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Credits for backgrounds, from top left: J. F. Liesenborghs; J. F. Liesenborghs; Graham Symmons; J. F. Liesenborghs.

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Copyright Š 2014 3D Art Direct. Published in the United Kingdom. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. No copyright claim is made by the publisher regarding any artworks made by the artists featured in this magazine.




Front Cover: “Boldly Go” by Graham Symmons. Made in Mandelbulb 3D.


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3d Art Direct interviews

3d Art Direct talks with a

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the Belgian sci-fi cityscape and landscape artist about his visions.

Mandelbulb master from London, and delves into the depths of fractal art.

users how to easily use free real-world landscapes in their art.





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For most of my life, one of the persons most baffled by my own work was myself…” (Benoît Mandelbrot) When studying mathematics in the 1970s, Benoit Mandelbrot had a special insight about a certain set of mathematical objects: that these repeating structures with infinitely duplicating complexities were not just curiosities, as they were once considered, but were in fact a key to explaining non-smooth objects and complex data sets, which make up large chunks of our world. Mandelbrot used the term "fractal" to describe these objects. Since then Mandelbulb 3D has taken the cascading patterns from this original “2D” formula and promoted it to create incredible 3D creations. Mandelbulb 3D is free—so it’s a perfect way to start exploring 3D graphics. In our interview with London based artist Graham Symmons, you can appreciate his images and see the potential this software has.

It’s well worth viewing one of Mandelbrot’s final lectures on TED to understand the comprehensive power of these mathematical objects he discovered; not just for the creation of art, but for the understanding of



what appears to be just random data, anything from the complex behaviour of the stock market to the distribution of stars in our universe. The complexity of a city layout or repetitive patterns in architecture could be described with fractals, which touches upon Liesenborghs’ work in this issue, a 3DS Max artist from Belgium who has a superb feeling for vast futuristic cityscapes and landscapes filled with advanced architecture.

Of course fractals are used in nature in abundance and Vue can be a great tool to appreciate these, with thanks to Dave Richard’s tutorial on importing DEM maps. Mandelbrot also said “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules, which are repeated without end.” which sums up the compelling infinite diversity of artwork that can be discovered with Mandelbulb 3D and similar software. PAUL BUSSEY Editor and Conference Director


Picture: “Antarctic” (2013), 3DS Max, VRay.




3D Art Direct interviews ‘Liesenborghs’, a 3DS Max artist from Belgium who has a superb feeling for vast futuristic cityscapes and landscapes filled with advanced architecture. Jean-Francois has five years of experience with 3DS Max, using VRay and Mental Ray as the rendering engines. He does compositing with Combustion and Photoshop, and uses Vue Infinite for some scenes.


3D Art Direct: Jean-Francois, welcome. How did you first find a way into art? Was it perhaps some childhood experience, perhaps? Did you come to it early or later in life? Jean-Francois: I have always drew a lot since I was a child, striving to improve my drawing level by making more realistic sketches and playing a lot with light and shadow. Later I took courses in Technical Drawing at the Academy of Art at Namur University. At the high point in my studies I stopped drawing for pleasure. But I got back into art when I saw the amazing 3D images and animations that the likes of Pixar were producing. That was the moment when I decided to get back to art, but using 3D packages like 3DS Max and Rhino 3D. So I came a little late to 3d art, at around 30 years old. 3DAD: You have a great many churches and cathedrals in your pictures. Is that an influence from visiting the great medieval cathedrals in Belgium and northern France? Jean-Francois: Yes, for sure. I live just near the ‘Basilic of Koekelberg’, which is inspiring to look at but not the best exterior in terms of architectural ambition. In Belgium there are a lot of great cathedrals like ‘The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula’. Or very detailed architecture in ‘The Grand Place’ of Brussels, which is an incredible wide square, surrounded by immensely ornate tall old buildings. Also in nearby France there is the Metz Cathedral, while over in Hungary is the Parliament. All these are really great for inspiration. The artist Rudolf Herczog has recently done the Hungarian Parliament building in full 3D, which is an incredible piece of work! What I like is to make a mix of the classic old cathedral architecture and futuristic or fantasy elements, this gives great results from my point of view. 3DAD: And when did science fiction first appeal to you? Was it literary sci-fi or mainly films and TV? Jean-Francois: I was young when I see the first Star Wars which is the greatest science fiction movie for me. It inspired me a lot. I have not yet seen newer movies reach that same level. Also some videogame trailers, curiously. I’m thinking of some of the


“Up” (2013), 3DS Max, VRay.


trailers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic games which are still terrific, and which give me many ideas. Otherwise I’m influenced by the matte painting of artists like Dylan Cole or Yanick Dusseault, both of whom are very impressive. By looking at their matte painting or that of other artists it gives me directions to create 3D images. In term of

literary sci-fi, I have read the famous Dune series, which is a masterpiece with many interesting worlds and environments. 3DAD: You did some early product renders in Rhino, but your earliest Max works seem to be from 2010/11. "Ghotic" and "Sunshine", both superb. How did you develop your skills to that level?

“New Cathedral” (2012), 3DS Max, VRay.

