From Pixel to Paper – The Story of A Mural

September 10th, 2012 by Rosie

Last month, Infrared5 unveiled something exciting- an 11 foot high custom designed mural in our entry space. From conception to completion, spanning almost an entire year, this project was a labor of love. The work was designed by LA based artist, Bradley Munkowitz. Rebecca Allen, Infrared5’s CEO and the fearless leader of this project, met Bradley at a FITC conference many years ago where Bradley made a lasting impression. “His work is just as engaging as his personality,” says Allen. When it became time to look for an artist to create a mural for our entryway, Rebecca knew just the person to call. “I was initially taken by the scale of the piece; being 11 feet square… So I wanted to create an artwork that had a great deal of dimensionality, because on that grand scale it’d feel immersive, which would really make for a captivating entryway mural,” says Bradley. The artist went about creating a series of images digitally, using Autodesk Maya and procedural textures, which allow for rendering at any size. “I think I submitted about 20 different designs and Rebecca and I chose the best one for the application.” If you feel like our entryway is playing a trick on your eyes, you are right- Bradley is heavily influenced by Op Art. “I just love the visual movement, the graphic nature, and obviously the trippy dimensionality,” says Bradley.

one of several options created by Bradley Munkowitz one of several options created by Bradley Munkowitz one of several options created by Bradley Munkowitz

The task of getting this mural hung fell onto my plate sometime in late spring, 2012. I was new to Infrared5, still figuring out what my position here really meant, when Rebecca asked me to look into having someone come to hang the mural. I’ve come to think of myself as the resident ‘figure-it-out-ologist’.  Much of my job entails putting the time and focus into getting things done that take a lot of research time, tasks that have historically been put on the back burner in favor of focus on client work. I try to adapt IR5’s motto ‘yeah, we can build that’ into my own ‘yeah, I can research that’ in order to get things done.
I knew that finding someone that had the skill to hang this mural was going to be a tricky task. After all, the mural was shipped to us as three panels, 11 feet tall by roughly 3.5 feet wide. These panels have a back that peels off to reveal an adhesive that would stick to the wall. As our project manager Kelly Wallick said, “Its hard enough to put contact paper into drawers!”
I hit the internet. Companies that specialized in large scale vinyl installation wouldn’t install anything that they had not produced, and finding contractors proved a challenge. After weeks of telephone tag, multiple early saturday morning phone calls from one terrifyingly overeager applicant, and many frustrating stops and starts, we found our way to Abigail Newbold.
Abigail, a fellow MassArt graduate, is an artist who creates installations that confront ideas of comfort and survival.  On her website, Newbold states “I am motivated in my quest to evaluate and distill by a desire to be able to feel at home anywhere.” We were referred to Newbold via her coworker at the Decordova, and she proved to have just the patience and attention to detail to take on this project.
Abigail and her partner Ricky Marsee arrived at 10 am Sunday morning to begin work. Stunningly confident in the face of a meticulous task, the duo set to work. It was nearly 7 pm when they wrapped up. It had been a long battle, but the mural was finally up.

Taking almost a year from conception to execution, Infrared5 is thrilled to be displaying a mural as dynamic and contemporary as the work we hope to put out. No one is more excited to have the mural up than Rebecca. “I am so glad that we all persisted and have an amazing piece to enjoy and set the tone for clients!”

, , , , , ,

Creating 2nd UV sets in Maya for Consistent and Reliable Lightmapping in Unity 3d

January 11th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

Lightmaps in the Unity Editor - Courtesy of Brass Monkey - Monkey Golf

Have you ever worked on a game that was beautifully lit in the Unity editor but ran like ants on molasses on your target device? Chances are you might benefit from using lightmaps. Ever worked on a game that was beautifully lit with lightmaps but looked different between your Mac and PC in the Unity editor? Chances are you might want to create your own 2nd UV sets in Maya.

Example of a lightmap

Example of a lightmap

If you didn’t know, lightmaps are 2D textures pre-generated by baking (rendering) lights onto the surfaces of 3D objects in a scene. These textures are additively blended with the 3D model’s original textures to simulate illumination and fine shadows without the use of realtime lights at runtime. The number of realtime lights rendering at any given time can make or break a 3D game when it comes to optimal performance. By reducing the number of realtime lights and shadows your games will play through more smoothly. Using fewer realtime lights also allows for more resources to be dedicated to other aspects of the game like higher poly counts and more textures. This holds true especially when developing for most 3D platforms including iOS, Android, Mac, PC, Web, XBox, PS3 and more.

