User:Jon Denning/Reports/2022/Feedback

Below is a lightly paraphrasing of comments from Julian Kaspar and Daniel Bystedt along with some of my comments and thoughts.

to-do list of items below

The list below is a collection of suggestions mentioned in the feedback that I still need to work on.

  • Retopology Tools add-on
    • clean up user prefs
  • GeoPen
    • apply active material to new geometry
    • hotkeys not showing in status bar? check on this
  • ...

retopology mode

Although I did get a Retopology Mode implemented (D14035) with its own set of tools, visualization settings, and overlays, Campbell decided that adding another specific mode might not be the best approach, and that we should wait for a more generalized submode implementation.

Snapping Options

The following address the options under the snapping menu.

Face Nearest Steps > 1 is lagging behind mouse

  • When the nearest steps is greater than 1, the moved vertices seem to lag behind the mouse cursor, making the experience of dragging verts around a bit strange.

Unfortunately, this is going to be an effect of this type of snapping method whenever the vert is far from the target's surface, even with Nearest Steps set to 1. This effect can also be seen (to a degree) with Face Project. The only methods where this won't be seen are the methods that work in screen space (Vertex, Edge).

I think the important thing to note is that this option is used to "smooth" out snapped transformations along the U-shaped surface, especially when transforming many verts. When steps is set to 1, the snapping will pop from one side to another very suddenly. When steps is > 1, the snapping will lag behind but be much smoother. (so think of steps as a smoothing factor, which will behave similarly to other smoothed edits, rather than a edit with a proportional falloff)

I can think of a few workarounds that might help in some contexts, but they would break in spectacular ways in other contexts. For example, having a "multiplier" option in which the overall transformation is broken up into n steps that are m/n times the transform vector, where n is Nearest Steps and m is the multiplier. When m=1, you'll get exactly the same behavior as it is implemented now. when m>1 (not too big, though), the code will try to push the vert a bit farther to match better the overall transformation. However, on straight areas, the vert will go past the mouse when m>1. i tested out a different implementation where the transform vector is broken up non-linearly (following a curve similar to proportional falloff), but this attempt was not an improvement.

I created a youtube video demoing where this feature could be useful.

Retopo Mode is Confusing

  • The retopology mode is not intuitive from the label or description, requiring some education via video description. For example, should enabling Retopo Mode gray out the Snap To methods? Should it gray out the Target Selection?

This option filters down / controls which snapping method is applied to which target. It still requires the method(s) to be enabled and the target(s) to be an option. Graying out these options is not ideal, as different problems will require different methods enabled (ex: face project will do the wrong thing when shifting an edge loop that could be on the backside of target. ex: face project is exactly needed when creating new geometry via geopen, poly build, etc.)

Would it make sense to change the presentation of the methods if the retopo mode is enabled? for example, below I've stripped the options down to those that would be used when in Retopo Mode.

 ┃ [X] Retopo Mode                ┃
 ┃                                ┃
 ┃ Snap To Edited:                ┃
 ┃ [ Vertex                     ] ┃
 ┃ [ Edge                       ] ┃
 ┃ [ Edge Center                ] ┃
 ┃ [ Edge Perpendicular         ] ┃
 ┃                                ┃
 ┃ Snap To Non-Edited:            ┃
 ┃ [ Face Project               ] ┃
 ┃                                ┃
 ┃ Snap With:                     ┃
 ┃ [Closest|Center|Median|Active] ┃
 ┃                                ┃
 ┃ Options:                       ┃
 ┃ [X] Exclude Non-Selectable     ┃
 ┃ [ ] Backface Culling           ┃
 ┃ [ ] Snap to Same Target        ┃
 ┃ Face Nearest Steps          1  ┃

A few notes:

  • to keep verts on target surface(s):
    • Increment or Volume methods are hidden and disabled
    • Face Nearest will always be enabled and hidden (fall back method for all other snapping methods)
    • Project Individual Elements is always enabled and hidden (otherwise Face Project will treat entire selection as an object)
    • Affect Move,Rotate,Scale are always enabled and hidden
  • Include Active, Edited, and Non-Edited are always enabled, but artist can still control snapping via enabling the corresponding methods.
  • Snap With is the only option that's not great... it's needed only when transforming selection as a group, which is disabled for Face Project but an effect of Vertex/Edge snapping :(
    • Maybe Snap With could be hidden, and the Vertex / Edge snapping methods are grayed out / ignored when more than one vertex is selected?? this is an unfortunate problem with using the built-in snapping method.
    • Alternative: Face Nearest could be applied always after any other method is applied?

