2D From a 3D World

March 29, 2019

I saw the new Disney movie Dumbo last night.  While I completely understand the complexity of CGI (having been a computer programmer and photographer), I don't think I have the patience to do what those professionals do.

Since being stricken with myasthenia gravis I have been dabbling with 3D on my computer.  Not that I am even remotely interested in doing animation.  I'm more interested in creating 3D worlds and then moving the virtual camera around looking for that best shot.  (It's something I can do with minimal muscle movement, and when I'm suffering from cognitive dysfunction (brain fog).

There are lots of tools out there, but I started off shortly after I got sick with Poser because I was growing tired of watching TV from my bed.  I then downloaded a free program called DAZ3D Studio.  Both are pretty amazing, and while there are programs like Maya that are even more amazing, I can create some pretty real looking stuff.  (It takes me days, and sometimes weeks because of my physical and mental state.)

I used to be able to grab my camera and go for a walk... sometimes a very long walk.  I can't do that any more.  Instead I create a 3D scene, move the camera around and get the best "shot".

Here's an example.  Tinkerbell here is a getting a little bored waiting for her curtain call...

Moving the Virtual Camera

While I did that one so I could specifically get the shadow on the curtains, I wanted to see what another camera angle looks like.  (And, I can also move lights, add more lights, put gels on them, and do everything I could do in the real world... only virtually from my tablet.)

It's not photography... it's a digital art form.

The people start off standing with their legs slightly apart and arms straight out.  I call it the T-position.  Then, using a gimbal-like icon on the screen I have to bend, twist, rotate each body part.  My first few attempts were met with frustration.  Unlike real people, a digital person can rotate their arm so many times it ends up looking like a flesh Twizzler. 

That's not good.

In fact, you can see a mistake in the above drawing.  Look to the right of her hip.  Notice the flesh fold is very abrupt.  Yeah, I didn't catch that until now.  There's also a very slight wardrobe malfunction, bet let's not talk about its location.

Lighting Gets Tricky

In photography you can see where the lights are.  While you kind of can see some lights, they aren't really there.  It's a computer algorithm creating light and dark on your digital scene.  Because you can't visualize the light, you have to do what is called a "render" to see the effect of these algorithms on your characters.

It requires an understanding of luminance, umbra, penumbra, law of the inverse square, distance to subject relationship and more.  It makes me wish I had this BEFORE I started doing photography.  I definitely understand light even more now that I've been dinking around with this for a year.


I do get frustrated because my health only allows me a little bit of "play time" each day.  While this isn't physically, mentally or emotionally exhausting, brain fog gets in the way of my seeing results.  (And, typing stuff like this is the hardest part.  It can take me most of a day to get a coherent email or blog post put together.  Hence, you don't see many these days.)


It's therapy.  I can't go work in the yard, so repairs around the house, or even go for a bike ride anymore.  This keeps me from feeling totally useless.  While I'm not sure how "useful" my creations are, I do take some pleasure sharing them with other digital artists.  It's nice to hear their feedback.  And, I feel like I'm at least learning something.

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