, and I love that there are no visible fixings holding the ceiling in place. Perhaps for some, it will be a step too far towards the function over form, but for me it strikes a good balance, and perhaps you can see where a limited budget has left its mark, but in saying that, if Hank had been more elaborate and intricate, then I'm sure a lot of the buses charm would be lost.

The other part of the design I also love is how Hank has made the layout as flexible as possible. The beds, seats and other furniture are all easily manoeuvrable so the spaces can be re-jigged to suit individual needs, and can also be easily transformed for different functions too.


Another source of inspiration for me is "George Clark's Amazing Spaces" TV show.

Again, like Hank's bus, the spaces shown in this TV show are small, in some cases much smaller than the bus, but equally they are beautiful small spaces. The projects range from beach huts to modular pre-fab buildings, like the one shown below.


Throughout the series, many different projects are explored, but the project which connects each TV show is George Clarke's caravan. The series documents the conversion of a tired and dated 1979 static holiday caravan into a desirable, modern holiday home for a family of 5!


The caravan features some very clever design, such as the way the outside wall of the caravan folds down to create an external decked area, but perhaps the most inspiring use of space in my opinion comes from the way the the sleeping space has been designed. In a space barely large enough for a double bed, a total of 4 beds (1 double, 3 singles) have been squeezed and manipulated into the tiny space. To see how this is possible, you should check out Episode 6 on 4OD.

When working with CG projects, it's very easy to lose all sense of scale. The digital worlds in which I work can be infinitely large, which can literally means any thing is possible. Sometimes it's good to take a step back and give yourself some constraints, and by doing so it means you think more intelligently about the space or design, and you often find this makes projects more interesting and beautiful. This is especially true with interior visualisations, sometimes the easiest option is to create a room so large we can literally fit anything in we want, but this just doesn't happen in the real world, and views of the image or animation will notice this and won't connect with the images. Instead, using a realistic scaled room, beautifully designed and well planned, will engage and draw viewers in.

I could be talking nonsense, but that's my theory anyway!


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!!



03/05/20122 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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