Let me start by saying honestly that the new “HAIR” module from MAXON is nothing short of amazing. Much like Clothilde in the MOCCA module that precedes it, this new module has a high “WOW factor”. The speed is amazing and the results are uncanny to the real thing. The multiple highlights, tint, kink, curl, bounce … it’s all there. Let’s take a look.
How does it work?
The formula is very simple. Add a sphere, click “Add Hair”, and render. Within about 1-2 seconds (on my 2.8Ghz PC), you’ll have a simple hairy spiked ball. Press the play button on the animation toolbar or enable the dynamics interaction redraw option (similar to the MOCCA redraw option) and watch as gravity takes over pulling the hair down and causing it to lay in a very natural looking way.
The blue-tipped yellow lines are spline guides that tell the hair were to render. These guides are made up of 1 or more segments and allow the hair to bend and curl. Using the hair tools, you can literally comb these guides into place, cut the hair, add curl, and otherwise style the hair. The amount of control you have over the final hair style is remarkable. If you prefer to see the actual hairs rather than the guides you can enable this but this will slow your computer down depending on how many hairs you want to display and the percentage detail that you set up.
Using the same sample object, here are a few simple styles that might be applied. By editing the hair texture, it is a simple matter to control curl, length, frizz, twist, and many other factors. The following images were made with the simplest of changes to the hair texture. In every case, I just kept the defaults and turned on new attributes or combinations of attributes. Ex. Kink + frizz. More about HAIR materials later in the review.
The guides can be placed on just the polygons you select. In addition,
you are able to supply density and length maps to further control the style.
In fact, most every attribute of the hair texture allows maps to be applied.
Certainly we would expect to see maps for things like length and color but
how about maps to control frizz, curl, kink, and twist levels?
One of the most impressive features of the hair texture is the staggering number of inputs you have access to in order to control, and animate, your hairstyle. To showcase this fact, MAXON includes a really cool little demo movie and tutorial with the HAIR module. It shows how easy it is to create grass quickly and mow it down with an animated lawnmower. An animated length map makes this a piece of cake.
The hair object that produces the guides is equipped with a set of dynamic controllers. The controllers kick in when the timeline is playing. Gravity will cause the hair to droop naturally, drag will cause it fall slowly, stiffness will make it resist bending, etc. The dynamics part of the hair module is the most fun to play with in my opinion. That’s likely because I’m an animation nut and I would prefer to see a ball crushing blades of grass as it rolls along a lawn vs. seeing a still of a bleach blonde lying on a car. Ok, call me a nerd but if it weren’t for nerds, who’s going to write the cool hair modules?
Speaking of nerd, I really have to hand it to the team that came up with the hair module. The shear speed at which I can render hair is mind blowing all on it’s own. To that, add dynamics, a highly configurable hair texture, and the ability to create feathers to boot and you’re looking at a ton of finely crafted, innovative software.
When I thought I was done with testing the HAIR module, I wondered if I could make a convincing field of wheat blowing in the wind. Wheat is dead easy. A little wheat color, vary the length 10%, shape the hair’s profile to resemble a stalk with a seed head attached and you’ve got a wheat field. Great. Now, how to make it blow in the wind. What I discovered is that the creators of the hair module went so far as to make the spline points on the hair guides react to the standard particle engine objects like wind, turbulence, rotation, gravity, etc. Amazing. By placing the wheat field in a wind box, adding a little turbulence and some other fine-tuning, I was able to get a relatively convincing effect.
To demonstrate just how easy setting up hair scene with dynamics check out the following mini tutorial where a sphere interacts with some simple grass.
And a still image showing the grass after the sphere has moved through it.
As a teenager I used to hate going to the hairdresser or barber as the case was for me back in the seventies (3DKiwi). Back then long hair and side burns were in so getting it shortened was like being tortured. Skip forward to 2006 and cutting and styling hair (the 3D kind) is a heck of a lot fun plus you can undo mistakes!!
As you would expect MAXON has given the new HAIR module a full set of tools for styling, cutting, selecting and editing. The great thing is that the basic tools like the brush work in similar manner to the real world equivalents so learning the basics of styling and cutting is quite straightforward.
Let’s briefly summarize the main tools.
Brush – Probably the most important tool. This tool does a lot more than just brushing hair in its default move mode. It has options to kink, straighten, scale, repel, twist, delete etc.
The shape of the brush can be changed from a circle to a box or diamond. These shapes can be further modified. Changing the size of the brush can be done from the parameters or by using the mouse wheel in a similar manner to the live selection tool.
Cut – Digital scissors!! No hairdressing kit would be complete without a pair of scissors so we have the cut tool. This is quite straight-forward to use and the various options give you plenty of control over giving your work a good hair cut.
Comb – This tool is driven entirely from the Parameters Manager and is used to comb hair in one direction or the direction defined by a spline or a bitmap image. So it’s possible to twirl the hair using a curved spline.
Curl – No need for the curlers and perming lotion now!! The curl tool does what it says and curls the guides and hair. One thing to watch out for here is that your guides and hairs have enough segments for smooth curves. Not unless you want the crinkled look.
Here’s a close up of some curls. In this shot there are 50 hair segments and 30 guide segments.
Mirror – Another great time saving tool. You use the mirror tool to mirror guides and their styling to the opposite side. Similar to using symmetry except with symmetry the styling is live as you work on guides on either side. With the mirror tool you would typically hide one sides guides, style the visible side and then mirror the style over.
