Medieval History Database - Article : Wood Surface Effects -
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Medieval History Database - Article : Wood Surface Effects

Article : Wood Surface Effects

MHDB Wood Surface Effects

One of the features of the Medieval History Database is a standalone software project which can render 3D models of specific medieval buildings, artwork, and the like. In order to produce as much detail as possible to create a more realistic appearance, this software is designed to overcome some of the normal limitations of 3D rendering. Most 3D software allows the video card to blur out surface textures as the viewer gets closer, since video cards are programmed to do that by default; but this project's software adds tiny details such as wood grain, miniscule bumps, dents, scratches, and the like, thereby increasing the detail as the viewer gets closer rather than the reverse (see the sequence of screenshots at right, which show a sculpture of a lion's head with individual bumps and nicks becoming visible as the software zooms in closer).

Some years ago the software was modified to have the capability of replacing the usual flat "textures" (2D images that are overlaid on the surface of 3D geometry), instead using fully volumetric patterns that can be generated on-the-fly and treated as if they extend through an entire object's volume. This is especially useful for wood, marble, and other materials that have volumetric patterns in real life. For example, below is a screenshot of a wooden relief carving using this graphics technique:


The images at right show an early test of a new method of generating the "textures" that are used to add details on the surfaces of objects. This method uses pixel shaders (programs that run within the video card and operate on every pixel [dot of color] on the surface of a polygon) to mathematically generate patterns - in this case, wood grain - based on the X,Y,Z coordinates so that the wood grain realistically extends through the entire block of wood. This mimics what occurs in nature, which can result in greater realism. It also means that there is no longer any need to try to cover complex geometric surfaces with a flat graphic image, which never works very well and is extremely time-consuming (imagine trying to wrap wallpaper around a statue or other complex object). Procedural generation also reduces memory consumption since there\'s no longer any need to store so many images within the video card.

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