Easy DXF Type

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Easy DXF Type FAQ

Questions and answers about the 3D font collections here at Easy DXF Type

Here are the answers to the most frequent questions to date. There's no grand scheme to the order—it's merely the most reasonable sequence we could agree upon...

  1. Why is Easy DXF Type FREE?
  2. What makes it useful for Bryce users?
  3. How else can you get 3D text into Bryce?
  4. Does this REQUIRE Bryce?
  5. Why DXF format?
  6. What exactly *IS* DXF?
  7. Why are these letters so deep?
  8. What are these ULI, XC, KO abbreviations?
  9. Why aren't all fonts bevelled?
  10. Where do you get the original 2D fonts?
  11. Can you animate 3D text?
  12. When will "font X" be available?
  13. Add your own question to this FAQ

Why is Easy DXF Type *FREE?

We're providing useful resources to appreciative folks like you, we enjoy your comments, and we're having fun!

We've spent a great deal of time on the receiving end of the stick—nosing around the web, downloading neat extensions, control panels, plug ins and patches—and now it's time for us to return the favor. That's the nature of the internet community... if you can find help out there, that's great! But if you can find a way to help someone else, that's even better!

Bryce specifically has its own clique/culture to it, and folks who use it are some of the friendliest, most helpful folks you'll find. After learning so much from helpful Bryce / MetaCreations fans and supporters specifically, and from the Internet community in general, we finally found a way to return the favor.

What makes Easy DXF Type so useful for Bryce users?

Easy DXF Type fills a gap in the features of Bryce: there's no facility for 3D text. Makes it tough to do logotype.

You can "extrude" text using terrains and bitmaps but the results are streaky and jagged. (This can work to your advantage, if you use your wits. But usually you're just looking for nice, smooth text.)

The bright folks at MetaCreations knew that people like you would want to have more objects than mountains and cubes available. Try creating a paperclip with spheres, tori and cylinders! How about a simple goblet or wine bottle, using only terrains or cones? Hah! So, they gave Bryce the ability to import alien objects that don't conform to the limited cube/sphere/cylinder primitives, and aren't restricted to the 2-d terrain map. 3D programs have been around for quite a while, and there are millions of 3D models that folks have been saving in dozens of different file formats—such as VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language), Apple's 3DMF, AutoCAD's DXF.

Once such set of models is Easy DXF Type. :)

How else can you get 3D text into Bryce?

By importing bitmap images of text as the "height maps" of terrain objects. This effectively "extrudes" the text into the terrain.

Bryce sure is a nifty little 3D program. It gives you "boolean" tricks (scooping a negative sphere out of a positive cube for advanced geometry) with primitive shapes (cube, cone, sphere...), and some wonderful naturalistic forms—terrains and rocks. But there's no facility for 3D text.

Sure, you could spend weeks carving cylinders and cubes out of other cubes to create your own alphabet. But 1) you have a life, and 2) you *know* there must be a better way.

Never fear. If you have a simple graphic program that can save bitmaps—including a screen-snapshot utility—you can get Bryce to do some neat text with little trouble. (The original MacPaint and PC PaintBrush programs dealt exclusively in bitmaps... a bitmap being those rows and columns of dots that, when seen at a distance, comprise an image.)

Go ahead and try importing a bitmap image of dark text on a light background (see hints in the sidebar, left). Check out the terrain at the bottom left of your screen. You should see a slab (or slabs) with text-shaped holes in it. That's because the text is dark (low altitude terrain) and the background slab is light (high altitude terrain). Press the INVERT button to reverse your height values—and there's your text! You may have some extraneous gunk left over from title bars or desktop icons that may have been showing, if you're using a screen snapshot. Clipping the bottom off is easy... see the brace to the right of your terrain map? It's the rightmost thing in the Terrain Edit Lab. Drag the bottom end of the brace towards the middle until you like the results. Voilá!

Boy, is that awesome! If you have a fancy image edit program, such as Photoshop from Adobe Systems, try a few different types of blur filters on your text, and then import it again to see what happens.

Very cool. And yet...

If you zoom in to render any 3D text you generate this way, you'll see chunks and streaks and jags all over. It's because the height map is only a square grid of coordinates. Each row/column dot is restricted to a discrete location.

Just because the letter "G" curves smoothly on the printed page, and in your mind, doesn't mean a coarse grid of 64x64 can display such a "G" smoothly. The curves amble smoothly through space, but the terrain objects have distinct rows and columns that they must adhere to.

Sure, you can boost the resolution of your grid, but that takes up more memory and chews up more time when you render. And still, you've only hidden the problem a little deeper.

The right solution is to import 3D objects that resemble various letters, and have them do your bidding!

Can we use Easy DXF Type in other programs? Or will these alphabet objects only work in Bryce?

