Thursday, 29 May 2014

Creating a 19th century virtual walkthrough of the Gothic Library, part 3: Out of the frying pan and into the fire (more modelling, textures and lighting)

Thanks to Gianna, Grant and Peter for help on this section!!

The last time we left the model, the walls had been constructed, the windows had been given some properties so the impending sunlight would react to it in a physically accurate manner, but the painters and plasterers have not yet been called in. Well, now it's time to break out the Dulux colour charts (or the munsell colour charts, if you're more used to those)!

However, it turns out that my previous creation was very complex to map (more on that below), and it left too many gaps between the areas where the walls meet (for all that AutoCAD and 3DS Max share a lot of features, they are still two very different creatures) so it had to be completely rebuilt! This involved creating a box, splitting it into multiple segments and then model each individual window pane based on this box. Additionally it also turns out that the boolean functions (adding and subtracting surfaces and solids from each other to create new shapes) doesn't work very well in 3DS, in contrast to AutoCAD. I wasted 2 days trying to think of a workaround to this!! on top of the the box was too space intensive so I ignored the thickness of the walls and worked on a plane instead. This meant that I had to create a single shape (i.e. the planes) and effectively have ready-made holes in the shape.
This was repetitive, tedious and dull but it can at least be copied around the building, because the glass is a reasonably uniform shape. The other advantage is that I could import images of the building in question to create the glass panes and iron bars accurately, along with the rest of the model.
The segments and window in perfect harmony.

In 3DS, applying textures is like adding a new layer of wallpaper to a wall. It doesn't matter what the property of the object is, be it bricks, plastic, etc. If it has a surface, you can put a texture to it (and sometimes multiple textures)! These are known as "maps" and in this blog post I will go through my thought process as I show you how I added some more colour to the gothic library. In trying to be historically accurate, some of the photos have been edited to look how they would have done in the early 1830's, when the library had just been built.

I took some photographs of the gothic library (with the kind permission of Chris Bailey and the team at the Sir George Staunton country Park) and proceeded to edit these in Photoshop. In many places the beautiful plaster work had fallen off, and even some of the bricks had fallen out of place! However, I hadn't come to rebuild the library in real life, I've come to model it to see how it would have looked like in the 19th century, so I used some guesswork and historical evidence (see below) to ensure that the plaster was restored in it's virtual environment.
You can clearly see where the plaster should fill around the windows, but it has fallen apart with time.

The most difficult part about applying the photographs to the walls was thinking about how to "wrap" or map the photos around the object. Confused? Think of maps like wrapping a present, except that your present is a wall, and all of the wrapping paper must connect up together. The easiest things to wrap in the real world are those without curves, so the gothic library, if we only focus on the wall and not the windows, is fairly straightforward, especially if we only focus on the interior (i.e. a 2-dimensional surface). See the image of a dice below to see what I mean! Therefore, I changed the boxes that represented the walls into single, 2-dimensional elements by breaking them and then grouping the resulting elements together. A similar texture was used for the roof, which was already in 2- dimensional pieces. The floor, on the other hand, would not require quite as much thought as it was created as just one object. However, to the inexperienced user of 3DS Max, it is a daunting task!

Each of these boxes represents a part of the property of the fabric of the building, be it the texture, the colour, glossiness, etc.

This dice is easy to apply to a surface in 3DS because it is geometrically quite straightforward.

As you can see this is one way of applying a photorealistic texture to the building. However, this doesn't cover all of the texturing! The different "maps" don't just cover what you can see on the surface; you can adjust transparency, bumpiness, shadow, photons, etc. Many of these maps are to do with how light reacts with the surface. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to play around with these different maps!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Creating a virtual 19th century walkthrough of the Gothic Library, part two: The creation of the model

The story so far:

I have been assigned the task of creating a virtual model for a TV show about Victorian architects. This will involve using 3DSMax to add textures and show how light entered the building. But first, I have to actually create the model!

One of the problems is that the model needs to be be accurate. Fortunately, I have a point cloud (from a laser scanning device) of the gothic library (see my other blog about how I came into possession of this data), which I can use to create the model. However, a point cloud is computationally very expensive, so it takes a long time to create the model, but more importantly, I can't import the point cloud into 3DSMax as it can't support point clouds (yet!). Therefore, my first problem is finding a software program that I can use to help creating an accurate model of the library. since the point cloud is incomplete as well as not being supported in 3DSMax, I will have to use the point cloud as a guide, and build polygons manually in a program like AutoCAD. AutoCAD, being made by Autodesk, who also make 3DSMax, there is a lot of compatibility between the two programs. For a start, they can both work in either 2-D or 3-D shapes, although the way they are constructed varies (AutoCAD is used more for designing buildings and complex mechanical parts, 3DSMax focuses more on smaller scale models for game engines etc.).