“I build a lot of my own buildings, so as to create a kind of ‘objects library’ that can be re-used later” 12

Jean-Francois: Actually my first fully realised pictures in 3D were done on devices like mobile cell phones! It was a very important part of learning the the 3D technical aspects. Then my learning was self-directed, using tutorials found on Internet. I also had some very useful discussions with a French guy


who helped me in mastering 3DS Max and 3d techniques in general. To make images like "Ghotic" or "Sunshine" I use some plugins like Greeble that helps to create a base random structure. After that I build a lot of my own buildings, so as to create a kind of ‘objects library’ that can be re-used later in

different projects. I also had discussions with Alexander Preuss who has created awardwinning sci-fi pictures such as his “The Broken Armistice over Abalakin”. He gave me some tips on how to create wide structures, by using small pieces stuck together then duplicated, after which one adds a modificator like "Bend" to the wide range of objects. That can create awesome looks. 3DAD: You model or generate most of the items in your scenes, I understand? Jean-Francois: As mentioned I use the free plugin Greeble to generate the basics, then you have to feed the eyes of the viewer with further details, and have your image express something. So to make more elaborate buildings I learned the range of 3d modelling techniques. I also quickly learned to use less polygons, to make the rendering faster. Otherwise it became quickly a nightmare in term of the rendering time! 3DAD: Ah yes, the rendering time nightmare. You’ve forestalled one of my questions there! Jean-Francois: It’s really just a question of evaluate the right balance between details and number of polygons used. 3DAD: So you use the free plugin Greeble to make some of your city blocks, though, where modelling would be impossibly time consuming. Could you tell the reader more about that plugin? How you work with it, the advantages and any drawbacks? How easy is it to the texture the end results? Jean-Francois: Yes, Greeble is useful but you have to use it carefully in order to get a good result. In Greeble there are two levels of details, I frequently use only the second one and leave the first level at 0. That way you have some kind of spaces like roads between the buildings which looks more realistic. For the texturing you can do it in two ways, or place a big UVWmap modifier box on top of the greeble and use a texture that is not

detailed but is more generic. The second approach is to apply an UVWmap with a face selected so as to map to each face of your greebles, and in such a case you then can map each facade with a texture. Another important point for using Greeble is that it permits you to use multiple value id for the mapping, so you can use a multi-subObject material and add comma-separated values for the map id's, which gives you a random material to each Greeble block. 3DAD: Could you tell readers some of your tips for convincingly placing natural lighting into very large scenes in Max? Jean-Francois: I frequently use the basic ‘three point lighting’ principle, organized in a triangular manner. You always have to make one light the master and slave the two others, just to raise the environment global lighting by a little bit. The shadows must always come from this main light, while the two others generally don't even have shadows activated. You always have to follow your 2D background lighting, to place your light, to get the picture integrated together. 3DAD: You have some fabulous clouds and skies. Are those made in 3ds Max, and if so how? Or are they composited from stock? Jean-Francois: The skies and clouds are 2D images that I search for on the Internet. The backgrounds made in most 3D software always looks fake, except maybe when you use Vue Infinite. Vue can give you believable results for skies. So I browse a lot on the Internet and I’ve have created a library of interesting 2D photographs that are free to use, which I then reuse as backgrounds in my different projects. 3DAD: How do you work with different render passes, to get the final picture? Jean-Francois: I frequently use three passes. The normal one. The Zdepth one, which gives you the depth in the image, enabling you to put far off buildings into a nice distance-haze. 14

Then the occlusion render, which gives you the little shadows generated by objects. After having these three passes you have to go in Adobe Photoshop to combine them. In Photoshop, you create a layer with the base rendering, a layer with the occlusion render with a multiply blending layer mode, and then use the Zdepth render inverted with a screen blending layer mode. Then you play with the

opacity of each layer to obtain the final image.

3DAD: One of your latest pictures in “Airport” (2014). Could you briefly talk us through the main points in the process for making that? Jean-Francois: I first think of a good idea, which for me usually means in terms of the structure that I want to build. I always try to

“Airport” (2014), 3DS Max, VRay.

find interesting shapes for the structure. So I begin with the environment and the buildings. Then I try to find a good angle of view, thinking that through by placing each element one by one into the scene. Then I add the lights and play a little bit with them to get interesting reflections and shadows. Then I finalize with an initial focal point — often a spaceship — trying to place it to be the main point of attention. But also to have it work with the rest of the composition. In each 15

image I try to respect the ‘rule of thirds’ for the picture composition, a method which I’m sure all 3D Art Direct readers are familiar with. 3DAD: I’ve used 3DS Max a little in the past, maybe ten years ago now. I got familiar with it, and I kind of liked it. Complex, but not as crazily complex as something like Blender. But I moved on to other software where the technical aspects didn’t get in the way of creativity. What do you like most about the

3ds Max software, and where do you see it going in the future?

“Corridor” (2012), 3DS Max, VRay.

Jean-Francois: 3DS Max is a very powerful tool that has an incredible number of features. It is the one for which you'll get the more information on the Internet like forums, tutorials, etc. It has an incredible number of scripts and plugins. The developers are also always improving the capability to manage big scenes, so if that’s what readers are looking for then check out the new versions. For Blender, well it is a very good tool but much more difficult for a first-time user to approach. On the other hand perhaps Blender will eventually have a great future, because it does evolve more quickly than Max does. 3DAD: How does Vue compared to Max? Jean-Francois: Vue is a very powerful tool for environments, you can create in one or two clicks (I only exaggerate a little bit!) very realistic ecosystem. So for natural landscapes it is the best, and you can see why movie production studios use it. But on renders, the Vue render s not so good as 3DS Max. And of course in Vue you can’t do modeling, animations, particle effects, etc. So I guess Vue and Max could be considered as complementary — you create your own models in 3DS Max then use them in Vue by multiplying them without any problems. 3DAD: What direction do you see your work going in the near future? Jean-Francois: I'd like to improve my knowledge in matte painting which is a great technique more making beautiful still images. But I have to improve my 2D painting experience and Photoshop knowledge before that can happen. I would probably have to go right back to my first drawing experience!

