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Google SoC Progress Report: SkyGen

32

screen.jpgThe Blender Google Summer of Code (GSoC) projects are still going strong and their is still more that we haven't touched on. We've looked at the very early stages of the Sculpt tool, the Modifier Stack Upgrade, and now we look at Dmitriy Mazovka's Sky Gen project.

From the original announcement:

The process of creating a sky for a scene is typically just throwing a big sky picture into the scene. But where is the control of the sky's look and feel? How do you light the scene to mimic the sky image? How do you animate the scene with a static sky image? Dmitriy Mazovka has proposed to solve the riddle of the sky with his ambitious SoC proposal.

First on the list is a controlled, physics-based simulation of skylight, sunlight, and aerial perspective effects that comes with cloud simulation based on cellular automata, all of which will be able to be stored as an environment map. Additionally we'll be given the ability to then animate the sky, and watch the sun walk across the sky as the clouds float by.

Not enough? Next is the creation of scene objects that can be used in constructing the lighting environment based on the generated sky properties. The proposal gives the example of light shafts being generated automatically from volumetric clouds based on the type of light you've added to the scene.

I asked Dmitriy a few questions I had on his project, and how far it's come.

What was it that made you interested in doing this project for Blender. (Did you find that these additions were sorely needed, did you see them requested a lot, etc.)

Actually before Soc I was "single" Blender user. I had not known a lot about blender people. But when I saw Blender as one of the Soc's projects... The idea to implement SkyGen for Blender was my own "user-view" idea. Lately I knew that blender sky problem was raised at least two times in the last 3 years. Anyway, in my opinion functionality is necessary, especially after I saw landscape scene mine friend built. Probably there are some techniques to create good-looking skies without SkyGen, but they are not evident for non-advanced user.

How do you think your additions will help Blender users over current methods?

SkyGen offers quite easy and in the same time flexible approach for building sky scenes. Many features are used on intuitive level, such as sun as SunLamp, cloud distribution using textures. I don't know whether it will be correct to say, but SkyGen is the thing Blender had to have a long time ago.

Are there any recent test builds/screen shots of your project in action? Do you have a link so people can see the progress made so far.

Yep, you can see the blenderartist's thread on the topic and some screenshots, showing project progress from the very beginning :)

There is also a new build available for testing. See the BA thread for some "how-to's", some renders, and some good discussion. One particular post opened my eyes on how to generate clouds by supplying a texture and .blend file that you should look at with the build if you are stuck.  Here are a few screen shots of the new panels:

skyselect.png sky.png

suntime.png clouds.png

This is certainly turning out to be a project to keep an eye on!

About Author

Eugene

Just a guy really into 3D, especially where Blender is concerned.

32 Comments

  1. Frankly, and I hate to say this, I'm not so impressed by the images.
    Nothing like these:
    http://www.maxschoenherr.de/animation/Maya/Maya_5/fluidClouds.jpg
    http://www.sleepingfish.net/5cense/maya/clouds_over_gulf.JPG

    I guess it's work in progress :)

    "How do you animate the scene with a static sky image? "
    Well you take 2 sky images and blend them over time.

    "Many features are used on intuitive level"
    I guess so, but I still rather have a color slider if I want the sky a bit more red instead of setting the scat-wi slider.

  2. I second Joeri's remarks. SkyGen should eventually be capable of providing high-quality skies that are useable in photo-realistic scenes. On the other hand, this project has come a long way, so keep it going, Dmitriy!

    ~Peter

  3. You've made some really cool progress. For the sake of all us "plender people", keep it up. It's a lot to be a one-man army. I encourage anyone who wants cool new features to be added to Cloudgen to think hard about how they could be implimented -- not necessarily code them yourself even, but at least be constructive.

    I think this image http://sionix.pbwiki.com/f/scr060730_1.png is wonderful, and the idea that I can fill my own meshes with these "cloud particles" is very attractive to me too. We could make some very very interesting fog effects, no?

    With come community backing, we could blow maya out of the water guys. This is groud-level genious that only needs your fiddling and good ideas to fuel some productive energy. I'm all about cheering this project on!

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  5. Great progress! For the Sun panel, I would suggest adding Longitude and Latitude parameters because, 12:00 Noon looks different depending on where you're located on the globe.

    Keep going!

  6. @Bmud
    Well, I don't think that Blender will ever blow Maya out of the water because there are not enough profesional developers for Blender. Maya has CODERS and then some! Scientist etc. It is not like Linux where you have already companies contributing to the code. The advancements of Blender is for a great part due to student and or profesional hobbyism involvement.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm defitnely a Blenderhead, but saying such a thing is just foolish. You could rather say something like Blender's UV unwrapping blows the compitition out of the water which holds more truth.

  7. Kerkythea lets the user set a timezone and city, which might be simpler for the end user but longitude and latitude would be more accurate and more flexible. I'd personally go with long/lat since anyone could look it up and it fits better into the Blender UI I think than a long list of cities - but I'm just putting it out there.

