In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create this twist animation using the fabulous 3D software known as Art of Illusion.
Art of Illusion, or AOI, is a free, open source 3D modelling and rendering studio, written entirely in Java. You can download AOI here: Art of Illusion Homepage
While all of the 3D creation, animation, and rendering process will take place in AOI, I will describe how to put the final product (what you see above) together using GIMP, my favorite 2D software package. The steps will probably be similar for Photoshop or PaintShop Pro, but if you don't a favorite image editor, you can't go wrong with GIMP. In fact, I highly recommend it! You download a free copy of GIMP here: GIMP homepage
While you're at the AOI homepage, you might want to bookmark or download the User Manual. It's one of the most well-written user guides, bar none! In fact, the inspiration for this tutorial was taken from the Manual in the Animation Section here: AOI User Manual Animation Section
. A couple other sites of that might be of interest to you are the AOI Wiki
and the FriendlySkies Forum
If you're familiar with the many tutorials I've written for GIMP, you already know that I like to provide as much detail as possible so that even someone with little experience can get to the end product without too many tears. This tutorial will be no exception; however, I won't be describing every toolbar, menu, or keystroke that the software has. That's why I strongly recommend you spend lots of time with the manual. The manual does a much better job than I ever could.
I'm using AOI version 2.4.1 for this tutorial. There are no special plugins or scripts needed, so I believe this will work for any newer version of AOI.If you see that my version of AOI has buttons or other modifications that your version does not have, don't be alarmed. I have mine 'hot-rodded' with some cool plugins and scripts that I've obtained from the links listed above. The steps I describe here will not require you to use any of these plugins/scripts.
What you will learn in this tutorial:
1. Familiarity with the AOI interface.
2. How to create basic 3D objects.
3. Using the Extrude tool.
4. Basic texturing, lighting, and camera placement/movement.
5. Setting up the animation process
6. Rendering the animation and saving the output as individual images.
7. Importing the individual images into GIMP for creating the animated gif.
Additionally and also very important: the steps I've used in this tutorial are not the only ways to accomplish these tasks. As with most software, AOI has several ways to do the same thing. In many cases, I've done something in a certain way to avoid having to explain the mechanism in greater detail. Sometimes, my own lack of knowledge resulted in me doing tasks certain ways. So, please don't let my way of doing things get in the way of you learning or enjoying the process.The board may have resized some of the images and made them look unclear. If you're a Firefox user, right-click on the image and choose View Image. Not sure if this is a problem for IE users with a newer version. I've read IE has a built-in plugin to automatically correct the resizing issue.
Now, with all the pleasantries out of the way, let's get down to business! Modeling
Open up AOI and you'll notice that there are 4 different views by default. If you're familiar with other 3D software, this will be no surprise to you; however, if this is your first experience with 3D, it may take some to become comfortable with using multiple views. You can always turn off the 4 views and use a single view if you want, but for this tutorial, we'll try to stick the default settings as much as possible.
Let's create our pentagon cylinder.
Along the left margin, you'll notice some tool buttons. Double-click the Create Polygon button as shown in the screenshot below. This will allow us to change the number of sides the shape has as well as tell AOI how smooth the corners should be.
Enter the values I've shown here. These values will give us a pentagon with angled (hard-edged) corners.
Choose OK to exit out of the dialog and go back to the main AOI interface.
Next, in the bottom, left-hand view window (Top View)
, Hold down the Shift and Ctrl keys and with the left mouse button depressed, drag out a box in the middle of this window. The Shift key will constrain the shape to have equal sides/angles, while the Ctrl key will cause the shape to be filled in. It's important that you do this step in Top View so our next step settings will work properly.
Your Top View window should look something like this:
I'm kinda weird, but I like everything set up in the absolute center, so in the Properties dialog window (along the right-hand side of the AOI interface), I'll change all my values to zeros as shown here. The orientation values are correct as shown. If you want to change the name of your object, you can enter a new name here as well.
With that out of the way, lets give this pentagon some height.
Go to the Tools Menu > Extrude...
Enter the following parameters as shown.
These settings will extrude our initial pentagon, 3 units in the Y-direction (or 'Up' if you'd rather think of it in those terms.) If you failed to create your initial polygon in Top View as described above, these settings may give you some weird results! Also, we're going to give the extruded object 10 segments or cross-sections. Although the Twist function doesn't require there to be any cross-sections to work with, I'm adding them here 'just because I can!' I encourage you to experiment with the various settings to see how AOI works.
