WakYak – ArchViz

WakYak – Architectural visualization from Erik Jansson on Vimeo.

I like it. It’s playful and fun and well done. The use of Blender’s Bullet physics engine is cool to see, definitely, and there’s something sort of surreal about the graphics even before the cubes came. Sort of like Pixar’s work, where it’s mostly realistic but something about the materials looks a little plastic and stylized. Stretched just beyond photorealism.

The camera shake was slightly too much – the camera flits around as if it’s too light for the holder’s hand. It needs to calm down and move with some leaden inertia. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the works of Alex Roman (whom I’m writing another article on, coming soon) whose work features large, mostly concrete buildings that have a very lazy, weighty feel to them.

He used Octane renderer, which is GPU based if I remember correctly. Could have used more samples, I think, a wee bit noisy with the DoF and occlusion in some scenes.

Scrapbook 23


The middle one is concept art from the short animated film Slimtime:

+1 Button

Hilariously, I went about putting up Google’s +1 buttons (which have been out for months now) here on the blog and now Google’s announced the new Google+ quasi-social network thing on the day I do it.

Am I magic?


In the meantime, though, you can click these fantastic little buttons which do virtually nothing for you. They aren’t ‘Likes’ and they don’t get posted to your wall or, actually, anywhere, really. It’s just a button and a number beside it.

Wait, why am I excited to have these, again? Useless visual clutter. That’s horrible design.

So… click them like they’re going out of style since, I have a feeling they might be. If they disappeared next week, would anyone be heartbroken?

Sorry I don’t know who that photo was taken by, nor how it relates to the post itself.


Beirut – Sunday Smile

An old favorite of mine, for those days when you just need an accordion somewhere in your soundtrack.

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Beirut, for me, saddles a thin line between awesome and annoying but overall, definitely a great band with some fantastic old-world style. It’s one of those bands that creates a world for themselves, as though they live in a completely different time and place and through them we can bridge between our world and theirs – and when you cross the bridge you automatically get a vest and a thin mustache.

Photo by IrenaS

Abrams Anamorphic Blender Blur

As we know, I am addicted to lens flare. It’s ridiculous, mostly unnecessary and in the movies often shows up inexplicably from no apparent light source.

As we also know, J.J Abrams uses a lot of it.

We went and saw Super 8 the other weekend and although this post isn’t really a review of the movie, I will say I liked most of it. Like the latest Star Trek, anything scientific or unexplainable was associated with his trademark anamorphic flares which danced and glowed with alien presence compared to the more ordinary scenes in the movie.


When Star Trek came out I was using Blender 2.49 and after the movie credits rolled promptly rushed home to see if I could duplicate the dazzling effects I’d just seen. Turns out, it was garbage in comparison.

Blender 2.5 doesn’t really change or add much new (at least, I think there were glare nodes in 2.49…?) but the year or so since has added some knowledge and ability to my compositing skills.

It’s a mess, I admit. I just finished and haven’t really cleaned it up at all. Let’s walk through it:

Glare nodes (on streak, set to 2) by themselves make a sort of anamorphic glow, but it’s a little fat, as tall as the specular shine. You can change the threshold if the specular is gradient, or add an RGB curve set like that second one down: with the C point towards the bottom right corner. This, if you’re unfamiliar with curves, will darken everything, amplifying the bright spots across all channels (R, G & B) which helps thin out the glares into a more needle-like shine. This is good for adding more distinction in them, instead of the generic hazy effect that they make by default.

It repeats a lot, basically taking them and stretching them (Blur set to horizontal with the X value being taken between 10 and 5000) or colourizing them (with the RGB curves) and then mixing them back together.

The very bottom row (glare, glare, blur, RGB, flip > mix) is what makes the red ghosts to the bottom left of the frame. With the flip in there it’s literally taking the whole image, bluring it really horizontally and then flipping across both axis to simulate what real lenses do with focal flare: the spot shows up opposite the light spot through the middle of the frame. It’s just more stylized with the stretching and the colouring. I didn’t do any real chromatic maths here, so it’s just whatever looks good – usually opposite whatever your main colour is.

RGB curves are fantastic for colouring, although some people prefer the split tones method. It doesn’t matter, they do the same thing, it’s just how you prefer to visualize the change.

I did the DoF last, although I’m not sure if that’s the proper form or not. I tried it both ways and it didn’t seem to make much difference on the end result.

So. That’s pretty much it. Have fun, be ridiculous!

Oh, and the reflections are just an HDRi reflection-mapped to the material.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

EDIT: I should mention, objects that are close to the middle of the frame will generate a crazy bright spot. It’s a sort of graphical feedback loop where the glare brightens and flips but since the flip is so close the original it gets brightened again and so on. You can fix this by bypassing that first Ghost glare node altogether, or increasing it’s color mod for variable control, or changing the threshold of both.