Jean-Francois is online at:


Jean-Francois's top tips for 3D Art Direct readers: 1. Look around you. What is it that you have stopped noticing? Start to notice it again. 2. Look at other artworks, 3D or 2D, to get inspiration and to know what has been done before. 3. Have you own style, which partly comes from engaging with the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of creating. 4. ‘Never give up’, always improve your knowledge of new software features or unexplored unexplored areas of creativity


“I use the free plugin Greeble to generate the basics, then you have to feed the eyes of the viewer with further details, and have your image express something.” “Labyrinth” (2014), 3DS Max, VRay. 18




“The Hole” (2012), 3DS Max, VRay, stock starfield.

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Graham Symmons was born and raised in East London, UK, and he still lives there. He is self-taught and uses the fractal art program Mandelbulb 3D, with occasionally uses of Blender, trueSpace and Photoshop. He only discovered fractals about three and a half years ago and has been “addicted� to them ever since, since they enable him to can create huge scenes with so much detail and vision. Graham has always

created art, in the form of model making, wood carving and sculptures. For many years he worked as a Museum Technician, making life sized models for exhibition. 3DAD: We are very happy to have with us today artist Graham Symmons. Graham welcome to 3D Art Direct !

GS: Thanks very much for inviting me. 24

Picture: “Swimming pool? First door on the right” (2011). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb 3D, no postwork.


3DAD: Your works showcase some eye catching compositions with excellent colors and effects. How old were you when you began creating and what mediums did you start off with?

clay. I would also dismantle clocks to make cars and robots out of the cogs and wheels, much to my mother’s annoyance as none of her clocks would work! I enjoyed wood carving. I have never been one for drawing or painting, although I did dabble with watercolour a few years back. I started creating computer art in the early 1990’s.

GS: I’ve been creating since I was a child. I liked constructing Airfix scale model kits, and I made models using Plasticine or actual 25

The software I used at that time was Terragen, trueSpace, Starbits Starfield Generator, and suchlike.

inspirational. I think the fractal program Mandelbulb 3D lends itself to sci-fi and fantasy rather well.

I have created music since the mid 1970’s, and have been involved in many bands. I play guitar, ukulele, bass and keyboards. I like to experiment with my old analogue synthesizers that I have connected to my computer. I have posted some of my music on MySpace (as Dr.G’s Experimental Emporium).

3DAD: You mention in your biography that you also have used trueSpace and Blender. Tell our readers a bit about your experience with those applications.

3DAD: Browsing through your gallery on DeviantArt, we see you are a fan of sci-fi. What got you interested in the genre? GS: I really love those old 1950’s Sci-Fi movies (War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and similar). I grew up with them. 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek were great influences. Films like Bladerunner were inspirational for some of my cityscapes. The fantastic work of H.R. Giger is

GS: I’ve been using trueSpace since it was first released in 1994. I loved the photorealistic renderings that could be achieved. When trueSpace was no longer developed and supported, I started using Blender instead, it took me a while to learn how to use it, but it’s a truly great piece of software. I have many renders from these programs, a few of which I have posted on DeviantArt. I now only use trueSpace to make wireframe models, that I then render in Blender. I would like to use 3DS Max, but unfortunately it’s out of my price range.

“Firewall” (2014). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb 3D single render, no postwork.


3DAD: You mentioned Mandelbulb 3D earlier, we see that you like many artists have been bitten by the MD3D bug! With all the various fractal generators out today, what is it about MD3D that sets it apart from the rest? GS: Virtually everything in my opinion! MB3D has two render engines, the basic MB3D engine, plus the Monte Carlo renderer. The basic renderer is quicker, but I think the Monte Carlo engine is better. But because it’s a recursive renderer, it takes a long time and you do need a powerful machine to run it properly. Yet the end results are of a better quality. MB3D has the ability to change colours, lighting and fog, after the image has rendered, this is a great advantage. Jesse has created a unique fractal generator, there’s not another quite like it. It’s not perfect, it does have its quirks, but that’s a minor point. Luca has added some truly amazing ‘formulas’ for it, in the last couple of years. I have tried many

“Captain! We Have A Radiation Leak” (2012). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb 3D single render, no postwork. Background, Photoshop.


fractal generators but I can’t seem to achieve such pleasing results as with Mandelbulb3D. 3DAD: Jens Deierk (aka ‘Jesse’) is the creator of MD3D. He has an active presence over at The forums there seem to have a lot of member interaction, which is great to see. Some artists we have interviewed in the past have benefited greatly by these types of online communities; often times a mentor emerges through this interaction. Was this the case? GS: When I first joined FractalForums, there were many people willing to help and share their knowledge, too many to mention. But ‘Theli-at’, ‘GypsyH’ and ‘Len1’ were active members at the time. I don’t visit FractalForums as much as I used too, although I am trying to visit more. I spend most of my time on the DeviantArt website, as I am admin on a couple of the groups there.

“Boldly Go” (2012). Raw fractal created in Mandelbulb 3D.



3DAD: Ok, let’s get into some of your work, “Funky Resistors”. Great title for this render. Tell our renders a bit about the formulas and the lighting methods used. GS: This was an entry for a ‘Mandelbulb Teaser Challenge’ where someone sets the rules to be used. The challenge was to use Hopf4D with any formulas. The formulas I used were ABoxSphereOffset4d/Hopf4D/ Beth2422. I achieved the colours using the ‘Gradient sliders’. No hard shadows were used, only ambient shadows. I used to make my own guitar effect pedals, and it reminded me of that and trying to work out the banding values of resistors. 3DAD: Core has excellent camera placement. And fog really gives this depth. Were you happy with the final render?