Symmetry - With symmetry when you style one side with the various tools, things are mirrored on the other side. One thing I think is very clever is that by making a selection of guides the styling isn’t duplicated on the other side provided you have the “selected only” option enabled.
HAIR has its own move, rotate, scale and selection tools. You can’t use the standard tools. The HAIR scale tool is used quite a bit to lengthen or shorten selected guides. After you’ve done some manipulation of the guides like scaling them there’s commands like “Even segments” to even them up. Note that you can see your segments by going into HAIR points mode.
The Hair Split command works like the ordinary split command. With HAIR it splits off the currently selected guides and creates a new hair object. Similarly the Connect Guides command will connect guides together from several HAIR objects.
There are a few other tools to try out like Push, Straighten and a some others. You will find useful commands baked into the HAIR tag such as those that convert splines to guides and vice versa. This is useful if you want to convert imported hair from other applications.
At the heart of HAIR is the hair material. Selecting the hair material brings up its many options in the Attribute Manager or by double clicking you get the floating Material Manager window. This looks intimidating to start with but in practice it is very functional and easy to learn. The thing that really stand out is that you can select the hair object and on the Editor tab change the display to actual hairs as mentioned previously. You have to be careful here because if you have lots of hairs then your CPU can slow down or stop responding. However MAXON thought of this and there’s a detail button to reduce the number of hairs displayed. The effect is that you can see in real time, changes to the hairs like adding frizz, bend, clumping etc. You’ll still need to do test renders to see colour and specular but you won’t need to do nearly so many.
To determine where hairs are on your model you can load in density maps made in Bodypaint or Photoshop. Just a matter of painting in grayscale on your UV mapped model. Many of the hair options can be controlled by texture maps and what’s cool, is these can be animated textures to create some cool animations of hair growing or being cut etc And don’t forget HAIR does more than just creating hair and fur. The thickness option allows you make leaves, grass or trees. It is a simple matter of editing the spline curve as per the image below.
And the rendered image. Skiing anyone? (Ray traced shadows & traced shadows enabled)
In conjunction with the many material settings there are also a number of HAIR rendering options. In the render settings when HAIR is being used a HAIR effect tab appears. This allows for precise control over shadows, hair specific anti-aliasing, lighting and multi-pass options. This is one area of HAIR that will take some time to get to grips with!! Time spent learning these settings could pay big dividends in render time when rendering lengthy animations.
Did I say HAIR makes superb fur? Well it does. To demonstrate using HAIR Material here’s a short video tutorial on making fur.
The rendered furball...
I should also mention that HAIR works superbly with MOCCA’s Clothilde. If your cloth is animated it’s just a matter of caching your cloth animation before applying the Hair material. Sweet!!
Here’s a link to a fun animation where the Wesware head from the Bodypaint Features folder was given a moustache and a “Davy Crockett” Coon Skin Hat. The hat uses Clothilde and has wind blowing it around. The wind on the fur and moustache is done with particle wind.
HAIR Presets/Content Browser
It seems very apparent that MAXON had the HAIR module in mind when they introduced the new Content Browser in 9.5. The module comes with 27 examples and being able to visually select the various example scenes is very slick. (Of course you could do this before with the old Browser but the new Content Browser works much better) These are found under the Presets heading. These scenes and objects are useful to dissect to examine the settings used and you can easily copy materials into your own scene or with the example scene open, drag the hair material into your own Content Browser catalogue.
Hair comes on 2 CD’s. One is the module and documentation and the other is a tutorial CD. It’s worth mentioning this because these are best tutorials by far from MAXON to date. First up is 2 minute 44 second introduction. Then follows 3 great tutorials that introduce you to the basics of HAIR along with some advanced techniques. They soon have you having an absolute ball trying everything out.
The first tutorial of 15 minutes 45 seconds shows you how easy it is to make grass. But wait, there’s more. Not only do you make some great looking grass you can get a lawnmower out and cut it!! The length of the grass is defined by an animated texture map. Just check out the animation.
The second tutorial is 15 minutes 48 seconds long and has you applying fur to a gorilla type monster. In this tutorial you apply fur to the monster. The tutorial has some texture maps made in Bodypaint that define the fur density, fur colour and monster colour. What I found very clever was that all of the maps for defining the fur and colour were all one multi layer psd file. The tutorial shows how to use layer sets to define and control fur density and colour as mentioned. Again, I had a lot of fun with this as the monster is animated and having the fur jiggle around realistically is ever so cool.
Oh yes. The new HAIR module also does great hair!! After doing the first 2 tutorials and giving sphere’s and some of my own creations fur and hair, I got on to the final tutorial on the CD. This 26 minute 28 second tutorial takes you through the whole process of giving a female head some hair and styling and cutting it with the various HAIR tools and commands. I think by the end of this most people should be able to refer to the manual to learn what hasn’t been already covered in the tutorials and by experimentation playing around.
Tutorial 3 – Final render.
By now you might have guessed, the 3 Cafe reviewers were mighty impressed with HAIR. MAXON has done a superb job and especially since this is a version 1 release. It is easy to learn and use. Renders remarkably quickly. The price for US customers is $395 which compares to $399 for Shave and Haircut for Maya, XSI and 3DMax. Shave was previously available for Cinema 4D but is now no longer supported by the developer.
The documentation includes an excellent 220 page pdf manual as well as a tutorial CD. HAIR requires at least 9.5 to run. At the time of writing, MAXON has announced 9.6 along with the Mograph motion graphics module. 9.5 users can upgrade to 9.6 for free. 2006 looks to be a wonderful year for Cinema 4D owners.
A render from one of the Content Browser presets. Elvis maybe?