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Wireframe Glow

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Eric Schuran
Wireframe Glow
on Dec 26, 2010 at 5:45:29 pm

Tried searching high and low for this particular effect, and it is probably right under my nose. I was wondering if anyone here knows how to get a Vectrex-style look to a wireframe by having a simple sort of glow on it? It's almost neon looking as if the wireframe itself is made of light.

Here are a few examples:





(Beck E-Pro Music Video)





(The Touch's Song, Heart of the City)

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated :)


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 26, 2010 at 7:24:22 pm

Maya's toon lines/paint FX could do something like this. In the Toon menu set there is an option to convert the toon outlines to geometry. Once converted to geometry you can assign any shader you want to the outline.

Using paint fx would work as well (i think). You can duplicate surface curves of polygon edges. Then attach a paint fx stroke to the curve.. Convert the stroke to geometry.

Mental Ray might have a way to as well, but wouldn't know where to start there. I know it can render wireframes though. You would likely need MR for that one shot in the second video where the head model is getting poly reduction history animated.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:01:08 pm

I spoke with the guys at Shynola, and they stated this:

"Hi Eric, the only way to render them and maintain 1 pixel lines without anti aliasing was to use playblasts, and I think we rendered each shot something like 4 times at half-frame offsets to create motion trails.. although we might have done that as a post effect, I can't really remember. We also simulated chromatic aberrations in post (separated the RGB and warped each channel slightly differently) that were exaggerated towards the edges of the screen to give that worn out arcade monitor effect."

So my question is, can the toon stuff be applied and show up in a playblast, or perhaps they added the glow in post?


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:17:18 pm

Wow, I'm surprised they got that look just by playblasts. I guess they just modeled out the edges of the wireframe they wanted to appear. Then they playblasted that?

I'm getting some decent results using the Hardware Render Buffer. My playblasts look pretty aliased. But doing a wireframe render through Hardware Render looks pretty nice.

Doing the glow in post would work. You probably just need a random expression that increases/decreases the brightness really slightly.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 27, 2010 at 4:46:41 pm

One part of their quote didn't paste correctly. They mentioned they used splines, or curves rather, not sure if that changes anything. Yeah, the playblast thing stumps me, because it doesn't have the neon glow.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 27, 2010 at 6:04:51 pm

Yeah, splines would work. Use CV curve tool and just model out the curves you want to draw.

Alternatively you could model out something, then detach polygon edges and delete the original model.

Also, in the attributes of the shape node, the "drawing overrides" will let you color the wireframe. Have your wireframe colored and set the background to black.

I'm still thinking hardware render buffer would be better. Playblasts look pretty aliased to me. Also you might want to key out the black background in post.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 27, 2010 at 6:33:49 pm

Either way I render it, it won't have that neon glow to it. Playblasts just look like regular wireframes, yet the Beck video everything looks neon.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 29, 2010 at 3:51:56 am

Hey let me know if you still need help with this, I'll try to camtasia something in the morning.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 29, 2010 at 12:04:57 pm

That would be very kind of you :-)


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 29, 2010 at 8:40:24 pm

Ok hope this covers it.. there are still other ways but i think it looks pretty similar to what they did.

Glowing wireframe rendering look in Maya from Cave House Studios on Vimeo.



Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 30, 2010 at 3:20:53 am

Thank you so much! I e-mailed them to specify and they said the wireframes were rendered, and glow and other effects were done in post. Good job man and good intuition :-) They mentioned splitting the rgb channels slightly as well to get a weird glow effect ... Very very nice job. Thank you so much :-)


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Dec 30, 2010 at 3:55:30 pm

No problem man, glad to help :)

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 2, 2011 at 2:30:45 pm

I just wanted to ask something really quick.

What's the purpose of keying out the black background when the background in the video itself is black?


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 2, 2011 at 8:39:39 pm

Because it's not black :) It's more like a dark purple radial gradient. It probably adds to the worn out tube monitor look.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 2, 2011 at 8:55:46 pm

Wow, upon another look you are right! Man you got hell of an eye for detail. Probably explains why you have a studio ;-)


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 3, 2011 at 6:33:29 pm

One thing I noticed is that curves in Maya can't have sharp edges, which is odd. There are several objects in the video with sharp edges. Perhaps I'm missing something in Maya, but I looked around and it seems it wants to smooth the splines.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:57:13 pm

In the CV Curve tool options, the default curve degree is 3. This ends up giving you that smooth approximation. In order to get a sharp corner on a CV curve, place a few CV's right next to each other. 3 usually works. 1 point for coming into the corner, 1 for the corner, and 1 going out. Move the outside points closer/further from the corner to sharpen it up.

