3d Glitch Notes.. Part 2

If you haven’t already.. be sure to read the first part of this series: 3d Glitching Part 1.   These notes assume that you already have an understanding of the material presented there, as well as an understanding of 3d modeling and the basic ideas behind “Glitch Art.”  In addition, some knowledge of the 3d modeling and rendering program “Blender” will be useful, since it will be the tool we’ll be using. We’ll be dealing with some of the more arcane features of Blender … I’ll sometimes provide a little extra explanation of Blender terminology in hopes that it will make it easier for users of other 3d modeling/rendering programs to follow and to make adjustments for their preferred environments.

This second set of notes provides a way to have some control over which areas of the model are “glitched.” As it is, the long list of vertices in an object file provides little information about what part of the model will be effected when we apply any of the techniques mentioned in part 1 – copy and paste or find and replace…  If the model was exported from Blender, the x, y, and z axis are likely all on a scale from 0.00000  to 1.00000 or -1.00000. If the information on a line for a particular vertex contains the coordinates -1.000000 -1.000000 1.000000, it might be at the extreme left, front, and top of the object (which coordinates are situated in the “minus” direction and which axes are”up” or “forward” depends on certain options chosen at the time of export.) However, the lines containing the positions of vertices and faces for an .obj file are often sorted in unpredictable or even completely random ways. Usually this is just fine.. it’s that unpredictability that makes glitch art so much fun!

However, there are times when you want more control.. you want to limit the “glitch” to a particular subsection of the model…

Blender provides a way to do just that. Within Blender we can choose to sort the vertices using several methods. Once you’ve sorted the vertices, when you export the model as an .obj file and open it in a text editor, you’ll find the vertex you’ve chosen as the starting point for your sort at the top of the list, with the remaining vertices more or less ordered according to their distance from that first vertex. If you want to “glitch” the area closest to that first vertex, then you copy/paste, etc. near the start of the list. If you want to avoid glitching that area, you perform your manipulations elsewhere in the list.

There are several sorting methods available, but  I’ve found two of them to be the most useful. The first is to sort the vertices according to their distance from the 3d cursor. The second is to sort by the selected vertices. We’ll start with the first of the two methods:

After having imported or created a model in Blender,  go into “Edit” mode. In Blender terminology that is when we can see and edit the individual vertices of the model. We’ll start by positioning the 3d cursor. You can simply place the cursor where you like by left-clicking with the mouse, but if you want it to align precisely with a particular vertex, select that vertex (using right-click) and then follow with the shift-s key combination to bring up the “Snap” menu, and choose “Cursor to Selected.”  Since we’re using Suzanne the Blender monkey for our model, let’s align the 3d cursor with the tip of her nose.



Once you’ve positioned the 3d cursor, select all the vertices, and then go to the “Mesh” menu, select “Sort Elements” and choose “Cursor Distance.”



However, it’s not clear at all from the normal Blender interface that anything has changed.. normally there is no indication of what the index of a given vertex is. In order to see the indices of vertices, you must  install the addon “3D View: Index Visualiser (BMesh)” which is available here: https://developer.blender.org/F11709 (There’s also a way to activate this feature by entering Blender into debug mode.. but the addon works better). (edit: there have been reports that this version of the addon no longer works.. if it doesn’t work for you, try this alternative:


You’ll have to look up the proper way to install third party addons into Blender .. however, I found that I had to extract the .py script. Simply installing from file and targeting the .zip did not seem to work.  Once the script is installed, you should find an “Index Visualizer” sub-panel in the “Properties” panel. Just click “Start” .. it automatically displays only the selected vertices…)

Once you’ve installed and activated the addon, you can go to the “Properties” panel, and then find and press the “Visualize Indices” button. You should then see the index of each vertex. I recommend that you choose the “Selected Only” and “Vertices” options so you can limit the information displayed. Otherwise the screen will be unreadable when dealing with a heavy mesh!



You’ll note that the vertex at the center of Suzanne’s nose has an index of 0 – That’s the vertex we used to position the 3d cursor. Don’t be confused by the appearance of index numbers that may seem to be in the “wrong” location, such as the “28” and “25” in the illustration above. the system displays the index numbers of vertices that are actually farther away, even when those vertices are hidden behind nearer polygons.

So we now have the vertices sorted according to their distance from the 3d cursor. At this point, we export the model as an .obj file, and then open the file in a text editor. Take a look at the following illustration:



Note the x coordinate at 0.00000  – the nose was exactly in the center of Suzanne’s x axis! By sorting the vertices, the vertex at the tip of the nose, and the vertices closest to it have been brought to the top of the list. Now.. just to illustrate how it works, change that x coordinate to 2.00000, save the file, and then open in MeshLab. You should see the tip of the nose skewed far to the side:


Of course it would be far simpler to just move that vertex manually within Blender. The point of all this is that knowing which vertices are at the top of the list, we can either target or avoid them when it comes to glitching. In the following illustration, the 3d cursor was placed at the tip of Suzanne’s right ear, and then the vertices were sorted according to their distance from the cursor. Then, when the exported .obj file was brought into the text editor, only vertices in the bottom half of the list were “glitched.” The result is that only the left half of Suzanne’s head is affected:



That’s it for today.. You are now ready to move on to part 3 of this series!

3d Glitching..

These notes presume that you have a basic understanding of glitching and of computer 3d modeling.

Instead of using standard 3d modeling tools to modify a shape, we’ll be directly manipulating the data in the file. Sometimes glitch artists employ a hex editor to accomplish this, but since the 3d file format we’re targeting is in ascii text, an ordinary text editor will do.

