Planetary Project Tutorial

From Realsoft3D Wiki



  • Another tutorial in the "Saved From The Abyss" Series , which are tutorials concerning little known but very useful information that appeared on the Realsoft3D Mailing List .

Garry Curtis January 1 2006.

A tutorial for Realsoft3D V5+

Beginner/intermediate level.


Man , that was a hectic but productive June (2005) , so much going on , on the Realsoft List . Not even sure where it all began ... seems it started with a search for realistic clouds , landscapes and many other interesting things related . I do remember Jyrki Hokkanen posting images of his basic clouds and then a simple mpeg1 animation of evolving clouds using Mark Heuyman's new Volumetric Cloud material . Cloud mpeg anim. Mark was also working away on renders of Earth from space ... somewhere along the way I started to get inspired and involved .

Checking my RS Mail archives , I see now that it was Karl R. Petterson's Noise Controller Material that tweaked my interest . Karl had graciously posted that material to the list as a 2004 Christmas present Karl's Info file but so many irons in the fire led to it being placed on my back burner . In the meantime ...

Matthias and his Alien Egg

Matthias Kappenberg had also shared an awesome example of something quite unique... Matthias' ALIEN EGG Realsoft project . Not only was this a very creative project but also a very good example of Displacement Mapping with Realsoft . I put KRP's noise on "The Egg" and came up with

Sorry for the long preamble but credit is due and must be given when the opportunity arises , I think . Hopefully you will find the time to explore a little yourself with the help of this web page , and then maybe even jump on the Realsoft list and shout out a thanks or two yourself to Mathias , Mark , Karl and the many other Realers (too numerous to mention here) who contribute so much so often , who assist nonstop actually , and even share their own personal and unique tools and creations .

"So when do we get to the Planetary stuff Garry ?"

... Let's go ! As a Matter of fact , if you are getting a little impatient and just want to start rendering (good for you) then grab The Planetary Project Zip File (700KB) unzip and load it into Realsoft . You can always catch up to us later . Planetary Projects Readme.txt is Chock full of Important Info .

For those of you hanging in , late one night I ranted on the List how I could not make Displacement Mapped craters . Terribly frustrated I carried on about the hair I was pulling out in fist fulls ! Matthias kindly posted that all I had to do was simply make the bump height a negative number ... and bang , Craters ... ... Hey ! ... I knew that !


How it all Started




Not A Planet

No it's not a planet , but I kinda dig that image . Rendered so quickly on my dual processor machine with awesome quality and is really a perfect example of what can be done so easily with Realsoft displacement mapping , and a little VSL (the Realsoft Visual Shading Language) .

This one single SDS sphere has been the target of our KRP VSL Noise Material . SDS ? Well , if you don't know about Realsoft SDS modelling you simply have to download the fully-functional demo and have some fun . Realsoft Home Page . Just head to the Download section .

On to the Actual Planetary Project

As the Projects Readme.txt Planetary Readme.txt indicates , this entire project has the SDS sphere's displacement set to 0.10 . The resulting displacement , or non-displacement or negative displacement is then controlled directly from the VSL procedural material itself . Hmmm ... let me try to explain that a bit ...

Inside Karls cool VSL Noise shader are many ways to modify the rendered result , simply by moving one or 2 or 10 sliders in the Noise shaders GUI Panel . One of the most important sliders , 'Bump_height' , will NOW control the amount of SDS mesh displacement , and if you have the 'Bump Height' slider set to 0.00 the result will be zero displacement and a '2D' mapping only , much like a VSL 'Color+ 0.00 Bump Height' mapping might if there was a 0.00 displacement map setting on the Specific Tab in the SDS sphere's Property window .

Well , more on this later . For now , simply double click on the SDS Sphere in the 'Select' Window to open it's Property Window . Select the Specific Tab by clicking on it . (see giant screen shots below)


Displacement Control Setting on the SDS Sphere's 'Specific' Tab

Assuming you've downloaded the project file , The Planetary Project File decompresssed and loaded it , all you have to do to see a quick example of how this shader will displace the mesh sphere is simply hit the render button ! You may notice a few things after the render completes :

RealSoft Interface Options & Considerations

  • 1) The project opened without anything visible in the viewport - no wireframe representation of the simple scene .
  • 2) When you hit the render button , only a small render takes place inside the viewport .
  • 3) After the render is finished , no refresh of the viewport is possible .

