Mandelbulb 3D Tutorial 5: Tips and Tricks

10 min read

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HalTenny's avatar
From time to time, I still manage to stumble across new 'tricks' in MB3D. I'm sure some of the following tips are known to others, but for those that haven't discovered them, I hope they will help in the future. Some of these were discovered accidentally, others were found through desperation while trying to solve problems.

The first one is very simple and just a little bit of a time saver.

Loading Diff maps ~

This was discovered by accident. It may be well know for all I know, but I just recently discovered it. In the light panel under the Global light tab, there is a box you select to load a diffuse map (Diff map). This is used to color your image in different ways, such as making it look like the structures surface is textured. Normally you simply select the box (Use a map for the diffuse color) and the number one map in your folder loads. If you want to change a map, you just scroll with the up\down arrows to a different image number or input a number if you know which map number you want.

Many people have hundreds of maps, and that could take a while to get to a certain image, particularly if you don't have your map numbers memorized. So I used to have the map folder open in another window so I could visually look through the images to select certain ones by direct input of the corresponding map number instead of scrolling through them. However, there's an even easier way.

After you selected the use Diff map option, simply right click where the map number is displayed and this opens your maps folder so you can quickly find a certain map when you can't remember the number. Click on that map and it loads. How cool is that?

Taming your windows ~

Okay, I admit I felt a little stupid when I figured this one out. Fact is, for a long while I thought it was a bug or something broken. Every time I opened MB3D, I had to arrange my windows where I wanted them because they were sticking to the side of the main window. And then, even after arranging them the way I wanted, they would snap right back to sticking to the side of the main window if I moved it a tiny bit or resized it. Or when I opened the Post process window.

What I didn't realize is that on the top right of the main window, you can right click on each of the tabs, Formulas, Lighting and Post process, and select, "Do not make this window sticky". Now if you arrange your windows the way you want them, the next time you open MB3D, they will all be right where you positioned them during your last session. This is probably something that everyone knew but me!

Taming the Navi window ~

This one may not be necessary most of the time, but it almost always works. I believe it's quite normal to make several changes in the Navi window while tweaking, and finding something nice, you decide you want a closer look at. So you decide to zoom in and boom, your newly discovered structures and shapes disappear, and an incomprehensible number appears in the zoom field. (Top left of the bottom section of your Navi window.) Something like 69e59268 or what ever. Sometimes the zoom field numbers even turn red. I believe this only happens when "Fixed zoom and steps" is not checked! You probably say, "Oh shit!" when this happens. I know I do, and even worse. Never fear, all is not lost.

First, the reason I said this may not be necessary most of the time, is because you should always, always, always, (did I mention always?) save your Navi view to the main window the instant you find something you like. And then save it to file! Or if you're one of those that use the animation editor to save parameters, you can do that too. The point being, if you save it before zooming, then you don't  have to worry about the Navi window misbehaving.

However, if you're one of those that lives on the edge, you probably don't bother saving before zooming, or you just forget. So if this thing happens to you, and your image disappears,  (and you didn't save it) just simply select the "Fixed zoom and steps" box at the bottom right of the Navi window. Now click and hold down the bottom arrow button just to the left of where the zoom value is displayed in the Navi window. (Top left of the bottom section). You should now see the numbers scrolling and eventually your image will reappear. This works even when the zoom value is in the red. But it will not work if the zoom value say's 'inf'. You may have to hold that arrow button down anywhere from 15 to 20 seconds or even longer.

Volumetric Light trick ~

The reason I call this one a trick is because I haven't fully explored or tested this. I've only used it on one image and only just discovered it yesterday. This trick is kind of a two part trick. 

I like VL. I use it quite a bit, but sometimes there are annoying nuances to it that make me decide no to use it. By the way, this strictly concerns the use of a positional volumetric light, not a global. (Though it may very well work with a global light as well, as I said, not fully tested yet).

The first thing I want to cover is that often, in order to get some good, strong VL rays, the light itself overwhelms the area where the positional light is placed. Obviously this can be adjusted buy reducing the intensity of the light, but this also weakens the light rays. So many times you either have to accept the 'hot spots' the VL creates, or settle for a less intense VL effect. As you can see in the image below, the VL effect is intense, and the surrounding area is brightly lit. This one actually isn't too bad, but I still didn't want the bright lighting close to the positional light. The positional light is inside the tube like shape near the bottom center. See image below:

2-12-1-i2-vl-on-1280 by HalTenny

So here's a very simple way to over come this. Get your positional light set up where you want it and get your VL set to put out what ever strength rays you want. Don't worry about anything else. Preview render it a few times, adjust it and get it just right. Now here comes the really neat part. In your lighting panel, select which ever light you have the VL assigned to, and turn it off. Don't turn off the VL, just turn off the light itself! Below is what you will get.

In Search Of by HalTenny

All that overwhelming light from the VL is gone. I just think that's cool. As I said, in this image the reflecting light from the VL wasn't too bad from the positional light. But sometimes it can be overwhelming! Now if you just want a little reflecting light that would seem to come from the VL, you can add another positional light to set just the right amount of glow you want instead of the overly bright area created from the VL.

Now there are some precautions to take when you do this. And this covers the second part of this. First, obviously, you have to calculate the VL at least once for the initial VL rays to show. After you have calculated it once, you can then turn the light off. But, if you do turn the light off, no further changes to the VL will be calculated. You can't change the intensity of the light itself or move it, because it's turned off. You can increase and decrease the Dynamic fog though to strengthen and weaken the light rays. Also, and this is very important, if you want to save the image parameters with the light turned off, but with the VL still calculated, you have to save it as a .m3i, not as a m3p.

Also of note is that you can actually load this into the Navi window and do further tweaking, then transfer it back to the main window and the same exact VL will be shown. Needles to say, if you make drastic changes when you tweak it in the Navi window, then the VL effect may not fit the new tweak at all. You should really only do minor tweaking if you do that.

And here's the best part about the whole thing. Once you have the VL calculated, and then turn the positional light off, each time you recalculate the image in the main window, the VL doesn't have to recalculate, so the preview is much quicker. This is particularly useful if you change color palettes, or Diff maps or anything else after you get your VL set. And as I said you can even do minor tweaking in your Navi window and not have to recalculate VL. However, when you raise the resolution for your final render, you have to turn the light back on because the VL map will not fit the higher resolution image. So all that playing around has to be used with caution. It's mainly to save time while making changes in the preview of images. After a high resolution render, the light the VL is assigned to can still be turned off. but you should remember to save that as a .m3i...

That's about all for this one. As always, you can note me with specific questions about MB3D any time. I'll try to help if I can.

EDIT: It was incorrect when I said you had to recalculate the VL when rendering a higher resolution image. You do not have to recalculate the VL for a higher res image, the stored VL map scales up fine without recalculating. Tested and confirmed...

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Fractalpilot's avatar
Open The Pod Bay HAL! I lost my keys....
Oh TENNY has them in HIS TUTS!