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RPC Creator Pro Walk Through

Introduction: The RPC Creator Pro allows you to easily create custom RPCs. This document will guide you through the creation process from initial creation of the image files to final step of placing the RPC into your scene. In this walk through, we will be creating an RPC from a 3D model created in Discreet's 3ds max 4. These same steps could also be performed using photographs or images obtained from another source. Although we will be creating a 3D RPC, the process is very similar to that used to create 2D, 2.5D and 3.5D RPCs. Obtaining Color Images and Alpha Images: We will begin by obtaining the color images and alpha images that will be used for the RPC that we are creating. For this example, we will be obtaining our images from a model created in Discreet's 3ds max4. However, the process is very similar for other 3D applications. Download our example mailbox 3ds max file which we use to illustrate the process of creating 3D RPCs with RPC Creator Pro. The following steps will explain how to render .tga RGB and alpha images and then convert them into jpegs for use in RPC Creator Pro. Step 1: Open the file that contains the model. No other objects should be present in the scene. For this example, the file name is MailboxRPC.max. The time slider should be configured for 361 (0 - 360) frames of animation. It is recommended that the bottom center of the object be located at the origin (0,0,0). Step 2: Lighting should be placed in the scene so that the object is illuminated the desired way from any angle. ArchVision suggests that the object be lit uniformly so that it may be used in as many scenes as possible. In our scene, a light was placed on both sides of the RPC with an omni accompanying them so that the lighting was more evenly distributed. You can see the lighting setup that we created by selecting to Unhide the Light group. Step 3: A target camera should then be placed in the scene. The target should be set to the center of the object. Step 4: Create a circle spline around the object. To do this, select Create from the Command Panel. Next, choose Shapes and the Circle option. Place the circle centered on the object at approximately eye level.

Step 5: Now you will need to assign a path constraint to the camera so that it follows the circle spline around the object: 1) Select the Motion Panel 2) Click the Parameters button and open the Assign Controller rollout 3) Next, select Position from under the Transform menu 4) Then click on the Assign Position Controller icon 5) The Assign Position Controller dialog will launch. Choose Path Constraint from the available options. 6) Click OK.

Step 6: With the path constraint assigned, you will need to select Add Path on the Path Parameters dialog and select the circle from the scene. The Path Parameters dialog is located on the Motion Panel by scrolling to the bottom.

Before positioning the camera, select the desired resolution output for your images. We recommend opening the Render Scene dialog and setting the aspect size to 600 wide by 800 high, because our image is taller than it is wide.

Next, right-click on the name of the Camera View and select the Show Safe Frame option. Then you will want to position the camera target so that the mailbox takes up the entire safe frame without going out of it. If necessary, scale the circle to adjust the position of the camera. Use the time slider to verify that your mailbox remains in the safe frame during the entire rotation.

Step 7: At frame 0, the back of the mailbox should be visible in the camera view. In order for our images to render in the correct order, We need the camera to rotate clockwise. To do this, we will need to select the camera and switch the first key frame (positioned at 0) with the last frame (positioned at frame 359). This will in turn will cause the camera to rotate clockwise. You can see our camera setup by selecting to Unhide the Camera group. To Switch the Frame Render Order: 1) Move the first key frame to a different frame by selecting it and dragging it to the new location. We have moved ours to frame 180 (see below). 2) Move the last key frame to frame 0.

3) Move the key frame that is now positioned at frame 180 to frame 359. The camera should now rotate in the opposite direction.

Note: You could use the Reverse Time option rather than the method outlined above to reverse the sequence that the frames are rendered. This will also provide the correct camera rotation for creating RPCs. To learn more about this option, please view the Autodesk/Discreet help document. Step 8: You will want to render from image 0-359. Our goal here is to render a frame for each 1 degree of rotation without duplicating any of the images. The files should be rendered as Targas. When you select this option, a Targa Image Control window will open. Under Image Attributes, select 24 Bits-Per-Pixel. Remove the default checkmark from the Compress option. Check the box that says Alpha Split and Pre-Multiplied Alpha, which will in turn generate two files for each frame: one RGB file and one Alpha file. The program will denote rendered Alpha images by an placing an A_ extention in front of the file name that you selected.