I'll address those observations before we get going , as well as offer ways to customize your interface , your way . This project's settings are just my personal preference for working with projects of this type that are basically of an exploring nature .

  • We don't need to see the wireframe of the object since we are primarily trying to get to know this Noise shader before we start to manipulate objects .
  • Displacement mappings can sometimes take a little bit longer to render , so I've taken advantage of the option to reduce the size of the render for this project .
  • Lastly , I think a great way to compare or see just what kind of a difference , moving one of the many sliders in this shader might do , is to have the next render , draw 'over' the current render . As the new render replaces the old , we can see exactly what we have accomplished via our last set of changes . This can be invaluable to 'dialing-in' a certain look .

For those newcomers who would like a quick look at how we can customize the viewport Interface_Customizing_-_a_brief_explanation for a quick look at that (now or later) . For those who just want to get going on working with this project and material , let's carry on ...



Pull Down Menu

For a few humble examples of simple displacement mapping just do what the above screenshot suggests . That is , click on the default mapping (in the "Select Window") and observe how RS magically presents a new menu "Material" (above) , and how that menu is also a drop-down menu featuring many other materials that you can simply select and then just hit the render button , with totally different results . What could be easier ?



Easy, Eh ? Just select a new Material and Render , with totally new and perhaps unexpected results . Carry on rendering away while a grab a Budweiser .

Too easy ? Well , maybe we could delve deeper and actually explore the Material that lies beneath , but above the actual VSL code of Karl's . To do that we'll just click on the second icon , or tab along the top of the Select Window (Flyover help indicates "Materials") . Make sure that the default mapping is selected on the first page in the 'Select Window' (flyover help says Geometric Objects) . That way , whenever you are 'inside' the Materials Tab you will notice that the list of materials available for your sphere object can still be chosen using the pull down menu at top . This feature will now come in handy if we start to explore the actual parameters of these slightly different "Planet" materials .

  • Screen shot below shows us what the Material Panel should look like .


Customized Material Page

  • *** note : the above screen shot may not resemble the Realsoft V5 Material Tab that you are used to looking at . The default settings are great for presenting the many , many materials available to any user , but if you would like to know how to adjust your Material Preview , surf this way to Robert Den Broeders excellent tutorial on customizing this Tab using the elaborate sets of options available . Customizing your Material Previews


Material Property Window Opened

Above we see a new Window at right , the Material's Property Window opened to reveal KRP's Noise Control Panel . Thanks again to Karl for giving us a nice GUI interface with many sliders to manipulate . If the project loads without the panel open , just double click on any one of the VSL Materials (at left) to open it's Properties window , then simply click on the 'Preview' box at it's very top-left and you will see a new preview pane open on that window . You may not notice it but RS is actually rendering that material preview (it's not just a snapshot) . You'll notice that I have a nice big Preview of that material on this window as well , but if it's too big for your machine , surf on over to Roberts tutorial linked just above to customize it .


OK , let's do a little quick exploring here . You've obviously done a render , or 99 , so reload the initial project again so that we are all on the same page right from the start . Good . Now , have a look at the second material on the Material Tab , Noise Controller Blue 2 . Specifically , it's "Bump Height" control (6th control from the bottom on it's Property Window) . You'll see it is set for 0.02 . If you haven't already , render it .


First Render of Noise Controller Blue 2

Now , let's just change the positive .02 to a negative .02 via the slider (or enter -0.02 manually) , and hit the render button once again to watch what kind of a difference we might get ...


Negative Render of the Noise Controller Blue 2 Material

Well , it may not hit you right away that this is a complete reversal , so let me explain how so . Directly above the slider we are currently working with are two color box controls 'Deep Color' and 'Top Color' . Our first render had the blue color in the lower regions of the displaced mesh , and the negative .02 render had the white color in the lower regions . Let's change the -0.02 to 0.00 to get that smooth 'color only' look I was talking about earlier .


No Bump Height - Smooth Render

This time we see something smooth that may remind one , a tiny bit , of a "cloud covered planet" shader . Hmmm , how can we make it look even better as such . Let's see ... (starting from the top of this shader's control panel) ... well , the render is a little too blocky , so , let's increase the Main Octaves from 1 to 8 . Render . Good . Let's decrease the size of the mapping to increase block size , making the clouds bigger and fluffier . In "Main Scale" punch in 5,5,5 instead of the 10,10,10 that we have now . Ahh , much better .


