1. Art of Illusion Basics
Art of Illusion (AoI) is a program for creating high quality,
(or non-photorealistic) still images and animations (either in .mov
format or as a sequence of
still frames which can be joined together using other software to make
movie files). Images are produced by rendering scene files. These scene
files need to contain some 3-D objects, at least one light (or some
form of global illumination) so that the
objects can be seen and at least one camera, the view from which
provides the image. Complex scenes may contain many hundreds of objects
and several lights. Files built for animation may have several cameras
between which the view is cut to make for an interesting animation
3-D objects come in 4 basic flavours: Primitives, spline meshes,
triangle meshes and tubes, all of which are described in detail later
in this manual. Art of Illusion has highly flexible, but easy
to use, editors for textures (surface properties such as colour,
bumpiness, shininess, transparency etc.)
and materials (inner properties for simulating glass, smoke etc.).
Animation of objects within the scene is achieved with a keyframing
system including support for
skeletons using forward and inverse kinematic animation. Textures can
also be animated.
Rendering of the scene file is achieved with a fast raster engine or a
high quality raytracer
capable of producing photorealistic images. Motion blur, depth of
field, Global Illumination and caustic
effects are supported.
In addition, Art of Illusion includes a scripting feature allowing the
creation of new types of
objects and tools amongst virtually unlimited other possibilities via
the Beanshell scripting language.
Plugins and scripts are also available that allow additional objects
and tools - see the Scripts and Plugin Manager for details of how to
find and install these. This manual only details the basic
program - please refer to developers documentation for their own
scripts and plugins.
A good place to start, unless you want to read the whole manual first,
are the tutorials located at the Art of Illusion web site (www.artofillusion.org).
The hourglass tutorial gives an excellent introduction to using the
program and useful details on the texture/material support and meshes
are also available in other tutorials.
1.2 Getting Started
1.2.1 Main Screen Layout
The screenshot below shows the main window:
Note that since version 1.8, Art of Illusion uses a UI based on Java
Swing. This means that the
'Look and Feel' of the interface can be customised to a certain extent.
There are many Look and Feels
available as downloads from the internet (e.g. www.javootoo.com). To
set one to work with AoI, you
need to create a simple Startup Script (see here for
details). Also, since version 2.5, plugins can alter the
display, icons etc. See the DisplayModelIcons
downloadable through the Scripts
and Plugins Manager - these plugins will transform the above
into a display like this:
The main window is divided into
several area: the 4 interactive view
windows, the Object List
and the Object Properties
Panel, and the tool icons,
each of which are described in detail below. The animation
score can also be displayed - see the animation
section for details. The side panels are dockable so that the
display can be configured as required - simply drag the top bar of the
Object List, the Properties Panel or the Score to move the panel to the
top, bottom or sides of the display.
1.2.2 View Windows
The 4 windows in the main part of the screen show different views of
the scene. By default, the two upper windows and the lower left window
show parallel or orthogonal views of the front, side and top
respectively and the lower right window shows a perspective view from
the currently-selected camera. These views can be easily altered using
the drop-down menus at the top of each view window.
The window with 'focus' or the selected window is the one with the
thicker outline (the upper left
window in the example screenshot above). This is relevant for any
operations that work on single view windows. To change the selected
window, simply move the cursor to the required window and click.
All view windows can be panned, zoomed and rotated independently using
the camera controls:
or by using keyboard shortcuts:
Click left on
then drag in the view window whilst holding the left mouse button
Hold down the right mouse button and drag in any view window.
Select Pan mode by clicking on
then hold down CTRL while
dragging the right mouse button up (zoom out) or
down (zoom in) or
Use the scroll
wheel - scrolling down zooms in and scrolling up zooms
out. Holding down ALT while using the scroll wheel zooms
Magnification of parallel views can also be accomplished by
appropriate magnification level from the drop-down menu at the top of
each view window.
Rotation of each view window is achieved
by clicking on
and then dragging in the relevant view window whilst holding the left
mouse button. Holding SHIFT while dragging constrains
the rotation to a vertical axis and holding CTRL
rotates the view about the axis perpendicular to the screen.
Alternatively, rotation can be performed by holding down the
while dragging with the mouse. The SHIFT and CTRL modifiers also work
objects are selected,
the centre of the rotation will be at the centre of that selection.