Target Selection is Confusing

  • the distinction of "Active" and "Edited" vs the previous "Self" is confusing (requires some education). Also, having all the options is starting to grow the snapping menu.

I agree, the terms are confusing. Sadly, the term used before was also confusing when editing multiple meshes. (self is incorrect, as it was really the active object, so there were cases were snapping against "self" was not working as expected) I'm guessing that editing multiple meshes is a fairly uncommon task. As such, maybe the additional complexity should only show when in that context. For example, only show "Include Edited" target selection option when editing a single mesh (which is effectively the old "Self" or new "Include Active"), but show "Include Active Edited" and "Include Other Edited" when editing multiple meshes?

An important note: the target selection is referring to what objects in the scene will be considered as snapping targets. In particular, when Include Non-Edited is enabled then all non-edited objects in the scene (typically, this would be the high-res mesh that you're retopo'ing) will be a potential snap target. When Include Active is enabled, the mesh you're currently editing will be a potential snap target. When Include Edited is enabled, the non-active mesh that you're also editing (when editing two meshes at the same time) will be a potential snap target.

Snapping Options Menu is Too Big / Complex

I'm not sure what the best approach is for this. The previous snapping options were far too crude for retopology work. There were no ways to finely control the options. This is why RetopoFlow does not use any of the built-in snapping methods.

An important note: it is likely that artists won't need to have this same granular level of control with snapping. in fact, unless an operator / tool uses the built-in transform operator, snapping will not get performed automatically (as the snapping is done within the Transformation "modal"). but, perhaps the menu could be heavily simplified, leaving the complexity in the API where operators and tools can take advantage of it, like how GeoPen does now.

As a slightly-atypical-for-Blender alternative, maybe the fine control features could be hidden behind an Advanced checkbox option?

Missing Face Nearest Options

  • it seems that Snap With, backface culling, and snap individual elements are missing options for Face Nearest method.

backface culling would likely not do the correct thing. it makes sense for Face Project, as this method works with the current view. face nearest does not consider what is in view, so there really cannot be a "backfacing" polygon.

Snapping group vs individual elements does make sense, but I haven't implemented this yet. future feature? (Snap individual elements and Snap With are very related options)

Does not work with Rotate/Scale

  • rotation and scaling snapping is not supported, but you also can't disable those snappings holding CTRL

Actually, it is supported, but it must be enabled first in the snapping menu (see very bottom, Affect: Move | Rotate | Scale). This is an unfortunate limitation to using the transform+snapping(+proportional) system. Now, some of my recent patches to the system expose options, and GeoPen (or other tools) can specifically enable snapping for any type of movement, but it still requires either the tool to explicitly specify or the artist to enable these options.

Snapping does not work in isolation mode

  • Spotted that this snap breaks when entering isolation mode or when basemesh is hidden or disabled in viewport (which can be useful for precise topological tweaks without observing basemesh), it would be awesome if it is possible to make something about that.

This is by design. Any visible object that isn't being edited is considered a potential target. If it isn't visible, or if it isn't selectable (if Exclude Non-selectable is enabled), then it cannot be a target.

We _could_ expand the set of options to allow non-visible objects to be potential targets, but this further complicates the setup.


The following address feedback with the Geometry Pen tool.

Tweak Fallback Not Working

  • Cannot tweak vertices/edges/faces without first selecting them, making adjusting slower.

the Tweak fallback always tweaks the selected geometry, regardless of the tool's implementation. (And unfortunately, the tool cannot control the snapping options without actually adjusting the scene tool settings... which is not always ideal).

So, I'm not sure how to approach this without just implementing a Select+Tweak option for GeoPen. Maybe have a Gizmo that follows the mouse? This does break away from how most of the other tools work (exceptions being Poly Build, Knife, others?), but it would perhaps improve overall UX for retopo work.

Quad-Only Insertion Mode

  • A Quad Only mode for GeoPen just makes sense.

totally agree! not yet implemented.

Key binding

  • Binding insert to OSKey is non-ideal. Perhaps use combinations of Shift / Ctrl / Alt to control modes of insertion?

I think we could use any key here. I do have a hesitation on using Ctrl, though, as this is used to toggle snapping when transforming. This means that an artist might have press Ctrl before inserting but then immediately release Ctrl to prevent snapping from disabling.

