View Full Version : Normal Mapping/subpixel displacement

Chris S. (Fez)
08-10-2003, 06:03 AM
Seen the previews for the next Zbrush release? Zbrush is catering to a Maya/Mental Ray pipeline. The Normal Mapping/Subpixel displacement combo is too revolutionarily cool and useful to pass up. With an even better integrated Mental Ray for Max 6, I'd say Newtek needs to do some serious subpixel R&D. This is not some fancypants feature that is better off being faked. Newtek needs to make this a priority IMO.

Random OT's:

Lightwave 8 is in good position because Newtek integrated 3rd party developers with products (the ortho guys and the dstorm dude) already deep in development. I am thrilled to see such acquisitions. Newtek definitely hired the right guys.

Having said that, I gotta say I saw some of the Lux stuff at Siggraph. Newtek fanboys beware. Seems the lux guys learned from the mistakes they made developing Lightwave.

Also, for anyone interested I was told by a Newtek guy that we still have to "unweld" UV's in 8. Dynamics are great for drawing a crowd at trade shows but how about fixing something we ALL use everyday?

There is no "smartskin" as of now. But they talked about implementing it "last week". This rang some bells as this request is years old.

I was also told that edges and lattices are "extremely unlikely" without a rewrite.

I also briefly met Larry. He was busy demoing so I didn't bother him. Funny guy. I saw him AMAZE two max guys with his subd demo (probably former Max guys by now). Way to go Larry.

08-10-2003, 02:52 PM
I agree. Mental Ray's (also PRMan's) displacement is amazing. You can take a simple polygonal object (not sub-d like LightWave) and get incredible detail, very fast, with little effort.

08-10-2003, 03:07 PM
I'll 2nd that, in a heartbeat!

08-10-2003, 08:19 PM
disapointed about those edges - they been being requested for well aslong as i can remember - as for the displacement yup[ i'll take some of that too

08-11-2003, 05:54 PM

I was really hoping for edges in 8... :(

I'm no programmer, but isn't there some way of adding edges to the object file/format and then creating some new edge tools to modify them?? ;)

I guess it's not as easy as that, but I seem to remember there being something said about the updated 6.0 object file format that allowed adding more object info into the file... way back when 6.0 was being talked about... then again I'm probably mistaken.

Would it really require a complete rewrite of LW? It just seems to me to have more to do with the object format.

08-11-2003, 06:11 PM
OK, I just thought about it a bit more... I guess for proper integration, it would need more changes to LW (rather than just being a tacked on quick fix - as all tools accessing the object would need to be aware of the edges too... hmmm.

Does that mean we'll have to wait for 9.x? or will we see edges in 8.5? probably not huh...

Looks like there's going to be a lot of modelers adding modo to their LW tools (if it's affordable of course ;))

From what I saw from the Siggraph streams, I'm very excited about L[8]... though I'm a little worried about the implementation of the point animation - from the demos I saw, it seems that to get point animation to work, you first have to run a simulation on the area in order to "bake" the point motion - then you can edit the position of the points, frame by frame - sounds ok, but I hope it's not required to have it keyed on every frame... the examples showed moving a point one frame at a time, creating very jumpy animation - when we animate, we create keyframes and the computer fills in the rest, editing EVERY frame gives you a stop motion look... I'm just hoping we are able to delete some of those frames in between the changes we want, so that we don't have to start animating frame by frame for points we want to adjust...

This will be the difference between it being just something to add to the feature list and something that's truly useable in everyday situations... either way the other stuff I've seen from L[8], It's still going to be a great upgrade :)

Damn sorry for the drawn out explanation of that ;)

And sorry for the change of subject - supposed to be talking about displacement... Yes definitely something that many people would find extremely useful...

08-11-2003, 07:37 PM
Hasn't anyone used the normal mapping plugins for LW? I think I'm missing something, but "normal mapper" seems to work fine for me and it's FREE. I've used orb too...but it isn't as easy to use. I should note that these aren't like Microwave (http://www.evasion3d.com/mw_intro.html) which beats most other normal mapping solutions into the ground, but costs around 500 US.

Here is the link for normal mapper.


I've included two Divx Files- one using normal mapper and one without. Other people have gone WAY further with this plugin though...

Here is the one with normal mapper...


And one without...


08-11-2003, 07:43 PM
For those who can't get the avi's here are two sample jpegs. It's much more impressive if you can see the light swing though...

08-11-2003, 07:44 PM
And without...

08-11-2003, 07:54 PM
Sorry for so many posts... and here is the mesh I used to generate the normal map (look at the dense point count) and next to it is the mesh that the normal map was applied to.

Chris S. (Fez)
08-11-2003, 10:48 PM
Wacom, Normal Mapping is basically another form of bump mapping. With subpixel renderers like Mental Ray and Renderman you can DISPLACE the low rez mesh so that it looks exactly like the high rez mesh, sillouettes and all.