Rotating any of the fixed-view windows (i.e. front, side and top) means
that that view no longer shows that fixed view and thus the name for
that view changes to 'other'. Selecting the appropriate view name from
the drop-down list will restore the default view.
If there is more than one camera in the scene, it is possible to see
the view from any of them by selecting the appropriate one from the
drop down list. Likewise, if you have any directional lights or spot lights
in the scene, the drop down list includes options to view the scene from their
perspectives. This is useful for aiming lights.
If you find it easier to work with one large window, select Scene
-> One View
from the top menu bar and the currently selected window will fill the
One other thing that you need to know is the orientation of the
coordinate system used, as this varies between 3D programs. Art of
Illusion uses a right-handed coordinate system - when
the positive x-axis points right and the positive y-axis points up, the
points out of the monitor. If you are facing front, the y-axis is up
and down, x is left and right and z is forward and backward. The axes
for the default viewports are thus as follows:
Sometimes it is useful to be able to quickly visualise the whole scene
or a selected object within
the view windows. This is achieved through Scene ->
Frame Selection with Camera, which adjusts
the zoom and centering of the non-camera view windows so that the
selected objects just fit within them,
and Scene -> Frame Scene with Camera which
similarly fits the whole scene into the windows.
1.2.3 Display Mode
There are 6 possible ways in which to view the scene in real time: Wireframe
preview, Shaded preview, Smooth
preview, Textured preview, Transparent preview, and Rendered preview.
The type of preview is selected from the top menu bar Scene
-> Display Mode ->
and affects the
view window with 'focus'. The difference between them is shown in the
The choice of preview mode affects performance of real time camera
movements with speed potentially decreasing from Wireframe ->
Shaded -> Smooth -> Textured -> Rendered.
Depending on the specifications of the computer being used, this will
be more noticeable on complex scenes. The preview type can be set
independently for each view window.
Note that Shaded and Smooth previews show colours which match, albeit
in a simplistic way, the textures assigned to each object. The Textured
preview gives a closer representation of the
actual textures, and Rendered preview shows exactly what the objects will really
look like. See textures_and_materials
for more detail.
At the upper left of the screen are the icons for quick selection of
common tools. They allow you create new objects and to move, rotate and
scale existing objects. Resting the cursor
over the icons will bring up a tooltip to describe its function.
image on the right gives a brief description of each icon and the tools
themselves are explained in more detail in relevant sections of this
For each tool used, there is a line of text at the bottom of the screen
which briefly describes
With the Move tool and Rotate tool, objects can be moved one pixel at a
time with the keyboard arrow keys and 10 pixels at a time when the ALT
key is used with the arrow keys.
The Move/Scale/Rotate tool provides a collection of controls for moving, scaling,
and rotating the selected objects without needing to change tools. It is
described in detail in the section on
The Spacebar can
be used to quickly switch between tools; pressing it will toggle
selection between the default tool (either Move or Move/Scale/Rotate, depending
on your preference settings) and the last tool used.
1.2.5 Object List and
Finally, on the right hand side of the main screen are the Object List
(at the top bu default) and Object Properties Panel (at the bottom by
Not surprisingly, the Object List
is a list of all the objects, including cameras
and lights, in the scene. Objects can be selected from this list for
editing simply by clicking on them. To select more than one object,
hold down the <ctrl> key while clicking or, to
select a range, click on an object and <shift> click on
another to select all the objects
Some types of object (e.g. curves, splines and meshes) allow editing
additional to the standard move, scale and rotate. Double-clicking on
objects in the Object List opens up the relevant editing tool (see editing_objects).
This list also allows the hierarchical arrangement of objects so that a
number of objects can be 'children' of other objects. Moving, scaling
and rotating 'parent' objects can result in the children objects also
being transformed depending on the tool setting (see Transforming
Objects). An object can be made a child of another object by
clicking on it and dragging it underneath the intended parent. An
arrowed bar shows the position of the object in the list. Indentation
of this bar indicates that the object can become a child of the object
above it in the list. Releasing the mouse button causes this to happen
and the parent object then has a down arrow displayed next to it to
indicate this hierarchy. Clicking on this arrow hides the children and
the arrow changes to a right pointing arrow.