Most 3D programs can read (and write) DXF format files, so whatever 3D application you have, you can probably use Easy DXF Type.

Most 3D programs we know of, can easily import DXF-format files. Bryce, Ray Dream Designer, Detailer, Infini-D, Strata Studio Pro, AutoCAD, ...to name a few.

It does hafta be a 3D program, though (occasionally some word processors or paint programs, for example, will understand DXF files, but most won't). And your 3D program hasta be able to read and understand the DXF format... Most 3D programs can do this with their eyes closed. Check your manual, or experiment under your application's file "import" / "export" / "save as" options to see what options you have avilable.

Then, download an Easy DXF Type alphabet and start rendering!

Why DXF format?

Primarily, because it's a format Bryce can import.

And DXF is not the only format Bryce understands; it can also read Apple's 3DMF format, among others. There's a wide world out there to import into your 3D universe...

What exactly *IS* DXF?

It's a specific format for storing three-dimensional information, popularized by the folks who brought you AutoCAD.

Bryce saves its scenes in a specific format, too, of course, but it's proprietary—only Bryce can read it. DXF, on the other hand, is a rather universal standard for describing 3D scenes and objects.

It's plain old text—which makes it great for cross-platform tasks, and also makes it easy to compress—and that text is mainly a bunch of coordinates, describing and object in 3D space. There may be some color information in there, and if you get really complicated, it'll have grouping instructions and maybe even texture information, all described with cryptic numbers. Pretty much explains why your paint programs and word processors are unlikely to find DXF files useful.

There are other formats, of course. DXF is just one of the formats available that's easy to transport across platforms (Unix, Mac, PC) that Bryce can understand. So that's what we use.

Why are your 3D letters so darned deep? Overcompensating for physical inadequacies? Hmm?

It's Bryce's fault. Or credit.

The tricky part in importing all these different letters, is keeping a consistent scale.

Bryce figures out what the largest dimension is, of the object being imported, and scales that to 40.96 (4 x unit size). Everything else stretches or scrunches accordingly, so a wide W will look small next to its corresponding I in the same font. And where W is wide, Q is tall, since the tail often descends below the baseline, so it too would look short next to its corresponding E, since the largest dimension is scaled to 40.96 in Bryce.

In some script typefaces, odd letters—F or L, even—can be wider than they are tall! Each font has its own unique challenges, and the width and height varies widely from character to character. Even in a monospaced font like The Courier Typeface some characters descend below the baseline (as in g, j, p, q, and y), and some ascend above x-height (as in b, d, f, h, i, j, k, l, and t)—and even there, some stick up higher than others. There's no easy consistency formula for height or width!

So we can't control either the differing widths (+/- X) or heights (+/- Y) for letters. Aha! We *can* control +/- Z! The depth!

Thus we learned to extrude the text WAY the heck out, so that the extruded depth will be the largest dimension and thus determining scale factor, ensuring that Bryce will keep imported letters at a consistent size.

The next speed bump is keeping baselines aligned. Can nothing be simple? Aaugh!

So you bring in Type (separate, as T, and a y with p and e to create the word "Type". The vertical center of the "T" (no descender, full cap height) is higher than that of the "e" (no descenders or ascenders) which is higher than that of "p" or "y" (descenders, but no ascenders). Ack! We gotta have a bounding box so Bryce will make our lives easy by aligning the letters the way we intended. Just say NO to mathematical averaging!

The way we do this is to attach an otherwise useless block to the letter, acting as a bounding box of sorts. Each letter you import comes grouped with such a box; ungroup it and delete the box, if you like—just be sure when you move your text items, you move them consistently (use arrow keys to nudge items as you bring them in, or religiously use your command or control keys with the mouse to keep your baseline from swerving all over and getting lost—unless, of course, that's the effect you're looking for).

What's up with these odd abbreviations? UL? KI? B? Martian code or something?

L=Light, T=Thin, M=Medium, R=Regular
B=Bold, H=Heavy, K=Black, U=Ultra
I=Italic, O=Oblique (slanted, not a real italic)
E=Extended, C=Condensed
X=Extra (as in XK for extra black, XC for extra condensed...)

This is to save some keystrokes, and to keep filenames down to a manageable size. (DOS restricts file names to 8 characters plus an extension; Macintosh allows 31; Windows95 has a cool table lookup patch that extends filenames on DOS machines to 255 characters, but they sometimes get lost in conversion back to the DOS 8.3...)

Ultra by itself means really, really black/bold/heavy; with another initial, ultra means even more than extra, as in UL (ultralight) or UC (ultra condensed).
HelveticaULI=> Helvetica ultra light italic
CaslonKI=> Caslon black italic
FGothicXC=> Franklin Gothic extra condensed
MyriadBI=> Myriad bold italic
Alexa=> Alexa (duh...)
and so forth...

