Imagine 3.0 Tutorial

TUTORIAL for 3-D FONT construction in Imagine

by Carmen Rizzolo

NOTICE: This tutorial assumes you are familiar with the provided
Imagine manuals, and understand them. - KIDDING!!!

Almost all of the 3-D work I do professionally deals with "Logo
Treatments" or 3-D titles. Obviously, knowledge of how to make
clean, sharp 3-D letters is helpful. The following is a
step-by-step tutorial of how construct 3-D lettering.

STEP 1: Painting your text

Start your Imagine project. Let's say you named your
project "3D-Text" (Without the quotes). Imagine then
creates a drawer called "3D-Text.imp" in the same directory
that Imagine is located in unless otherwise specified.
After the "??.imp" drawer is created, go into a directory
utility and look inside your "??.imp" drawer. You'll see
a drawer named "objects" and your rendering sub-project drawer
if you've made one it yet. Add another drawer and call it "brushes".

Boot up your 2-D paint program. Select Hi-Res in 2 colours.
Pull up your font requestor and choose a nice big font.
I like to use fonts that are AT LEAST 75 points in size.
Scalable fonts are wonderful for this purpose. If you don't
have access to large fonts, fetch the biggest font you have and
grab it as a brush. Double the size of your brush and clean
up the jaggies (Figure 1). A larger IFF image will mean
less clean-uptime in Imagine, and a more accurate object.
I usually use an image twice as big as the doubled image
in Figure 1, but this is not manditory. Move the image of
your text to the farthest upper-left of the screen as possible.
Once converted to an object, the axis will be where the very
top-left pixel is of your image. Save your image as a PICTURE,
not a brush for good measure. Sometimes, Imagine doesn't like
objects that "Convert IFF/ILBM" makes from brushes. I think the
problem originates from the type of hard-drive controller you
may have. It is good practice to save this picture in your
newly created "brushes" drawer, where you can also store
images for brush mapping/wrapping. Exit your 2-D paint program.

STEP 2: Converting IFF to an outline object and cleaning up

Back in Imagine, enter the Detail Editor and use the
"Convert IFF/ILBM" item under the "object" pulldown menu and
select your text image. Imagine will then convert your Image
to an object with an out-lined representation of your image.
There are no faces on the object yet. Only points and edges.
It's now time to clean up the object. You will have two main

1. adjust curved edges and evenly distribute the points on curves
(Figure 2).
2. level off straight edges and make sure that straight lines
only have two points (Figure 2).

To move points around, simply select "Drag Points" mode and
drag the points where you wish them to be. Occasionally, a line
that is supposed to be straight will have an extra point or two
in it, creating a crooked line. To correct this, enter "Add Lines"
mode. Click once on the point at one end of the preferred straight
line, and again at the other end of the line. Now use the
"Pick Points" mode and select all the undesired points between
the line's two end-points and delete them. In most cases, curves
will not look smooth enough because too few points were given to it.
To add a point to a line, go into "Pick Edges" mode and select
a line thatneeds another point by clicking on the points on each
end of the line. Then select the function "Fracture" to create
another point in the middle of the selected line. Now you can
go back to "Drag Points" mode and re-distribute the points and
efficiently smooth out the curve. The closer the font will be
to the camera in your renderings, the more points your curves
should have assigned to it. If your curve doesn't have enough
points in it, the curve will have unwanted dents or "corners"
in it where edges intersect (Figure 2).

STEP 3: To phong or not to phong

Save your outlined object.
Make a copy of your outlined object by selecting it, then select
"Copy" then "Paste" under the "object" pulldown menu. Now there
are two of your outlined objects, although they take up the same
space. Most letters and numbers have both straight and curved
edges (Figure 3). Some edges we will assign "phong" shading to,
while others we will not use phong. Phong shading helps to smooth
out curves to make them appear to be true curves. Phong shading
does not work well with sharp angles because it tries to curve out
all corners.Since an object cannot contain both phong and non-phonged
surfaces, we have two seperate objects. Mentally determine which
edges have curves, and which are only straights and sharp corners.
Look at Figure 3. Note that the main stem of the T is phonged.
Even though it is mainly a straight edge, the bottom curves out
into the foot or "serrif" of the T so that edge should be phonged.
Select one of the two copies of the outlined text. Be sure you
have NOT extruded anything yet. Go into "Pick Points" mode and
delete all points that belong to a phonged edge. See Figure 4.
Select the other of the two objects and delete all that belong
to non- phonged edges. Use the Amiga-N key comination yo cycle
through your objects to make certian that no objects share edges
in the same place (Note: it is acceptable for the two objects
to share POINTS in the same space, especially where a phonged
edge meets a straight edge). Go into the attributes of the
non-phonged outline object (Select it, then press F7) and turn
off the PHONG button.