GS: Yes, I am quite proud of this one. I was very pleased to get awarded a ‘Daily Deviation’ for this at DeviantArt. It did take me a while to get the positioning right, whilst trying to keep it balanced. 3DAD: MD3D is really a wide open fractal tool box where everything is possible. There seems to be two types of MD3D users, the Math Wizards and the Tinkerers. That’s what is so great about this application, it’s great for both! What is your approach while working? GS: I am a Tinkerer. I do not understand the math side of the formulas, I leave that sort of thing to the guys at Fractalforums. I do understand rotating, sizing and positioning on the XYZ axis etc. I understand some of the formulas, in that SinY will produce spikes, Reciprocals are good for architectural stuff


Right: “Hallucinogenerator” (2014). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No post processing. The Mandelbulb formula for this is kindly made available via Graham’s DeviantArt gallery.

Below: “Funky Resistors” (2013). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No post processing.


when combined with MixPinski or SierpHilbert. But maths at that level makes my brain hurt.

more works from this (“Deadly Vertebrae”). It’s evolving and changing with more to come.

3DAD: The texturing and lighting capabilities are just amazing in recent builds, “Cryptids” is a great example of this. How was it made?

3DAD: “Mandel Hall”. Wow, you found a great spot to set up, nice brooding mood and textures. Very unconventional use of MD. What got the ball rolling for this render?

GS: I like to render the form first, I then change the colouring. The colouring was a bit of an accident. I was going through my colour settings, trying to find nice colours to make pretty flowers. When I applied this colour, it really transformed the image to not so pretty. I like the rotting flesh tones. I imagine that they smell bad as well. When I was a child, my grandfather was given a couple of bulbs by a horticultural friend. When they flowered they stank of rotting flesh, the colours were very similar to “Cryptids”. 3DAD: “Chimera”, more great textures with some infinite details. What was the inspiration for this piece? GS: This was a re-working of my “Predator”, and I rather like the tentacles. The alien’s lair in the Alien movies was an inspiration. I find alien lairs quite creepy. I have since created

GS: Thank you. I have been using that set of formulas for some time, many of my sci-fi and architectural works are made using these. I had been trying to render an interior of a large hall to use as a background, but I decided to post it online and leave it to people’s imagination. I rendered many different version to get the perspective and try to achieve a large sense of scale, kind of a hall of the giants. I decided to add volumetric light because I rather liked the atmosphere it created. It reminds me of the museum crypt where I used to work. 3DAD: Another nice example of creating MD architecture is “Delusions of Gothic”. What example stock formulas would you give our Mandelbulb readers, to start off on creating these types of structures?


Opposite page: "Core" (2013), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No postwork. This page, top: "Chimera" (2013), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No postwork. This page, bottom: "Cryptids" (2013), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No postwork.


“Mandel Hall” (2012). Raw fractal created using Mandelbulb (ABoxSphereOffset4d/ MixPinski4/_SinY) No postwork.




“Delusions of Gothic� (2013), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb. No post processing. 37

GS: Any of the Abox formulas / Sierpinski and or MixPinski4d / any of the Reciprocal formulas, are a good start. 3DAD: Ok, let’s head now to outer space with your 2012 render “Space Station Construction”. GS: This is an old one I first posted on FractalForums. I was playing around with the formulas and this form popped out. I had to change the angle slightly and isolate the object so that there was no fractal in the background. I changed the iteration count and DE stop, to get more details. I used a NASA royalty-free stock image as a background. 3DAD: “Visions”. Sweet presentation and background choice. Reminds me of an alien utopia of sorts?

GS: The inspiration was the sci-fi TV series Under The Dome (2013), and a bit of Anish Kapoor the sculptor thrown in. Being a sci-hi and horror film fan, there’s something unnerving about reflective objects, you never know what’s really behind you. I like the reflections on this. The cloud background was taken in my back garden. 3DAD: “Energy Core” and “Reactor” are electric with those blue tones. What’s your secret with light in this? GS: No secret really, I used two blue tones one darker than the other, which gives a bit more depth. I think it’s just a balance between too much fog and not enough. It’s a lot of hard work to determine colour, and how much ambient or dynamic fog to use.

Mandelbulb 3D is free desktop software created for 3D fractal imaging. Developed by Jesse and a group of Fractal Forums contributors, based on Daniel White and Paul Nylander’s Mandelbulb work, MB3D formulates dozens of nonlinear equations into an amazing range of fractal terrains. The 3D rendering environment includes lighting, color, specularity, depth-of-field, shadow- and glow- effects; allowing the user fine control over the imaging effects. Also a videogame -like explorer camera option. The software can be downloaded here, for Windows or Mac:


Right: "MixPinski's Probe" (2014), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb, no postwork to fractal, Photoshop background. Below: “Chaos Machine” (2013), raw fractal created using Mandelbulb.

3DAD: It’s always interesting seeing what artists do with this application, “Your Blot on a Landscape” is pretty wild. Are landscapes hard to achieve?

3DAD: You have been extremely active over the past two or three years with your work. What can we expect to see from Graham Symmons in the future?

GS: I find landscapes easy when using ‘Difs Height maps’, not so easy to achieve using fractal formulas. I do more organic and architectural works. Vidom at Deviantart has created some great fractal landscapes.

GS: Hopefully more of the same only better, I have a few projects on the go at the moment. I am always looking to improve my work it’s an ongoing evolving process.

3DAD: MD3D is known for its lighting fast render engine. However some decent horsepower is needed. What type of hardware are you currently running?

3DAD: Graham it’s been great speaking to you about your works and passions with Mandelbulb, best of luck in your future endeavors.

GS: Thank you kindly, it’s been a privilege.

GS: I build my own PCs, as it works out cheaper. Windows 7 64-bit Pro. Asus P8Z77 -V MB; Intel i7-3770k Ivy bridge 8 core 3.50ghz CPU; 16Gb RAM; Nvidia GTX 680.