Scripts, such as Alexa, are usually somewhat slanted by nature, and seldom do they have actual italic or oblique variations, so we don't add I or O for them.

Why aren't all fonts endowed by their creator with equality of bevelment? Some of your 3D fonts aren't bevelled at all!

Differences in the "robustness" determine whether we bevel the font or not. Plus, even the robust fonts can plug up holes in a letter or two—say, "e" or "B".

When the bevel plugs up a hole in a letter (sometimes even a "c" plugs up, and looks more like a blob than a letter!) we shrink the bevel until the plug disappears—and sometimes that's all the way back to zero!
Delicate fonts can't be bevelled
If a font is composed of delicate, intricate shapes and curves, it's not suitable for bevelling.

Robust fonts can usually be bevelled
More robust fonts can be bevelled, so long as the distinctive holes and adjacent shapes don't plug up.

How can you tell if a font is bevelled? Here's the difference, in a thousand words:
Bevel example

We use a round bevel only on the front of each letter, so that you can have a flat face if you want it (at the rear of each letter) or a rounded one, if that's more suited to your purpose. Bryce allows you to use negative dimensions, so that you can 'flip' any letter front-to-back.

If you need to gouge a rounded letter out of a solid—as if you'd etched your name in marble, for example—make any of the dimensions (size in X, Y, or Z) negative, and the letter will flip front-to-back.

When the bevel 'plugs up'
The top 'plug' is a regular object;
the middle 'plug' is negative (set to 'solid', of course);
the bottom 'plug' is inverted (Y dimension=-8 instead of +8) and negative. Looking at the 'holes' dug by the bottom two, you can see that the bottom one is softly sloped as the hole deepens, where the middle one has severe corners at the bottom of its 'hole'.

Notice how the 'g's are plugged up? The bevel was too big for the hole in the 'g', so it self-intersects, and—as you can see—Bryce gets a bit confused as to what to do with the geometry. So the bevel is too severe for this font. The solo 'g' to the right has no bevel at all, and so Bryce can easily figure out how to treat the geometry, since there's no self-intersection.

Even then, in a 'crotch' area, such as where the staff meets the bowls of a "U", the bevel intersects itself, and strange geometry results when you use it in a boolean context...


TIP: for boolean rendering with Easy DXF Type letter objects, remember to select 'solid when boolean rendering' in the 'edit mesh object' dialog. Otherwise your 3D letters are only surfaces—the polygons that comprise the surface of each letter; they won't be solid mass, only surface! Imagine an empty egg shell in a pan of water—there's water inside the shell and outside the shell, which probably isn't what you wanted. You gotta fill the egg shell (make it 'solid when boolean rendering') to displace the solid volume of the egg.

Where do you get the original 2D fonts? This font would be perfect for a job I'm working on in Quark XPress or WordPerfect!

We get'm from all over the map. Everywhere. Anywhere.

The high-octane chrome-plated dual exhaust professional type is all but guaranteed to outshine and outperform shareware or free type.... They hold up better under rough conditions (such as faxing, or tiny print on an old laser printer, or on packaging) and have a great deal more time spent on the details like kerning, optical consistency, proportion... And prices are getting to be quite reasonable!

And yet shareware/freeware fonts are getting better and better every day!

The original Postscript or TrueType fonts are what you'd need to be able to use these in your word processor or desktop publishing software. The DXF libraries here are derived from the 2D font shapes, but a third dimension has been added to the DXF object descriptions. DXF files aren't useful at all to word processors!

Can you animate 3D text?

You betcha—just like everything else.

Just slide along the timeline and move or resize it, or change its materials, just as you would animate anything else in Bryce.

Some of the most powerful effects you can have when animating a logo is to keep everything still—except the camera itself. Zip along the surface of your text, turn and bank up and down through your letters, slalom through a word here and there.

Another neat trick is to move a light source behind the camera, with reflective text (or just high specularity) on a dark background—or, move a light source behind the text, instead!

You can animate alphabetic objects just like you can anything else... Change its size over time, or alter the materials, or modify transparency, refractive or reflective attributes for some really cool movies!

Go nuts!

When are you gonna post DXF alphabet objects for font X? Hmm?

Thursday. Friday at the latest.

Seriously, we do have many fonts to choose from, but we may not have The Perfect Font you're looking for. So if you can be more specific about which font you want we may be able to add it to our upcoming DXF alphabet collections.

Then again, we may not have that font at our disposal, in which case we may have to add it to our "target and acquisition" list.

Or, we might think the font you requested is do ridiculous and arcane that we wouldn't stoop so low as to bother with such a monstrosity. Helvetica regular, for example, or Times roman... ick!


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