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Oh. My. God. This is so turbly, turbly fun to play with.

Pixologic, the people behind the astonishing but pricey Zbrush, offer a free tool called Sculptris (download link is at the bottom of the first post).

Fire it up, and there’s a big gray ball in the middle of the screen. You use your mouse to poke it and pull it and crease it and smooth it until it looks the way you want it to. Then you can output a mesh for use in other programs.

It takes about two seconds to learn the interface (start with D for draw, X to toggle whether you’re poking or pulling, [ and ] to make your brushes bigger or smaller, and Alt-LeftMouse to rotate your viewpoint).

Even if there’s not an artistic bone in your body, I bet you’ll enjoy mashing on this big ol’ digital ball of Play Doh. G’wan, it’s free!

Thanks to gogman for the recommendation. Sorry for all the artardalation this week. When I’ve got new toys, there’s NO getting anything sensible out of me.


Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: February 16, 2011, 11:55 pm

Okay, once you do that, then what do you do with it?! 🙂

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 17, 2011, 12:06 am

I probably won’t do much of anything with it, but you can paint it up and use it to make pretty still images. Or if you want animation, the next step is you put little digital “bones” inside it so it’ll move properly, move it around and make a movie out of it.

Most of the animations I did for work were very simple. They didn’t even need those bones. It was all machinery and stuff. But I did have one human character mesh I called “Slippery Bob” because he wasn’t much more than a stick figure 🙂

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 17, 2011, 12:09 am

It’s amazing how much expression you can get out of simple animations. I had to make Slippery Bob steal something off of somebody else’s desk once. All he had was a big round head and two spheres for eyes, but I made the eyes “squint” and made him look over both shoulders quickly before he snatched the thing and ran. It really looked quite remarkably sinister.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 17, 2011, 12:25 am

O wow, that’s gonna be fun.

The amazing thing is how tiny it is! 3.1 megabytes. I was expecting something more like 31 meg. To the extent I program nowadays, it’s microprocessors; 3.1 K can be generous in some of those, and I didn’t think the WIMP (it’s an acronym) programmers could do tic-tac-toe in 3.1 megabytes.


Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 17, 2011, 1:17 am

Rick, have you ever compared the major programming languages to assembly code? If you know what you are doing, you can create a program in assembly code that will be less that a megabyte, but would do the same job as Microsoft Office Pro.

The difference is that you have to know exactly what hardware you have, and code specifically for that hardware. The major programming languages, on the other hand, are about 90% kludge, to allow the compiler to create WHAT IF scenarios for every piece of hardware for every known function.

Try compiling a simple entry level program in BASIC or C++, and compare it to the same thing in Assembly. Assembly will be less than a Kilobyte, whereas the output code from the compiler could run over a hundred pages of assembly code.

(shit, what the hell was I talking about again?)

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: February 17, 2011, 1:58 am

I’m sorry that new computer is working out so poorly for you. Bet you wish y’all hadn’t wasted all that money on it now…

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: February 17, 2011, 2:44 am

Scubafreak, I know all that. That was a compliment, not a complaint.

It isn’t programming languages. Yes, compilers once had to, e.g., load all the possible math routines to add 2 + 2, and interpreters still must, but compilers nowadays have optimization routines that detect actual cases and easily reduce the final code to something like 1.5 – 2x what an assembly coder would take years to produce. That isn’t where the bloat comes from.

The main thing that made the home-computer revolution possible in the first place was standardization on the Intel instruction set, the IBM PC architecture, and the Microsoft OS — and even with that, I’d estimate a good half of what you get in a Windows distribution is different variants of substantially the same thing, necessary to accommodate different hardware, plus code to differentiate among the variants. I haven’t checked, but I’ll bet Win7 can cope with an old USR modem — and those haven’t been made for at least twenty years. Redmond includes the code Just In Case.

That’s what makes sculptris so amazing. They included the main program, the Windows runtime necessary to cope with its Mac origins, a goodly set of starter data, and skimpy but useful documentation, and got it down to 3.1 meg, compressed. It’s even fast, rolling the ball around smoothly on my old clunker until I do something that creates too many polygons. I’m in awe. Them folks is good.


Comment from gogman
Time: February 17, 2011, 3:12 am

OMG Weasel! Good stuff! Everything I make in Sculptris comes out looking like Mr. Hankey the turd from Southpark. Thanks for the for the thanks and linkage – I guess I should pull my head out of code land and post something on the ol’ blog.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: February 17, 2011, 10:48 am

I can draw decent conour maps via standard industry software. Used to draw them by hand, which was a pain in the ass. But that’s just about it, and it’s not really “art,” just a fair rendition of the data.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 17, 2011, 1:02 pm

I don’t have much blog largesse to bestow, gogman, but I can by-god link to somebody when I mention him.

I’m running into a problem with Sculptris — so far, always on the ears — where I pull too many polygons, or pull them too far or something and get a spiky, wadded-up series of vertices that can’t be poked back in or simplified or anything.

I’ve tried pulling Sculptris meshes into Blender — which they do, but I can’t seem to manipulate geometry in there.

Lesson: save often.

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