Graham Symmons is on the Web at:


Dave Richards has a full tutorial for3D Art Direct readers, on how to get real-world places into Vue. For free, via the U.S. National Map.


Picture: Mount Shasta, USA. From USGS DEM data. Basic test render for this tutorial. DEM terrains are best used in the far-distance, as resolution is not enough for close-ups.

IMAGINE that someone was willing to spend billions of dollars helping you with your 3d art. Imagine that person was the U.S. government, able to send huge space rockets thundering into orbit on your behalf, and to order fleets of high-tech planes to criss-cross the nation’s skies. Well, they do! The result of their magnificent efforts is a giant 3D topographic map of all the nation’s territory, called the U.S. National Map. 41

Best of all, the U.S. Geological Survey team give the National Map away for free, online! So wouldn’t it be great… if you could get a chunk of that map into the Vue 3d landscape software! You would then have a real place on which to base your art. The Grand Canyon, the High Sierra, Yosemite, or just your own local hiking trail, take your pick! This new up-to-date Vue tutorial from 3D Art Direct will show you how.

Experienced Vue users will known that there has long been a tutorial at Cornucopia3D, outlining a workflow for working with the National Map data sets and importing them to Vue. But changes in the USGS website, and to the format in which it provides data, plus software changes, have made that old tutorial largely obsolete.

GET THE FREE TERRAIN DATA: Visit the USGS National Map website located at There is a lot of information here. But all we want to do is to launch the National Map Viewer.

For this new tutorial I used a 64-bit Windows 7 machine, into a format usable in Vue. A member of the 3D Art Direct editorial team then checked the tutorial on a 64-bit Windows 8.1 machine, so Windows 8 and 8.1 users can also use this tutorial.

INSTALL THE FREE SOFTWARE: First, download and install two items of free software. 3DEM. Get the freeware 3Dem. It’s a little old now, but still works fine on modern Windows PCs.

Click the big link indicated, to go to the Viewer. The 3D Art Direct editorial team member could only get the Viewer working in the Google Chrome browser, so if the Viewer doesn’t load for you, try another browser.

GRASS. Click here, or navigate to the 64 bit Windows native binaries page at the Grass web site. Download the stand-alone installer for the latest stable, official release version. On 64-bit Windows, I strongly recommend using the stand-alone installer currently available at binary/mswindows/native/. So download both of these, and save to somewhere where you’ll be able to find them later. Make sure that you install both in Windows Administrator mode (right click on the .exe file, select ‘Run as Administrator’).

The GRASS installer offers the option of installing some required Microsoft Visual C++ runtime files. Check the option to do so. The installer will then download the Windows redistributable package from Microsoft and install it. Ok, that’s it for software install. Now make a new folder to hold the terrain data we’re about to download courtesy of the U.S. Geogological Survey team.

Navigation is very simple, and anyone who has used Google Maps or played a strategy videogame will how to zoom and pan the map. Flick your mouse wheel forward to zoom, grab-and-fling to go sideways. Ok, so head over to sunny California, way over on the west coast of America. The original Vue DEM tutorial used the mighty Mt. Shasta mountain in California as subject matter, so this tutorial will do the same. Find your way up along the coastline until you see the cone of the giant Mt. Shasta sitting just below the state label of ‘CALIFORNIA’.


Up at the top-left of the map in the Viewer you have a little row of icon buttons. Select the little second button from the right end: this is ‘Download by Boundary Box’. Click on the map and drag out a rectangular selection box to enclose the region around the mountain, as shown above. The Viewer will zoom to the region you’ve selected, and pop up the first page of a guidance Wizard. Select ‘Elevation’ from the checklist, and click ‘Next’…


At this step, select ‘National Elevation Dataset (1/3 arc-second data) in .img format. Click ‘Next’ once again, and the product you’ve selected appears in the Cart. Click ‘Checkout’ where indicated, and you arrive at the final step, submission of your email address. Enter your email address (twice), click ‘Place Order’, and a confirmation will pop up. That’s it! You should receive an email from the USGS within minutes, with a direct download link to the terrain chunk you’ve selected.

The email sent to you by the USGS will have a link to a zip file. (If you have set your email to display without clickable links, perhaps for security reasons, then save the email out as an .html file and open it with a web browser, and the link will appear). Your download will consist of a .zip file containing several files inside it: the main .img file, a .pdf readme file, and miscellaneous other bits we aren’t interested in. Depending on how tightly you took in the bounding box, the .zip will probably be about 400mb to 500mb in size, so you’re going to need a broadband connection to get it easily. Go ahead and extract the main .img file from the .zip archive, and store it in the new project folder you made earlier.

PROCESS THE .IMG WITH GRASS 1) Back to the Grass GUI software, and start up ‘Grass GIS 6.4.3 GUI’. You’ll see the initial screen load. Click the ‘Location Wizard’ button as indicated. Then type a name for the Project Location and Title.

2) Click in the radio button labeled… ‘Read projection and datum terms from a georeferenced file’, and then click ‘Next’ once more. The next wizard page lets you browse to a ‘Georeferenced file’. This means the big .img file you just extracted from the USGS’s .zip file. Load the .img, then click ‘Finish’.


3) A message box will appear asking of you want to import the .img file used in creating the location, as shown below. Click ‘Yes’, and wait a bit. It takes some time to import such a huge amount of data. If the file imports correctly, you’ll eventually see a confirmation message.


4) Now comes a slightly tricky part. You’ll see the message shown above, asking if you want to create a new mapset. Click ‘Cancel’! Yes, that’s counterintuitive. By selecting ‘Cancel’, the newly imported data will be added to the default ‘PERMANENT’ mapset under the new Shasta location.

