Archive for October, 2010

The Vicon System explained

I just finished this a few days ago, and I rather like the final product!

This clip is intended for use in our section’s presentations, to explain the operation of the Vicon motion capture system: how the cameras infrared-illuminate the markers, capture their 3d positions, reconstruct a virtual skeleton and compute the joint center trajectories.

Software used: 3ds max for modeling and animation, Composite for assembly and effects (self-illumination glow, z-buffer unsharp masking, lens effects.)

A virtual Vicon camera

We needed a “virtual motion lab” for our presentations, so I had to make a virtual VICON camera in 3dsmax. Fun times!

No materials yet...

Time from start to modeling finish: roughly two days… Because this is not a realtime model I used Turbosmooth modeling.

Screen-space Ambient Occlusion

Shading only with texture or flat color and SSAO. No lighting or other shading used.

Screen-space ambient occlusion is all the rage today, and for a reason: it’s hard to find an approximation of accessibility shading with similar run-time characteristics (most importantly, being independent of scene complexity). Results are fast and consistent, and it looks a lot like global illumination (which, of course, it is not).

So, when tasked to make our techdemos prettier, this was a pretty obvious venue to explore. Since we already use Horde 3D, a shader-driven game engine framework, it was mostly a matter of finding sample algorithms and adapting them to our engine. In the picture above you can see the shader in action.

In the demo, you can control the character and walk/run around the famous Sponza atrium (which for some inexplicable reason has filled up with giant blue cubes). Smooth animation blending thanks to the sweet Horde3D framework. Developing the shader took about a week, the demo application ca. 1 day.

The cubes appear a bit out-of-focus because the ambient occlusion map is being rendered at small resolutions, then filtered with a Gaussian blur kernel and up-scaled to reduce the noise that is inherent to the method. Combining the SSAO shader with some actual lighting (that would accentuate the edges) would fix that, but wasn’t in the scope of the demo.

Code and binary downloads will follow in a few days!

Flame Atronach armor

I can’t claim a lot of credit for this mod. All I did was using NifSkope to load the Flame Atronach creature model, remove everything but the armor, then import the model into 3dsmax and re-rig the armor to a biped. Even so, people seemed to like it. ;-)

Looking dangerous. Or rather dangerously misclothed?

Grab it from TesNexus!

Willowleaf forge (unfinished)

Now this was really ambitious. I had planned a complete japanese-style forge, along with the surrounding landscape (I’d even drawn a map), characters and a bit of storyline. I wanted to model everything myself, and I had already taken a lot of photos to make textures out of. Let’s say that I learned the limits of what a single person can do. :)

Below are some test renders of the forge building – that’s as far as I got…

The blue people-shapes were for size reference.

Looking into the forge room...

Another angle.

The front porch.


I hate having to remember a bazillion passwords for all those websites that require an account. I also don’t want to re-use the same password everywhere – that’s a good method to become an identity theft victim. I don’t trust password managers.

Sounds like a dilemma? No! I wrote Easykey, a password generator, for the current browser of my choice, Chrome. It takes the domain portion of the URL you’re currently surfing at and deterministically creates a unique, strong password. It will be the same everytime you arrive at this site, and will differ for all other sites.

A site won’t be able to guess another site’s password: the underlying mechanism is inspired by the PGP encryption algorithm. You could say that Easykey calculates the password by “encrypting” the domain name using a secret “private key” phrase that the user supplies. Due to the nature of the integer factorization problem, it should be impossible to guess the private key.

The benefits for the user are these:

  • You never have to remember a password again.
  • You have a strong, unique password for every online account.
  • A single click fills the password into form fields.
  • No password manager needed. Locally stored passwords are a security issue and thus avoided.

Want to try the extension? Check it out!


(All written in Javascript, so you can check the code.)

Unfinished work

Due to time constraints (I was attending university at the time…) I had abandoned a few over-ambitious projects. I wonder what would have become of them if I had pursued them…

A leafblade sword - "steel version"

"Pattern welded" version

"The Cleaver". You've got to envision this thing as huge.

A rather nasty-looking warhammer with a dragon's head.

A yari/katana hybrid with red painted fuller and a "Jiktar".

The "Zwiespalt". Even today, I still like the design...

Other Morrowind projects

Encouraged by my success with the katana mod, I took on some more modeling projects. Some pictures below….

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It’s the katanas that really brought me into the Morrowind modding community. In the real world, they are the pinnacle of japanese craftsmanship, combining art, craft, grace and spirituality in one single material object. Many, including me, find them very beautiful, both for what they are and what they represent.

So of course I was happy to see that Bethsoft included katanas in Morrowind. Well.. until I actually saw them!

original morrowind katana

the vanilla Morrowind Katana... yuck!

Back then I didn’t know a whole lot about 3d modeling, much less UV mapping, texturing or game engine integration. But I had a strong motivation and was willing to learn! Having had access to a student version of 3ds max, I read tutorials about lattice modeling and, very soon, had a much nicer katana at hand.

steel daisho set

The complete "steel katana" set.

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Jumpgate HUD

It seems like half an eternity ago that I played Jumpgate, but still I feel that it’s been a very remarkable MMORPG.

For one, the community really took the “RPG” part of the acronym quite seriously. I immensely enjoyed taking part in the factional conflicts of this fictional universe, in no small part thanks to the warm and collegial atmosphere of the squadron I was privileged to be a part of. Thanks for all the fish, Quantar Alliance! :)

Almost equally as strong a factor, this game was a thoroughbred space simulator. You had to think about mass, inertia and specific impulse (thrust), and master these concepts before being able to successfully fly your spaceship. It mattered both in combat and in cargo hauling… I remember priceless moments of horror when you realized that your cargo tow, fully-laden with heavy uranium ore, was going to slam into that station no matter what – two minutes before the crash – because you over-accelerated and couldn’t slow down or evade the obstacle in time.

This was a hardcore simulator, in its way, and a better game for it. The illusion of being  a pilot, not just a gamer, made for a very strong appeal.

And it could be modded! Back then I made a HUD replacement, to enhance the immersion factor.

Download link:

Fun times!

My "military style" HUD