We’ll be using the Wavefront .obj file format. Models in this format are readily available on the web. However, I recommend that you use the open source modeling and rendering application Blender to either generate your own models or to simplify  third party models. Alternately, you can use Meshlab.

In Blender, export the model as an .obj file, but turn off all of the options – UVs, Materials, Normals, etc. etc. In Meshlab you will have similar options when exporting a mesh – we want only the most basic geometric information.

Once you have your file.. use your favorite text editor to open it. I’m currently using Windows, so the editor of choice for me is Notepad++.

In the editor, the file structure becomes easy to parse. The data for a simple cube, created in Blender and exported to .obj looks like this:

# Blender v2.71 (sub 0) OBJ File:
# www.blender.org

v -1.000000 -1.000000 1.000000
v -1.000000 -1.000000 -1.000000
v 1.000000 -1.000000 -1.000000
v 1.000000 -1.000000 1.000000
v -1.000000 1.000000 1.000000
v -1.000000 1.000000 -1.000000
v 1.000000 1.000000 -1.000000
v 1.000000 1.000000 1.000000

f 5 6 2 1
f 6 7 3 2
f 7 8 4 3
f 8 5 1 4
f 1 2 3 4
f 8 7 6 5


There’s no real header.. the part at the beginning is made up of notes, indicated by # signs.. the system disregards these. Next comes a list of vertices.. one for each line that begins with a “v”. Each of those lines contain three values for the x, y, z position of the vertex relative to the origin. The meaning of the scale may vary depending on the settings of the program you use. Blender typically operates in “Blender Units” . Our example is two Blender units along each edge (the distance from -1 to 0 and from 0 to 1), so a cube half the dimension of our example might have a vertex at position -0.5 -0.5 0.5

Next comes a list of polygons, referred to as “faces”, one on each line that begins with an “f”. In our example the faces are quads since they have four integer values, each integer indicating a vertex from the first part of the file. The integer corresponds to the index of the vertex. For example, the first quad of our cube is made up of the 5th, 6th, 2nd, and 1st vertices in the list. This structure will have important consequences when we begin to “glitch” the data.

We’ll first consider glitching the vertex data. One way to do this is to cut and paste. This changes the index of each vertex. The result is that some of the faces in the second part of the file no longer refer to the same vertices they did originally. Usually this means that the “glitched” form stays fairly close to the general outline of the original object.. we have all the same vertices – there are no vertices that have moved to new positions outside of the original object.. but the faces may be scrambled in curious ways. Note the following progression:



We’re using the famous Blender “Suzanne” monkey head as our model. Successive versions represents more drastic applications of cut and paste. At the beginning we use smaller snippets and paste them at positions that are closer to their original location. Later in the series we cut bigger chunks and paste them much farther away from their original location.

Another option is to use “Find and Replace” within the list of vertices. For example, one could search for all instances of “1” and replace it with “8”. This may result in more dramatic reshaping of the model. For example, a vertex that was originally at x axis -1.0000 would now be at x axis -8.0000 . That would mean that the vertex is now eight times further from the origin than its original position. Also, one might replace negatives with positives and vice versa. This would result in a displacement of the vertex in a direction opposite of its original position relative to the origin. See the following examples… again there is a progression from smaller changes to more dramatic ones.. starting out with find and replace over small subsets of the vertices and smaller differences between the number being replaced and the number replacing it. Toward the end, search and replace occurs over a wider span of the vertices and there are greater differences between the originals and the replacements:



Note that replacing a larger number with a smaller number generally results in a vertex that is inset.. that moves closer to the origin (assuming that the origin is at the center of the object.) For example, if we replace “8” with “2”, a vertex that was at Y axis -0.8 is now at -0.2, and a vertex that was at Y axis 0.8 will now be at 0.2 – in both the negative and the positive case the vertex ends up closer to the origin. Conversely, replacing a smaller number with a larger results in vertices that are farther away from the origin.

Another option is to change the part of the list that contains data for the faces. Cutting and pasting whole lines for each face will not have any effect.. it doesn’t matter what order the faces are in! If they refer to the same vertices they did before they will look exactly the same.

Finding and replacing integers within the lines will have an effect.. but you must be careful! This is where you are more likely to make the file unreadable… be sure that the result of your “find and replace” is not a reference to a vertex that does not exist. Recall that the vertices are indicated by their index number. If you have 1000 vertices and you replace “1” with “9”, you’ll end up with a reference to a non-existent vertex at position 9000. You should be safe if you always replace a larger number with a smaller number. (This is an area where a more intelligent script would be useful.. but that’s a topic for another day..) Here’s an example of finding and replacing the data in the “faces” section of the file.. as before, there’s a progression from fairly limited to more drastic replacements.



Obviously, one can combine all three of these techniques when “glitching” the file.

There are more advanced methods. In Blender one can specify a vertex that will be the starting point for sorting the vertices. Thus one could force the vertices at the tip of Suzanne’s nose to come at the start of the list. This allows some control of where the glitching will take place. If one knows that the nose of the figure is at the beginning of the list, one could avoid changing data in that area if the object was to preserve the original form of the nose.

Now that you’ve finished this first section, move on the the second set of notes, here.

Hello World

After years of neglect, I’ve revived my ancient website. I’ve given in to convenience.. no more hand coding.. just standard blog software.. so, hopefully, the ease of it all will result in more frequent updating..

For now, all I have to point out are the galleries that are either on the right or below… my various 3d art works…


One of my heads…