Once all 360 frames are rendered, you should have 360 alpha files and 360 RGB files. It is important that you render frames 0 359 because frame 0 and 360 are the same image. The frame numbered 89 should produce the results shown below. After rendering all of the images we will save the alpha images into a folder called "Alpha_Targa" and all of the RGB images into a folder called "RGB_Targa".

Note: When creating an RPC, creating a background that is similar to the color of the object will prevent the appearance of a slight halo around the RPC. In the example above, you can see the background has been altered to account for the colors of the subject. You can then configure the 3D application to use the altered background in the Rendering Environments settings.

Preparing Rendered Images for Creator Pro Once the color and alpha images have been rendered, the next step is to evenly crop the images and convert them to JPEG format. The following instructions will guide you through the process of performing the quintessential crop and setting up Photoshop actions to complete the process on all your files. Step 9: Cropping Image Files RPCs should be cropped as closely as possible to the subject to reduce the file size and improve the overall look and feel of the RPC. It is important to remember that the width and the height of the object will change with every rendered frame. Be sure that the cropping of the first frame will accomodate the image at all angles. As you can see in the image below, the crop lines will vary from frame to frame. Images should be cropped reasonably tight, but a few pixels (less than 5 additional pixels on either side) should remain on the sides and the top for the best results. The bottom of the image must have exactly 1 additional pixel. Remember that all images used to create the RPC must be exactly the same size. To simplify this process, ArchVision recommends creating a new image in Photoshop that contains every 60th frame from our rendered sequence of Alpha images. For our 360 frame example, we will load the following files into a new file in Photoshop:

a_mailbox0000, a_mailbox0059, a_mailbox0119, a_mailbox0179, a_mailbox0239, a_mailbox0299 and a_mailbox0359. All alpha images should be in different layers, each set to 40 percent opacity so that we can determine the extreme height and width values of our object. Remember, there should be one pixel at the bottom of the image between the crop line and the object. You can then drag guide lines which will be used for selecting the area to crop. Selecting the Snap to Guides option from the View drop-down menu will make your crop more precise. Now that we have determined the crop area, save this file as "Crop_Area".

Step 10: Automating Crop and Conversion to JPEG In this step, we will automate Actions in Adobe Photoshop to crop the images and convert the .tga files into .jpg files so that they will be compatible with the RPC Creator Pro. Using this technique we can quickly change hundreds of files in minutes. Select Actions from under the Window Menu or hit the F9 key to access the Actions dialog, if it is not already open. Then click on the folder icon in the lower corner of the dialog box to create a New Set. For this example we will name the New Set "Mailbox".

Next you will need to add a new action by clicking on the Create New Action option. We have named the new action "Image_Crop."

Click the Record button and all the editing steps you take on the original image will be "recorded" and available for playback on the remaining files. The first step to record is the crop area. Using the Retangular Marquee Tool, drag the selection from the top of the guides to the bottom. With the Snap To Guides option enabled, this process should be easy. Once the desired area for cropping has been selected, go to the Image drop-down menu and select Crop.

Next, we want to convert our images to Grayscale. Again, go to the Image drop-down menu. Select Mode and then Grayscale.

Now we need to fill the very last row of pixels with black. Begin by deselecting the current selection. Then choose the Single Row Marquee Tool from the Tools panel. Before using the tool, zoom in to 1600% on the bottom of the image. This will allow you to see the single pixel demarcations on the rulers so that you can accurately select the desired pixel row. Once zoomed in, simply click at the bottom of the image with the Single Row Marquee Tool. If the selection is not placed correctly, use the Move Tool to adjust it.

With the last row of pixels highlighted, select Edit and then Fill. The Fill dialog will open. Choose Black from the Use dropdown menu. Verify that the Opacity is set to 100% and then click OK.

Now we want to save our image as JPG. Go to File and select Save As. Browse to your desired location and change the file type to JPEG. For our example, we are saving our images in a folder called Alpha_JPG. Finally, click the close icon at the top of the image. It will ask if you want to save your changes to the file. Select No. Finally, end the recording process by clicking the Stop button, which appears as a blue square on the Actions Panel. If you made all the adjustments to your image as described here, your Actions panel will appear exactly like the one below.