If you want to rotate the object in the preview window, click and drag with the left mouse button. You can also move the object in the preview window by clicking and dragging the right mouse button.
Once finished, click OK to accept the changes and be returned to the main interface. This is what your object will look like in the Front View window:
As before, I'm gonna center this NEW object in the window, like so:
If you take a look in the Objects Dialog (along the right-hand side of the interface), you should have something similar to this:
There's a camera and light (always there by default), a Polygon 2 object (our original pentagon object) and an Extruded Object 1 (The extruded version of the Pentagon 2 object). Your names may be different. AOI automatically creates a new object during the extrusion process and keeps the original, which is good just in case we want to use it later. However, for this tutorial, the Pentagon 2 object has served its purpose. You can either delete it (highlight it and hit the backspace key on your keyboard) or hide it. I'm just going to hide it. Highlight the object, right click and choose Hide Selection as shown:
Now, let's add a base for our cylinder to sit on. Go to the tool buttons bar again and choose the Create Cube button as shown:
and click and drag a cube in the Front View window, something similar to that shown below.
Notice, that in my screenshot, the cube and cylinder intersect a bit and, if you take a look at the other view windows, the dimensions don't really fit what we're after. I'll fix that in the Object Properties window as shown below. You adjust your settings as desired.
Now that we've got our models in place, we need to add some texture to them. As with many things in AOI, there are a number of ways to accomplish this task, I'll show you one.
Go to the Scene Menu > Textures (or Ctrl+Shift+U):
and the following dialog window will appear:
Click on the New... button and enter the following settings:
Click OK and another dialog will appear. Here's what I've used:
I won't go into great detail on what each setting does as the manual is your best resource; however, simple explanations are in order.Name
is pretty self-explanatory. I've assigned it the name Cylinder as I'm gonna use this texture for my cylinder. You can leave it at the default name or give it any name you would like.Diffuse color
is the overall color of the model. To change the diffuse color (or any of the color settings in AOI, double-click on the color swatch next to it. Here's the settings I used.
is the color of the reflections. I'm leaving mine at the default as I'm using very little reflectivity on the cylinder (the amount of specularity is assigned in the Specularity
slider below the color swatches.)Transparent color
is the color transmitted through a transparent object. My object is not tranparent at all (see the Transparency
slider is set to zero below the color swatches), so the default color is fine.Emissive color
is the 'glow' color an object would have if it were able to give off light. For example....light bulbs. Our object doesn't need to glow, so the default setting is good.
The sliders below the color swatches define the amount of the color for the color swatches and a few other properties. I've already discussed the Specularity and Transparency sliders. The Shininess
slider works with specularity. The higher the Shininess value, the more pronounced the reflections. Roughness
decreases the sharpness of the reflections and Cloudiness
affects the level of translucency in transparent objects.
Now, go have fun and experiment with these settings!
Now, do the same for the Cube...I've called it 'Base' in the texture dialog. I won't show a screenshot for everything, but here's the colors/various settings I've used. Notice, I've added more specularity (reflection) and roughness to this texture.
We now have all the textures we need to proceed. The next thing we need to do, is tell AOI which one goes where. In the Object Dialog window, highlight your pentagon-shaped cylinder and then move to the Object Properties Window and in the dropdown menu, choose the texture we created for the cylinder as shown:
Do the same thing for the Cube, or Base, as I called it above.Lights, Camera......
Next, let's fix our lighting and camera angle. In AOI, you can position items by using various keyboard & mouse combinations. As you learn more the software and its nuances, you'll find those methods are generally much faster. However, since I've already prepared the final output, I'll just give you my camera and light settings and you can type them in without struggling to get the angles just right.
When you open up AOI, there will be a default light added to every project. This default light is a spotlight (again refer back to the manual for a detailed description) and generally won't be used by itself in most of your projects. In this tutorial, we won't be using it all. So, go to the Objects dialog window, right-click on the light, and choose Clear from the dropdown menu to delete it (or you can hit the Backspace key). Here's a screenshot for reference:
In place of the light we just deleted, we need to add a couple of new lights. This time we'll be adding point lights (give off light in all directions). To do that, click on the Create Light button in the toolbar...
Then click anywhere in the scene to add the light. As I said above, you can position objects with the mouse, but I'll give you my settings and you can experiment with the other options later.
