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Thread: Swift3D instead of Poser in workflow

  1. #1
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    Swift3D instead of Poser in workflow

    Referring to : http://www.e-frontier.com/article/ar...ew/1039/1/389/
    http://www.strata.com/solutions_work...llustrator.asp

    I really like this artist's workflow (Scott Thigpen), and would like to setup something similar.

    But in step 3 of the first link, I want to replace Poser with either Swift3D or Blender.
    And confine steps 4 and 5 to Adobe Illustrator CS2.
    (I don't have Painter and Photoshop.)
    Effectively giving me the workflow mentioned in the second link.

    The main reasons for including 3D are as a reference for depth of field (changing it without having to re-sketch the whole thing), to tryout different perspective views, seeing shadows in the right places, and the software checking for unnatural poses.
    The final output will always be produced with Illustrator.

    Also, if it doesn't work out, it shouldn't have cost me a cent.

    So I'll start working from :
    1. a very rough sketch
    2. model over it from scratch, or use an stock 3D model
    3. play around with poses, DOF, lights.
    then export to efficient and decent looking vector (preferred) or raster.
    (2 and 3 should be easily doable in Swift3D, I know.)
    then open/place into Illustrator, and finish off.
    As you will agree very modest requirements, no animation, no high quality super-duper renders.
    Just stability and predictability in the workflow.

    My questions are :
    How's the efficiency and quality of an exported .ai file ?
    Too many, the bare minimum, or something in the middle number of anchor points ?
    In other words is there much cleaning up to do after exporting ?
    (If so, I might as well trace over exported raster output.)
    How much control do I have on how paths get exported ?
    Is the exported file linked between Swift3D and Illustrator, so that I can keep making changes in Swift3D and see the changes immediately in Illustrator ?
    What version(s) of Illustrator does Swift3D export to ?

    Just some of the questions remaining when someone can not save in the trial version.
    (Please checkout my rant below.)

    See my other postings about this here :
    (Please wait for them to position exactly to my posting.)
    http://blenderartists.org/forum/show...64463&p=597593
    http://blenderartists.org/forum/show...64773&p=601172
    and my rant over Erain's trial policy :
    http://blenderartists.org/forum/show...64773&p=601242

  2. #2
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    I really don't think there is anything that will replace Poser. The guy in the link is using Poser for a very specific purpose...posing a human figure for use as drawing reference. What makes Poser useful and unique is the fact that you don't have to do any actual modeling and the controls for posing the figure. The first part isn't perhaps completely unique as you could conceiveably import an already completed figure model into Swift3D or Blender, but you are going to lack the posability that is Poser's strength.

    Think about it...they call it Poser. That's what this thing does...pose figures. It's not a modeler so you won't be able to come up with a concept for a new character then model it and use Poser's controls to pose it. Poser works with pre-defined models only. So that's what this guy in the tut is doing...he's just replacing his wooden posing figure/doll with a virtual one that can export pictures.

    I don't think Swift3D is at all what you are looking for, but I will try to answer a couple of your questions anyway. I haven't done much exporting of .ai's from Swift3D, but it doesn't create the most highly optimized vector files in the world. Fills are pretty good, but if you render outlines there will likely be far too many of them. They can be optimized by running them through a program called Optimaze!, but that's another $99 bucks.

    As for files being linked between Swift3D and Illustrator, that would be a no. If you make any changes to your file in Swift3D you will need to render it again, export, then import into Illustrator once again. I'm not sure exactly what version Swift3D exports to, but I'm guessing that you no longer need to know. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Swift3D, but I don't think it's right for what you want to do.

    So the bottom line would be that if you plan on doing something very similar to what was described in the first link...using a 3D program to create a reference image for a human figure...then you might just want to invest in Poser.
    mrush


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  3. #3
    supervillain gerbick's Avatar
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    Your rant about the software is pretty much one-sided.

    Guess you've never tried a limited trial before the PLE days of Alias Maya, discreet's 3ds max, or just about any other limited save output 3D or image editing program out in the last decade. Photoshop as well for that matter.