Alternative: use a "normal" key, similar to how D is used to annotate.

Merge Target Edge

  • It would be nice to be able to bridge between two edges in one click, or to merge a transformed edge into a hovered edge.

The former could be implemented in GeoPen: to automatically bridge between selected edge and hovered edge when inserting. However, the snapping system is too simple to handle the latter case. Again, this is the reason behind the custom snapping code in RetopoFlow.

Insertion Logic is Opaque

  • Sometimes it is hard to know which component will be used as a "base" for when adding new geometry.

a preview visualization (Gizmo?) would be ideal for communicating what will happen when inserting a new vertex. Poly Build does this.

Show Snapping with Previz

  • The previz would be more helpful if it also shows snapping. Right now it only does this during the operation.

totally agree. unfortunately, there isn't a good way to do this as of right now. the five closest options are:

  1. calling closest_point_on_mesh() on the edit object to find the nearest point. however, there are two serious drawbacks. first, this fn is done in World space, not screen space, so the results is not going to be the same as transformation snapping. second, this fn does not return a vertex or edge, but the point that's closest to the given location, which could be in the middle of a face.
  2. storing the vertices in some acceleration structure (e.g., mathutils.bvhtree.BVHTree or mathutils.kdtree.KDTree) after projecting them to the screen. this would produce exactly the same result as xform snapping. we would have to iterate over all the vertices, which grows linearly with the size of the source mesh, but that effort could be amortized across many insertions (as long as the view doesn't change)... in other words, it's not too big of a deal. however, taking this approach does mean that we're duplicating code work, which isn't ideal. my hope for this project was to leverage the code that's already available, and not create new features unless it's needed.
  3. expose the snapping C++ code through bpy, which is implemented basically the same way as the previous point noted. this would benefit the broader add-on dev community quite significantly (i.e., not just benefit this project), but it could be very tricky to do, and it's well beyond the scope of this project. (I've already implemented a new snapping method, but that's a critical feature for retopo work, and that took great effort and convincing)
  4. rewrite this tool in C++, similar to polybuild and knife. this approach would allow the tool to leverage any part of Blender that's already been written. However, this isn't ideal for a few reasons. first, it signals that proper tools written in Python are always going to be 2nd class to built-in C++ tools. It also means that future tool development will be slower, since Python development allows for faster iteration when compared to C++ dev.
  5. the final option is a bad hack, but it could work: insert a temporary vertex into the mesh, call bpy.ops.transform.translate on it to snap it with all the same snapping options (but make sure auto merge and auto split are disabled), get its location, then delete the temporary vertex when done.

Create Vertex on Press and on Release

  • Currently we only have this behaviour: When holding Alt and left clicking it will insert a triangle, repeat next to a selected triangle and it will merge them into a quad. How about we add this: When holding Alt and click and dragging it will create a quad with the two new points being added on the press event and on the release event.

This is an interesting approach. it would basically halve the number of clicks needed to insert a quad, and it would allow the artist to place the verts exactly where they want the verts to go (as opposed to using the mouse position and the two other vert positions to predict where the two new verts should go). it should be a quick thing to implement to test.

Remove Tool Fallback / Add Geometry from Anywhere (without needing selection)

  • we should remove the fallback drag support from this tool and make it tweak by default.

This change would make this tool feel much more like sculpting (which is how Poly Build feels now), which is different from every other edit mesh tool, except knife. I can see well-supported arguments for either paradigm. a few arguments for keeping it as is:

  • presently, there is no Retopology Mode, only Edit Mode, and nearly all the tools in edit mode look and feel exactly the same. the two exceptions are Knife and Poly Build. but, these two feel out of place from the rest of the tool set. i suspect that it will be harder to argue for including yet another edit mode tool that doesn't look, act, or feel like other edit mode tools. keep in mind, though, that I don't mind breaking away from the status quo! :) I'm totally onboard with making a tool that does its job in (one of?) the best way.
  • presently, there isn't a good option to find the nearest existing geometry (see notes on Show Snapping with Previz). a hack might be to call select on every mouse move... but a few tests have simply failed to work or caused blender to crash.
  • it becomes VERY difficult to distinguish between selecting and creating when the mouse is "near" existing geometry, especially as the density of the geometry goes up. i see this very quickly with poly build. In fact, in a simple test, i quickly ran into a situation (see screenshot below) where there was no way to perform the operation that i wanted to do without changing the view (indirectly changing the density of the verts/edges on the screen). pre-visualization can help with this issue to a degree, but it only helps the artist know what the tool is thinking... not in helping the tool know what the artist is thinking.
example of where poly build cannot create a desired face

again, i'm not tied to sticking with the Edit Mode paradigm. I'm just trying to navigate creating a new tool that's going to exist in Edit Mode.