Now we will run the action on all of our Alpha Targa files. From the File menu, select Automate, and then Batch. This will launch the Batch dialog shown below. By default the Set should be "Mailbox" and the Action "Image_Crop", but verify that these are selected. In the Source options, click the Choose button and then browse to the location of your Alpha Targa files. Then click OK to begin the batch process. The time needed for the batch to run and will vary depending on the image size and number of files.

After the batch has completed, you will have a folder full of Alpha JPEG images that are all the same size and ready for the RPC Creator. Now the process needs to be repeated using the RGB images. Before Automating the Batch for the RGB images, we need to make several changes to the Mailbox Action. Before Automating the Batch for the RGB images, we need to create a new Mailbox Action. If you prefer, you may alter the existing Mailbox Action and simply remove the steps to change the images to Grayscale, Fill the last pixel row with black, and select a new location to save the files. For simplicity, we are going to create a new Action in our example. Begin by opening the image where we placed the guide lines for the crop area earlier, "Crop_Area". Next, go to the Actions panel and click the folder icon to create a New Set. We named ours Mailbox RGB. Add a new action by clicking the icon and name it Crop. Now hit the Record button and use the guide lines to crop our image as before. Deselect the selection area. Then go to File and Save As and select the location where you would like to save your RGB JPEGs. Finally, select to close the image and then to Stop recording. Your Actions window should appear like the one below.

Just as before, we will go to File and select Automate and then Batch to run the action on our images. Verify that the Set is listed as Mailbox RGB and the Action Crop. Then click the Choose button and select the folder where your RGB Targa files are located. Click OK. At this time, we could run the RPC Creator Pro and create an RPC, but instead we will create the optional files that enhance the look and feel of the RPC. If you do not wish to create a Preview image or an Icon for the RPC you can proceed to the Using the RPC Creator portion of this document. Creating a Preview Image Preview images are what the RPC Plug-in or RPC enabled application will display in the preview window when the RPC is selected. These preview images must be 124 x 98 pixels and saved as RGB (24-bit) .bmp file. It is recommended that you use an image representative of the RPC that will be rendered, however it can be anything that you would like. This step is optional. You may select to use the default preview image when assembling your object in RPC Creator Pro.

Creating an Icon File The RPC Creator Pro will allow you to import your own Icon or to use the default one provided by the program. The default Icon provided by RPC Creator Pro is displayed as a set of crossed planes the height and width you specify. Creating your own Icon allows you to have a silhouette similar to the rendered product displayed when you place the RPC in your scene. There are a couple of ways to create your mesh file. You can save out a DXF or OBJ file from your application and use it as the Icon Mesh. This option uses actual geometry to create the Icon. For Autodesk and Discreet products, there is a tool called the RPC Icon Exporter that uses flat planes to produce Icons like those in ArchVision products. You can download the RPC Icon Exporter tool from the RPC Icon Tools page. Once the RPC Icon Exporter has been downloaded and unzipped, it should be saved in the plug-ins folder for the application. The RPC Icon Exporter will be loaded when 3ds Max or Autodesk Viz is restarted. This tool is located under the Utilities Panel.

To access this select the More... option. You will then need to select RPC Icon Exporter from the list. A new rollout menu will appear called RPC Icon Exporter.

The next step is to create the mesh that will be exported. Open Viz or Max and select the Left View. Then load a rendered frame with a side view of the object as a background by holding down ALT + B. In our mailbox example, we want to load frame 179. Then using the line tool from the Splines menu under the Shapes option trace the subject of the image loaded into the background.

After the object has been outlined, select UVW map from the list of modifiers and apply this to the lines. Next, right click on the traced image and select Collapse All to turn the lines into an editable mesh. Your mesh can now be exported using the RPC Icon Exporter tool. Trace the mailbox from the front (frame 0) and left (frame 179) perspectives. Create the base of the Icon using the Arc spline with end-end-middle option selected and lines with the corner drag option selected. It is important that the Icon base sits at the origin (0,0,0) with the pivot in the center. This will make the icon rotate from its center, which enables more exact placement of the RPCs in your scene.

