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david van brink // Thu 2008.10.16 23:07 // {pixel bender}

Pixel Bender: Fun With Cubes 1

In which I present instances of a family of closed-cell geometric objects which are computationally trivial to render.

The Concept

Imagine moving a plane through a three dimensional mesh of cubes.


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You start by rotating the plane to your liking. That is, for each pixel on the plane (since that is our rendering reference point) we rotate and translate it as we like, from (x, y, 0) to (x’, y’, z’). To find out which “cell” we’re in, we just look at the integer parts of the prime-coordinates. In the animation above, the cells have been “checkered” by whether their integer coordinates’ sum is even or odd. (Actually, I just used LightWave’s 3d checker texture function. But you get the idea.)

Drawing the checkerboard is easy. Drawing some depth in the cubes is only a little bit trickier. We need a perpendicular vector from the plane, to cast a ray, so we also rotate the perpendicular vector (0,0,1) by the same amount. Then we project that ray from the fractional position within the cell until it hits one of the 6 walls of the cube. Lastly, we give a non-optical depth cue based on how far the intersected wall is.

The Implementation

Here’s the math part of the rotation. There’s probably an easier way to get the 3-axis rotation matrix… But this works.

// concatenate three simple rotations to spinM
float3x3 spinXM = float3x3(1,0,0,0,cos(spin.x),spin.x,0,-sin(spin.x),cos(spin.x));
float3x3 spinYM = float3x3(cos(spin.y),0,sin(spin.y),0,1,0,-sin(spin.y),0,cos(spin.y));
float3x3 spinZM = float3x3(cos(spin.z), sin(spin.z), 0,-sin(spin.z), cos(spin.z), 0, 0, 0, 1 );
float3x3 spinM = spinXM * spinYM * spinZM;

float2 center = float2(400,500) / 2.0; // YUCK! hardcoded for my blog entry.
float2 oc = (outCoord() - center) / zoom; // adjust "input coordinates"

// we rotate the requested coordinate by 3 axes, giving the
// R3 point on the plane of the screen (after the mesh is turnt)
float3 p = float3(oc.x,oc.y,0) * spinM; //oc.x * axis1 + oc.y * axis2;

// perp is our viewing line, straight down from the screen.
float3 perp = float3(0,0,1) * spinM;

Here is an interactive demo of the algorithm, in Flash and Pixel Bender. (I added a full screen button, whee!)


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And here is the Pixel Bender kernel:

/src/pixel_bender/cubes/cubes01.pbk in new window download /src/pixel_bender/cubes/cubes01.pbk to file hide /src/pixel_bender/cubes/cubes01.pbk

And for reference, here is the template for the Flash displayer, compilable by mxmlc.

/src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml in new window download /src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml to file hide /src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml

Flex trivia: stage.addEventListener(FullScreenEvent.FULL_SCREEN,screenChange);
works from mx:Application applicationComplete because the UI and display list is all instanced, but not from mx:Application creationComplete which happens a little bit earlier.

Next up: Suppose we didn’t intersect with a simple plane… !

oh, i dont know. what do you think?

david van brink // Tue 2008.10.14 22:27 // {pixel bender}

Pixel Bender: My First Flash Program

Since I love After Effects, I need to learn Pixel Bender. To talk about Pixel Bender in this blog, it sure is handy that the new Flash Player can show it, live. But first I had to learn Flash. Darn!

So, below is a program written for Flex, compiled with Adobe’s free mxmlc command line tool. Requires Flash 10 (currently in beta). It incorporates a simple Pixel Bender kernel to draw on a rectangular area. It doesn’t use an input image.

For reference, here’s the snippet of Flex code that simply fills in an area with the Bended Pixels:

        // "draw" is the name of a UIComponent instance,
        // and "shader" is a Pixel Bender kernel instance.
        var g:Graphics = draw.graphics;
        var m:Number = 20;
        g.drawRect(m,m,draw.width - 2*m,draw.height - 2*m);

And, below is the swf, live, in action. Click the “animate” checkbox for most fun.


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As you can see, it displays each of the kernel’s numeric parameters as a slider. Since it knows the min- and max- of each parameter, we can randomize and animate them, which is much more fun that twiddling the slider by hand, yes? It also suggests some of the possibilities when animated in After Effects CS4.

Importantly, this Flex program discerns the parameter values and ranges at run time, so you can pop in another kernel, recompile, and play some more.

Here’s the kernel code. Just a bunch of Math fun… really it was just to test out the Flash displayer, but it came out kind of psychedelic.

/src/pixel_bender/cubes/flatGenerator.pbk in new window download /src/pixel_bender/cubes/flatGenerator.pbk to file hide /src/pixel_bender/cubes/flatGenerator.pbk

And here’s the Flex program. To pop in our own kernel, just alter the Embed line.

/src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml in new window download /src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml to file hide /src/pixel_bender/cubes/pbTemplate.mxml

Stay tuned for some Fun With Cubes.

oh, i dont know. what do you think?

david van brink // Thu 2008.09.25 08:19 // {after effects}

Pixel Bender: Flash vs After Effects

This blog usually isn’t for industry commentary and such, but you know, when Adobe starts moving the pixels around in new ways I do get excited.

Adobe’s “Pixel Bender” framework — which facilitates fast, cross-platform, single-frame image-processing filters — will be available in Flash and After Effects, and presumably other imaging apps as well. (It should be useful in Photoshop and Illustrator and Premiere.)

Adobe developer Tinic Uro reveals some important differences between Flash 10’s support, and After Effects’.

In particular, on Flash, a Pixel Bender filter runs on the host CPU, not the graphics card! But not to worry, they’re still mighty fast; they’re compiled to native Intel code on the fly. Ah, right, yes, they’ll be slooow on PPC Macintoshes. So it goes.

On After Effects, however, they’ll run on the GPU.

Couple of relevant links:

Adobe Flash 10 beta download
Adobe Pixel Bender Toolkit download
Mr Doob, some guy with a lot of cool Pixel Bender examples (found via AEPortal, thanks!)
Pixelero’s cool examples, too (also via aeportal)

oh, i dont know. what do you think?

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