Rubik’s Cube Map – Part 1

As mentioned in my Chapters post, I’ve recently picked up a new classic 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube. I’ve relearned a fairly simple solving method that only requires 6 unique move types to complete the entire cube, although it does take a lot longer than more advanced methods. Out of curiosity, I decided to try mapping the entire solving process into a series of images. The most logical way to do this was with a cube map, i.e “unfolding” the cube into 6 connected squares. A solved cube would look something like this:

There were only really two options to go about doing this. Solve it step by step and take 6 photos after each turn, or make a digital model in Blender3D. I chose the latter option, and built a digital Rubik’s cube from 27 unique cube objects. Animating the cube was simple; all I had to do was move the cubes I needed and insert them into new keyframes. I didn’t want any sort of rotational movement in the cube, just changing colors, so the keyframes are all one frame apart.

The first step was to “mess up” the digital cube. I rendered out an animation of this process, which is uploaded here:

I realized quickly that moving the cube around digitally wasn’t going to be as easy as using the physical cube. To make the process easier, I decided to solve the physical cube simultaneously and make sure the digital model matched. This worked very well, until I messed up on the physical cube and couldn’t undo the error without bringing the two models out of sync. I ended up solving the physical cube completely and then following the steps from the digital cube’s animation to get back to where I needed to be. This was also around the same time when I began to wonder how good of an idea this whole project was. 😛

Eventually I got all 167 frames keyed in, including the scrambling process and a small delay after it. It was already pretty late, so I decided to leave things for the night and do the rendering and compositing today instead.

I ran the rendering process this morning, and I’ve now got a nice stack of 1,002 images that need to be merged into cube maps. Unfortunately I have no idea how to do this, aside from manually making each cube map. The Photoshop batch job system should be able to handle the task, I think, but I don’t know enough about it yet to make it do what I need. I’m looking into this now.



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