5) Highlight Shasta, then click ‘Start GRASS’.

6) The main GRASS interface loads, and should initially look like this…

These are two docked windows. On the left hand docked window, which is the Layer Manager menu, select ‘File/Map Display/Add Raster’, as seen below…


7) A drop-down list on the ‘Required’ tab holds the names of data sets currently available. There should only be one in the ‘PERMANENT’ mapset under the ‘Shasta’ location – that’s the one we just imported.

Select that item from the drop box. Click ‘OK’, and an oddly-colored terrain image should load up in the Map Display. The psychedelic / day-glo colour overlay is normal, nothing to worry about. This is the ‘false colour’ used in science to quickly identify vital features.


8) Now we need to export the data as a .dem file. Over on the left hand side of GRASS, from the main Layer Manager menu, select ‘File / Export raster map / Common export formats’, as indicated below...

9) Select your export folder and give the exporting file a .dem extension.

GRASS may take some time to work on the data, a minute or two on a recent desktop PC. Be patient. When it’s done, you should see something similar to this…

10) We’re not quite ready to export yet. First click through to the ‘Optional’ tab, and there select ‘USGSDEM’ from the ‘GIS format to write’ dropdown box, and finally, click ‘Run’.

And that’s it for GRASS, so go ahead and close the software.

Now we start to use the 3Dem software.



3) The first main task in 3Dem is to select a smaller area. From the main menu, select F8 ‘Operation/Select Smaller Area’.

1) Launch the 3Dem software you installed earlier. Click the ‘USGS DEM’ radio button, then click ‘OK’.

2) The standard Windows ‘Open File’ dialog will appear. Browse to the .dem file that we just created by Grass, and open it in 3Dem. This should resemble the section you chose from the National Map website Viewer.

Then click and drag to select a piece of the map that’s small enough to import into Vue, since Vue will have problems with huge DEM imports (see the technical article, after this tutorial).

Once you’re happy with your selection, which might perhaps be just the main Mt. Shasta cone and a little bit around it, then press ‘Enter’, and ‘OK’. There will be a pause for a few seconds while the sub-region is extracted, then the viewport will be adjusted to display just your selected region.


4) One more important thing to do in 3Dem, and then we’re done with it. At the moment what we have isn’t quite a match for the real world, as the terrain will be somewhat squashed and stretched. To fix this Select ‘Operation / Change Projection / Convert to UTM Projection’ from the main menu, as shown below…

... and then select ‘NAD 83’ in the ‘Choose UTM Ellipsoid’ dialog. Click ‘OK’.

3Dem will process data for a few seconds, and then you should see a top-down view of your final terrain. 5) Finally, select ‘File / Save USGS ASCII DEM’ from the main menu in GRASS, and save the file to the folder we made earlier. That’s it for 3Dem. We’re now ready to import your cleaned and trimmed terrain into Vue. 50


IMPORTING TO VUE 1) Start Vue and select ‘File / Import Object...’ as you would usually do.

If at this final stage your terrain looks something like that pictured below, it means you’re right on the edge of having a terrain too big to load properly. Go back to 3Dem and try extracting a smaller area.

If the terrain is simply too big for Vue to load at all, then you’ll see an error message… Navigate to and load the final .dem file created with 3Dem. After a few seconds loading the terrain, the ‘Terrain Offset’ dialog will appear. Click ‘OK’ to accept the offered values. 2) Add a basic quick-rendering Atmosphere. Reposition the camera for a good view, and you should see something like this…


Ok, that’s it! If your DEM terrain loaded up, then apply a suitable Vue material and ecosystem to the terrain and you’re ready to add an atmosphere and render. Note that you can place the camera very near to the mesh ground level, but you may then have to use Photoshop to overlay additional detail or add a new foreground to cover blurry terrain, since DEM terrains really work best for ‘distant landscape’ pictures. Which, of course, is what Vue is good at! If your new landscape terrain has too much surface noise on the render, increase the quality setting on the “Texture Filtering” slider in the Anti-Alias settings, found in Vue’s Render settings.

Lastly, one of the great things about using Vue with DEM data is that users don’t need to be reliant on the satellite landscape photography from the USGS, with their baked-in light direction, harsh stitching joins, and shadows. Vue users can simply place a Vue material (right-click on the DEM terrain in the scene contents list, select ‘Change material…’) onto their terrain.

Our thanks to Dave Richards for supplying us with this tutorial. David Haden was the tutorial tester for 3D Art Direct, and also simplified the text. See overleaf for Dave Richard’s in-depth discussion of some of the technical details regarding Vue and DEM.

Picture: Mount Shasta, USA. From USGS DEM data. Basic test render for this tutorial. 53

VUE/DEM TECHNICAL DETAILS The National Map currently provides DEM (Digital Elevation Models) data in four levels of resolution: 2 arc-second (Alaska only), 1 arc-second (conterminous U.S. and Territorial Islands, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, portions of Alaska, most of Canada, and all of Mexico), 1/3 arc-second (conterminous U.S. and Territorial Islands, Hawaii, and portions of Alaska), or 1/9 arc-second (in limited areas of U.S. only). These resolutions correspond roughly to sample intervals of 60 meters, 30 meters, 10 meters and 3.33 meters. Data is provided in pre-packaged chunks, the size of which depends on resolution (1/3 arc-second data is typically provided in 1 degree longitude by 1 degree latitude blocks; 1/9 arc -second is in 15 minute by 15 minute blocks). 1/3 arc-second is the best resolution in which the majority of the U.S. is available, so this tutorial will demonstrate the use of data at this level of resolution. As mentioned above, terrain data at 1/3 arcsecond resolution is delivered in prepackaged chunks covering a piece of ground measuring 1 degree longitude by 1 degree latitude (1⁰ x 1⁰); 1/9 arc-second data is typically delivered in chunks covering 15 minutes by 15 minutes (15’ x 15’). When using the ‘Download by Bounding Box’ feature as shown in the preceding example, you are emailed links to all the pre-packaged chunks intersected by the box you’ve drawn, in the data format(s) you’ve selected. In this instance, the bounding box happens to lie completely within one 1⁰ x 1⁰ chunk. More than likely, though, the region you select will intersect more than one chunk, and you may have to assemble portions of multiple tiles into one contiguous chunk to get the effect you’re after. Which brings us to the next consideration. As of Vue 2014, Vue cannot import an entire