  8. although its not complete i'm inpreased i think this progect has a hugh future :)

    and as far as blowing the competion out of the water...we at least have them in our sites, not for a few more dev ;p

  9. Good work. Don't let it get you down that folks expect your one man effort to match pricey "paid for" solutions out of the box.

    Looks quite promising so far and I look forward to trying it out.

  10. For me its great to see this step to get a new feature in blender after integration of fluids.
    A skygenerator....great!The first shots i saw now...not the "final" Quality,but looks intresting and
    i think ther on the way.
    By the way i am only user,and not programmer and i can not discuss how to do that development job.
    But respect for Dimitriy that he bring such a complex physics in to a "few panels", so that we can
    create skys that way.
    Stay on and thanks that you spent a lot of YOUR time to this projekt!!!! :)

  11. Sovereignncc-e on

    I have to agree with the first remarks. In the first place, I am not too happy about the inclusion of a cloud generator in Blender anyway; I think that it belongs more in a open-source Terragen project. There isn't and shouldn't be a button for "make a sea" or "make a horse." In the same way, I think that if you want clouds, you should make them yourself: that is what Blender is for.
    Secondly, for this project to be truly useful, it has to be able to make clouds that are photo-realistic or at least very close. I don't think that very many people will be interested in painstakingly making a scene and then having cheesy-looking clouds in the background. Unless this plugin gets a lot better, I think that most people will be better off using skymaps.
    However, I cannot be too critical, as this is a work in progress. Maybe SkyGen will impress us all!

  12. Until true volumetricfractal rendering is integrated in Blender you can't expect to see photorealistic clouds. But the scope of this undertaking would clearly go beyond this project.

    Realistic clouds and smoke and a whole lot of other phenomena will take a little longer to integrate. I experimented quite a bit on how to create self-shadowing smoke and it is actually possible, but the solution (particles with flat geometry, complex fractal textures and rendering shadows through textures) isn't practical enough for everyday usage.

    I would see the strenght of SkyGen in quickly setting up satisfying lighting conditions without having to rely on HDRI-image-libraries.

  13. Quote: I think that if you want clouds, you should make them yourself: that is what Blender is for.

    Well, if you want to do it yourself, it involves to many cumbersome cheats that a cloud generator IS necesary, just like the fluid sim. As I understood it, to generate realistic clouds in skygen involves some tinkering anyway.

  14. Everytime there is an announcement that Blender is making progress, it is criticized by Maya junkies and similar people. Ironically, though, I don't think anyone on either side should be offended in any way, because it should really be taken as complement. There are hordes of other open-source graphic apps that no one bothers to compare to Maya, for a good reason.

    The project of a thousand features begins with a single line of code :-) That's true for Blender, Maya, and any software ever written. It's a work in progress, and by the looks of the screenshots, it has progressed quickly and the results are obviously getting somewhere. After he's done, or maybe after a Blender revision or two, we may have yet another feature in Blender worth showing to the world. I'm just glad that some sort of high-quality volumetric effect like this is showing up in Blender, because the particle system's visual quality has been lagging behind many of the other Blender advances.

  15. Toon Scheur - Agree DIY for clouds is not a good approach, but comparing Blender to Maya is silly...
    People will point at 'one' feature and then say "Well if the maya guys did that it would be so much better"

    With clouds they would be right- but bare in mind this features not finished, or included in Blender..
    Of the 3 GSOC Projects its the one thats least finished abt 70%? according to sonix (the author)

    What about Blender's Verse integration (a 1 man project - Thanks to Jiri) or Blenders entire nodal compositor (Ton's project - now worked on by others too)
    or even The other 2 projects zbrush style painting, and improved modifier stack... whech are both pretty much complete.

    These projects are fairly amazing, could well be better then commercial apps counterparts offerings.

  16. quote: because the particle system’s visual quality has been lagging behind many of the other Blender advances.

    Am I reading this right? Are you critisizing Blender? lol

    I judge Blender on its own merits and not in comparison to other software, except when there is a clear advantage. Like it is available for almost al platforms, very VERY stable, small install size, free, great community, very fast development cycles and bug clean ups, excellent modeling system, UV unwrap etc etc.

  17. Toon Scheur,

    [QUOTE]Well, I don’t think that Blender will ever blow Maya out of the water because there are not enough profesional developers for Blender. Maya has CODERS and then some! Scientist etc. It is not like Linux where you have already companies contributing to the code. The advancements of Blender is for a great part due to student and or profesional hobbyism involvement.[/QUOTE]

    10 or 15 years ago the exact same thing was true of linux. Same thing for GCC. Blender has just reached this past year where it is semi reasonable choice for a professional users. The big difference is that the userbase for linux and gcc was technical individuals and thus a high percentage of coders per userbase. Blenders user base is mostly non technical and thus the growth in user base isn't matched by a growth in coder base to the same degree.

