Building Your First Scene

This first tutorial project introduces you the basic workflow for building and rendering a simple animation in Realsoft 3D. It is intended for first time users including users familiar with previous Realsoft products, because it introduces several features not available in previous program versions.

In this tutorial, you will do the following:

Tutorial level: Beginner

Modeling

To prepare the View Window for modeling the table, make sure OpenGL Shading and Perspective options are set in the View Control Bar. Depending on the screen resolution, you may have to scroll the View Control Bar all the way down. You can either drag with the LMB when the mouse is not over any of the gadgets of the View Controls bar (the cursor changes to an up/down arrow) or hold down the Ctrl while dragging with the right mouse button anywhere on the View Controls bar. Or simply use the Mouse Wheel for scrolling

The first task is to model a simple rectangular table with a simple set of legs. All five of the pieces needed for the table can be constructed using the Analytic Cube tool. Let us start by creating the tabletop first.

We create the tabletop by defining it from the top view. To switch the view to the top view, click the Top button near the top edge of the View Controls Bar.

[Tip] Tip
Shift modidier swaps the direction 180 degrees, so that you can also switch to Back, Right and Bottom views using the same view controls.

Make sure you are viewing the Analytic tab in the Toolbar, then click the Cube icon with the left mouse button to activate the tool.

The Control bar now displays options related to creating cubes. The default settings are fine for the current task.

The Cube Tool activated

The Definition type is Corner-Corner, meaning you define the upper left corner and the lower right corner of the rectangle. Filled is checked, so a closed cube with six sides will be constructed.

Click the Left Mouse Button once near the top left corner of the view window to define the upper right corner (do NOT hold down the LMB, just click). Move the mouse down to the right bottom corner of the view. Click with the LMB button again. A cube is created.

Controlling the Orientation of the View Window

Rotate the view by dragging with the right mouse button while holding down the Alt key.

To verify that you really created a cube, you might want to rotate the view window a bit.

You can rotate the view window interactively, using the mouse and a key modifier. To rotate, zoom, or pan the View Window, hold down either the Alt (rotate), Ctrl (pan), or Shift (zoom) key and drag with the right mouse button.

There are several other ways for you to alter the View window or change its orientation. The view window's compass menu is one alternative. Hold down the 'v' key and drag the RMB in the view window until the compass menu appears. The outermost items are view orientation settings. Here, in addition to the Front, Top, and Left-side views, you can also find menus to rotate the current view left, right, up and down 90 degrees.

Compass menu

Transforming

The three circles and axes associated with the created cube are so called transformation handles. These handles are shown for all selected object and you can drag them to move, rotate or scale the object.

Cube translated and scaled in 'y' direction

The created cube appears to be slightly too thick, so let's scale it in its 'y' direction. To do this, move the mouse over the end point of the vertical 'y' axis handle. Then press the left mouse button key down to start scaling. Move the mouse downwards to see how the object gets scaled in its y direction. Release the mouse button when you are happy with the thickness of the tabletop.

The tabletop also lies now on the ground plane, so let's try moving it up a bit. To do this, move the mouse over the actual 'y' axis handle. Then press the left mouse button down and move the mouse upwards to lift the tabletop. Release the mouse to exit the move tool.

Similary, you would be able to rotate objects using the three cirular rotation handles.

When you select an object, the Control Bar (the context sensitive tool bar) shows you the most commonly needed tools for editing the selected object. In this case, it shows you the controls for editing the size and the edge roundings of the cube.

Cube specific controls

Most real world objects have slightly rounded edges. By default, the program displays measures using meter scale. Therefore, set the Rounding field to a small value, such as 0.005 = 5 mm. The preferred measuring unit can be selected using File/Preferences pull down menu.

Note that the view window doesn't show you the rounding in any way. The rounding will show up later when we create an image using photo realistic ray tracing.

Renaming

The Select window at the left side of the screen has several tabs on it. Currently, it is displaying the Geometric Objects tab, which shows the hierarchical structure of the object geometry of your project.

In general, selecting objects from the Select window is more accurate and far less error prone than trying to select objects in a view window.

The default name for created objects is typically the name of the object type (cube for instance) followed by a number. Since this is not a good name name for our tabletop, we'll change it.