    Anyway, using Poser as a 3D app isn't something I'd recommend unless you're looking for a good program that does people and bones animation/inverse kinematics via a simplified UI. And in that case, I'd suggest 3ds max, cinema (which is about the same price at the lowest level as Strata), or Maya and do pretty much any modeling you'd ever want... Swift3D does indeed have an advanced modeler now since the 4.0 days; however be warned. It supports only tri-sided polys, and not quads... which to me is sometimes counter-intuitive - making a face will take you a longer time. Promised.

    But I'm not a huge Poser user... just never was a fan of the cookie cutter output, and until the Poser 5 Animation Pack, it's output to Flash was always a chore... output to *.dxf/*.3ds, then open in 3ds max, then make sure your keyframes are intact, then render to *.swf, and hope that you didn't pick up a lot of points during that translation.

    Tracing... maaaaaan. That takes me back to 1999 before Vecta3D and Swift3D.

    Blender, it's a darn good program, too keyboard shortcut heavy for me at times, but some of the best modeling out there... and thanks for that link to your rant. First time I've heard about sflender actually. And it's definitely something I want to add to my list of supported items. Looks pretty darn good to me.

    But to answer your questions... the *.ai files are editable within Illustrator and just in the case of small outlines and/or extreme corners, the mid-points aren't too "junky"... but curves though, I will have to say that you'll invariably edit out the points that make a curve - 64 points can make up one curve - and pull a two point with a smoother bezier curve instead. I've edited a lot of stuff in the past and saved quite a bit in terms of filesize, but in an animation it can be harder to track frame by frame.

    You can control the amount of segmentation via controls in the program, sweep steps, et al, but seriously... the Illustrator level supported in/out is level Illustrator 7/8 level, and not CS/CS2 level - all due to the *pdf attachment possibilities in those versions.

    But you can open that above file in as late as CS2 easily without any issues.

    You can import via *.dxf/*.3ds the typical things... camera, position, some materials - UV mapping can be problematic, but correctable (sp?) via the Advanced Modeler within Swift3D - but things like nurbs and polyarc/patch type of modeling will just fail unless converted to polys. And that will bring back the segmented curves and multiple anchor points.

    I think I tackled some of your questions. If not, I'm always around in regards to Swift3D. But I'll be honest... I've all but switched over to most of my modeling within a host app, like 3ds max, and then render using the plug-in instead. That way, I can keep more unnecessary points out, and animate pretty easily and be done with it. Start out in Illustrator, end in 3ds max, render out to *.swf... compile into Flash. That's my workflow for the most part.

    Sounds like all you need to do is replace 3ds max with blender/sflender. Only if the output is worth anything... and from the examples on that page for sflender, I can say that Erain's *.swf output is quite a bit cleaner.

    [ Hello ] | [ gerbick ] | [ Ω ]

  4. #4
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    Thanks both of you for your replies.

    The guy in the link is using Poser for a very specific purpose...posing a human figure for use as drawing reference.
    Exactly what I want.
    And therefore I like his workflow. The 3D model will just be an intermediate result. It doesn't need too much detail, the final pose and shapes/proportions of the body parts are what counts to me. Playing with DOF (saves re-sketching and re-scanning), and also a reference to where shadows would be (lighting).
    Quoting myself :
    The final output will always be produced with Illustrator.
    The reason I mentioned tracing (with Wacom pen), is because it's faster for me to do and get the bare minimum of anchor points required, than it is to use the clean up facility in Illustrator, and still have to do more cleaning up manually afterwards (when Illustrator tells you it can't do anymore cleaning).

    (It takes some practice, but Deke McClelland teaches you to trace faster than the speed of light with the pen tool. Total Training for Adobe Illustrator CS.)
    And CS2 has LiveTrace which saves hours of work, is almost as good as a manual trace, and requires only minimal cleaning up afterwards.