Arranging a parent-child hierarchy between objects can also be useful
example on the left, the object hierarchy for a toothpaste tube
scene is given. In this case, 'toothpaste' and 'lid' are children of
'toothpaste tube' and 'lid end' is a child of 'lid'. Transformations
made to 'toothpaste tube' can be set so as to affect all the objects
mentioned, whereas those applied to 'lid' can affect only 'lid' and
If required, the Object List can be hidden from view by selecting Scene
-> Hide Object List.
Right-clicking on objects in the Object List displays a menu of
operations available for that object
including various editing
tools, application of texture and materials
and the ability to hide/show
that object. The options are also available via a
context menu which can be brought up by right clicking objects directly
in the view windows.
The Object Properties Panel shows the various editable properties for
the currently selected objects as shown in the example below.
properties that appear in this pane depend on the type of object(s)
selected. In this example, the properties for a sphere object
are displayed and can be edited.
The Position and Orientation values can be entered directly and the
texture and material can be set.
The X, Y and Z radii of the object can also be set directly in the
relevant text fields or can be altered via the control knobs to the
right of each. To operate these, move the cursor over the
knob and hold down the left mouse button while dragging left or right.
To effect larger changes in value, the ALT key can be
depressed while dragging.
1.2.6 Hiding/Showing Objects
It is sometimes useful to be able to hide objects from view, for
example in a complicated scene where some objects overlay those you
wish to work on. To hide objects, select them and click on Object
-> Hide Selection. Alternatively right click the
selection in the Object List or the object itself in one of the view
windows and choose Hide
Selection. This will also hide them in the
rendered image which is useful when you just want
to test the rendering of certain objects. Hidden objects are shown as
grey in the Object List.
To show objects again, select them and click on Object
-> Show Selection or right click the object(s) in the
Object List or in the view windows and select Show Selection.
1.2.7 Locking/Unlocking Objects
Another useful tool when you want to work on just a few objects is to lock other
objects. When an object is locked, all clicks on it in the view are ignored.
It is still visible (unlike when you hide it), but in all other ways it behaves
as if it were not there. To hide objects, select them and click on Object
-> Lock Selection. Alternatively right click the
selection in the Object List or the object itself in one of the view
windows and choose Lock
To unlock objects again, select them in the Object List (because of course you can't
select them in the view) and click on Object
-> Unlock Selection or right click the object(s) in the
Object List and select Unlock Selection.
It is often helpful to be able to position objects accurately and
switching on the grid will aid this. The grid is activated via Scene
-> Grids which brings up the following dialogue box:
||The grid spacing determines the spacing between the
lines of the grid
seen in each window.
To actually see the grid, you need to tick the Show Grid box.
It is also possible to activate a Snap to Grid mode
which forces objects to be positioned at discrete locations rather than
allowing complete freedom of movement. Tick the Snap to Grid
box to enable this and enter the relevant number of Snap-to-Subdivisions.
This is the number of uniformly distributed allowable positions within
each grid square. So, the higher this number, the more freedom of
movement there is. In the example on the left, objects will snap to
every 1/10 of the grid spacing if the Snap to Grid
box is ticked.
Switching on the grid will display the grid on all view windows. In
views will display a ground plane.
1.2.9 Coordinate Axes
When navigating around the scene, it is sometimes possible lose track
of your orientation. To aid you
in this situation, you can turn on Coordinate Axes via Scene
-> Show Coordinate Axes. This
displays 3 lines labelled x,y and z representing the axes as seen below:
If desired, the coordinates axes can be turned off via Scene
-> Hide Coordinate Axes.
1.2.10 File Menu
The leftmost item on the top menu bar, File allows
various file operations to be performed.
Clicking on this will bring up the File menu as shown below:
opens up a new instance of Art of Illusion
for creating a new scene. This blank scene contains
by default a camera and a directional
Open opens up an existing Art of Illusion
scene file in a separate instance of AoI.
Open Recent shows a list of the last 10 scenes
that were opened and lets you select one to open.
Close closes the current scene file. If this
is the only instance of AoI open, then it will
exit completely from AoI.
allows 3D models in formats other than AoI to be opened. The only
supported file format is wavefront .OBJ and the importer also allows
OBJ materials to be imported.
Simply select the OBJ file when prompted and the material file will be
automatically read and converted
to an AoI texture. The model will automatically be scaled on import to
better fit AoI scale units.