Rename the cube as tabletop

Move the mouse over the cube object in the select window, and then left click the name slowly two times. You can also select Rename from the pop-up menu of the select window. The default name of the level is highlighted and placed in an edit box. Type the word "tabletop" and press the Enter key.

Using Materials

The next step is to assign a 'wood' material with our tabletop object. Make sure the tabletop object is still selected and then click on the Materials tab. The select window now displays the current material library.

Click the Wood material to select it (you may need to scroll the material list first). Next, click the right mouse button over the wood material icon to open a popup menu. This popup menu is different from the menu that was available from the Select window. (The popup menu is context sensitive, and its contents depend on the place where you open it.)

Select the 'wood' material
[Note] Note
If you see only a list of material names instead of the preview images, click with the right mouse button and select Show Previews from the popup menu.

There is a Map submenu at the bottom of the popup menu. Move the cursor down the list to highlight the Map option. A submenu opens that displays the available mapping object types.

Select Parallel Map Tool

A mapping object wraps a material to a target object according to a specific map geometry, which can be cube-like, disk-like, cylindrical, spherical, etc. Select Parallel mapping from the menu.

Which one is most suitable depends on both the characteristics of the material and the shape of the target object. The Wood material is designed so that it works best with parallel mapping.

Then in the view window, switch to the Side view and define the parallel map geometry with two mouse clicks. Just make the parallel mapping object smaller to achieve suitably dense wood grains.

The white parallel map box defines wood grain projection
[Note] Note
The direction, from which you draw the parallel map (the Side view above) defines how wood grains travel trough the tabletob.

The Hierarchy

Click the Geometric Objects tab (first on the left) of the Select window. Notice that the structure has changed; now, instead of a "tabletop" object under the root, you have a new folder called "tabletop + Parallel Mapping(wood)". Open this folder by clicking the little box at the left side of the name.

You can see that the new folder contains the tabletop object and a parallel mapping object. When you drew the parallel map of the Wood material for the tabletop object, the mapping tool created a new hierarchy level and placed the wood mapping and the target cube into that level.

Tabletop consists of a cube and a wood mapping

Realsoft 3D uses the concept of hierarchy extensively to manage the data a user places in the scene. For example, a human body consists of several parts: arms and legs, a head, a torso, etc. In turn, an arm has several subparts like upper arm, forearm, and hand; a hand consists of several more parts, and so on. The object hierarchy is designed to categorize and collect object groups, in the same way that the file system on your computer does.

Similarly, the wooden tabletop in this example consists of a tabletop shape and a wood mapping object. Select the 'parallel mapping(wood)' object. If you want bigger wood grains, just scale the mapping object bigger. If you want to control the direction of the wood grain, rotate the mapping object. After adjusting the mapping, click the WF-Inv button in the MiscTools bar below the select window to hide the wireframe of the parallel map. We do not need to see it any more, so hiding it helps to keep the scene visually cleaner and simpler.

[Tip] Tip
A mapping object only affects other objects that are in the same hierarchy level!

The next step is to create four legs for the table.

Modeling a wooden leg for our table is easy, now that we know how to create a wooden tabletop so we repeat the steps very briefly now.

Switch to the top view. The legs will be created under the tabletop. The shaded tabletop now blocks our view under the table, making further modeling hard. Therefore, turn Shaded OpenGL drawing off using the view control icon in the lowest group of the view control bar.

Turn Shaded OpenGL off
Create a cube representing a leg

Look at the select window; you should see so called Current Level marker (by default, a black dot) at the left side of the 'tabletop+parallel mapping(wood)' name. The Current Level defines where the program places new objects. A leg is not a part of the tabletop, so click the root folder to make it the current level.

Enable the Cube tool. Then enter two points in the view window, somewhere close a tabletop corner, to create a cube representing a leg.

Rename the created cube as 'leg'.

You may find it quite difficult to place the cube properly using perspective view. As intuitive as the perspective view is, it makes accurate modeling with the mouse difficult. Turn off the Perspective option either using View popup/Camera/Perspective menu or from the View control bar's Perpective icon. Then switch to the front view. Use the transformation handles to scale the leg longer and fit it under the tabletop. The parallel view projection makes these steps easy and accurate.

Switch back to the top view. Attach wood the material to the leg exactly the same way as you attached it to the tabletop. This time use the top view when drawing the parallel map, to align the wood grains with the leg. If you used the side view, the wood grain would be perpendicular to the leg, which is quite unnatural.