    And this doesn't sound too good at all :
    What makes Poser useful and unique is the fact that you don't have to do any actual modeling and the controls for posing the figure. The first part isn't perhaps completely unique as you could conceiveably import an already completed figure model into Swift3D or Blender, but you are going to lack the posability that is Poser's strength.
    What an eye opener. That means, no easy or no posing in Swift3D or Blender.

    I guess I will have to go back to the e-frontier website.

    EDIT : I'm glad I finally managed to register on these forums by the way. Now the funny part : In the past 5 years or so, I tried to register, a couple of times per year, but the server had bad karma each and every time. It would give me a http 404 error "The page cannot be displayed".
    It was a recurring joke with my friends and family, to watch me attempt to register here. Once, I was even called a reject.
    Last edited by VectorX; 04-16-2006 at 07:36 PM.

  5. #5
    supervillain gerbick's Avatar
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    lol. sorry about the sign-up errors... sounds like the server was having it's way with you.

    there is easing between frames in Swift3D 4.5, although it's somewhat limited and nigh-hidden.

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  6. #6
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    Oh, ehrm, Easing in Swift3D.
    When I trialled Swift3D a year ago, I bumped into this :
    http://www.erain.com/blog/archives/2...n_feature.html
    I sense from what you're saying about it, not much has changed since then ?

    About the rant being one-sided, I forgot to reply.
    It's not meant so bad as I typed it.
    The main purpose of any graphic program is to get some beautifuly arranged ones and zeros in a file.
    So to put it mildly, being only viewable in the graphic program that created it, is somewhat limiting.
    Just trying to be creative here :
    They could have offered a trial version with which it's not possible to save or export. The code would just not be in the program. And it shouldn't be possible to enter registration information.
    But with this trial version it should be possible to upload a file to erain.com from within Swift3D, and then pick it up from there for further processing. Say with a maximum of 3 uploads ?
    Most workflows will not end with Swift3D, otherwise erain wouldn't have created so many exporters.

    They can't expect people to pay, to be able to trial the output from Swift3D. Meaning : completing their workflow.
    Anyways, no posing no use to me anyway.
    But as usual it's also a fruitless rant.
    I know that erain is not going to change their policy, and that I should only concentrate on things which I can change.
    Like looking for another solution/program.

    EDIT:
    OMG, I just noticed that this is the product support forum.
    I'm not a woman, but please be gentle.

    EDIT 2:
    While browsing the Blender documentation I found this :
    Posemode
    Will check it out later.
    Last edited by VectorX; 04-17-2006 at 08:06 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Yeah, I didn't go into it in my first post, but you can pose figures in 3dsmax, blender, etc. It's just a lot harder than doing it in Poser. Poser allows you to skip two very time-consuming parts of the process...modeling and setting up the bone structure.

    I get the impression that you don't want a program that will allow you to create anything you want from scratch. Full-featured 3D programs are more versatile and will give you a wider range of overall options, but if you just want something that will let you easily pose a variety of figures for loose visual reference then Poser is the way to go.

    Most programs will have something similar to Blender's 'Posemode', but in order to be able to use it you first need to have a model. How good are you at modeling 3D figures? Once that's done you need to set up a bone structure. Neither of these are what I would call a quick or simple task. You would have to do this for each and every new character you wanted a reference for unless you just made one or two...maybe a generic male and a female figure...that you could pose up and use as virtual representations of a wooden posing doll. And if you are just going to do that, then you would be far better off just getting Poser.

    So do you see the distinction that I am trying to make, here? If the posing of the figure is what's important to you and not the modeling, then Poser is what you want. If you want greater creative freedom and control over the actual mesh of the 3D object and the ability to create absolutely anything you want, then you want something along the lines of 3dsmax, Lightwave, Cinema4D or Blender. The downside to having the greater freedom though, is a monstrous increase in the time needed to take an idea from concept to completion. Modeling from scratch, setting up materials and lighting, setting up IK and bones...this can take days or weeks depending on your skill level. And keep in mind that you have to do this for each and every project unless you come up with a way to streamline your process like maybe making a faceless figure that could be used as a base for other models. But the more you go down this road the more it becomes like having Poser, but without the cool posing controls.