Export AoI can save 3D models/scenes in 3D formats
other than AoI. Export
can be made to either Wavefront OBJ, VRML or Povray v3.5 files
including partial support for textures. You can select whether to
export the whole scene or just the selected object and can specify the
maximum surface error in the appropriate dialogue shown below. A lower
value for the error will result in a more complex and, therefore,
OBJ and VRML exported 2D textures are saved as image maps of the size
and quality specified in the relevant dialogues.
There are additional options for VRML and Povray as shown in the
export option dialogue
export option dialogue
export option dialogue
to External Object
This is a way of using an object
from another AoI file in the current scene
via a dynamic link to that file. Using this method, changes made to the
source object automatically
affect any files which have links to that object. This allows,
for example, a character model to be created and kept in one file which
can then be used in many other scenes - modifcations to the
character can then be made to the original file which will then be
applied automatically to any scene files that have the link.
Selecting this option displays a dialogue,
an example of which is shown on the right. This allows the selection of
the source file and the object within that
file that is to be linked to. You can choose the include the children of the selected object as well.
Save saves the current file with the existing name
or will prompt for a new name if the file
has not been saved previously. A 'safe save' method is used which
ensures that the file is saved
properly before the existing file is overwritten.
Save As allows the file to be saved with a different
Quit closes down all currently open AoI files and
shuts down AoI completely. You will be prompted to save any of the
files that have not yet been saved.
1.2.11 Edit Menu
The Edit menu on the top menu bar contains some
very useful selection and basic object
The menu looks like this:
undoes the last action or redoes the
last undo, including selections.
Cut makes a copy of any currently selected
objects in memory while deleting the originals.
Copy is like Cut but the
original objects are retained.
Paste creates as new objects any that have
been put in memory by Cut or Copy
Clear deletes all currently selected objects.
Select Children selects all objects that are
'children' of currently selected objects.
Select All selects all the objects in the
Make Live Duplicate makes a special copy of any
currently selected object in that they are
dynamically linked so that any changes made to one are automatically
made to all other live duplicates.
Note that this method of copying uses significantly less memory than
making several normal copies via the copy/cut/paste tools.
Sever Duplicates ceases the association between live
duplicates so that they become independent
various general parameters to be set up for future instances of AoI. (This item
appears in the Edit menu on Windows and Linux, but in the application menu on
Mac OS X.)
this option produces the following dialogue:
are 2 tabs for preferences: General and Shortcuts. The
preferences under the General
tab are described below:
The Default Renderer defines the default rendering
engine used for rendering
The Object Preview Renderer defines the default
renderer used when carrying out render
previews in the spline
mesh and triangle
mesh object editors.
The Texture Preview Renderer defines the default
renderer used in the various texture
The Theme defines the overall appearance of windows in AoI. A single
default theme is included with the program. Others can be downloaded with the
Scripts and Plugins Manager.
Each theme provides a selection of Color Schemes to choose from.
The Default Editing Tool is the tool that should be selected in a window
when it first appears. You can also press the spacebar in a window to quickly
toggle between the default tool and another selected tool.
The Interactive Surface Error defines the surface
accuracy of objects displayed in the main window
and the object editors. The lower the value, the more acccurate the
surface displayed is as shown below.
Bear in mind, however, that a low surface error will result in a poorer
performance in terms of speed.
Maximum Levels of Undo defines how many of the last
operations are stored by AoI and hence how
many can be undone. The greater this number is, the more steps can be
undone, but the greater the memory requirement.
Reverse Direction of Scroll Wheel Zooming lets you control how zooming
with the scroll wheel works. By default, scrolling up zooms in. Selecting this
option reverses that.
Use OpenGL for Interactive Rendering By default, Art
of Illusion uses OpenGL, through the JOGL
libraries, to speed up the interactive displays in the main window and
object editors. If there are
problems with this, the option can be switched off here to allow
Keep Backup Files When Saving creates a backup of
the last saved file when the file is saved with
the same name. The backup file has the additional extension .bak.