Smoother Render

We'll skip over some of these controls for the moment , so go down to "Curvature" and increase it to 1.0 . This will increase contrasts and help us to understand what some of these controls do . This will also briefly take us away from our goal of a cloud map , but we'll recover shortly . Go back up to the "Main Dimension" slider and increase it to 3.00 . Render and we see how very 'hard' our clouds are now (below) ...


High Contrast Render

... so let's go the other way and decrease "Main Dimension" back to 1 then reset "Curvature" and decrease that to .25 . We can see how lowering "Curvature" has softened the look(below) .


Back to a Smooth Render

Ah much better . Render and we see just how we have gone to a hard contrast , softer , then even softer still (image examples above) . This is basically the way to work with new shaders like this one , more or less trial & error .

Trial & Error

Couple more steps . Let's increase the "Main Dimension" again , say 50% , so set it to 1.50 . Wow , now we are getting somewhere . We can really begin to see some cloud-like details in our cloud map (render is below) . In fact , I think we're close enough to make a go of it . Let's leave the rest of these controls for later , and jump right to the Big-Daddy , the "Bump Height" control .


2 Dimensional Clouds Appear

Let's try a modest setting of 0.01 and see if we can't make our present cloud map come to life . Whoa ... all that tiny detail in the map was just sitting there waiting to be displaced . If that amount is too much in your opinion , just delete the 0.01 "Bump Height" setting and type in 0.005 , then re-render for more subtle displacements (the input box will still read 0.01 externally , but internally RS has accepted your 0.005 entry) .


Displaced 3D Clouds

Lets Have Some Fun

Well just for fun , let's have some fun ! Increase your "Bump Height" to 0.1 and it looks like our little blue planet has been through an ice age or 2 . Perhaps it's time to start making it look a little more like an asteroid ?


Planet Suffers Ice Age

Remember how "Curvature" and "Main Dimension" increased the smoothness by lowering their settings , well head back in , just for fun , and increase their settings and re-render . Hmmm , looking a bit like an odd spiky meteorite .


Strange Spiky Meteorite

Let's decrease "Bump Height" to a negative amount , say -0.02 and see if we can't make this look like an orbiting object that's been bombarded a few million times . Well , we're getting there , sort of ... I see craters and blue ridges (below) .


Craters and Blue Ridges

Please keep in mind that "Curvature" and "Main Dimension" are still in high contrast mode . OK , let's really go to town here . Change the "Deep Color" to .45 .30 .15 and leave your "Top Color" as 'White' , then change "Bump Height" to 0.07 , then go all the way up to the top and change the original mapping size from 5 5 5 to 1 1 1 in the "Main Scale" Control . Set "Curvature" down around .25 and "Main Dimension" exactly at 1.00 and render a very smooth frozen brown snowball , such as what might be laying at the heart of a comet .


Brown Snowball

So how do we add some contrasting effects ? Well , as we've learned ... set "Main Dimension" back up to around 3.00 & Render . Ohh ya , once again the cool details appear... (below)


Now the Details Appear

... now , yet again , increase "Curvature" from .025 to 0.75 and re-render ... and we can really see some highlights come out of the alien terrain ! The 1 1 1 "Main Scale" setting can also be seen in effect quite clearly for this last series of renders , as it distorts the sphere into an odd roundish shape .


Even More Contrasting Details Click Here For the Hi-Res JPEG Image

That's All Folks!

Well , it may seem like we're just getting going , but I'm afraid this is where I leave you . I won't go into exploring all the sliders on this Noise Material's huge panel , but will let you do so on your own . There isn't any documentation regarding this material (except Karl's Readme.txt linked above) so now it's up to you to just try this-and-that and see what you can come up with . However , Karl has been very helpful in taking the time to provide some tips via the RS 'fly-over' help tool (just hold your mouse pointer over any control for a tip on how to use that control) . That's exactly what I did to come up with the dozen of included moons and asteroids and planetary materials in just one evening . As mentioned previously , I've included a large readme.txt file in the Project's .zip as well , with many tips and comments . Projects Readme.txt

I know you can easily come up with much more elaborate and interesting creations of your own . Hopefully this simple tutorial will help you to get started with customizing the RS interface and doing some quick and interesting Displacement mapped terrains .

Cheers !