1⁰ x 1⁰ piece of 1/3 arc-second resolution data as a single terrain object. Vue’s upper limit, as close as I’ve determined, lies somewhere between five eighths and three quarters of a 1⁰ by 1⁰ chunk. So even if the region you want to use in your render lies within a single 1⁰ x 1⁰ block, you’re still going to have to define a sub-region of that block and save it out as a separate file before you can use it in Vue. 3Dem provides this capability, as the tutorial demonstrated. If an object is too big to load, the process will fail, and you’ll see a Vue error message box. Assembling multiple pieces of terrain is more complicated. There are (at least) two methods for doing so. The first employs 3Dem, and has the advantage of producing seemingly seamless assemblies; the disadvantage is you’re still restricted by Vue’s limitation on the size of a piece of terrain it’ll import as a single terrain object. The second method involves importing terrain chunks as separate Vue terrain objects, and is outlined in a tutorial in the manual entitled ‘Importing Multi-Part DEMs’. The advantage of this method is that your render can encompass a much larger expanse of terrain. The disadvantage is that the tiling isn’t quite as perfectly seamless as it might be. There is a bug in versions of Vue up to and including 2014 that makes the edges of imported DEM terrains appear beveled, apparently ruining the effect of tiling separate terrain objects. This bug only affects design views and does not appear in actual renders; the imperfect tiling I’m referring to isn’t that imperfect.

For more information on DEM and the National Map, see the website, which has abundant documentation.


GOOGLE: 3D LOCATION SCOUT GOOGLE EARTH, AND MARS! The standalone desktop version of Google Earth is an excellent tool for easily scouting locations, which can then be located on the U.S. National Map and extracted as a 3d terrain. Google Earth is free software. It can also take you to Mars, but if you want DEMs for Vue then it is best to stick to Earth. There are plenty of sites in the U.S. deserts that can double for Mars or another planet. For instance, below is a crater in Colorado— a pretty good substitute for a cool Mars crater, at W113⁰18’ N31⁰54’. Drag and drop the little man onto the landscape (see picture below), to transition to a 3d ground view. If Google doesn't yet have 360-degree photography for that place, it will drop you into a 3D terrain made from a mash-up of their DEM terrain data and Google’s air photography. You can then

move around as you would in a PC videogame, using the arrow keys to move over the landscape. There is even a flightsim mode! Either way, you can get a good feel for how the landscape looks from near the ground, or how the longer views look from a valley ridge or mountaintop. You can choose to have Google Earth lay a latitude and longitude grid over the landscape, which may help in finding locations again on the U.S. National Map. Favorite locations can be bookmarked in Google Earth and shared as .kzm files, which are effectively ‘digital push-pins’. Right-click on a location bookmark to see its exact geographical co-ordinates. A scientific paper of 2014 looked at the DEM data used by Google Earth, and found it as good as any of the government sources.

“There are plenty of sites in the U.S. deserts that can double for Mars...”


INDEX Background: Jean-Francois Leisenbor, "Corridor" (detail)

