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3DPLANTS.COM - 3D BOTANICAL MODELS FOR DESIGN APPLICATIONS

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STREAMLINING COMPLEX LANDSCAPES

CONVERTING 3D MODELS INTO 2D PICTURE OBJECTS

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For this tutorial, I am using Bryce 5, although the same technique can be used in almost any 3D rendering program. Start by setting up your basic scene elements - lighting, camera, terrain, etc...
In this example, I just used the default sky and camera settings
and I created a few basic terrain shapes.
Now import the model that you want to convert into a 2D picture object. For the purposes of this tutorial, I am using tree #05 from the 3dplants.com Plant Model Library - Volume 2.
Place the imported model roughly in the same area of the scene
where you want to place the 2D picture object.
Okay, it's time to turn this tree into a forest. Of course, you could just duplicate the model twenty or thirty times, but that would add a heck of a lot of extra polys to the scene, increasing the file size and load time, and it would probably slow your computer's processor down to a crawl - very frustrating when you're trying to work on a complex scene! Instead, we are going to create a 2D masked picture that we can place in our scene to simulate a 3D object. First we need to render 2 different images of our model...
First, save your camera setting so you can get back to it later...click on one of the "memory dots" next to the nano-preview window in the upper left corner of your Bryce screen. Now do a quick render, draw a marquee around the tree, and click on "Zoom to Selection"
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Set the terrain object attributes to "hidden" to speed up the rendering. Now render the image and save it (select "save image as" from the file menu). It doesn't have to be a high resolution image, especially if it's going to be a distant background object. Now make sure the tree object is selected and render the same image with the "Object Mask" option selected in the render menu. We will use this to create a transparency mask for our 2D picture object. Save this black & white image using the "save image as" option.
Now that we have the two image renders needed to create the masked image, we are ready to create the picture object. This is very easy to do in Bryce...just click on the "2D Picture Object" icon (that little "DaVinci" figure) in the Create Palette at the top of the Bryce screen.

This opens the Pictures Dialogue window. Click on "Load" for the large preview window in the top left corner and select the full color image that you rendered in the previous step. Now click on "Load" for the mask image window (top center) and select the black and white object mask image that you rendered in the last step. Click on the check mark in the bottom right corner to create the 2D Picture Object.

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Resize, rotate, and position the new object as needed (make sure that the front of the image plane is properly oriented to face the camera or it will appear invisible). This image shows the 3D tree and the 2D picture object side by side. With a little experimentation, you can get the picture object to look almost identical to the 3D object!
You can now duplicate the resulting 2D Picture Object twenty...fifty...even 100 times or more without slowing down your computer and ending up with an enormous file size when you save the scene. Keep in mind that this technique works best for scenes that are primarily front-lit, as 2D objects do not cast realistic shadows when lit from the side. Mixing 3D and 2D objects in a scene can give pretty good results - I like to use 3D models in the foreground and transition to 2D Picture objects in the distance.
In this final version of the scene, there are a total of four 3D tree objects - all the rest are 2D picture objects. Click on the image for a larger view.
This technique can make a complex scene much easier to work on by reducing the overall number of polys in the scene, but unfortunately, it won't speed up the render time. Be prepared to let the rendering process run for a few hours, or overnight for complex scenes!

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