Quick Lesson in Dreams

or: How to conquer the universe, win contests, invade the planet and still look good while doing it

Friday, November 30, 2007 by Zoomba | Discussion: Tutorials

To go along with the launch of the Create Your Alienware Dream Contest, I asked Seabass, our resident undiscovered 3d artist extraordinaire to put together a quick and dirty Dream and write up a little bit on what he did and why, as well as give a few other examples of what would or wouldn't make a good Dream.

This article should help out any Dream maker, whether for the contest or otherwise.  It's a good lesson in what makes a Dream successful and usable, and what sorts of effects and techniques you'd be best to avoid.

Without further delay, here's Seabass's article

In the course of the next contest we thought it would be best to go over the Do's and Don'ts of Dream creation. Since this is an art medium however there really is nothing that you can't do. However the most popular Dreams all have certain things in common. We are just going to go over a few of those in the hopes of giving everyone that extra edge in this contest.

Yesterday I put quickly put this dream together of the planet Earth exploding in a fiery ball of death and... well fire. This Dream contains several bad things as well as a few good things.


You might notice that the Planet takes up the center of the screen. This part is good. Since currently the only Dreams that are used out there are on Vista Ultimate you can be certain of space being used on either side of the screen. With icons taking up one side and the sidebar taking the other side it is best that you allow the more visual aspects of the dream to be centered. You can also make the focus lean right as not all use the sidebar, and most leave it transparent. However filling in the spaces between the cursors on the desktop will make it look cluttered and will not be as usable. The center of your Dream is always the best.

Another good point is that the planet explodes in a really bright ball. No matter how pretty it might look this is bad. Having lots of motion on the desktop is harsh on the eyes and worse on whatever you might have had in your stomach. Now this isn't always true since many people like using full screen applications and will cover the whole of this destruction. So this is not all bad but it still will only be appealing to a select few. The best dreams are the subtle ones with small or smooth motion.

Size of the file is a big deal. If you make a file enormous (like using a stupid amount of particle and fluid effects for example) you will bog down the computer and the movie file will drag. This makes having the dream as pointless as it gets. Don't go overboard, but if you do look into the best compression software you can find. If it would be the same as just running a loop on the media player in the background then something has gone wrong.

You will also notice that there is no loop. Earth blows up, is in need of some major hydration only to suddenly be fine... and blow up again. Smooth loops are what set professional Dreams apart from the rest. If you are new to animation for this contest make sure that what ever you are animating have the exact keyframes at both the start and finish of the animation. The best way to do this is to key the subject of your dream, push the slider to the end, then key it again. This all happens before you do any other motions. Many programs like Maya, Flash, and others will fill in the gaps of the animation. So with out those last key frames it could look just a bit off.

No matter what you might think of your work have three people look at your work before sending it in. No matter what kind of art training you might have anyone anywhere can just see when something is wrong. Colors mesh in a strange way, animation looks just a bit off, a little clip in the file or missing frame.... etc. After looking at something for a really long time you miss the details easier than Zoomba trying to hit me from his desk with a foam cow all the way across the office. You kinda have to be there for that one. Suffice to say it's a hard thing to do. Either way let people look at it before you post it. If even more than one go... "uummm I don't know" then do some face scrunching then you should check your work again.

Lets look at a few more examples out there.

Mana Burn is an example of a small blue flame set that runs the bottom of the screen. I like this one because it does not require tiling for those that have dual screens. The animation is simple and isn't over bearing at all.

Mana Burn

Blissful Dream is one I like because all the movement is subtle. The colors are bright but not over bearing and it has it's major focus in the middle of the picture so nothing on your desktop gets in the way.

Blissful Dream

The Lines 2 is another great one in that it's subtle but has a great presence on the screen. The use of color shifting keeps it from getting boring.

The Lines 2

ATI Ruby is a fun to watch but far too much is going on. Having a full movie, even when it is good looking, is over bearing. Besides who wants to watch the same fight over and over? Once again this isn't to say that it is bad but the point of the dream is to appeal to as many people as possible.


I hope these tips help! Good Luck!



-My Chi knows how to Splode.

Thanks again to Seabass for taking the time to put together both the dream and this article!

Reply #1 Saturday, December 1, 2007 5:31 PM
very informative, thanks for a great artical Seabass........
Reply #2 Monday, December 3, 2007 6:48 PM
I splode stuff now. k buh bye.

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