Since the release of Unity 3 back in September 2010, many Unity developers have been taking advantage of Beast Lightmapping as a one-stop lightmapping solution within the Unity editor. At first glance Beast is a phenomenal time saving and performance enhancing tool. Rather quickly, Beast can automate several tedious tasks that would have needed to be preformed by a trained 3D technical artist in an application like Maya. Those tasks being mostly UV related are:

UVs in positive UV co-ordinate space

  • Generating 2nd UV sets for lightmapping 3D objects
  • Unwrapping 3D geometry into flattened 2D shells which don’t overlap in O to 1 UV co-ordinate quadrant
  • Packing UV shells (arranging the unwrapped 2D shells to optimally fit within a square quadrant with room for mipmap bleeding)
  • Atlasing lightmap textures (combining many individual baked textures into larger texture sheets for efficiency)
  • Indexing lightmaps (linking multiple 3D model’s 2nd UV set UV co-ordinate data with multiple baked texture atlases in a scene)
  • Additively applies the lightmaps to your existing model’s shaders to give 3D objects the illusion of being illuminated by realtime lights in a scene
  • Other UV properties may be tweaked in the Advanced FBX import settings influencing how the 2nd UVs are unwrapped and packed which all may drastically alter your final results and do not always transfer through version control

Why is this significant? Well your 3D object’s original UV set is typically used to align and apply textures like diffuse, specular, normal, alpha texture maps, etc, onto the 3D object’s surfaces. There are no real restrictions on laying out your UVs for texturing. UV’s may be stretched to tile a texture, they can overlap, be mirrored… Lightmap texturing requirements in Unity, on the other hand, are different and require:

  • A 2nd UV set
  • No overlapping UVs
  • UVs and must be contained in the 0 to 1, 0 to 1 UV co-ordinate space

Unwrapping and packing UVs so they don’t overlap and are optimally contained in 0 to 1 UV co-ordinate space is tedious and time consuming for a tech artist. Many developers without a tech artist purchase 3D models online to “save time and money”. Typically those models won’t have 2nd UV sets included. Beast can Unwrap lightmapping UVs for the developer without much effort in the Unity Inspector by:

Unity FBX import settings for Lightmapping UVs

Advanced Unity FBX import settings for Lightmapping UVs

  • Selecting the FBX to lightmap in the Unity Project Editor window
  • Set the FBX to Static in the Inspector
  • Check Generate Lightmap UVs in the FBXImporter Inspector settings
  • Change options in the Advanced Settings if needed

Atlasing multiple 3D model’s UVs and textures is extremely time consuming and not always practical especially when textures and models may change at a moment’s notice during the development process.  Frequent changes to atlased assets tend to create overwhelming amounts of tedious work. Again, Beast’s automation is truly a great time saver allowing flexibility in atlasing for iterative level design plus scene, object and texture changes in the Unity editor.

Sample atlases in Unity

Beast’s automation is truly great except for when your team is using both Mac and PC computers on the same project with version control that is. Sometimes lightmaps will appear to be totally fine on a Mac and look completely messed up on PC and vise versa. It’s daunting to remedy this and may require, among several tasks, re-baking the all the lightmaps for the scene.

Why are there differences between the Mac and PC when generating 2nd UV sets in Unity? The answer is Mac and PC computers have different floating point precisions used to calculate and generate 2nd UV sets for lightmapping upon importing in the Unity editor.  The differences between Mac and PC generated UVs are minuet but can lead to drastic visual problems. One might assume that with version control like Unity Asset Server or Git, the assets would be synced and exactly the same, but they are not. Metadata and version control issues are for another blog post down the road.

What can one to do to avoid issues with 2nd UV sets across Mac and PC computers in Unity? Well, here are four of my tips to avoid lightmap issues in Unity:

Inconsistent lightmaps on Mac and PC in the Unity Editor - Courtesy of Brass Monkey - Monkey Golf

  1. Create your own 2nd UV sets and let Beast atlas, index and apply your lightmaps in your Unity scene
  2. Avoid re-importing or re-generate 2nd UV assets if the project is being developed in Unity across Mac and PC computers when your not creating your own 2nd UV sets externally
  3. Use external version control like Git with Unity Pro with metadata set to be exposed in the Explorer or Finder to better sync changes to your assets and metadata
  4. Use 3rd party editor scripts like Lightmap Manager 2 to help speedup the lightmap baking process by empowering you to be able to just re-bake single objects without having to re-bake the entire scene

Getting Down To Business – The How To Section

If your 3D model already has a good 2nd UV set and you want to enable Unity to use it:

  • Select the FBX in the Unity Project Editor window
  • Simply uncheck Generate Lightmap UVs in the FBXImporter Inspector settings
  • Re-bake lightmaps

How to add or create a 2nd UV set in Maya to export to Unity if you don’t have a 2nd UV set already available?