If you've already made the curve you can insert a point by selecting a 'curve point' and doing Edit Curves -> Insert Knot

If you want to make a linear curve, where the spline goes point to point - Go into the CV curve options and set the degree to 1. That'll end up making a curve that's polygonal.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:05:52 pm

Thanks man, figured it out earlier, although the extra tips I will jot down.

I put some joints and binded them, although when animating a joint it curved the spline. Is there a way to avoid that? I noticed the birds and giant frog are animated, yet segmented ...


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 3, 2011 at 10:08:51 pm

Yeah, don't bind them. I'm assuming you want an articulated look? If you make a skeleton for it, just parent the curves to the joints.

You could probably make a hierarchy just using your curves and well placed pivot points.

If you want a smooth bind, you'll have to play with the weighting of the CV's. You can find that in the component editor.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 3, 2011 at 10:52:47 pm

Yeah, kinda like the frog and skeletons and birds. They seem separated at the joints.

I would do a normal skeleton but I keep getting stuck. Would you be able to make another example through video?


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 4, 2011 at 6:10:11 pm

This week I'm kind of slammed so don't know when I could get to it.

What are you trying to do?

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 4, 2011 at 7:24:14 pm

Well, for the sake of example, let's say I make that frog character. Now, I would guess I would make separate curvesvfor limbs, body, etc. Then, perhaps group them together. After this point, I would think I would make joints like any other standard rigging, i.e. a skeleton.

Now I would not bind them using the skin menu? Would I highlight both the curves, and joints and hit ctrl+p, or do each one separately that way, i.e. Leg selected with joint, ctrl+p etc. etc.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 4, 2011 at 7:59:33 pm

Yeah.. build the curves. Then select all the ones you want to go with the joint. Plus the joint. Then parent them. You can do it all at once for a given joint.

You'll just need to put the joints and curves in a good position if you don't want the curves to separate.

I have an idea for a smooth bind if separation is an issue

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 4, 2011 at 9:53:29 pm

Well I noticed the frogs elbow was not attached. Just an upper arm and forearm with a space. The skeletons look attached though.

So, say I would select the arm joint, as well as the curve and parent. Then for legs just follow suit, correct. At first I though you were saying to highlight the whole body, plus the whole bodies joints, and parent them.


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 5, 2011 at 7:04:07 am

Here's what I did. Obviously it's not correct because it's not working :(

1465_somethingwrong.avi.zip


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 5, 2011 at 6:52:54 pm

Ah, ok. When you set it up this way, its not like binding. Basically you are just making a hierarchy. Parent the first curve to the first joint. Parent the second curve to the second joint.


Whenever first joint rotates, the second joint moves and brings the curve along with it. But rotating the second joint and only the second curve moves.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 5, 2011 at 11:45:49 pm

Well, I gotta be honest with you ... I feel like an idiot not understanding something so simple right now.

I just tried to do what you said, but when I have two separate pieces (upper arm, lower arm) and make a joint like in the video, it won't let me just select the first joint and second, etc. It just selects the whole thing. So there is no way I can parent piece by piece unless there is something I completely missed.

I can see if I were 12 years old trying to do this, but being a month short of 30 years-old is discouraging. I don't get where I'm going wrong for something so simple.

I've tried googling endlessly and searching youtube ... but everything is for meshes ... whereas this seems more unique considering parts are not quite joined up and are curves rather than splines.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:32:19 pm

Hahah its always something simple isn't it :) You should be able to select the individual joints in the viewport if you click on the large "crosshair" looking part of the joint.

If you select the first joint, it will seem to select the whole hierarchy. Its just like selecting a group, everything parented to the top level gets selected. Selecting the second joint will seem to select everything parented to that.

But it can get tricky selecting them. You can use the outliner and middle mouse drag the curve onto the joint. That will parent it as well.

For complex rigs and setups people will use the hypergraph. In hypergraph you do the same thing, just middle mouse drag the curve onto the joint. So thats another way you could get it parented to the joints

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 6, 2011 at 5:39:49 pm

Thanks for the info man, I'm so glad you have a lot of patience, haha.

One last question, and it's kinda silly. I DEFINITELY need the joints connected, right? I thought maybe another way would be having separate joints for each part, by just making the one joint, hitting enter, make another, hit enter, etc. But then they wouldn't be connected. It would probably be a headache though it it worked, considering I would be doing double the work moving pieces and auto keyframing would be crazy.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:56:50 pm

Yeah, pretty much. There are more complicated ways to create rigs. Using grouping mixed w/bones and constraints etc..

