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Distribution Mapping and Surface Replication in Carrara

Author: thedanman

Tools Needed

* Carrara 5

* Carrara 5 Pro

* 2D Graphics Program

Support Files

* ****


Using the surface replicator can save you hundreds of hours of work, however sometimes it may be tricky to replicate objects in the right locations. Here is a trick called distribution mapping to give you more control over where the surface replicator places your object instances.


Step 1 - Setting up your scene basics

To construct a simple tutorial illustrating distribution mapping we will create a smiley face distribution of palm trees on a simple flat terrain. To set up a simple scene I created a terrain and “cleared” it to being flat. I also inserted one instance of a preset palm tree. These are the basic elements that you will need in your scene. These two images show you how to level out your terrain:



Step 2 - Creating a distribution map

Using a 2D photo or paint program such as Photoshop or equivalent create a 2D distribution map by painting white one black. The higher the resolution your map is, the more detail you will be able to contain. For this project I used a 1024 x 1024 map. Any white will be where the replicated object will be placed, the more grey the less so, and at black none at all. If you use a brush with a lot of feathering you will get a tapered distribution along the edges of your mapping. Save this simply as a image file of your preference.


Step 3 - Creating a surface replicator

Return to Carrara and to your scene and create a “surface replicator” into your scene. This can be done as shown:


You will need to configure your surface replicator, and this can be done by double clicking its instance name which will show you the window as seen below. You will want to set your “Source Object” as your Terrain, the “Replicated Object” as your Palm Tree, and then click on the “Edit Shader” button to the right under “Object distribution”


Step 4 - Configuring the distribution shader

After clicking “edit shader” you will be launched into the distribution shader window. Change the shading to “Flat Mapping” and set the orientation to the top face. Add a Texture map to the flat mapping and load your 2D distribution map that you created and saved.


When you are finished switch back to your scene and double click back on the surface replicator instance. You will now have loaded your distribution map and are ready to distribute your instances. Ramp up the number of instances (in this tutorial file I set it at 3000). Click the “Distribute” button and watch the real-time preview to ensure the accuracy of your mapping.


Step 5 - Rendering and conclusion

Carrara surprising does an amazing job on rendering speeds even for dense distributions which is a friendly feature. Remember to scale your objects (in this case the palm trees) to a relatively small size since your distribution map won't contain that much detail. You can experiment by assigning multiple layers to multiple domains, or creating cloud distributions to transparent terrains. Good luck, hope this helps you understand using the surface replicator better, and happy rendering!