a few days ago he called me into his office to get my opinion on a video he'd about finished up. it's from an audio interview that i recorded with an a&m professor who's helped with the "discovery" mars rover and the opening of the video had a photograph of mars eclipsing the sun and it looked pretty cool. and it better, since it was a getty images stock photograph that cost $500. he commented how he wished he knew how to recreate something like that in the computer instead of having to buy it.
i thought for a second. given some time in maya, the animation software that we use in the viz lab, i might be able to do something. then i remembered that i'd just downloaded blender, the free animation software, and maybe i could figure out something. then i realized i could do it in after effects, my new best friend and software crush.
using some techniques from a tutorial i'd watched a few months ago even though i didn't see how i'd ever use those skills at my job, i did the following:
- create a star field- generate some fractal noise, crank the brightness, contrast, and a few other settings. suddenly, you've got stars. (hmmm... there might be a little too many there...)
- make a planet- find an unwrapped map of the moon, mars, or any other celestial body (there are actually a few sites i've found that have very high resolution images out there. not sure who else uses them besides me, but thank you), turn it into a sphere and adjust the light on it to look like i'm a stanley kubrick fanboy.
- add a sun- create a white solid. mask out a circle. add a little orange/yellow to the white color make it look like an overexposed gigantic nuclear furnace.
- finishing touches- add a glow effect to the mask/sun. mess with the start/end colors to get them looking right. fuzz the edges of the mask about four pixels to soften it just a bit. add a lens flare and adjust its color curves until you like how it looks.
- realize that the article is about mars and not the moon, and tinting your moon image red is just could to invite the ire of some science nerd who will point out that the martian surface and the lunar surface are distinctly different. click+alt and drag the mars map file to swap it.
- render out a still image to brag about it on your blog.
- total time: about 15-20 minutes; roughly the same amount of time it took me to write this post.
- 0.3 hours x my hourly wage = significantly dang less than $500
it's really not much, but i'm proud of it. : )