But for the skeleton you pretty much want them all connected. It depends on what you need the rig to do really.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 6:14:55 am

Well, I tried what you said to do with minor success. This example is me making a simple arm out of curves ... so basically two sticks. The joints seem to work properly, but when I go to move the bottom one (around the wrist area, pretending it's the hand) the curve stays in the same place ... even after I parented the curve to that joint.

Here's a quick video I made following your directions:

1476_weirdjointproblem.avi.zip


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 6:18:16 am

Oops, didn't realize I can just imbed right onto my posts. Here's the vid:

Joint Problem



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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 4:24:43 pm

Watched your vid. Issue is that you are translating the joints and not rotating them. Skeleton rigs are typically rotation only. They call it Forward Kinematics.. rotating a joint causes all of the joints forward to move along with it. (Also since you only translated the last joint.. nothing was parented to that joint so nothing moved.)

To inverse it you use Inverse Kinematics, which is a controller you setup inside the rig. Then you get an IK handle down the chain which you can translate. Translating the handle rotates the joints going up the chain.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 7, 2011 at 6:23:51 pm

Ah, I see. I didnt think it was such an involved process. I didnt know I had to parent the little ball at the bottom as well.

I guess I will have to try inverse kinematics then. I wanted to movethe models like puppets, and when it comes to a walk cycle I dont think rotating the skeleton will work too well.


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 8, 2011 at 12:36:16 am

P.s. Are you sure I should just parent them and not make a full rig? I'm not sure if the rig would be overkill for what I want to do. I just wanted to make a stick-like man walking around, but I'm not sure what the best method would be ... especially for something as simple as curves (not really concerned with flexing muscles, etc. obviously).

I guess that was my whole point in asking for that video ... I'm not sure what method would be best to animate something that is not inanimate, lol. The cross and everything you did with the effect is perfect, it's just making a simple outline character such as the frog or something else in the video for example's sake ... not sure if it should be fully rigged or how you would go about doing it since you were dead-on with the effect itself (glows and duplicating playblasts, etc.)

In short, I'm screwed :(


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 11, 2011 at 1:17:22 am

Sorry my internet has been really flaky lately. Saw your post but hadnt got back to you. then its been down ever since :/

Anyways. It all depends on what you want it to do. All I'm suggesting is that if you do make the rig.. bones and all that. You may not need to do a bind. In lieu of the bind, you would parent the curves to the individual bones. The effect is the same as weighting all the points on the curve to 100% weight at that joint.

If you have any kind of complicated moving parts its probably easiest to make the skeleton. Using joints helps visualize the pivot for the rotation. The only other way is to create a grouping/parenting hierarchy, which might work if your rig and animation is simple enough.

For a stick man, I'd definitely recommend making a basic rig. You can use IK for the arms or legs if you want to. Create a top node locator that lets you translate the entire skeleton.

Again, just because you make a rig, doesnt mean you have to do a 'bind'. You can parent the objects to the joints if that works.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 11, 2011 at 1:52:29 am

Well, I got the guts to email them again. They used IK for the legs, but he doesnt remember if fk or ik was used for the arms. Theres a lot of debate over how arms are done, so its hard to decide. But he did mentiin they were all fully rigged.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 11, 2011 at 11:32:16 pm

I guess its somewhat recent but its been in Maya for awhile now.. You can keyframe IK handle's on and off. So if its convenient to do IK for a shot you can use that and I guess switch mid-animation. I haven't played around with it too much but it's there.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 12, 2011 at 1:36:01 am

How do you switch? These guys did this in 2005, not sure if it was available then.


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Michael Frank
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 12, 2011 at 8:55:15 pm

First you create the IK Handle. Then I believe there is a "Set IK/FK Key" somewhere in the skeleton menu set.

Mike Frank
Cave House Studios


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 19, 2011 at 5:28:11 pm

Well, I tried everything ... now the parenting won't even work at all, so I must be doing something horribly wrong. The only thing that moves the curve is when I actually bind it, but it curls the spline then there's movement. IK is also hopeless.

Are you still really busy? I wanted to know if you can do a quick example or something. I don't get what went wrong since I last opened Maya ... I used the rotate tool for FK and it does nothing now, even after middle mouse-clicking the curve and dragging it onto the joint in the Outliner.

I can see if I were trying to make movements on a Lord of the Rings Cave Troll, but for something this simple, it seems just ridiculous how I can't get it to work.


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Eric Schuran
Re: Wireframe Glow
on Jan 20, 2011 at 5:37:54 am

By the way Frank, I'm curious to know what your smooth bind idea was. When I do a bind on a curve, it likes to curl the area I am moving on the joint. Is there a way to get it more linear and just snap? For example ... one straight line for the whole arm, and putting three joints in, doing the bind, but have it snap to an "L" shape instead of a gradual curl?


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