Using Carrara Studio 3 to

Make a Tree and Leave....
.... it to Dogwaffle
more Carrara

Step 1 - Rendering Trees with Carrara

Carrara is a versatile 3D program that does just about everything. Well, almost. But for a beginning artist who's never done 3D and doesn't have a high budget to afford the expensive top alternatives, it's a  great starter application to get into 3D. The rendering is fast and beautiful, and support many formats for video, imaging/print and web such as Shockwave 3D and Flash. Carrara also includes several modelers like for terrain, polygonal models (great for gamedev), subdivision surfaces and metaballs (great for organics) and Spline modeling (great for precise and mechanical stuff).  It also includes numerous rendering special fx, and there are many additional features available through 3rd-party plugins. Carrara is also well suited as a companion to other products, with good support for 3D file formats.


DigArts tree image stuck on billboard in 3D scene rendered in Carrara

No longer the latest,
but still one of the greatest:


Get Carrara Studio 3
now only $49.95!
while they last


One new type of object that was introduced in Carrara Studio 3 is the Plant. It serves as a way to make trees, and various types of bushes and shrubbery.

Insert (drag-and-drop) the Plant object into your scene. This will open the Plant editor.
Make more of your own
 foliage for Game Dev Content
with particle Brushes!

see what's new:
PD Pro Digital Painter 3.5


The Plant editor shows various components such as Trunk, branches, foliage.

There are also many presets. A preview window can give a quick idea of the resulting tree.

Note the button in the lower-left of this dialog: Advanced Properties...


<<< click for larger view

Advanced properties is for the mathematically gifted minds who want to play with even more parameters and numbers.

I'd say this is bordering on insane, but hey if you bought it, it's yours, so there ;-)

You can also simply ignore it, really. At least for a good while.

Here's the preview window, back in the scene assembly room, showing the resulting tree we've got so far.



A test render without lights could generate an interesting black on white rendering. This could easily also be used as an Alpha mask, so you could paint your own leave colors and wood textures into it.

Note that this one is not totally black - there was probably some ambient light present which I forgot to disable.



Testing the options for rendering: You can render to Alpha at the same time, giving you a nice alpha mask around the tree. Here are other options too, rendered with lights, environment lighting and more.

You'll notice in some cases that a white border may show near the edge of the leaves. That's because of the white background. We should use black background. We could also premultiply the alpha into this for better result.

In the texture room you can work on the appearance of the tree stump, branches, and leaves. A simple texture from a tree bark collection (like the ones by Dan Ritchie we have here in the freebies section of Project Dogwaffle) will go a long way to add better texturing and bump mapping too.

A few more examples.
Here's a larger rendering of such a tree against white and black background, with alpha:

bigtree_alpha.zip 
(543 kb)

bigtree_alpha_bgblack.zip (606 kb)

You can also use this to create a sequence of various trees.

In this case they're not much different from eachother. But you could make totally
different tree images just as easily, given the many presets and parameters that can be changed.



Step 2 - Into Project Dogwaffle

Now that you have a few trees rendered and saved into image files, such as Targa (with alpha), you can take it into PD Pro.
Here is a screenshot of Dogwaffle at work, having just painted a few styles of grass with the particle brushes.

A tree was also loaded into a custom brush (shown along the lower left in the brush manager:

Brush > Store / manage...

A copy of the current image buffer is also showing in a snapshot thumbnail near the lower left:

Buffer > Store buffer...

The brush manager not only holds a copy of the custom brush for re-use, it also let's you manage its appearance - size, rotation, hue, saturation and other color components can easily be changed.

This lets you stomp the image of the tree in different appearances. You can also flip it horizontally left to right.

Using a selection lasp in the alpha channel you can isolate areas of the foreground whenyou want to add a tree in the background but not over the grass nearby. The alpha channel can also be captured in a snapshot for later re-use.

Alpha > Store alpha...