    LetterRip

  18. LetterRip (I think for this reason that) this community loves it's coders more than the other Open Source projects.

  19. I second Joeri's opinion on this one.

    That said - I still commend your efforts into this, it is probably quite difficult
    to do this, so it will probably take some time before it gets at all useful.

    However - the skygen DOES have some interesting aspects for what it can
    do now, and that's not so much relating to the clouds themselves - but more
    the "bright sun" in the background and the "atmosphere" effect where you
    can actually notice the atmosphere itself, that's pretty cool IMHO.

    Good luck, and I hope you keep it up even after the SoC is over so you
    can have a fully developed and working cloudsystem at some time
    wether it's this year or next year, we still wish for you to succeed!

  20. Hi guys,
    three words: do not compare.
    The driving force (as I understand it) behind Blender is not to provide a maya/xsi/lightwave-clone. Its driving force are it's users. The sudden possibility to have a program with which we can dive into a different reality, a reality which we can form by our own imagination and which we can use to create beauty is at least _my_ interest in blender.
    ANd this is where my heart is, where my dreams are. Creating beauty. Touching people with what I do.

    So if the skygen turns out to be of use, then use it. From the screenshots that I have seen it is already pretty mindblowing.

    So, just continue the good work!

    There are always two kind of people: The one kind theoretizes about features, technics, stuff and whatnot. And the other kind actually gets things done, creates beauty, touches your heart.

    Yt,

    Gunnar

  21. Gunnar wrote:
    "So if the skygen turns out to be of use, then use it. From the screenshots that I have seen it is already pretty mindblowing."

    I'd love to see those "mind-blowing" screenshots you've seen. Links please?

    Gunnar wrote:
    "There are always two kind of people: The one kind theoretizes about features, technics, stuff and whatnot. And the other kind actually gets things done, creates beauty, touches your heart."

    There are two other people to - in a similar category - those who point fingers and tell other people
    what they are - and those that don't ;)

  22. Ji JoOngle,
    the ones that blew my mind were in the BA-thread: "http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=73280", posted by Dani (http://blenderartists.org/forum/showpost.php?p=670738&postcount=5)

    Maybe for someone else these pictures look like nothing. But for me they contain beauty.

    And for this "two kinds of people" part: I did not write this to point my finger. It was just to show a point. Somehow the direction this thread was taking disturbed me.

    Yt,

    Gunnar

  23. Stop guys baling each other out !

    Have you forgotten why we are all here ? Is it for encouraging Blender development ?

    Both side are right, the current results are not yet photo-realistic, but they are already pretty good work (and remind it is not finished !)

    For those who think there is no need of Skygen ... they can think it, but remind that you are not alone and it seems that most part of the community wants it.

    Keep on this way Dmitriy, you are on the right track !

    Corsairr

  24. so many people seem to be missing the point(s).
    blender is uncomparable.
    and 'easy' 'one button' solutions to generating a sky or a horse or whatever geometry, is nessacary because not everything made with an animation stuidio is meant to be an artfull still.
    there are people who'd like to make their own crappy toons with only slightly more quality than 'southpark'
    hence a generating procedure to throw in some sky should not be criticized, i wonder if those are against 'make human', or the 3 tree generators.
    there should come car, building, and cityblock generators as well,just so you'd be able to spend your time on the specific something yure focussing on.
    imagine: yuve just made a great model, but the (lack of)surroundings break down the point you're trying to make
    like race car on emty plane
    MOST importantly, his generator is based on CELLULAR AUTOMATA
    i hope THAT can be used for many other things in (game)blender
    if he gets THAT functional, i'm happy
    even COG's tutorial sky's have some 'random' generation when
    you tweak the particle generators emitter settings to your likings.
    also it sure isn't going to be a one button solution, YOU have the power of choice (using at least more than 8 buttons)
    to make the skies turn out the way you want AND modify 'em l8r !

    L8R !

  25. If you don't think a skygen is necessary... what are you complaining about? just dont use it

    features that are a few weeks-old can't be photorealistic... if you intend to make the video of a sky it certainly isn't photorealistic but it will be a nicer background than the default plain blue, for sure.

  26. What about the changing colours of the sun during its way through the sky depending on hour, month and place. Is there anything planed?

    Toni Grappa

  27. Clouds are very difficult to make. I guess it's not fair to the developer, to judge his work by the not-yet-photerealistic-looking-clouds. Whwat I do find very impressive and extremely helpful, especially when creating videos with blender, is the sky-generator itself. Without the clouds it is still very helpful and looks quite realistic!

  28. All I can say is SWEET! For Blender, this is a big step. I've been wanting to make better looking clouds for a long time and also realistic animate-able skies for that matter. I cheer you on Dmitriy Mazovka!

  29. @Auria
    "If you don’t think a skygen is necessary… what are you complaining about? "
    A faulty useless because-it's-no-good skygen is not necessary. That's what the complaints are about.

    "features that are a few weeks-old can’t be photorealistic…"

    As I understand it's a dummy feature anyway.
    "..., but they [current sky] are not evident for non-advanced user."
    So who cares if it look good or not, right?

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