Now the 'root' object consists of two sub objects: a wooden tabletop and a wooden leg.

Duplicating

Rather than making three more legs from scratch, we can just duplicate the one we already have. To do this, make first sure the 'leg + parallel map(wood)' object is selected, then click the RMB in the Select window, and choose Duplicate from the popup menu.

Then drag one of the translation handles in the view window to move the newly created leg to the opposite edge of the tabletop.

Rather than duplicating the remaining legs one by one, we can multi select both legs, duplicate and translate them in one simple operation.

Legs multiselected

To multi select the two legs, hold down the Shift key and click each leg object with the mouse. You can click them either in the select window or in the view window.

[Tip] Tip

Realsoft 3D supports the following selection modifiers:

  • Shift - multi select
  • Ctrl - select range
  • Alt - subtract from the current selection

We could again use the Duplicate menu to get more legs. However, there is even easier way: transformation handles support automatic duplication via Ctrl key. Let's try this.

Switch to the side view. Then press the Ctrl key down and drag the translation handle. The selected legs are instantly duplicated and the move operation is applied to them. Move the two new legs to the opposite edge of the tabletop.

Legs duplicated and translated

We have now created all the geometric objects we need for our table. Enable Perspective view and OpenGL shading again. Use the same controls as before - they toggle the mentioned View properties on and off.

Manipulating the Hierarchy

We have created all the table parts under the root level. It would be much better to put the legs inside a single dedicated level object 'base'. Such a structure has many advantages. For example, we can then modify all the four legs easily, simply by modifying the 'base' object.

To create a new level, open the popup menu of the Select window with a right mouse button click. Select New/Level from the popup menu. Rename the created new level object as 'base'.

Then multi select the four legs and drag & drop them inside the base level.

Legs moved inside a new level

In addition to drag & drop, you can group objects into new levels using the 'Drop to a level' tool. To move both the tabletop and the base in a separate level called 'table', multi select the objects and then select the item Drop to level from the pop-up menu of the select window. Rename the new level which now contains all modeled parts as 'table'. The root object nown consists of only one sub object, the table.

Creating Light Sources

We now have a wooden table, but the scene is quite dark. Only the dim flashlight of the View camera illuminates the objects. The next task is to add a light source to the scene.

Select the Light Sources section of the Toolbar at the top of the screen and click the Point light source icon.

Activate the point light tool

Switch to the side view and enter two points in the view window - somewhere above the table - to define the position and radius for the point light object. The distance between the two clicks will define the falloff rate of light intensity.

Now, there is also a Point light object in the hierarchy. The tool control bar displays some useful controls for it. Let's experiment with them. For example, change the Falloff property from the default value None to Distance, so that light intensity decreases by distance just like in the real world. Then increase the Intensity value to 1.0.

[Note] Note
Unlike the material mapping objects, which affect only objects at the same hierarchy level, light source objects, by default, illuminate all objects in the model regardless of the hierarchy.

Editing Geometry

Earlier, you transformed the tabletop cube using the the transformation handles, which automatically show up when you select an object.

These transformation handles are common to all objects: for example, the rotate handle consisting of three perpendicular circles can be used for rotating all kinds of objects.

Some handles are object specific. You can ask the selected object to show its object specific handles by clicking the Edit button in the Control Bar.

We created the light source by entering two points, which defined the center and the fall-of radius for light source. Both properties can be edited after creation using the Edit mode.

Select the light source and click the Edit button, or simply hit the space bar key, which does the same thing.

A circular handle shows up around the light source. This circle represents the fall-off radius, which specifies the distance where the intensity decreases to 50%. If the light source doesn't seem to illuminate objects of you scene enough, drag this intensity handle bigger.

Point light specific handles

Only the point light source has this kind of handle. For example, a cube defines other kind of handles (six face handles), which can be simpy dragged around to edit the size of the cube.

Ray Tracing

So far, we have worked with our table in shaded mode, so let's see what our table looks like when it is ray traced. Make any adjustments you want to the view orientation using Alt+dragRMB to get a nice view of the table. You can then render the view window by clicking the Render View button, which is at the bottom group of the View Control bar.