Shaded and wireframe views of the gothic library so far... the walls will be textured (given colour, physical properties) etc. when the model is finished.

However, the time spent in AutoCAD limited how much time could be spent in 3DS Max, which is a factor because 3DS Max is very time-consuming. Furthermore it was decided only to focus on the construction of the windows, and then the point cloud would be used to take images of the rest of the interior. These images will form the basis of the textures which will be rendered inside the library. This differed from the original plan of digitising every element inside the gothic library using autoCAD as this would be even more time consuming(!), as well as cutting down on the time spent digitising. Once the main model was built out of the point cloud, the rest of the model could be created in 3DS Max, using the edit poly feature from the modifier list to add elements and features which had not been included in the model. this additional editing in 3DS MAx took a little while longer than expected but with practice, the speed of modelling starts to improve.

Next time: texturing and lighting!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Creating a virtual 19th century walkthrough of the Gothic Library, Sir George Staunton Country Park, Havant, part one

N.B. this is a project that I am working on for my Southampton University course and the final results will not be used in real life unless otherwise mentioned. All similarities to the real world, except for anything relating to the Gothic Library, Lewis Vulliamy and all property relating to Autodesk (3DS Max, AutoCAD, etc.), are purely coincidental.

I have been assigned the task of creating a virtual "walkthrough" of the Gothic Library, Havant, for a new TV documentary, as part of a series looking at inspirational Victorian architects. Why the Gothic library? Because it was designed by Lewis Vulliamy, who designed a large number of ecclesiastical and secular buildings in innovative styles in the early Victorian era, and the library's appearance has changed dramatically over the last 150 years.  The Gothic started out life as a library, housing Chinese manuscripts and books of Sir George Staunton, but today very few of the Gothic elements of the library remain; indeed, it is often mistaken for a chapel than a library! This confusion arises from a lack of information about what it's original purpose was for, because it's external appearance (which is largely unchanged) is that of a Gothic revival from the early 19th century, similar to that of many churches across England. While the architect who designed it, Lewis Vulliamy, also designed churches in a similar style, the interior of the Gothic library showed off his flair and creative ability. There is historical  documentation to show what the Gothic library looked like, so part of the assignment will incorporate this.

So what do I mean by a "walkthrough"? The TV company want a video that shows how someone would move around the space of the library, back when it was in use. This would include the furnishings, such as the bookshelves, the original fireplace, etc. so this will take the form of an animation to look at some of the features that existed within the library, but have now been removed. Furthermore, these can be compared to the modern features which have replaced them, in particular the windows, which used to contain more stained glass.

Furthermore, a "walk through" would need to combine the archaeological and virtual elements together seamlessly so that it looks real. This is not as easy as it sounds! While the physical properties of light, bricks, books and so on can be recreated accurately within the software (in this case, 3DS Max (made by Autodesk), this doesn't necessarily mean that it will look realistic. So a balance must be struck between realism and physical accuracy. It is very easy to break the laws of physics in these bits of software.

Furthermore, it has been noted that the actual library may not have been a particularly good place to study, because of the windows letting in either too much or too little light, due to their position relative to the sun. This can be tested using 3DS Max and Mental Ray, which can calculate the position of the sun depending on your position on the earth and the time. This will allow us to see whether the windows impeded reading in the room, and whether it could actually be used as a library.

So I will use 3DS Max (and AutoCAD) to:

  • Reconstruct the Gothic library, as it looked like in it's heyday of the 1830's-1860's, complete with windows, bookcases and possibly the roof, using the laser scan data as a basis for the model, and supplement it with other historical documents.
    The main laser scan data, which has been imported as a point cloud from a FARO X330 and processed in various pieces of software (see my other blog for more information)
  • Analyse whether the light intensity would have been too great or too little for reading, or performing other related activities.
The original interior of the Gothic library, complete with the spectacular roof. I will try to recreate this as faithfully as possible!

The results of these will be animated using 3DS Max, and combined with a series of stills, will go into the TV documentary. Stay tuned for updates!