Tweak on Press

  • If tweaking becomes the primary action with left click, we should consider using it on Press. The Poly Build tool does the same thing and it just leads to a better feel since we don't have to worry about drag thresholds. Selecting and adding to the selection would still be possible but the adding and moving of geometry is the focus of this tool.

I totally agree!

Make sticky mode discoverable

  • Adding that to the tool settings and status bar in some way will also help to expose it. So more understand how to use it

I totally agree! I just haven't polished that much yet :)

new geometry should use active material

  • paint new polygons in active material instead the first one (also was made for F2, very useful for selection sets)

Agreed. This is addition polish.

Location of settings

  • Move insert mode and other local prefs to N-panel. It can be a better place than user prefs, since is better accessible

I'm not sure this is a good idea. The insert mode (for example) is already located in the tool header, because that setting is specific to the GeoPen tool. all other Blender tool have tool settings located in the tool header.

I probably do need to clean up the add-on settings (user prefs).

Cannot use Alt keymaps with previsualizations

  • Alt blocks alt+T shortcut

This is due to a limitation in how I've set up the previz stuff. In particular, when the Alt key is pressed, the GeoPen tool starts running as modal. Now, we _could_ simply pass through any event that isn't handled, but this starts to get tricky.

As an alternative, the previz could be done in its own Gizmo, rather than drawn in modal. I think this is a better idea, but it still has some limitations if I recall correctly.

Hotkeys in Status Bar

  • Hotkey information is missing in the info bar when geo pen is the active. My guess is that this is planned but not implemented.

This should be there already. Not sure why it wasn't working for you. Can double check.

Using GeoPen Modifies Snapping

  • if snapping is off when using geo pen, blender will turn on snapping after the first left mouse down event

Yes, this is a bug (I believe) in the API. I've tried searching for where it happens, but was unable to figure it out. I've pinged Campbell about it, but I'll probably just need to file a bug report.

Only one vertex merges in Quad Insertion

  • During insert mode quad only - only one vertex is snapping. My guess is that 2 vertex snapping to target edge vertices is not yet implmented, but thuought I should mention it just in case.

Yes, this is a limitation in using the transform+snapping system, because it is designed to have either one or zero source snapping points (Mean, Active, Center, etc.)

Quad-only Keep Length Option

  • During insert mode "Quad only" - what does "keep length" do?

There are many ways of determining where the 2x verts go when using Quad Only insertion. I have implemented two different approaches in GeoPen, and the Keep Length option switches between them. The difference is this: when Keep Length is enabled, the two new verts are positioned so that the distance between them in screen space is the same screen space distance as between the selected verts.

Really, we should just find an algorithm for placing the two verts that feels the best, and use that.

Have Key toggle between using selection as fallback and tweak

  • I agree with Julien that it would be nice with a button to activate tweak mode. I think default action should be selection, since that is the default behaviour on the majority of the tools in edit mode.

I agree. Unfortunately, this might not be simple to implement due to how the fallback keymap system works. Again, an unfortunate limitation due to using the built-in systems.

Comparing F2 with GeoPen

  • Express workflow comparison between F2 and Geo on solving the same topo scheme. Am I doing everything the way I'm supposed to? It is necessary to know to calculate actions, aimings, required mouse path and estimate overall process energy.
  • link to

Yeah, these are two different sets of problems.

F2 is great for filling in holes. GeoPen is great for creating new geometry. Both tools have an overlap. But in the end, the artist should use the tool that best helps them solve the problem.

One thing that could improve your usage is to enable vert+edge selection. Doing so can reduce the number of selection clicks that you need for GeoPen.

The Quad Insertion could also be improved to speed up solving this particular problem, but we start heading into writing parallel systems to Blender's built in and limited systems.

Retopology "Submode"

Optimize Visualization Settings

  • Optimize settings are not temporal/undoable (and, fairly, has questionable setup)

I agree. This is a carry-over from an idea from a few months ago. Without an official Retopology submode, this was intended to change settings to make it feel like its own mode. It's lacking any sort of configuration, restoring features, etc. This button is not needed once we have a retopo submode, and it will always feel not-quite-right for everyone.