Workflow 1 -> When you already have UV’s that are not overlapping and contained within the 0 to 1 co-ordinate space:

  1. Import and select your model in Maya (be sure not to include import path info in your namespaces)
  2. Go to the Polygon Menu Set
  3. Open the Window Menu -> UV Texture Editor to see your current UVs
  4. Go to Create UVs Menu -> UV Set Editor
  5. With your model selected click Copy in the UV Set Editor to create a 2nd UV set
  6. Rename your 2nd UV set to whatever you want
  7. Export your FBX with it’s new 2nd UV set
  8. Import the Asset back into Unity
  9. Select the FBX in the Unity Project Editor window
  10. Uncheck Generate Lightmap UVs in the FBXImporter Inspector settings.
  11. Re-bake Lightmaps

Workflow 2 -> When you have UV’s that are overlapping and/or not contained within the 0 to 1 co-ordinate space:

  1. Import and select your model in Maya (be sure not to include import path info in your namespaces)
  2. Go to the Polygon Menu Set
  3. Open the Window menu -> UV Texture Editor to see your current UVs
  4. Go to Create UVs menu -> UV Set Editor
  5. With your model selected click either Copy or New in the UV Set Editor to create a 2nd UV set depending on whether or not you want to try to start from scratch or to work from what you already have in your original UV set
  6. Rename your 2nd UV set to whatever you want
  7. Use the UV layout tools in Maya’s UV Texture Editor to layout and edit your new 2nd UV set being certain to have no overlapping UV’s contained in the 0 to 1 UV co-ordinate space (another tutorial on this step will be in a future blog post)
  8. Export your FBX with it’s new 2nd UV set
  9. Import the Asset back into Unity
  10. Select the FBX in the Unity Project Editor window
  11. Uncheck Generate Lightmap UVs in the FBXImporter Inspector settings.
  12. Re-bake Lightmaps

Workflow 3 -> Add a second UV set from models unwrapped in a 3rd party UV tool like Headus UV or Zbrush to your 3D model in Maya

  1. Import your original 3D model into the 3rd party application like Heads UV and layout your 2nd UV set being certain to have no overlapping UV’s contained in the 0 to 1 UV co-ordinate space (tutorials to come)
  2. Export your model with a new UV set for lightmapping as a new version of your model named something different from the original model.
  3. Import and select your original Model in Maya (be sure not to include import path info in your namespaces)
  4. Go to the Polygon Menu set
  5. Open the Window Menu -> UV Texture Editor to see your current UVs
  6. Go to Create UVs Menu -> UV Set Editor
  7. With your model selected click New in the UV Set Editor to create a 2nd UV set
  8. Select and rename your 2nd UV set to whatever you want in the UV Set Editor
  9. Import the new model with the new UV set being certain to have no overlapping UV’s all contained in the 0 to 1 UV co-ordinate space
  10. Make sure your two models are occupying the exact same space with all transform nodes like translation, rotation and scale values being the exactly the same
  11. Select the new model in Maya and be sure it’s UV is set selected in the UV Set Editor
  12. Shift select the old model in Maya (you may need to do this in the Outliner) and be sure it’s 2nd UV is set selected in the UV Set Editor
  13. In the Polygon Menu Set goto the Mesh Menu -> Transfer Attributes Options
  14. Reset the Transfer Attributes Options settings to default by File -> reset Settings within the Transfer Attributes Menus
  15. Set Attributes to Transfer all to -> Off except for UV Sets to -> Current
  16. Set Attribute Settings to -> Sample Space Topology with the rest of the options at default
  17. Click Transfer at the bottom of the Transfer Attributes Options
  18. Delete non-deformer history on the models or the UVs will break by going to the Edit menu -> Delete by Type -> Non-Deformer History
  19. Select the original 3D model’s 2nd UV set in the UV Set Editor window and look at the UV Texture Editor window to see it the UV’s are correct
  20. Export your FBX with it’s new 2nd UV set
  21. Import the Asset back into Unity
  22. Select the FBX in the Unity Project Editor window
  23. Uncheck Generate Lightmap UVs in the FBXImporter Inspector settings.
  24. Re-bake Lightmaps

Once you have added your own 2nd UV sets for Unity lightmapping there will be no lightmap differences between projects in Mac and PC Unity Editors! You will have ultimate control over how 2nd UV space is packed which is great for keeping down vertex counts from your 2nd UV sets, minimize mipmap bleeding and maintain consistent lightmap results!

Keep an eye out for more tutorials on UV and Lightmap troubleshooting in Unity coming in the near future on the Infrared5 blog! You can also play Brass Monkey’s Monkey Golf to see our bear examples in action.

-Elliott Mitchell

@mrt3d on Twitter

@infrared5 on Twitter

, ,