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SoftImage|XSI Tutorial
Texture blending using weight maps in Softimage XSI by "Christoph Schinko"
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CGIndia bring's quite Useful and Free tutorial for SoftImage|XSI Users. The tutorials is created by character animator and independent filmmaker, Christoph Schinko who has been a Certified Softimage XSI instructor for over 5 years. In this XSI Tutorial Christoph shows technique of "Texture blending" using weight maps in Softimage XSI. If you like to share your knowledge with CG Community and have any tutorials, we will be glad to feature them on our website along with description about author and website link. Send your tutorials to cgindia@gmail.com (# Some setting images can be enlarged. For Enlarging images - Click on their Thumbnails! )

This tutorials ’ objective is to show a method of Comfortably blending textures within Softimage XSI's rendertree in such a way,that the actual blending an easily be hanged right in the viewport,at any time. As an example, I would like to use the landscape I ’ve created for my short film “Ostbahn Kurtl ”.It is the adaptation of an old cartoon that tells the story of how the Austrian singer Dr.Kurt Ostbahn came to bear his name (“Ostbahn ” means “of the eastern railway ”) as a kid, and how he became a cool son of a gun.
The landscape consists of different soil conditions: grass, mud, and a pebbly structure. Around the little railway hut and the train tracks, the pebbly surface should appear. But under the trees and on the hills in the background, there should be grassland. In order to be able to control the different appearances quickly, the weighting of each structure is controlled by weight maps, which are defined directly in the viewport via weight painting, and an therefore be modified very easily,at any time. It also makes it a breeze to make eg. the grass show through around the trees (different geometries), as it an be painted right onto the geometry, without struggling with texture coordinates and the like.

Let ’s start off with a simple polygon grid and flesh out the features of our landscape. Even if, the topology of the landscape is subject to be changed later on, we can already use a weight map to model it. Create a grid with a certain amount of detail, as the weight map information is dependent of the actual vertices of the object. We can only paint, where there is a vertex on the grid. The danger here of course being, that you end up with a very heavy polygrid – so think about how much detail you would like to put into your landscape,if this is really the right approach, where you’ll want more detail and how the whole thing will be rendered later on. In the case of the “Ostbahn-Kurtl ” project, the landscape was divided into four different layers (back-, mid-, foreground as well as extended foreground for single shots), rendered separately and welded in compositing (yes, in the FX-Tree).

Select the geometry and apply a weight map using Get> Property> Weight Map . Next,this weight map will be connected to a push operator, by choosing Deform> Deform> Push . The amplitude of the push operator is automatically linked to the weight map. By activating invert weights under weight map generator ,the changes to the weight map will be reflected by blue hills that grow out of the grid, as seen in Picture .

After having created and modelled our terrain as needed, let’s open up the rendertree and get ourselves a Toon Material (paint and host ), a Mix8colors node and the different texture nodes wanted – in this case, procedural Marble, Fractal and Terrain nodes – and connect them as seen in Picture below. This method naturally also works for a photorealistic look and textures. In the Render module, under Pass> Edit> Current Pass ,the camera will be given a Toon_Ink_Lens shader. Now a cartoony environment is starting to appear in the render region of the camera view.

Now to define the look of each texture node separately, without the typical ink lines at first, those will be added later. Still,the geometry itself will cause ink lines, if caused by its topology, but for now the texture nodes won’t create additional inking acording to its structure and appearance.

Hint 1: To comfortably adjust one node after another, it ’s best to switch off all other layers in the Mix8colors node (rather than disconnecting them) and set the weighting of the layer to be worked on to 1. That way,you see exactly what’s happening, and you won’t acidentally loose your other texture nodes when hitting “update” in the XSI rendertree or when selecting another object in the viewport.

After defining the different ground structures, it is time to create the weight maps and paint their contributions to the landscape as a whole. In order to do that, get a Map Lookups> Color node and connect it to the weighting input of the second(!) layer of the Mix8Colors node (the first, or base layer will be 100%visible along the whole geometry, the others will be blended in over top of that. Therefore, the first layer doesn’t need to be controlled by a weight map).

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