11 February 2016

Gottfried Hofmann - Point Density Magical FX Pro Edition

Blender as a 3D Creation Suit is going on its ever continuing march of adding new features and improving features that already exists within it.

One of those improved features of Blender that recently got some attention was Point Density textures.

Previously Point Density Textures were supported in the Blender Internal Render but not in the Cycles Render.  However recently Blender Cycles gained the support of Point Density Textures.

For those who are not aware of what Point Density textures are the quickest way to describe them is that they are in some ways similar to Blender Smoke features but for vertices and particles.  Anywhere an object, vertices or particle appears in a Point Density Domain (3D Voxel Domain) will be rendered similar to the way smoke particles are.  Point Density support is a form of Volumetric Rendering.

Point Density Textures allow for a myriad of Volumetic Rendering effects.  Anything where you need smoke-like, dust trails, turning objects in to glowing plasmatic forms, etc without all the intense calculation involved with real smoke simulation the Point Density Texture may be able to step in.

Now Blenderheads are very quick to take Blenders new and improved features and put them to the test to see what they can do with them.  One of those very experienced Blenderheads Gottfried Hofmann contacted me to ask if I would review his newest product called "Point Density Magical FX".

Since I am a big fan of Gottfried's work and I really like his BlenderDiplom Blender tutorial website, I was eager to see exactly what he could do with Point Density Textures.

Product Specifications:

        Gottfried's newest product aims to both describe how to use and setup Point Density Textures to achieve various cool looking special effects and to provides templates which can be used in your own projects for what ever you need.  This useful as there are not really many tutorials on doing Point Density special effects type things so it fills a gap.

        You can download the product from Gottfried's website when you do you are taken to the gumroad.com website.  This website is similar to Blender Cookie in that it allows you to host and sell various types of things such as videos and tutorial.

        I have never used gumroad before but in reviewing Gottfried's work I can say that it was very easy to use.  You can download the various purchased resourced or you can watch them online, it will even let you download directly to a Drop Box account, though I was not able to test the Drop Box feature as I do not own a Drop Box account.

        To start with on getting a request email from Gottfried to review his product I got directed to his website and on purchasing the product I was directed to gumroad.com.  From there setting up an account was very straightforward.

        All purchased products are added to your gumroad.com library where you can browse and view your items as you wish.

        I tend to like to download and watch all the things I have so that's what I did.

        The Point Density Magical FX comes with various things:
        • Templates
        • Demo Files
        • Training Videos
        • PDF-Guide to Point Density in Cycles
        • Starter Files for training Videos
        • .blend of Promo Image
        • Documentation of Templates 
        There are two different versions of Point Density Magical Fx, a Pro and a Training version.  The Pro version comes will all the things mentioned above while the Training version comes with:
        • Training Videos
        • Starter .blends
        • .blend of the Promo Image
        I mainly concentrated on reviewing the Videos and PDF files as these are the most important in getting to grips with how Point Density Textures can be used.

        If you download all the files it is roughly 4gig in size.  So you will need a reasonably good internet connection speed or a lot of free time.  Though the website seems very stable and I had no problems downloading the content.

        The PDF file was the first thing I read and it gave a to the point review of what Point Density Textures are and some of the less obvious points about how they are calculated.  I found this PDF informative and useful.  If you are not one who likes to read PDFs you can get all the same information from the collection of video files that Gottfried narrates.

        It is worth noting that Gottfried's narration is very clear and easy to understand and the quality of the video encoding is very clear and well paced.  I only had basic experience of Blender Internal Point Density Textures and found it very easy to follow Gottfried's explanations of Cycles Point Density Textures.  I think that if you have never used Point Density Textures before you will also have no problems understanding and following Gottfrieds explanations.

        There are 4 videos supplied covering various Point Density Texture based special effects:
        1. Basic Point Density Setup
        2. Stylized Flame
        3. Ocean Of Spheres
        4. Smokey
        The first video shows how to setup a Point Density Texture from first principles.  Showing you the basics of how to get started with them.

        The video then moves on to making a logo illuminated by Point Density Textures.  Also covered is baking and turning Point Density Textures into images which can then be composited.  If you have never used the turbulence force field modifier this is used to achieve random movement of Point Density Textures.

        It is surprising with just some very simple settings and modifiers the quality of the effect Gottfried achieved.

        After the logo was completed the next thing that is demonstrated is using Point Density Textures to place them inside glass jars that can be effected by various light absorption and scatting effects.

        The second video covers the creations of a plasma flame like effect which can surround and object and give it a flaming look.

        Various modifiers and weight painting techniques are covered to achieve these effects, all well explained and demonstrated.

        The third video takes a different approach from the previous two in that it shows how to emulate Point Density Texture like effects without actually using Point Density Textures.  This can help with rendering speed and memory usage.

        The video shows how to take a collection of Dupli-Objects and place the Blender logo across them and have those spheres animated to morph into the Blender logo when the camera moves to the correct position.  The compositor, and the displacement modifiers and various other features of Blender are used to achieve this effect.

        In this video there were some very clever techniques and tips covered.  Of particular note was the tip that you can use the compositor viewer node to save altered images without effecting their native resolution.  Another cool little piece of information was the coverage of how to use the From Dupli tickable option to project an image texture across a collection of Dupli-Objects.  There was also so tips and tricks regarding the use of the RGB curves node.   All useful pieces of information which I did not know about.

        The forth and final video covers using Point Density Textures to create thin wispy smoke that looks similar to how tabaco smoke would look that is animated.

        One stand out point that I did not know in this video was the technique for baking particles that follow a path with the Bake Action feature with Visual Keying active to get particle trails which looks smooth.  I don't know if this is a Blender bug or a feature but, it is still very useful to know how to get around the issue.

        All in all an excellent product that is reasonably priced and very well described.

        If you are looking for how to learn Point Density Textures or just want the Blend files for making your own versions of the logos for your own products then Gottfried's latest product is for you.

        Review Score 95%