Lastly, the Language
defines which language all the dialogues will be shown
in. As of version 2.0,
you can choose from Danish, English(United States), French, German,
Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish.
tab of the preferences dialogue is shown below. This
dialogue allows keyboard shortcuts, additional to those described
in section 1.2.12,
set up. The keys defined trigger scripts to carry out
particular tasks. New shortcuts can be added or existing ones can be
This allows Beanshell scripts to be written in a
special dialogue to carry out the series of commands required.
||The default shortcuts are:
- Display Mode: Wireframe
- Display Mode: Flat
- Display Mode:
- Display Mode: Textured
- Display Mode: Transparent
- Selection Mode: Edge/Curve
- Selection Mode: Face
- Selection Mode: Point/Vertex
- Select Tool: Next
- Select Tool:
- Select Tool:
- View: Toggle Perspective
- View: Front
- View: Back
- View: Left
- View: Right
- View: Top
- View: Bottom
- View: Camera 1
- View: Camera 2
- View: Zoom In
- View: Zoom Out
1.2.12 Using Template Images
Art of Illusion allows the background of the view windows to be set to
an image. This is useful when
modelling objects that benefit from a reference image. To select an
image to assign to the background, click
in the view window you want the template image to be displayed and then
select Scene -> Set Template Image . This
brings up a dialogue allowing the choice of an image in
either .jpg, .gif or .png format. After selecting the image, it will be
displayed as the background of the selected view window.
To hide the image, select Scene -> Hide Template
and to show it again select Scene ->
Show Template . These actions can also be carried out to
hide/show template images in the spline
1.2.13 Keyboard Shortcuts
To speed up workflow, many of the tools and functions have hard-coded
shortcuts. These are summarised below:
Ctrl+N - Create a new AoI file
Ctrl+O - Open an existing AoI file
Ctrl+W - Close the current AoI file
Ctrl+S - Save the current AoI file with the same name
Ctrl+Q - Quit Art of Illusion
Crtl+Z - Undo/Redo
Ctrl+X - Cut the selected object(s) to the clipboard
Ctrl+C - Copy the selected object(s) to the clipboard
Ctrl+V - Paste the object(s) from the clipboard into the file
Ctrl+A - Select all the objects in the scene
Delete - Clear selected object(s)
Ctrl+E - Edit Object
Ctrl+L - Edit the object layout
Ctrl+T - Open the Transform Object Dialogue
Ctrl+U - Set Texture for currently selected object(s)
Ctrl+M - Set Material for currently selected object(s)
Arrow keys can be used to move/rotate selected object(s) in the plane
of the currently selected view window if the Move/Rotate Icons are on.
Holding Ctrl while pressing the up/down keys moves/rotates
in the other axis. Holding ALT while pressing the arrow keys
moves/rotates the object by 10 pixels.
Ctrl+P - Preview Animation
Ctrl+] - Move forward one frame
Ctrl+[ - Move backward one frame
Ctrl+J - Jump to time ...
Ctrl+D - Edit selected keyframe
Ctrl+K - Keyframe selected track(s)
Ctrl+Shift+K - Keyframe modified tracks
Ctrl+Shift+A - Select all tracks of selected objects
Ctrl+R - Open the Render dialogue window
Ctrl+Shift+R - Render immediately with current settings
Ctrl+B - Toggle between one view mode and four view mode
Ctrl+G - Open Grid dialogue window
Ctrl+F - Frame selection with camera
Ctrl+Shift+F - Frame scene with camera
Ctrl+Shift+U - Open Textures dialogue window
Ctrl+Shift+M - Open Materials dialogue window
Ctrl+Z - Undo/redo last action
Ctrl+A - Select all vertices/edges/faces
Ctrl+X - Extend selection
Ctrl+F - Toggle freehand selection mode
Ctrl+W - Display as quads
Ctrl+M - Open Mesh Tension dialogue
Ctrl+E - Edit selected point(s)
Ctrl+T - Transform selected point(s)
Ctrl+B - Bevel/Extrude selection
Ctrl+P - Open texture parameters dialogue
Ctrl+S - Set smoothness for selected vertices/edges
Ctrl+R - Render preview
Ctrl+D - Open Edit Bone dialogue
Ctrl+G - Open Grid dialogue
Arrow keys can be used to move selected points one pixel at a time in
the plane of the view if the Move Icon is selected. Holding Ctrl while
pressing the up/down keys moves
in the other axis. Holding ALT while pressing the arrow keys moves the
points by 10 pixels.
There is also the ability to set up additional keyboard shortcuts via
Preferences -> Shortcuts tab.