Additional filters such as the light diffusion, or Mystic vision blur, can then be added, along with lens flares, to make it look like the Sun is behind the tree and breaking through the misty skies.



Photographic filters can convey yet another story. This has both the sunset filter (for red-ish skies) and the fog filter (for misty cold grey bottoms)


Step 3 - Adding Animated Backgrounds

You can also get more sophisticated and turn this into an animation.
 For example, this will be the foreground, behind which we'll want to see moving skies. The technique is simple:

- load an animated background (moving skies)
- stomp the foreground over it by way of a brush

The brush can have the white sky parts masked as transparent so as to let the original animated skies revail.

You can build an alpha channel for this image in several ways, such as keying on white. Or by copying the color image to alpha as a grey and using contrast enhancements. There are tools for adjusting alpha contrast and brightness and you can paint directly on alpha too.

A sample Targa file of this scene is here:
brush_foreground.zip (693 kb)


You can pick this entire image up as a brush, along with the alpha channel masking the white sky. Store it with the brush manager for later use. Notice it here along the left edge, with the transparent sky parts.

In the lower area of the screenshot you see a snapshot of the color buffer and a snapshot of the Alpha buffer. Either one can be stored separately for later re-use.

Next you can create an animation of moving skies.

FlashMX preview

AVI file (zipped) - moving_skies_cp.zip  (Cinepak codec, 1.3 MB)


Here's an example of a moving sky, as a looping texture. It started as a plasma noise, turned blue/white. Then it was made into an animation. Then a Transform filter was applied in the timeline to Translate a slightly scaled-up version.

A secondary cloud pattern was created with the Timeline's 'compose with Swap' modes.  The Timeline Transform was then applied again to slightly move the whole set so even the 'still' clouds appear to move slightly, thus making it look like they're farther away.

next we used
Animation>Frames>Time Stretch

    with frame blending and
Animation>Frames>make loopable
to finish this part as a looping endless animation.

You can then use the Brush Keyframer to plaster the image of the foreground from the brush over the animated frame sequence.

The brush is occupying the entire frame, but parts of it are transparent. The background sky thus remains untouched and continues to show its animated clouds.

The Keyframer can actually move the brush across keyframes, rotate it, scale it and fade it. It can also render the brush animation with motion blur and line-up the brush image along the motion path.


Snowfall:



Additional effects can be applied through the Animation Timeline editor. The Snowfall filter can add a dense blizzard in the far background over the moving skies. Additional renderings can add isolated drifting snowflakes nearby.



FlashMX preview

AVI file (zipped) - snow_fall_cp.zip  (Cinepak codec, 1.5 MB)



This shows a sample animation finished in this way. Notice the moving skies in the background, as well as many small snowflakes there only. An Alpha mask was used during Timeline rendering to prevent the drawing of snowflakes in front of the trees and hill's grass.

The alpha channel was then disabled and a few additional, larger snowflakes were rendered over all areas and at a different speed and size. These are traditional animation techniques to build a 3D-like impression based on motion speed and object size.


Old Film




FlashMX preview

AVI file (zipped) - old_film_cp.zip  (Cinepak codec, 1.6 MB)


Other tricks involve:

- film grain
- transform for light 'swimming' of position
- old film mode for scratches, dust particles, jitter move
- greyscale conversion or color/sepia


There are many other ways to put together a great looking landscape by combining Carrara and Dogwaffle.
The new version 3.5 of PD Pro has new styles for the Particle Brushes (optipustics), called shrinking lines.
These start with a user-controlled size and gradually shrink until they vanish. It's great for various types of shrubbery and bushes.
There is also the option now to paint into Alpha at the same time, creating perfect transparency masks so you can load
the texture on a polygon in a 3D rendering or realtime game.
Dogwaffle bush in 3D scene
Carrara 4 rendering with a few polygons added to carry shrubbery that has transparency masks coming from the particle brushes.
Note how Carrara properly casts the shadow from the opaque portions of that mask.