Last updated: October 24, 2014

 

Index

  1. Introduction

  2. Quick workflow

  3. Setting up a solar system

         Camera settings
         Sun settings

  4. Plotting planets

         Deleting a planet
         x, y, radius
         color, style, surface
         Background and hiding axes
         All, on/off

  5. Saving solar system to your disk as a picture

  6. Saving progress

  7. Preferences

         General settings
         Folders
         Export

  8. FAQ


 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-01

 

1. Introduction: Planet Factory is a desktop application that lets you graphically design a solar system of your own.  The application implements SceneKit, an Objective-C framework for realizing 3D graphics, so that the user can plot 3D planets on a 2D canvas.  You have a cameara that captures the entire scene at a distance involving planets and a light source, which acts as the sun of your solar system.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-02

 

Planet Factory doesn't just let you plot planets.  You can easily save the entire solar system that a camera captures to your disk as a picture.  You can of course create a single planet and then save that planet to your disk as a picture as well.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-02

 

2. Quick workflow: Planet Factory's workflow goes as follows.

 

  1. Use the two text fields at the top-right corner to set a document size.
  2. Click on the camera settings button to adjust the camera settings.  Also click on the sun setting button to adjust the light settings.
  3. Click on the create planet button to create a planet.
  4. When a planet appears on the solar system canvas, move it freely with your mouse.
  5. Touch a planet with the mouse pointer.  Then select a surface map by exploring the drop-down menu under the surface column.  Similarly, explore the drop-down menu under the style column to select a style.

 

3. Setting up a solar system: Planet Factory doesn't just let you plot one planet after another on a 2D plane.  It involves a camera and a light source, which acts as the only sun of your solar system.

The very first thing we need to do after launching the application is to configure the right document size (work area size).  Use the two text fields located at the top-right corner to enter a width and a height.  (See Screenshot 1-01.)  Make sure you press the RETURN key after entering a width or a height.  The minimum document size is 610 x 420 pts.  When you enter a width or a height smaller than this size, the text color will turn red, indicating that it's invalid.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-01

 

 

The document size is considered as the size of your solar system.  When you save the solar system to to a disk as a picture, a resulting picture will have this exact size of your work area.  The document size also affects planet sizes.  If you manually expand the window size, the same planet will increase in its size.  In this manner, Planet Factory relates planet sizes and their positions to the document size regardless of the application window size.

Before plotting the first planet, there are two groups of settings we need to configure, camera settings and sun settings.  It's true that a camera is nowhere to be found although there's always one somewhere capturing the entire scene.  Also, there is a sun somewhere although it's not visible, either.  To understand how all these players (camera, sun, planets) come into play, let's take a look at Screenshot 1-02.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-02

 

 

When you launch the application, you always see the vertical Y axis and the horizontal X axis.  The Z axis is also there, but it isn't really visible because it extends right towards you.  Although you plot planets in a 3D space, we assume that the Z value is zero.  And there is a sun above all planets.  It's the light source that plays a significant role in casting shadow on all planets.  At the end of the Z axis, we have an invisible camera that captures the entire scene.

Now, let's open the camera settings by clicking on the camera settings button at the top-left corner.  There are three coordinates, X, Y and Z.  The default Z value is 500, which means that a camera is far back to capture the entire scene.  Now, try lowering the Z value to 100, which means that a camera is now a lot closer to planets.  Screenshot 1-03 shows the same planet with different camera distances from the origin.  When the Z value is 100, the same planet looks bigger only because a camera is closer.  That shouldn't surprising.  If you capture an object with a digital camera at a closer range, that's exactly what would happen, right?

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-03

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-04

 

Next, let's open the sun settings by clicking on the sun settings button.  There is only one sun, which acts as the light source of your planets.  Although it's invisible, you can change its position in a 3D space.  The default position is 0,0,100.  So it's located right above your planets.  If you lower the Z value to 30, for example, a planet that is located directly under the sun will have shadow cast around.  (See Screenshot 1-04.)  How shadow falls on a planet largely depends on where that planet is positioned.  If a planet is located far to the left of the solar system while the sun is positioned at the center (X = 0, Y = 0), then shadow will fall on the left side of the sphere since the sun light won't reach the other side of the planet.  Also, notice that the sun can have a color.  The default color is white.  If you pick a color by clicking on the color button at the top, a planet will assume that color.

 

4. Plotting planets: If you have already test-plotted your first planet, you can clear the solar system canvas by choosing New under File to have a fresh start.  You will then be prompted to confirm whether or not you want to start a new solar system.  So click on Yes.  And all camera and light settings will be initialized, with all existing planets removed, too.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-05

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-06

 

Now, click on the Create planet button at the top.  When a window sheet appears, just give it a planet name.  (See Screenshot 1-06.)  Then just click on Create.  As you expect, a sphere will appear.  (See Screenshot 1-07.)  It should apepar at the center of the solar system canvas.  In fact, a new planet will always appear at the center, which is the origin of the 3D space system (0, 0, 0).

