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Archive for April, 2007

The Me Sphere

Thursday, April 26th, 2007
The Me Sphere Created with Photoshop and Mojoworld
The Me Sphere Rendered Using Pandromeda Mojoworld

Last time I wrote about my first submission to The Sphere Project at My submission was titled Puzzle Sphere. I have since yanked that submission and replaced it with a new one more to my liking.

Titled The Me Sphere, this new submission uses as the sphere’s material a portrait of myself processed using Adobe Photoshop, a transparency map created in Photoshop, and finally rendered using Pandromeda’s Mojoworld.

The two most interesting aspects of this project were creating the texture and working with the scene lighting. For the texture I took a photograph of myself that I had handy on my hard drive and began to experiment using Photoshop. I went through several iterations to achieve the affect I desired. Next was working with the lighting in Mojoworld. In my original Puzzle Sphere submission, I used the Mojoworld Sun as the lighting source. For this submission I substituted a special effects light with a gel applied to get the multicolored lighting.

I must confess that I find The Me Sphere much more appealing than the Puzzle Sphere – I hope you do to. So go check out The Me Sphere – before I pull it and replace it with something else.

Ad Astra, Jim

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A Puzzle Sphere for the Sphere Project

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
Puzzle Sphere Submitted to The Sphere Project
The Puzzle Sphere Rendered Using Pandromeda Mojoworld

I have known about The Sphere Project at for some time now and would occasionally check out their gallery of submitted spheres. According to, “the Sphere Project is a website dedicated to the evolution of technical and creative 3D sphere design. The purpose is simple; to create the most captivating and visually appealing sphere from our provided scene using your 3D program and renderer of choice.” There are some basic rules that must be followed with regards to the scene and camera settings for submitted images in order to provide a degree of consistency for all submissions.

Last night after dinner I decided to create my own submission for the project. The 3D tools that I have are (alphabetically) Bryce, Lightwave, and Mojoworld. Since Mojoworld is all about creating those spherical bodies known as planets and moons, I opted to use Mojoworld. The inspiration for the design I submitted came from a work I recently submitted to the Fantastic Worlds Contest at 3DCommune. Titled Globalization, that work featured a world with a global city. For my sphere, I replaced the global city with a building-block-like sphere reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube. I titled my entry Puzzle Sphere in keeping with the Rubik’s cube concept.

I had fun creating my entry for The Sphere Project and plan to submit another entry in the near future. In the meantime, check out my Puzzle Sphere (Note: I have deleted this submission and replaced it with The Me Sphere) and if you are a 3D artist, consider adding your own sphere to the collection.

Ad Astra, Jim

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Imaging Mars at Astronomy Day

Saturday, April 14th, 2007
Mars Clouds Over Olympus Mons Mars Global Surveyor
Clouds Over Olympus Mons color composite Mars Global Surveyor picture by Jim Plaxco

I’ve been asked to give my Imaging Mars presentation at the Northwest Suburban Astronomers and Harper College Astronomy Club’s Astronomy Day 2007 event on April 21 2007 at Harper College in Palatine IL. The Northwest Suburban Astronomers have been hosting Astronomy Day events for as long as I have lived in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The first one I attended was back in the mid-1980’s.

This year’s event is being held at Harper College in Palatine. It is free and open to the public. Doors open at 5:30pm. If the weather is clear, telescopes will be set up outside for night sky observing and the college’s observatory will be available as well. I’m happy to say that local chapters of the National Space Society, as well as the NSS itself, played a role in the private fund raising that got this observatory built. Way to go NSS, NISA, CSSS, and CSFSL5.