08-12-2003, 12:11 AM
How does it do the sillouette w/out displacement? Clipmap?

Chris S. (Fez)
08-12-2003, 05:22 AM
Normal mapping by itself does not displace the mesh. You need a displacment map. This is impossible in Lightwave because Lightwave has no subpixel displacement.

08-12-2003, 01:57 PM
I know this Chris. I misread your comment. I didn't see the all caps DISPLACE. I wonder if LW 8.5 will have subpixel displacement?

08-12-2003, 03:18 PM
Well to say that normal maps are just a form of "bump map" might be a little harsh. Still I'm sorry that I went off on my tangent...I'm the ingorant one here...sorry. Still- how does it displace the mesh for sillouettes and not bump up render times? I keep saying sub-pixel but it just doesn't mean anything to me yet. Please inform me.

Chris S. (Fez)
08-12-2003, 03:28 PM
Cool. Sorry for the caps :). Subpixel displacement would be nice but I wouldn't bet on it any time soon. Notice there are no rendering improvements in 8?

08-12-2003, 11:05 PM
Yeah, I noticed that too. Bummer.

03-17-2004, 04:31 PM
Originally posted by wacom
I keep saying sub-pixel but it just doesn't mean anything to me yet. Please inform me.
I SO WHOLE HEARTEDLY AGREE THAT NEWTEK ABSOLUTELY NEEDS SUBPIXEL DISPLACEMENT!!! As it stands now, there isn't a pipeline that can accurately import a Zbrush model (with all it's detailing) do to the fact that LW's render engine does not have a quality subpixel displacement capability. Come on Newtek, please get on this aspect of the technology bandwagon.

Sorry for being a bit late on this thread however, I typed Subpixel displacement on the search and this thread came up.

Wacom: Sub pixel displacement is HUGE! It allows for essentially infinite detail. Check out the models created with Zbrush. This was used in LOTR Return of the King extensively.
What does it do? It's actually a sort of modeling tool do to the fact that it you use an image, say your bump map, as a displacement map, the object will extrude and be depressed according to the greyscale values of your image. It's not a render trick like bump maps are. So for example, you could (if you wanted to) fly your camera into those areas.

03-17-2004, 08:25 PM
FPrime would be nice w/ sub-pixel displacement! Imagine zooming in on some details. :D

03-18-2004, 05:56 AM
That's right Jacky, you got it! That's what I was thinking. Newtek opens up it's SDK and Worely can open FPrime up to subpixel displacement and thus, we could use Zbrush in full effect. Zbrush looks awesome. Of course the only way to really take advantage of it now is to buy Maya complete at $2,000 (which will get you Mental Ray- subpixel displacement, GI etc. and not to mention n-gons and heirarchal Sub-d surfaces) and Zbrush which runs about $395.

Or as we said, skip the $2000 purchase and Newtek opens up the architecture in order to SWAPPING OUT the renderer for other ones... including REYES renderers - that handle subpixel displacement.
AQSIS is a FREE reyes renderer!

I took a bit from Jin Choung's insightful post:
Jin Choung enlightened us in the thread: LightWave 3D > LW - Third Party > Zbrush for 3D Painting.
Jin Choung's subpixel post (http://vbulletin.newtek.com/showthread.php?postid=150262#post150262)

03-18-2004, 07:03 AM
Perhaps Andrew Bryant from Pixels3d would be willing to port his Reyes renderer "Tempest" to Lightwave (along with his excellent node based shading sytem), he did it for Curious labs under the guise of Firefly.

03-18-2004, 08:32 AM
Newtek want sub pixel displacement in their renderer and so it's a matter of when, not if.

03-18-2004, 10:24 AM
Originally posted by bloontz
Perhaps Andrew Bryant from Pixels3d would be willing to port his Reyes renderer "Tempest" to Lightwave (along with his excellent node based shading sytem), he did it for Curious labs under the guise of Firefly.

Hmmm. I haven't checked his program out in awhile and I didn't know it had subpixel displacement. The funny thing is that although I don't know too much about his program, Andrew is a friend of my friend in San Diego. I played softball with him once.

03-18-2004, 10:37 AM
Originally posted by Ramon
Hmmm. I haven't checked his program out in awhile and I didn't know it had subpixel displacement. The funny thing is that although I don't know too much about his program, Andrew is a friend of my friend in San Diego. I played softball with him once.

Tempest, part of Pixels 4 and above does indeed have subpixel displacement. Unfortunately developement seems to have slowed to a crawl. It's a shame because it was really shaping up nicely. He seems to be concentrating on a new high end application for color correction.