Make a copy of your "phonged" outline object. Now look for sharp
edges that will not look good if the phong shading tries to round
it out (Figure 3). Mentally note where you must seperate the
objects at these intersections. Remember, both phonged objects
points must share the same space where the intersection will be
broken. For this reason, we are not using the "SPLIT" feature,
but duplicating and trimming the objects into what we need.
Now use the Amiga-N key combination to cycle through all your
objects and make sure that neither of your phonged outline objects
share edges in the same place.

Extrude all three objects (1. The non-phonged outline, the phonged
outline, and the other phonged outline used to eliminate sharp edges).
Use the default settings for now. If you wish the objects to be
thicker or thinner, you can multi-select them all and size them later.
After extruding, multi-select both of the phonged objects and use
the JOIN function (NOT, I repeat, NOT MERGE!). Not GROUP
(NOT JOIN OR MERGE) the phonged and non-phonged objects and
save them under a different name than your original outlined object.
Delete all objects (from the screen, NOT THE DISK!!)

STEP 4: Slice is your friend

Load up your original outlined object. If you have limited memory
resources, you must enter the "Add Faces" mode and do so, filling
all the desired areas in the text with triangular faces. If you're
blessed with 3 or 10 MEGS, use SLICE. If you're familiar with SLICE,
skip to the next paragraph. If not, READ ON, PIONEER! Extrude the
outlined object using default values. ADD a plane object. your
plane does not have to be riddled with small faces if your text is
simple. For something as simple as the letters in "Hello" you can
use the default values of 10x10 sections of faces. Be sure your
plane is upright, just like your newly extruded text.

Position your plane so that it is surrounding the text in the
front view, and "cutting" through it in the top and right views.
Be sure the edges of the plane in the front view isn't too close
to any edges of your text. You can be liberal in your (plane)
scaling here. I think SLICE doesn't like it if the axis of your
plane and your text are touching in any view, so I usually move
the plane up and to the left if the text axis happens to be
centered. This might be my Imagination, but it doesn't hurt.
Multi-select both the plane and your text. Now select SLICE.
If nothing went wrong, you should now have an additional axis on
the screen with all scraps grouped to it. Select the axis, select
Un-Group and delete the axis. Now delete all the unwanted trimmings
from your slice. This includes "holes" in O's and lower-case e's, etc.
Not bad, eh? Go into your trimmed object's attributes
and turn off phong. Save your object (Don't write over your
sides object!)

STEP 5: Almost done!

Load the Sides object from the end of step 3. Un-Group the phonged
from the phonged sides. ADD an AXIS. Move the axis to the center
of your text objects. Select the AXIS, then select all of your text
"parts" (or use Select All in the menu) and GROUP. If you plan on
viewing the back of your text, make a copy of the front object and
move it to the back. In order to insure seamless grouping, zoom
all the way in when positioning your back object. As long as you
did not move (re-position) any objects in the course of this tutorial,
your front and sides shold already group seamlessly for your renderings.
Be sure your back object is grouped with the rest of the bunch.
Select your main AXIS in Pick Groups mode (<-IMPORTANT!) then
save your final object. You now have an object that has professionally
clean sides, and the front of your text is grouped, not joined, so
changing the attributes will be a simple operation.

That's all there is to it! I did not cover beveling techniques because
that's a whole different story! Also there are several ways to bevel text,
most of which can make the 3-D font creation take twice as long to make!

Thanks for excusing any spelling errors in this document. For those
lucky folks with a DCTV or any other 24-bit device, this 3-D font
technique will really shine on their monitor. Till next time!

Carmen Rizzolo

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Last updated 07/10/06