It takes a bit of experimenting for each scene on an individual basis. Sadly, there isn’t a nice one-size-fits-all that I’ve discovered yet.

I should also mention, since I missed it earlier, those little dots are actually Blender’s starfield fed through the DoF and the bokeh makes them look bigger.

There’s some space clouds without compositing to show the normal star field.

Bring Walking Back

As a student living five blocks from campus, I use my car once a week to drive to the Superstore for groceries which is a lot cheaper than the much closer Safeway. Living in Calgary, Alberta the winters get a wee bit chilly (-35 isn’t that bad if dressed properly) but makes for an awfully inconvenient few months where walking around town becomes far less inviting than driving.

So, how do we make cities better for walking?

Europe has got it right (and I’ve been suggesting similar though more ridiculous thoughts for years) by making driving as utterly annoying as possible:

Around Löwenplatz, one of Zurich’s busiest squares, cars are now banned on many blocks. Where permitted, their speed is limited to a snail’s pace so that crosswalks and crossing signs can be removed entirely, giving people on foot the right to cross anywhere they like at any time.

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, the city’s chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers.”


It’s not even fully an environmental thing, I can only imagine our rampant obesity would be curbed by making driving less attractive. We should really be banning drive thrus. Make people walk, even that extra little bit, and it would also help with the idling emissions as people sit there waiting with their cars running.

And while ‘streets’ like Stephen Ave. (downtown) are pedestrian havens, it’s a shame the whole city is designed to be driven, not walked. It’s just a fact, there really is no incentive for us as Canadians to walk in the city. Our gas is relatively cheap compared to our European counterparts, and our cities (especially the spacious Canadian prairies) are really, really spread out. The sheer sprawl of these areas is crazy. There are lots of things like that which would need to be addressed – it’s a difficult, complex problem.

But, I do believe that we need a reform. It’s going to be a struggle to retro-design our existing cities, but they are always growing and the new developments can be better designed for sure.

Read the full NY Times article.


Audyssey Speakers

I’ve been complaining about the state of design for the past few weeks but perhaps I’m judging too harshly. Good design is invisible, after all.

The Joey Roth speakers are still cleaner than the above, in my opinion, but a lot can be said for that clean mesh face. Hidden LED and minimal decoration / branding really do make a nice offset from the increasingly gaudy audio world.

I understand the ease and cheapness the rubber wraps on the tubular base are – it makes sense, but they’re a glaring aesthetic flaw for the truly clean look they’re going for. Though, since they are selling for a mere $200 I guess it’s a better place to compromise than, say, audio quality.

You can read the official Audyssey site or The Gadgeteer for more information.


Modern Drift – Efterklang

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This song has been there for me for a long time. It’s the song I play when I’m off creatively. It’s the song I turn on just before I sit down to tackle some big project. It’s the start of where a montage would be if my life were a movie.

And what a movie it would be.

Modern Drift – Efterklang

The photo is of a good friend, longboarder and awesome photographer Mack Fai, who probably wouldn’t approve of the music posted above because it’s “too girly”.

Scrapbook 22

I love the Popular Science mags of yesteryear. They’re so bright and optimistic about the future; the war is over-ish and people are ready to use all this technology to sculpt the perfect world out.

What went wrong?

Even the PopSci of today is getting increasingly jaded, whittled down to reviewing cell phones and consumer tech that have already come out. That’s not the future! Is futurism dead? Where is Syd Mead?

There’s a quote I read the other day that really struck me personally, the sources are shaky but it was either said by Obama or Will Smith (so who knows, really). It reads:

“Being realistic is the fastest way to mediocrity.”

I am a realistic person. I am imaginative, don’t get me wrong. Creative to the limit, outside the space outside the box, but I am a very realistic person.

The world, I think, is getting increasingly mediocre. Does that mean we are getting increasingly realistic? More importantly, does that mean we are getting jaded to the point that the future is no longer bright for us?

I mean, right now is pretty amazing – better than most scifi authors could have thought. We have these things that everyone carries that can access the entire world’s knowledge near-instantly. We can talk to anyone in the entire world if we want to. We live twice as long as we did a hundred years ago. We’re smarter and faster and stronger, and yet we see this world as somehow inadequate; monotonous.

Bored people are boring people.

So, I like the futurists. I like that optimism for things. I vow to try and incorporate that into my life and my work. Perhaps if everyone did we can reverse this apparent trend.

Arty Bollocks Generator

Known for my “creative” (read: bizarre) mockingly pretentious art critiques I pretty much have to love this site. It makes it up for you!


Also: Hilarious.

Check it out.


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