Thursday, October 21, 2010

First brainstorm...

... and first post!

I've been thinking about creating a general virtual environment creator/editor for quite some time now. Since about 2003 I've been working on various incarnations of these ideas: at first on Windows using Visual Studio 6, MFC and DirectX, then using .NET and managed DirectX, followed by a mixture of .NET for the GUI and C++/Ogre3d for the rendering engine. The last version "kind of works", but I do not like the resulting workflow (in another post I will iterate what works and what does not work). Recently I have been watching presentations and seminars from sceners (mainly Smash/FLT, Navis/ASD) about their workflow, and ofcourse I have been trying out demo editors from other demogroups (e.g. Moppi, Stravaganza, Spontz, Farbrausch, Conspiracy). I decided to start a blog to help me sort out some ideas that I have been juggling around in my brain: I want to restart my coding efforts one last time; but doing it properly this time. Meaning: platform independent, using mature open-source components as much as possible, plugin based, and with a node-and-timeline-based compositing GUI. Below are my first sketches of such a tool:

On this page you can see the initial ideas I had for the editor. The most important doodles on this page are the three views that the GUI presents: node view, timeline view, and tree view. A fourth view, the spline view, was omitted here but will be implemented/ported.

The second page shows two conceptual layouts of the tool: the one on the left shows a spline editor, timeline compositing view, timeline controller (play/pause/loop etc), a 3d preview panel, a parameter editor panel, and an information panel. The right conceptual layout shows where the node compositing view would fit in.

The last page shows a rough overview of the classes that must be implemented in C++. Some of these classes (Item, Parameter, ParameterManager, and so on) already exist and are more or less usable (minor refactoring and optimization needed). Basically the current C++ engine component implements timeline based compositing using modules, which have parameters + parametergroups, that can be animated using splines. Compositions can be saved and loaded into a binary format (this will be extended with an option to export and import XML for debugging purpose). So the engine component 'only' needs to be extended with the 'node based compositing' part, which is what this page is all about.

In the following days I will post some ramblings about the current tool and it's GUI, and the GUI framework that I intend to use (Qt) and some ideas on that. Over the next few weeks I will slowly start the porting process- even though I already have a development environment setup on my Shiny New Macbook Pro and did some compilation tests for the graphics rendering component used (Ogre3d), due to my daytime occupation of being a grad student, in the past few weeks I've not had any spare time to waste. Gone are the days where I could do a graduate study with less than 10 hrs of effort... Sometimes I do miss my >60hrs coding stints ;-)

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