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-07

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-08

 

When you create a planet, Planet Factory inserts a row of default settings to the list box at the bottom.  The first column is the name of the planet.  Frankly to say, it's just a name and doesn't play a significant role at all.  Its name will get involved only when you try to delete a planet.  If you want to change the name, first select the row in the list involving the name of the planet.  You can also just tap the planet itself over the canvas.  Make sure that the row involving the planet you refer to is highlighted.  Then double-click on the planet name, and the text field will become editable.  (See Screenshot 1-08.)

Now, let's quickly discuss how to delete a planet.  First, select the planet name in the list or tap the planet itself to delete over the solar system canvas.  Then click on the Delete label at the bottom-left corner.  Then you will be prompted for confirmation with the name of the planet in question.  (See Screenshot 1-09.)  Click on Delete to proceed.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-09

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-10

 

Now, let's pay our attention again to the list box at the bottom.  There are several more columns.  We first discuss the last three columns.  Try grabbing and then moving a planet with your mouse to the left if you have one.  Then the values on the 2nd and 3rd columns to the last will change, right?  (See Screenshot 1-10.)  These are the X and Y coordinates of the planet position.  The origin of the 3D coordinate system always lies at the center of the solar system canvas.  So if you move a planet to the left, its X value will be negative.  Next, try changing the radius value of a planet.  If you change it to 24 to 36, the planet will appear bigger.  This value, radius, literally indicates the radius of the planet sphere.  So the unit is pixel or point?  That's hard to say because the size of the planet sphere also depends on the camera position.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-11

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-12

 

So far, a planet has assumed a white-to-black gradation color.  Let's change the way it looks.  First, explore the drop-down menu under the surface column.  Then choose one of the surface maps.  (See Screenshot 1-11.)  A surface map creates an atmospheric surface on the selected planet.  If you select one for the first time, the look of the selected planet will also assume a blue color.  That color comes from the color well button under the color column.  Let's now click on the color well button.  When the system color picker panel opens, select a row of settings in the list again and then pick a color.  (See Screenshot 1-12.)  That lets you have the planet assume the color of your selection.  When you pick a color, the list row will be automatically deselected.  The application needs to know which planet you are referring to.  So you must manually select a row of settings in the list in order to select a new solid color to paint the planet background.

So we know that we can use a solid color to change the look of the planet as well.  There are two more settings to discuss, right?  One of them is style.  You can also use a group of gradation colors that run top to bottom to change the look of the planet.  Explore the drop-down menu under the style column.  Then choose one of 80+ styles.  (See Screenshot 1-13.)  Your planet should look a lot better, now.  If you want to switch back to the selected solid color to change the look of the planet, you must select '- Select one -' to disable the current style.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-13

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-14

 

So far, the background of our solar system canvas is a checkerboard style, indicating that it's transparent.  If you want to make your system more realistic, choose one of scene colors under Scene > Scene Color.  (See Screenshot 1-14.)  If necessary, you can also choose Hide Axes under Scene to hide coordinate labels and axes.

So just click on Create button to name and insert a new planet to the system.  Screenshot 1-15 contains seven planets.  You can add 10, 20, 50 planets and more to your solar system.  They are all visible for now, but that doesn't mean they all have to be.  Notice that there's a checkbox at the bottom.  All planets are visible partly because this checkbox is turned on.  Now, if you look at Column 2, it's labeled on/off.  Under this column, you can individually turn on and off each planet's visibility.  So try turning off the All button, first.  Then turn on the checkbox button of one of the planets.  (See Screenshot 1-16.)  Make sure you select a row of settings just as you do when you pick a solid color for the selected planet.  Only in this manner, the application will know which planet you are referring to.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-15

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-16

 

5. Saving solar system to your disk as a picture: If you want to save your solar system to your disk as a picture, first, make sure that you have one or more visible planets appearing over the canvas.  Or Save system to disk button will remain grayed out.  If you want to save just one of planets as a picture, turn off All and then turn on the checkbox of a planet to make only that planet visible.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-17

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-18

 

When you click on Save system to disk or choose Export under File, a new window sheet will appear.  (See Screenshot 1-17.)  Use the top drop-down menu to select a graphic format.  Your options are BMP, GIF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, PNG, TIFF.  There is also a checkbox right under the format drop-down menu.  This checkbox should be disabled if you have a transparent background.  If it's not transparent, then turn on this checkbox if you wish to include the current background color to paint the back layer of a solar system picture.  When you finish selecting an export format, click on the Next button.  Then you will get to name a file.  (See Screenshot 1-18.)  If you have selected JPEG or JPEG 2000 as an export format, you will get to set a compression phase at this stage.  (See Screenshot 1-19.)  And Screenshot 1-20 shows an example output in JPEG.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-19

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-20

 

6. Saving progress: You may have several planets in your solar system.  If you quit the application, they will all be lost.  Fortunately, Planet Factory lets you save your progress as a project file so that you can reconstruct your solar system at any point.  To save progress, simply choose Save Progress As... under File.  Then you will be prompted to name a file.  (See Screenshot 1-21.)  The file extension for Planet Factory's project file is pfy.  The default save-file path is Documents.  You can change it in Preferences.  Screenshot 1-22 shows a project file that one has created.  In order to reconstruct progress, all you have to do is double-click on a project file.  Or choose Open under File to select a project file.

 

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-21

Mac software Planet Factory

Screenshot 1-22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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