The center of activities for the evening will be Building Z. Inside there will be displays, telescopes, information tables, a portable planetarium providing sky shows for the kids, and various kid-oriented craft activities. The programming lineup is:

Time Program / Presenter Location
6:00 Black Holes
Gretchen Patti
Room Z119
6:00 Things that go boom in the night
Joe Kabbes
Room Z120
6:00 Your first telescope
Tom Auchter
Room Z118
6:00 Starlab Planetarium Dome
Dave Gore
Room Z130
7:00 Fundamentals of the solar system
Bob Karas
Room Z118
7:00 Imaging Mars
Jim Plaxco
Room Z120
7:00 How to find planets in the sky
Dale Dellutri
Room Z119
7:00 Starlab Planetarium Dome
Dave Gore
Room Z130
8:00 Starlab Planetarium Dome
Dave Gore
Room Z130

Harper College is located northeast of the intersection of Algonquin and Roselle Roads in Palatine IL. In the map below Building Z is marked with a red Z and parking lots 2 and 3 are outlined in red.

Astronomy Day Harper College Map
Map to Harper College for Astronomy Day

To illustrate this post, I used a picture of that great Martian volcano Olympus Mons that I created by combining separate Mars Global Surveyor wide angle camera images. To learn more about Olympus Mons and the picture, see Clouds Over Olympus Mons at the Mars Art Gallery.

Ad Astra, Jim

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Swirly Planetary Rings and Photoshop

Thursday, April 5th, 2007
Planet Rings but no Planet

This is not a tutorial. It is a Not Tutorial. Confused? Hopefully it will all be clear by the time I’m done. More than once I have come across tutorials on how to use Photoshop to create planetary rings. In fact since this is totally Photoshop specific, it will serve as the inaugural posting to a new topic section devoted to Photoshop. While I have mentioned Adobe Photoshop in several previous postings, I have never gone into sufficient detail to warrant creating a Photoshop category – until now.

Back to planetary rings and Photoshop: there is a widely prescribed method for creating rings which I call the swirly clouds method because it relies on Photoshop’s Twirl Tool. Let me give you a quick run through of how these tutorials proceed. We’re not going to worry about the planet. Our focus is on the ring system and how it gets created.

Photoshop Planet Rings Tutorial

  1. Start up Photoshop.
  2. Create a 1000 by 1000 pixel document.
  3. Fill the background layer with black.
  4. Create a new layer named Rings.
  5. Make the Rings layer the active layer.
  6. Filter -> Render -> Clouds
  7. Filter -> Distort -> Twirl using an angle of 999°. Repeat two more times.
  8. Activate the Elliptical Marquee Tool
  9. Position your cursor at the center of the document and click-Alt-Shift to create a centered perfectly circular selection. Drag to the desired inner boundary for your rings, release, and press the Delete key to remove the inner swirly area.
  10. Position your cursor at the center of the document and click-Alt-Shift to create a centered perfectly circular selection. Drag to the desired outer boundary for your rings, release, press Shift-Ctrl-I to invert the selection, and press the Delete key to remove the outer swirly area.
  11. Ctrl-T to activate the Transform tool. Flatten and tilt to create the perspective you want for your planet’s rings.

And that’s all there is to it. Note that following step 10 you could have added noise, color, whatever. Not bad for five minutes work.
But there is a problem, especially if you want your rings to be big. Take a close look at the rings that you have just created and at the rings in the picture below.

Planet Rings Errors

The red dots mark points where the rings appear out of nothing and disappear into nothing. These points are a direct result of using Photoshop’s Twirl Tool to create a circular material. Granted they are not very noticeable but they are noticeable and not at all realistic. Real rings just don’t work like that. While there may not be a quicker way to create rings for your planets, there are better ways.

My advice is if you are serious about your planet’s rings and your rings are going to be large and you come across a Photoshop tutorial that expounds the basic twirly ring methodology: ignore it. Having said that, I will point out that the rings used to illustrate this “not” tutorial were made using the swirly rings method.

Note: It has come to my attention that Internet Explorer is unable to display the numbers for the ordered list used to identify the individual steps in the tutorial. Obviously IE is developmentally challenged. Firefox has no difficulty displaying the numbers

Ad Astra, Jim

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