    You said in this thread that ideally your solution won't cost you anything. You said in another thread however, that $229 wasn't a problem, you just had an issue with the trial policy. I would recommend taking that and paying the $249 that they are asking for Poser. If you want posable figure reference, then that's the program to get.

    As for this being Swift3D's support forum...yep, it sure is. Despite that fact though, I'm not going to recommend a program that's not right for what you want to do. Swift3D is hands down one of my favorite programs (I'm not an employee, btw), but that doesn't mean it's going to be the perfect thing for everyone and every task. I can say with some certainty though, that the trial policy won't be changed. Having a fully-functional trial just makes it too easy to pirate.
    mrush


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  8. #8
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    I'm a noob when it comes to modelling (a year ago was my last attempt at it.)
    I get the impression that you don't want a program that will allow you to create anything you want from scratch.

    .....but if you just want something that will let you easily pose a variety of figures for loose visual reference then Poser is the way to go.
    Basically what I want is bring in a rough sketch in a 3D program and pose a model over it, after this I want to be able to make body parts of the character larger, shorter, bigger, fatter, etc. I can easily put on details like eyes and facial expression with a Wacom pen, once I have the correct pose and shadow references in Illustrator.
    (Either in raster or vector format. But vector preferred.)

    Making characters larger, shorter, bigger, fatter, etc is so laborious when you have to draw it by hand. Even with a Wacom pen. And most of the time you still have to start from scratch when DOF, or perspective positioning is wrong.

    Oh, and on my quest I just bumped into this : Quidam
    But I already decided to go the Poser way.
    Last edited by VectorX; 04-17-2006 at 01:25 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Yeah, if your new to modeling I would definitely go with Poser. Quidam looks cool (bookmarked it for further reference), but it looks like it doesn't have any of the posing features that you desire. It says you need to export the model and scene out to another program for animating. It does look pretty cool though, for what it does.

    I got the free version of Poser3 that came with an issue of Computer Arts a while back. I haven't installed it on my latest computer and I haven't been able to find the CD, but if I remember correctly, then yes you can adjust the scale of all the individual parts. This would give you the basic shape of the figure and then you can just drag body parts around and have the rest of the body follow along as you pose the figure. Models and poses can be saved for future use or reference. If I did more of this kind of thing I would use it for this very purpose myself.
    mrush


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  10. #10
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    It has something called Pose Studio : Features (halfway down the page).

    Some short Movies to watch.
    In the penultimate movie "Creating a comics character in QUIDAM" you can eventually see some posing going on.
    It looks very promising but the exporters/importers are only for other 3D apps I believe. So Quidam is not going to do me any good.

    Man, I'm thinking of setting up a temporary dual boot and a data sharing partition. And then tryout everything that looks promising one by one.

    Regarding the cost/money I did say :
    Also, if it doesn't work out, it shouldn't have cost me a cent.
    if it doesn't work out

    Oh and guys, both of you thanks for your detailed replies/opinions sofar.
    Really helpful.
    Last edited by VectorX; 04-17-2006 at 03:49 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Seems like I missed the part about posing in Quidam. Might be worth a look.

    Good luck
    mrush


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  12. #12
    ism BlinkOk's Avatar
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    i dunno if this is pertinant but modelling and posing a manequin in swift wouldn't be too hard a task (even investing in a turbo squid/3dcafe .3ds manequin). i get the impression that your using this for cell shaded work and you have pretty good control over the outlines generated in swift (especially where nodes are concerned). it's not great but i can't think of anything else that would give you outlines and shapes that you could work with as vectors.
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  13. #13
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    Yes BlinkOK,

    Shell shaded, similar to GTA San Andreas (= Swift 3D).
    But only when I can export to a vector format (= Swift 3D) which Illustrator can read, and preferably using my own (in Illustrator) created brushes. I will then finalize in Illustrator.