Issue 41

Issue 33

Issue 27

● ● ● Jens Reinhart

● J. F. Leisenbor

● ● Sebastien Hue

● ● ● Kim Schneider

● Rob Caswell

● Graham Symmons

● ● Jeff Wal

● Massimo Verona

● Tutorial: Importing a

+ Alie Ries

● Mary William

DEM terrain into Vue

+ ● ● ● Scott Richard

Issue 20 ● Matthew Attard

Issue 26

● ● Tim Haaksma |

Issue 40

Issue 32

● ● Juan Roderiguez


● Dax Pandhi

● Suzanne Krings |

● Melissa Krauss

● ● ● Patrick Turner

● Joe Vintol | Orbital


● Artur Rosa

● Adriano (Ady) Di

● Richard Fraser

● Alexander Nikolaev

Issue 19

Pierro | Laticis

● Cody Paschal

● Warren Turner

● Don Webster

● Finnian MacManus

● Kerem Gogus

● Isadore Koliavras

Issue 38/39

● Lewis Morrcroft

● ● Sergio Martinez |

Issue 31

Issue 18


● Sylvain Chevallier

Issue 25

● Ali Ries

● ● Chris Hecker |

● ● Tarik Keskin

● Arthur Dorety

● Suzi Amberson


● Andy Welder

● Ron Miller

● ● ● Mirek Drozd

● ● Dragos Jieanu

● ● Christian Beyer

● ● ● George Krallis ● ● Nancho Riesco

Issue 30

● James Webb

● ● Ian Grainger

Issue 24

Issue 17

● Hannes Janetzko

● Oshyan Green

● Lewis Moorcroft

Issue 37

● Jani Peltola

● Ulco Glimmerveen

● Tutorial: make a

● ● Tobias Roetsch

● Pierre Chartier

● Jan Walter Schielp


● Dave De Kerf

● New World Contest

and Frank Basinski

● ● Bjorn Malmberg

● ● ● Kim Schneider

(Terragen) gallery

Issue 36

Issue 29

● AlfA SeeD

Issue 16

● Matthew Attard

● Mavrosh Stratiotis

● Benoit Petterlini

● ● Tarik Keskin

+ Tobias Richter

● ● Vladimir Yaremchuk

● Drea Horvath

● DeeDee Davies

● Oshyan Greene

● ● ● Paul Gibson

● Michel Rongberg

● ● Neil Thacker

● ● Ryan Malone Issue 23

● Shaun Williams | his

● Les Garner | Sixus 1

Issue 35

Ghostship game

Issue 22

● ● Maxime des Touches


● Erich Mestriner

Issue 15

● ● Clint Hawkins

* Peter Elson

Issue 28

● ● ● Deedee Davies

● ● Chris Hecker

● Don Webster

● Danny Gordon

● Susanne Korff-

● John Haverkamp ● Daz, book review Issue 34

● Cynthia Decker

● William Black

● Edson Moraes |

● Ryan Bliss


Knoblauch Issue 21 ● Elianeck 56

DIRE T Issue 14

+ Realms Art

● Warren Turner

● Bradley W. Schenck

+ City Engine review

● ● Juan Rodriguez

Issue 8

Issue 3

● Groboto 3 review

● Arthur Rosa

Issue 13

● ● Jeff Hindmarch

● ● Danny Gordon

● Glenn Clovis

● ● ● Tony Hayes

● Fabrice Delage

● Rob Caswell

● Brian Christensen

● Alexander Nikolaev

● 3DS Max

+ Angel Alonso Garcia ● ● ● Simon Beer

● Peter Rex ● Brian Christensen


● Carrara ● Cinema 4D * Classic sci-fi art

● ● Jack Tomalin

● Daz Studio

Issue 2

● Groboto

Issue 7 ● ● Mark Edwards

● Bryce

~ Games CG

● Jacob Charles Dietz

● Hexagon

● Jeeni Sjoberg

Issue 6

● ● Melissa Krauss

● Lightwave

~ Chuck Carter (Myst)

● Artur Rosa

● Mark Stevenson

● ● Christoph Gerber

● Alex Niko

● Mandelbulb

Issue 12

● Mojoworld

● Warren Turner

Issue 1

Issue 11

● ● Danny Gordon

● Ken Musgrave

● Fredy Wenzel

● ● Juan Rodriguez

● Ken Musgrave's

● Richard Kitner

● ● ● Phil Drawbridge

MojoWorld software

● Poser

● Lenord Curry

● Jacob Charles Dietz

● Chipp Walters

● POV-Ray

● Heinz Grzybowski

● Peter Rex

● Peter Rex

● Terragen

● ● Melissa Krauss

● ● Juan Rodriguez

● Vue

● Dynda Yaroslav

● Tutorial: Vue

● Wings 3D

Issue 10

procedural landscape

● ● Robert Nurse ● ● I. L. Jackson

Issue 5

● Paul Bussey

● Kurt Richards

● Software review:

● Lewis Moorcroft

Wings 3D

● Kerem Gogus ● Shaun Williams

Issue 9

● Arthur Dorety

● John Robertson

● Dave Orchid

● Phil Drawbridge

● Zbrush

ISSUES for just $35!

● ● Luca Oleastri Issue 4

● Photoshop comp.


● Barry Marshall

● Tony Meszaros

+ Movie & TV CG


FREEBIES EACH ISSUE 3D Art Direct will boldly seek out new 3d freebies suitable for sci-fi and fantasy, then test them to make sure they work. Here are the very best three for this month’s issue, each illustrated with a basic ‘real world’ test render to show what actually loaded up in our copy of DAZ Studio or the other testbed software used.

Licences: These are licenced in the usual way: you are permitted to make royaltyfree renders using them, for any commercial or non-commercial use. Disclaimer: We can't promise that the Web links on this page will live forever, or that the maker won't decide to put their freebie on sale in the future. So grab them quick!



We don’t want readers to miss out on enjoying our Mount Stasta DEM-toVue tutorial this month, so we have a ready-made cleaned DEM for Vue, and also an OBJ with a basic texture, that can be used in most 3d software. Due to the resolution limitations of DEM data, this will work best as a fardistance object in your scenes, rather than for close-ups. Download it here.

Avros Designs has created this new morphing radioactive drum, with three DAZ Studio morphs to easily make multiple different damaged drums. Also an ‘aged drum’ MAT texture. Creative Commons licensed. Works in DAZ Studio 3 and 4. Download here.



PLANETS PACK, from NWDA: New World Digital Art (NWDA) has kindly provided 3D Art Direct with a free production quality Planet Pack presets pack for the Terragen software. Download it here.



CALL FOR WORK: For our October/Halloween issue we hope to deliver an H.P. Lovecraft inspired special issue. We are now looking for 3d artists who have pictures to show that directly illustrate Lovecraft’s stories, creatures or places. Or who more broadly adopt some of the themes Lovecraft brought to fantasy and horror. Such as: subtly creepy supernatural weirdness happening in normal places; richly atmospheric gothic landscapes; cool monsters that go way beyond the old clichés of vampires/werewolves/ghosts; unspeakable knowledge in ancient books; secret conspiracies; impossible architecture; tentacular invasions from the sea; rational scholars and scientists discovering the utterly unknown; and sublime visions of cosmic ‘outsideness’. No occult / blood / nudity please. Deadline: 10th Sept. Interested? Please send just your gallery Web address to the assistant editor:

Picture: Detail from "Little Creepers" (2014) by Graham Symmons. Mandelbulb, no post processing. 60

3D Art Direct Issue 41  

3D Art Direct specialises with the stories of creativity using 3D digital art applications. In this issue artist interviews associated Vue,...

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