Note that all icons have tool tips. If you do not know what a particular button represents, move the cursor over the icon, and in a moment a short message explaining the icon is displayed. You can also activate rendering using the view popup menu Render/Ray Trace.

Shadows and Reflections

Light sources cast shadows by default. In order to see shadows, we need something the table can shadow. So let us use create a floor.

The floor we need can be represented by a large rectangle. Now, you should already have a pretty good idea how to do this: switch the view window to the Top view, use Shift+RMB to zoom out so that you can create quite large floor. Then enable the Rectangle tool in the Analytic tab of the tool bar and enter two points in the view window to define the size for the rectangle. Take a side view and move the floor just below the table.

To make the floor more interesting, you might want to attach a nice material to it too.

Some of the materials define reflectivity, in which case they automatically reflect the surrounding world in a physically correct way. Let's see how this work.

Switch to the front view, then select the Analytic Sphere tool from the Analytic tab of the Toolbar. Click twice in the view window above the table to define the center and the radius for the sphere.

A gray sphere is quite boring, so let's apply a material to the sphere, but this time using the drag&drop interface.

Make sure that the sphere is selected, then switch to Materials tab of the Select window. Move the mouse pointer over the dark 'marble1' material, and press and hold down the left mouse button. You have just "grabbed" the marble material. Now drag the mouse into the view window and release the mouse button. The sphere has been assigned the marble material. To verify this, switch back to the Geometric Objects tab of the Select window and look at your hierarchy.

Drag&Drop is another way to map materials to objects and very useful when you don't have to define a specific mapping geometry. Earlier, when assigning wood to table legs, we wanted to make sure that grains follow the leg direction,and therefore explictly drew the required parallel map. Now we did not worry about the orientation of the marble pattern, and therefore the quickest way to assign a material was quite suitable.

Rotate the view upwards (Alt + dragRMB) and click the Ray Trace button in the View Controls bar to check the result.

The image is starting to look more interesting. The table casts shadows on the floor. The marble sphere should reflect the table.

A marbled sphere on a wooden table

Creating an Animation

The next part of our task is to animate the sphere so it rolls across the table. There is much to say about animation, and we will get to that in later tutorials. For now, what you need to know is that you "key" the position, rotation, etc. of objects at particular frames, and let the computer fill in the in-between frames (often called "tweens"). So how do you do it?

Realsoft 3D has the normal main menu below the program title bar. It contains all the general-purpose tools, and if the icon of some tool is not included in the toolbar (because of lack of screen space, etc.), you can find it from here. The main menu also includes the functions that are needed for project management and changing the working environment.

We need to display the Animation window. It appears at the bottom of the main window, below the view window, and looks like the following.

The Animation Window

If this window is not visible already, go to the View menu (main menu bar) and select Animation window from the list. If you don't need animation controls, you can hide the window to save some screen space.

We want to animate the marbled sphere, so select the 'sphere+marble' object from the hierarchy tree of the Select window.

Place the sphere at the position where you want the animation to start (in other words, your initial scene). For example, use the 'x' translation handle to place the sphere at the back of the table.

Sphere in frame 0

At the right end of the Animation window, there is a red circular button. Click this button. Now animation recording is on and all modifications to the table scene applied while the recording is on are stored as into the animation.

Move the time slider in the Animation window to frame 30, which represents 1 second in NTSC format. If you prefer, move the time slider to frame 25 for 1 second in PAL format.

Sphere in frame 30

Drag the 'x' translation handle to move the sphere to the right edge of the table. Congratulations - you have just created an animation!

Key frames

The Animation Window should now show you two knots, placed at frames 0 and 30 correspondingly. These represent the sphere position in time.

Try moving the time slider between these two knot to verify that the sphere really moves between the two edges of the table when you move the time slider between the two knots in the time line.

You can move these knots to adjust timing. For example, if the sphere moves too slowly on the table, drag the second keyframe from the frame 30 to frame 20 so that the sphere will reach the edge of the table in frame 20.

Let's create a few more key frames. Move the time slider to the frame 60, drag the sphere further over the table edge and then drag the 'y' translation handle to move the sphere down to the floor. Move the time slider to the frame 90. Drag the 'y' translation handle to move the sphere up a bit, as if it had bounced from the floor.

You have now created an animation where the sphere moves on the table, then falls down to the floor and bounce up once.