    Otherwise export to a highres raster format (= Swift 3D) which Illustrator can read. I will then trace in Illustrator and finalize.

    But what I understand from RUSHVision and gerbick is that posing is still not too great, nor easy in Swift 3D. And that Poser has no competition when it comes to this.

    There used to be a great import plugin for Illustrator : Elysium 3D-Tiger.
    You could import a 3D model with it, pose it, and then comit to vector outlines. Alas development stopped, just when I got interested.
    In September 2004 if I remember well.

  14. #14
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Blink has a point. You could conceivably rig up a figure in Swift3D that is posable and use it a simple mannequin. Depending on your requirements it might even be just the thing. I think it would still end up being a fairly poor substitute for Poser in this instance, though. Swift3D would have a hard time competing in the realism and simplicity department.

    Just in case you were wondering, VectorX...in order to move/animate something in Swift3D, it needs to be a separate object. So to create a posable figure you would build your character out of many separate elements. How many would depend on the level of articulation you desire. So you would create individual finger joints, a palm, forearm, upper arm, torso, neck, head, etc. Then all of these would be grouped together in a manner that would allow you to pose the figure, but how you would go about the posing is quite a bit different than what you experience in Poser.

    In Poser you can grab and drag any part of the body and the rest of the body will come along with it in a manner that makes kinetic sense. This function is built into each and every model already, that's why you can only use certain figures within Poser and have everything work as it should. This is also why you are somewhat limited in what kind of deformations you can make to the mesh.

    In Swift3D however, you would rotate various groups or single objects within the hierarchy of your overall body group. You can either move things around in the viewports or rotate them with the Rotation Trackball. There are no built-in functions to facilitate figure animation specifically.
    mrush


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  15. #15
    ism BlinkOk's Avatar
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    yeah i was thinkin he just wanted to block out the scene. which i think swift would be good for but i think he wants more detail which to me would suggest a poser/swift combo.
    i still think all the products out there are either too little or too much though. i get the impression that vector is wanting the products to do about 80% of the work so that the nodes are manageable.
    i think with just about any "canned human" type product out there the detail is gonna be too much. like the poser meshes are so detailed it will produce TONS of nodes which may be too much to work with.
    rush@ you should post some vector images of your superhero dude. i know it was a lot of work but it kinna shows the economy that swift has with vectors.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VectorX
    The main reasons for including 3D are as a reference for depth of field (changing it without having to re-sketch the whole thing), to tryout different perspective views, seeing shadows in the right places, and the software checking for unnatural poses.
    The final output will always be produced with Illustrator.
    I would and I will if he really wants me to, but it is my understanding that since he's going to be re-drawing it in Illustrator anyway, the actual vector output from Swift3D isn't so much in question.
    mrush


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    LOL. Vector output is important. From my previous post :
    Shell shaded, similar to GTA San Andreas (= Swift 3D).
    But only when I can export to a vector format (= Swift 3D) which Illustrator can read, and preferably using my own (in Illustrator) created brushes. I will then finalize in Illustrator.

    Otherwise export to a highres raster format (= Swift 3D) which Illustrator can read. I will then trace in Illustrator and finalize.
    The first option would be ideal, saving a lot of manual tracing work, or trial and error with the Illustrator LiveTrace tool. Which I would have to do with the second option.

    The whole point is to go from a rough sketch, to a final pose in 3D, and export it to a good quality starting point in vector format.

    If I can not start with vectors in Illustrator, I will have to first manually trace. No problem, but pretty boring and a waste of time.
    Although, it would give me exactly what I want.
    But then again, it would broaden the choice to any 3D program, taking a screenshot of the final pose with [ALT]+[Prt Scr], paste it and trace over it.

    When the software was not limited to predefined poses, I could even go ultra cheap taking screenshots from the male and female version of
    3D Virtual Figure Drawing Studio.

    With "The final output will always be produced with Illustrator." and "finalize in Illustrator" I mean cleaning up, stroking paths with my own brushes (inking paths to go from thin to thick and vice versa, round or square corners, endpoints, etc.), flatting, colouring.