Now, attach the mailbox shape to the base. It is very important that you do not attach the base to the mailbox shape. This specific order of attachment is vital because attaching the base to the mailbox shape, instead of attaching the mailbox shape to the base, will cause the pivot point to shift. Next highlight the mailbox and click Export on the RPC Icon Exporter dialog to create your Icon.

Getting Ready to Use the RPC Creator Pro Now that we have all of the components necessary to build an RPC, we are ready to run the RPC Creator Pro. If you have not yet purchased a license, you can still create the RPC but the completed product will be watermarked. For more information concerning purchasing and configuring a license, please view the RPC Creator Pro Getting Started Guide. Using the RPC Creator Pro RPC Creator Pro makes creating custom RPCs a very simple process. The order in which you utilize the dialogs to create the RPC object is up to your discretion. Any required tabs will appear in red text until completed. At the end of the creation process you will be able to preview your RPC. Start: The first screen that appears when the RPC Creator Pro opens provides an option to Import. This option allows users to edit their existing RPCs. This will not work for RPC Content created by ArchVision. Since we are creating a new RPC, select the Name tab to begin the RPC Creation process.

Naming the RPC: All RPCs must have a name a category and an object Name. For this project, we will call our RPC "Mailbox" and create a category called "Outdoor Objects [Residential]". The additional use of brackets in our Category name allows us to subcategorize. This way you can have multiple divisions of Outdoor Objects, allowing for growth of your custom RPC libraries later.

Specifying a Height for the RPC: I have chosen to assign a height of 48 inches for the mailbox. The height is always in inches. Random heights are automatically assigned, however you can customize these to provide a different range of randomness.

Setting the Self-Illumination: Self-illumination describes how the RPC will be affected by the lighting in the scene. At a value of 100 percent the RPC is completely independent from the scenes lighting. Lower values indicate that the RPC is more dependent on the scenes lighting. For our mailbox we will use a value of 75. We recommend indoor objects and people have a value of 55, while trees and other outdoor objects have a value of 75.

Loading Images: Begin by selecting the type of RPC Content to be created in the RPC Type box. The mailbox that we are creating will be a 3D RPC. Next, open your RGB image files by clicking the Add button and then selecting the jpeg images we created in step 8. Once the file has been selected, a preview of the first image will be displayed. Then load the Alpha image files in the same manner.

Adding a Description: This step allows you to enter information about the RPC as a meta tag. We will want to add some descriptive identifiers for our mailbox.

Configuring the Pivot Point: Pivot Offset allows you to adjust the center of the RPC. This allows you to compensate for the fact that often times the center of the image is not the center of the subject. Since our object is uniform, the center of the image should be very close to the center of the object, and does not require any modification. You can learn more about determining this value from the RPC Creator Help file included with RPC Creator Pro.

Adding a Preview Image: Click the Browse button and locate the preview image we created earlier. If you prefer, you may use the default preview image created by ArchVision.

Selecting an Icon: Now we can add the mesh file that we created earlier. This will serve as the placement icon. Select the radio button beside Custom Icon and then click the Browse button to locate the mailbox mesh file.

Adding Contact Information: After all of your hard work, the process could not be finalized without adding your signature to your RPC masterpiece. Enter your company name and contact information.

Creating the RPC: The final step is to browse for the directory where your completed Mailbox RPC will be saved and then click the Create button.

Once the RPC has been successfully created you will be prompted to preview your RPC. If you select Yes, ArchVision's Active X Viewer will open to display the newly created RPC. If you select Auto Play, the RPC will automatically rotate. Now the RPC Mailbox is ready for you to use in any 3D application of your choice.

When you open the RPC interface within your 3D application, the category called Outdoor Objects [Residential] will be visible

and contain the newly created Mailbox. If your content does not appear, you may need to add a path to its location. This RPC will work in any application that supports 3D RPC content. Visit our Compatibility Matrix for more information concerning which applications support which type of RPC content.

For additional assistance using RPC Technology, please visit www.archvision.com or contact our live Support Team Monday-Friday 9am-6pm (EST) Copyright 2005 ArchVision, Inc