8:45pm Where Are They?
The making of the image for the IRTC.

It's 8:45pm, a (simi)patient Winston the Dog longs for the return of his family.

By Jeff M. Thomas
(This site is hastily thrown together with no polish whatsoever. It may improve some day, but probably not, I do internet work for a living so doing it on my spare time is not a high priority :-)

This is the image submitted to the IRTC. I was disappointed with my last entry, Basking, because I had procrastinated and ultimately didn't ran out of time so the submitted image did not live up to the concepts potential. It still placed 11th, which is pretty good and I think a testament to how good it could have been had I given it the attention it deserved. So I took some time off from the IRTC to collect my thoughts and work on some other ideas and tools. I skipped the Dreaming round and I was going to skip the 'Lonelyness' round as well, but then my wife and I caught sight of our recently rescued dog through a window as it awaited our return from some errands. It looked so forlorn and woeful, I just had to make it into an entry even though at this point there was only 5 days left to the deadline and I had a web site launch at work that same week which itself was requiring late nights and long hours.

So I went from cursing myself for not leaving enough time to finish an image properly to deciding not to even enter the contest until 5 very busy days before deadline. The irony does not escape me ;-) At least this time I did not procrastinate. I quickly filled out the basic needs of the scene; walls, a door, the dog. Then I thought up and filled in the details one by one as time and sleep deprivation permitted.

All in all I'm quite pleased with it, I don't expect it to place too high but it turned out much better then I really thought it would. I learned a lot (never modeled anything with blobs by hand before, and I did 3 of them here including the dog) and I could sense my abilities with Povray had improved notably since my first entry (Ahhh Sunlight) which has much more technological flash but lacks many of the details that would make it a more pleasing image.

I am a programmer by trade, so Povray's scene description language is right up my ally, once I found my way around it's idiosyncrasies. I love that it allows me to be visually creative using my greatest pleasures, imagination and code.

Here is the submition text doc WhereAreThey.txt. It has some in depth comments on how the image was created and what the various parts are (isosurfaces, CSG, etc. etc.). I'm not going to re-hash it all here, but rather provide images of the various stages I went through with some commentary.
Here is the first construction image I saved. I wish I had one of the door and hardware under construction, they kind of evolved with lots of tweaking to get the feel just right. In the time between my entries I worked a lot on the StoneWall isosurface macro I had written for my first entry, that work payed off here when I created I nice isosurface tile floor by simply changing a few settings and rotating 90 degrees. It took more time to get the texture just right than it did to lay the isosurfaces. Ahh reusable code, thou art so handy.

For the first time in one of my scenes I had color balancing issues, there wanted to be lots of brown; the door, the dog, the side table etc. etc. And I could never get the wood texture on the door just right, so later I made it green.
Next I worked on the lamp with beveled glass and 'real' hollow glass bulbs. Here I'm measuring the lamp for plastic 'candle sticks'.
Lamp in place and the first Radiosity check. I never went back to regular lighting after this. I was planning this scene to be rather simple so I was hoping to use lighting to bring it out a little, create interesting shadow patterns and maybe use radiosity/photons. Radiosity worked well, but the photons would have taken more time than I had to get working. Besides I hadn't planned the position of any lights to utilize photons to their best advantage. Oh well.

I've also bump mapped the walls here. I noticed that with radiosity you have to use much bigger bumps to get them to stand out (shadows get washed out easier with radiosity). I toned it down and flattened it some for the final image.
The scene would be meaningless without the dog, so he was next. My big blob learning experience. I had made the glass bulbs in the lamp with 3 of them (for each bulb) and I had used them before in a macro to lay 'snow' in my Basking image, but nothing like this. They're fun. He's not very realistic but he's definitely a dog, and given my 3D modelling skills (none) I'm quite happy with that.
Now I needed to start filling out the scene to give it life. First up, a side table. The long tapering legs turned out to be the hardest part, I'm sure there is a better way to do it than the one I ended up with, but hey it works.
The umbrella stand was next, the cane didn't come until later but I used the umbrella stand for a size reference (and the side table as a size reference for that).
I spent an inordinate amount of time working on that HOOK for the lamp. I wasn't satisfied with simply taking a sliced torus and stretching it, I had to use a sphere sweep so I could tweak it just right. Did it make a difference to the final image? Not at all, but I learned about sphere sweeps.

And check out those cool glass 'flame' bulbs!
The dog needed some toys to ignore, to highlight his loneliness. Here's the bone, made out of flattened blobs and bump mapped to look slightly chewed. Those of you who use Povray for Windows will probably recognize his ball as the sphere included in the Basic scene template. I wasn't being lazy, I had considered making it look like the ball from the Pixar short "Luxo Jr.", but I decided this one would be more topical.
This is the only thing that wasn't made just for this image. I had created it some time ago when I was first playing with isosurfaces and trying them out in CSG objects. It renders slowly at the best of times, it's inclusion here really slowed this scene down so I left it out most of the time. But I needed SOMETHING on that shelf and time was running short.
All the props so far placed in scene. Ok, the floor is pretty well set, now the walls need help.
Now I was getting a little cocky. Things had been going very well so I decided to create not just a window, but an isosurface hollow glass block window and something to see outside through them. I already had the StoneWall macro for making isosurface stone bricks I had used for the floor, how hard could be to modify it to make glass bricks? And to make those bricks hollow? Not so easy as it turned out, I ended up making a new macro, based on StoneWall, for the bricks and the whole production really ate up some time. But it looks good! I also decided to add a sky sphere to the image, forgetting how those work with radiosity, and it colored my whole scene blue/red! I ended up enclosing the entire scene with walls (see an outside view below). I also placed the wall/roof/aerial you can see outside by hand from the cameras vantage point and in a hurry. You can see the rather amusing results in the outside image as well.
Next up, an antique mirror. I'm quite please with how the 'gold leaf' texture on the frame turned out. I haven't rendered it up close yet to see how it holds up, but I'm living by the old '30 foot rule' from my theater days: "If it looks good from 30 feet away, it's good enough." (Generally the closest seats in a theater are at least 30 feet away from anything on stage.)
And now, some light switches. Not much else to say really.
All those items put together, and a little adjustment to the sky sphere to make it look more 'sunset' like out the window. I just need something on the side table and something in the next room to make it look 'lived in' and we're done. But I need to hurry, this is the deadline day and my wifes 86 year old grandfather took a spill and ended up in the hospital (he's fine now thanks) so it's a rush under duress after we get back home.

Somehow the Glass & Gold thing had moved itself into the table leg too. Very odd.
Using the a copy of the Plaque union I made for the light switch, I made a picture frame. Originally I stuck one of my other renderings of this scene in the frame to do that clever-but-over-done picture-in-picture thing. But I just couldn't make myself do it, especially as a bitmap texture which I felt would be cheating. So I used one of my favorite sample images from the Povray scene's folder instead. It's turned towards the viewer to hide the fact that there's nothing holding it up ;-)
Last and also least, the speaker. It was quick and not unbelievable.

A fun 'outside' view of the scene. No, that isn't the final sky sphere and no, I didn't do a very good job of eyeballing those silhouette objects, but remember that 30 foot rule!