    Seems that I will never get exactly what I want :

    Poser :
    weak at modelling
    good at posing
    doesn't export to Illustrator (.ai) format

    Swift3D :
    good at modelling
    not so good at posing
    exports to Illustrator (.ai) format
    Last edited by VectorX; 04-19-2006 at 05:03 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member RUSHVision's Avatar
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    Ok, so here's a question...do you plan on doing primarily 'standard' human forms and figures, or do you also want to be able to create more stylized characters as well?

    Let me say also that for the most part, Swift3D's vector output is literally at the forefront of current technology. They have been for while and continue to be this planet's premier vector rendering solution. I am an ardent supporter of both erain as a company and Swift3D as a product. With that being said, there is always room for improvement. I found a pic I had originally made to show erain what we were looking for while beta testing that is actually a pretty good example of what I was saying earlier about there being an excess of lines in complex curved shapes. How much this occurs depends on the complexity of your shape. You also have some control over the amount of detail that gets rendered by way of four detail settings...low, med, high & automatic...and a Lines/Curves slider that allows you to specify a preference for curved or straight line segments. Lines will generally give you more precision, but it also tends to add more segments that necessary.

    If you are doing even a short 30-60 frame animation then the amount of editing that you would have to do on each frame to properly optimize the image becomes somewhat prohibitive. However, if you are doing static images and all you have to do is edit a single frame/image, then Swift3D might be more helpful that I originally thought. Looking at the link in your first post, what he ended up with looked nothing like what he used for a reference. It had the pose and essential lines, but that's all it was...a loose reference that was sketched over. If you want to instead reshape and manipulate the actual vector output, then go back to mulling over the purchase of Swift3D.

    Here's the example I was talking about. And you were curious about Swift3D's actual output...is there something you would like me to render out for you?

    Crimson Avenger Render Lines

    I thought I would throw an animation in here as well, while I'm at it.
    Crimson Avenger Swing
    Last edited by RUSHVision; 04-19-2006 at 01:16 PM.
    mrush


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  19. #19
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    Animation is not a requirement.

    With 'standard' human forms and figures, do you mean : unclothed, mono or gray-scale, gouraud or phong shaded ?
    Then the answer is yes. Anatomy, pose, foreshortening, highlights and shadows are most important before exporting.
    Unclothed (or lycra) exporting is a must. Then I can easily add layers on top, to draw different styles of clothing.
    Clothed exporting would almost eliminate this flexibility. (Anatomy would not be visible.)
    I will be doing the scaling, clothing, flatting and colouring in Illustrator. Comic style.

    And I think that the problems with lines of type A and B as per your example "Crimson Avenger Render Lines" are in my case probably not too disturbing and easily cleaned up/deleted. Depends on the frequency they would occur. I'm more worried about the number of anchor points generated per path. Meaning bigger file size and slower. But Illustrator's simplify tool can also take care of removing most unnecessary anchor points from paths/objects.
    And as for C, yes you're right. The eyes should be outlined. But not always completely : Vicky Fox

    And you were curious about Swift3D's actual output...is there something you would like me to render out for you?
    There should be. But like I said in my 4th posting, "....a year ago was my last attempt at it."
    I can't remember if I backed up anything of those attempts. Those were my only 3D models ever.
    I will have to find and check the old MO disks, and the Fujitsu Dynamo drive.
    (Gave up on MO technology : slow and low capacity.)
    But I can upload a scanned rough sketch.

  20. #20
    ism BlinkOk's Avatar
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    this is a vector piece i did which, i imagine, would be along the lines of the process you are looking for (Click it for a larger image)

    i made a couple of renders in swift of the various objects in the scene and then composited them in flash, refining the linework as well. i added a little blur here and there for movement. the smoke and flames were added in flash (you would use illustrator though). the beauty of using flash is everything is exported in a separate layer outline, shadows, transparent objects so it's easier to work with
    Last edited by BlinkOk; 04-19-2006 at 08:34 PM.
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