03-20-2004, 01:53 PM
I wish that someone from Newtek's developement staff would comment on this - high quality. sub pixel displacement. That capability in rendering would take lightwave models to a whole 'nuther level in terms of realism / details - especially with a great Zbrush to Lightwave pipeline.
If you all check out zbrush.com and look at some of the phenominal detail (made relatively very quick) then you would be salivating over a real desire to have a great subpixel displacement renderer capable of perfectly handling zbrush model imports.
At the VERY LEAST open up the SDK to allow Worley or any other interested thrid party developers to create it for LW.
PLEASE!! Let's take LW models to the next level.

03-21-2004, 09:25 PM
The problem is raytracing doesn't go well with sub pixel displacement.

04-01-2004, 12:19 PM
I watched a web site about 6 months ago, about the supposedly new lightwave texturing system, supporting something like "analytical map"... Ok this was a purely fictional site.. but still i am outraged to see so little advances and so many wasted time by newtek.

Maybe they should try fixing the cumbersome usage of alpha in their texture system, and try to use fprime as their default renderer, because hey, even if we wait for 5 more months, lightwave is still gonna be about 3 years late! pity...

Still I only use lightwave in job, because hell, it has a nifty modeler! :P and now with fprime, it has a fast renderer too! :P

04-03-2004, 09:38 AM
(1) I second (or is it 100th) the addition of sub-pixel displacements. It offers enormous visual gains with limited work up front making it a very worth while feature. Many higher end applications already support it.

(2) I don't see how development of sub-pixel displacement is hindered by raytracing. Analyze the displacement map, subdivide the geometry, raytrace. Optimizations should be able to be made by checking raytracing flags (transparency, translucency, reflection, refraction) and maximum displacement before subdivision. Others seem to have handled it ok.

Bart Robinson

04-03-2004, 04:00 PM
I believe the reason why sub-pixel displacement and raytracing have trouble living together is that for raytracing the whole scene has to be in memory at once for it to be able compute the rays. Whereas the Renderman subpixel disp only computes the small area of the image it is rendering at that time - very memory efficient, hence it's very fast.

There are ways of getting around this and in recent years Renderman has included raytracing with one of these work-arounds, it never used to up until about 2 years ago.
There's a whole bunch of Siggraph papers over the years on how to deal with raytracing and subpixel disp with differing approaches.

It's not impossible for LW to have it in the long run, but it would mean a fairly substantial overhaul of the renderer as some have already pointed out.

Personally I'd just be happy with a working Normal Displacement. I can easily squeeze in about 2 million polys on a character with SubDivs, and that's fine to handle the pretty insane amounts of detail ZBrush gives me. But Normal Displace in LW has many problems.... :(

04-13-2004, 08:59 AM
Originally posted by Karmacop
The problem is raytracing doesn't go well with sub pixel displacement.

ok, when i use subpixel displacement i cannot use ray tracing.
and then?
renderman add raytracing on 9-1 release, if i remember correctly, but at pixar not use it, prefer to fake shadow, reflection and refraction be cause is faster then real raytracing, and more realistic (if someone not beleive me, check on renderman bible like renderman companion or Advanced renderman)

subpixel displacement, polygon refinenment and many other features which renderman have from 10 years are very important for a modern render engine.

and lw need to be more modern, less memory consumer, and more large dectail render.
we work on high res render and every computer have 2 gb of ram, but sometimes we go out of memory and we must use old trick which i learn when i start with lw on amiga, with 6 mb of ram...

04-27-2004, 06:34 AM
Mattoo is right here- subpixel displacement would be cool, but
fixing the problems with UV points going all funky when the mesh
is subdivided, thus causing the funky ones to be in the wrong place on the displacement maps- is what needs to be fixed right
away. And it's a feature that's already in LW (normal/bump displacement), so why not just fix it now and do a quick point
release? These kind of non-working features really shouldn't
carry over in a major new release, should they? (And for marketing-ears-only: especially not when something like ZB2 comes out which a *lot* of people will be interested in, and which will cause all those people to start looking for some other way to animate their beautifuly detailed meshes).

Anyway, I get fine displacement from my ZBrush2 dmaps in lightwave with bump displacement EXCEPT for the grooves caused by non displacing points. No subpixel displacement required. Sure the thing subdivides to nearly a million
polys- I don't care. If I have to composite everything, fine. If I have to composite separate parts of my character or objects, fine. Thing is, there isn't even a difficult or time consuming work around right now. It's a feature, but totaly unuseable. Please fix it Newtek- and while you're at it, drop the mess of displacement thingies all over the place. Put the features of 'bump displacement' where 'displacement' is now so we can still use bump maps on top of the high-res object.

I just worry a little bit that the good guys at Newtek will get involved in a long, long process of adding subpixel displacement, and normal displacement (and whatever UV map issues there are) will not be adressed. Perhaps this can be taken care of quickly so we can start using this new way of working, then you can take your sweet-ol' time working out the fancy stuff. :)

04-27-2004, 03:03 PM
Try using your displacement map as a morph map type in the normal displacement plugin. Adjust the displacement distance w/ a smooth scaled endomorph. ;) Just another way.