Add a second light by clicking one more time in the scene.
If you look at your Object Properties dialog, you should see something like this for one of the selected lights...
Fill in your properties as I've done above. To change the color, double-click on the color swatch and select a color that you'd like. I've used a light yellow.....
Now, select the other light you added and give it the same settings as the first one; however, this time, make the X value under the Position Section be a positive 2.0.
This will give us a light to the left and to the right of the object.
With the lights in place, let's adjust the camera position and angle. Click on the camera in the Object dialog window and under the Object Properties dialog, change the settings as such. The Field of View, Depth of Field, and Focal Distance were left at the default values.
Before moving on to the animation portion, let's change the color of the surrounding area....aka environment color. Go to Scene Menu > Environment to access these settings.....
In the dialog that appears, let's change the environment to a white color by changing the settings as such (remember, to change the color, double-click on the color swatch)
Additionally, in most cases, you'll want to change the Ambient Color to black. I was not aware of that when I created my animation and, as such, my color was left at the default - a dark grey. Rather than redo everything, I figured it best to leave my settings alone. The remainining settings in the dialog (all relating to Fog) are left at the defaults. We're not using fog in this particular example. Although you can certainly experiment with those as the feeling strikes!
I like to move it, move it...I like to move it, move it...
With our scene created, textured, and lit, it's now time to make this little bugger move! Like everything else about AOI, there are tons of animation options. I suggest you take some time to read the animation section of the manual and experiment with the various options. Additionally, make sure you check out the forum links I posted above. There are a lot of talented folks who've posted their animations online which can serve as inspiration to take your 3D animations to the next level.
By default, the animation section of the AOI interface is hidden. Let's open it up so we can work with it. To do so, go to Animation Menu > Show Score
and the Score Window will appear along the bottom of the AOI interface.
If the Score Window does not appear, you can always take your cursor and move it to the thick border along the bottom of the AOI interface. When the cursor becomes a two-headed arrow, you can click, hold, and drag up with the mouse to make the window show.
Select the cylinder object in the Object Dialog window and go to Animation Menu > Add Track to Selected Objects > Distortion > Twist
This option will apply a Twist 'deformer' to the object we've selected above (ie...cylinder) and allows us to apply various settings to it. Your Score Window should now look something like this:
Notice the Twist Track to the left side of the Score Window. There is also a Position and Rotation Track. These are automatically assigned by AOI and could be used as well; however, we'll only focus on the Twist track. Feel free to experiment. The red box highlights the time/view position marker. In its current position, you'll note that it's set at Time 0 and Frame 0. The marker can be moved by clicking and dragging to another position. The View windows will adjust accordingly to show the changes to the objects affected by the animation track(s). Since we've made no changes to the Twist track, moving the time/view position marker won't show any changes. This is about to change, however!
Double-click on the Twist Track in the Score window (the word 'Twist' highlighted in black in the above image) and the Twist Tract Options dialog will appear. Set the parameters as follows:
This tells AOI to Twist the cylinder along the Y axis and in Approximating fashion. The smoothing method in this case does NOT refer to how smooth the cylinder is, but how the animation is handled. Again, please refer to the manual for specific descriptions and remember to experiment with the settings yourself to see how each one differs.
Click OK to accept the changes.
To control the animation, we need to add some markers called keyframes. These keyframes will tell AOI that at a specific time/frame, the animation needs to look a certain way. What AOI then does, is calculate the remaining positions in-between these keyframes and renders them accordingly.
With the Twist Track still selected, go to Animation Menu > Keyframe Selected Tracks (Ctrl+K) to add the first one.
Keyframe symbol (diamond shape) highlighted below.
Double-click the keyframe (diamond shape) and set the settings for our first keyframe as follows:
We've just told AOI that we want the first keyframe to be at time 0 (zero) and have no 0 (zero) degrees of twist to it. So, at time zero we want the cylinder to appear normally.
Now, grab the green time/view position marker and slide it to time 0.5 seconds (Or thereabouts. If you don't get it exact, you can modify it in the Edit Keyframe dialog.)
Add a keyframe at this location (Animation Menu > Keyframe Selected Tracks or Ctrl+K)
Double-click on this new keyframe and change the settings as shown below.