Click the red animation Record button again to turn off the recording mode.

Click the Play button in the Animation Window to see your animation.

Animation may not look that realistic yet, as only a couple of key frames is not sufficient to represent a realistic bouncing motion. You can fine tune the animation the same way you created it in the first place: enter animation recording mode and modify the sphere in desired frames to fine tune the motions.

[Note] Note
You can also modify the animated sphere animation recording mode disabled. For example, if you animate a sphere to bounce on a table, and you then move it down the floor recording turned off, the sphere bounces on the floor. In other words, if you transform the object in animation recording mode, you edit/create key frames. If you modify the object without animation recording on, then the transformation affects uniformly all motions.

Saving Projects

At this point, we must also perform one important step: save the work done so far. Therefore, select File/Save As from the main menu. Choose a suitable folder and file name for saving the project using the browse button. Press OK to finish the Save operation.

Rendering the Animation

In most cases, the created animation must be rendered to a suitable file format, so that it can be presented as a part of a multimedia show or in a home page, etc. This is the final step for this tutorial.

When rendering images to disk files, it is necessary to create a camera object for the scene. The camera defines how the scene is viewed in the rendered pictures. The view window cannot define this, because there may be many views opened simultaneously, or no views at all.

Click the Camera tool icon on the Creation section of the Toolbar. Then enter three points through the view window to specify the position, the aimpoint and the viewing angle for the camera.

As you can see, the created camera has the standard transformation handles. The camera object is also added to your object hierarchy. It can be selected, modified and animated similar to any geometric object, such as the bouncing sphere above.

Camera object created
[Tip] Tip
If you click the Accept button in the Control Bar without entering any points in the view window, the orientation of the current view window will be used for determining the orientation of the created camera.

If you want to see how things look from the cameras stand point, simply drag&drop the camera object from the select window into the view window. If you lost your sphere or table in the view window (for example, you accidentally panned the view too much) just drag the desired object from the select window into the view window. This turns the view to show the dropped object.

Adjust the camera position and other attributes until the camera shows the scene in a suitable way.

Select File/Render from the main menu. This opens a File Rendering window with settings for controlling the final rendering of the animation. Do the following:

In the Output section, enter a suitable path and filename (e.g. 'images/myanim') in the File Name field. Use the browse gadget if necessary.

By default the file rendering window renders images and animations to .BMP format, which is not what we want now. Left click to highlight BMP from the Active File Formats list, then press the Remove button to remove the BMP format from the list.

The Rendering Window

Press the downward pointing arrow to the right of the Available Formats field. Select 'AVI Animation' from the list, and then click the Add button.

In the Settings section, select the value 'Reasonable quality' for the Rendering Settings field.

In the Resolution section, set the Width field to 400 and the Height field to 400. The height and width should be the same, because the camera we created above has a symmetric image aspect ratio 1.0 (=square). If the resolution ratio h/w and the image aspect of the camera do not match, rendered pixels will not be perfect squares but stretched rectangles.

Press the Render Animation button to start rendering the scene. This button renders the entire animation, whereas the Render Image button renders a single still image, based on the current position of the time slider.

Wait until the progress indicator shows 100% and the Render Animation button and Render Image button become enabled again. This indicates that rendering has completed. You can now play the animation using your favorite media player. On many systems, all you need to do is double-click the AVI file from the File Manager.

Summary

This first tutorial has introduced several of the basic concepts of Realsoft 3D . An important element of this tutorial was to show you that there are a number of ways to activate various functions in Realsoft 3D.

All these different methods of performing the same function may seem confusing at first, but it allows for much flexibility as you learn the program. Beginners may use simple methods like tool icons or menus, whereas experienced users may use fast methods like keyboard shortcuts and compass menus. The program includes thousands of features, and all the input devices - mouse, keyboard, etc. - are loaded with power features. As you learn to use the program, it becomes possible to execute a complicated workflow surprisingly fast by combining these techniques.

This marks the end of the first tutorial. Congratulations on creating your first scene. Hopefully, this first lesson has whetted your appetite, and demonstrated some of the power of Realsoft 3D. Happily, there is much, much more. Further lessons introduce and explore more specific features and techniques. All that can be said at this point is: be patient. 3D modeling is a huge topic, but isn't learning fun!