Now, add 3 more keyframes and modify their settings by double-clicking the keyframe symbol and changing the parameters as described below (no screenshots given):
|Keyframe Number||Time||Twist Angle|
You should now have a total of 5 keyframes for your animation laid out like the following screenshot.
You can now manually test your animation by dragging the time/view position marker and see how AOI adjusts the shape of the cylinder throughout the animation or you can go to Animation Menu > Preview Animation (or Ctrl+P) and have AOI play it for you.
And adjust the settings in the Preview Animation Dialog like so:
Because our animation is 2 seconds long, change the End Time value to 2.0 and click OK to accept the changes and watch the preview. Pretty cool, eh? Now close the preview and let's render the animation to a series of images which we'll open in GIMP and assemble as an animated gif.Rendering
To render our 3D animation (or any 3D scene for that matter), we need to tell AOI how to do it. AOI has a lot of rendering capabilities - from the very basic to the extremely sophisticated. This tutorial will use some simple rendering settings that will provide a nice output. Because we're going to produce an animation, which will result in an image for each twist of the cylinder, we need to keep a number of things in mind. The act of rendering can be time-consuming even for a single frame. The higher the quality settings you use, the longer it will take for each resulting image. The larger the output image dimensions will also increase the render time and file size. That being said, we'll try to use some settings that will provide a good balance between good looks, reduced render time and file size. The settings you decide upon may be different and may provide an output quite different than mine.
Go to Scene Menu > Render Scene...(Ctrl+R)
Set the parameters like so (don't worry about the Illumination, Output, or Advanced options at this time). With 30 Frames/Sec and an animation time of 2.0 seconds, our output will have 60 frames in the animation. If this is more than you would like to deal with, try reducing the number of frames per second value.
Click OK to accept and the next dialog will appear. Here, we're going to instruct AOI to save each rendered image in jpg format at quality of 85. I find that jpgs provide a good level of quality and the 85 setting is a pretty good level of compression. Experiment as desired.
In the next window that pops up (no screenshot), tell AOI where to save each rendered image. I strongly suggest you create a folder to keep all the images in order.
Once you do that, AOI will start rendering each image of the animation. Depending on your render settings, you may need to take a break while AOI is conducting its Magic!
Compiling and Saving the Animation with GIMP
We're coming down the homestretch now!
Open up GIMP. Have I already mentioned it's my favorite image editing software?!
Go to File Menu > Open ... (Ctrl+O)
Point GIMP to the Folder/Location where you stored your rendered images and select ONLY the first frame of the animation as so. I'm gonna show you a cool trick for bringing in the remaining images!
Now, manually open up the folder where you stored your rendered images. Since I'm a Windows user, I'll go through Windows Explorer (Windows key + E) - keep in mind this is Windows Explorer NOT Internet Explorer!
Once in the folder, select ALL of your rendered images, with the EXCEPTION of the first image (that one's already in GIMP). If you've used the same render settings as I did, you should have 59 images selected.
Now, here's the important part.....Put your cursor of the first SELECTED image of the bunch (in my case Untitled0002.jpg), click and hold down the mouse button and drag your cursor (all of the selected images will be in tow) over to the GIMP image window and release your mouse button. GIMP will automatically place the images in their proper order in the stack. If you placed your cursor over any other image than the first selected image, the results won't be correct. GIMP places images, starting with the one you were hovering over when you clicked and dragged.
Let's try out our little creation. Go to Filters Menu > Animation > Playback...
Once you're finished watching this thing of beauty, close the preview window. Depending on where you plan on showing your image off, you might want to adjust some parameters to keep the filesize low. Remember, not everyone has broadband...be kind to your dial-up viewers!
Here are some ways you can reduce filesize... Scale the image. You can do this through the Image Menu > Scale Image... Or, maybe you want to optimize the animation. Go to the Filters Menu > Animation and choose either Optimize (Difference) or Optimize (for GIF), either will work in this case. There are many ways to reduce the filesize of the gif animation, but I won't venture into all them now. There are a lot of wonderful resources available on the web that can help you in that regard. The suggestions above will get you headed in the right direction.
Let's save this baby and call it a day!
Go to File Menu > Save as....give it a name with the gif extension and choose these settings as they appear....
And your animation is complete!
Well, I hope this tutorial served to excite you about the wonderful world of Art of Illusion and provided you with some useful information. As always, please feel free to share your results with me or let me know if I need to provide clarification.
Take care and have fun with Art of Illusion.
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