HDR (High Dynamic Range) images have many uses these days. When made into a full 360-degree spherical image map, they can be used in 3D applications as a backdrop and can even light the scene instead of using 3d lights. In video games, you can even use them for real-time lighting, such as Marmoset’s Skyshop extension for Unity3d. Think of it this way- the brighter the pixel in the HDR image, the more light or reflection is given at that point. Dark pixels give no lighting or reflection.

Typically creating HDR images involves taking many photos at different exposure points and then combining the shots in an application like Photoshop. Then you have to stitch it all together and hope you don’t have to do too much clean up work on it. We’ve done it a bit different from the norm and created our HDR images purely from 3D programs, such as e-on software’s Vue and Autodesk Maya. Instead of going out in the wild and taking photos, the computers do the work. Vue, a 3D tool for rendering natural environments, has a feature to export skies in spherical HDR format. So create your sky with a few clicks, then setup your render to spit out a full 360 degree HDR image. Maya, with a little help from mental ray or Vray, can render a spherical HDR map as well. Hence the name of the bundle, Synthetik Skies.

Using Marmoset’s Skyshop in Unity as our testbed, here are 3 images with different HDR maps applied (reference map shown in bottom-left of each image):


Vue was used to render the typical sky images in the pack, but sometimes you may not want a sky. You may want just a solid background, but you still need your object to reflect something. Think about it- chrome isn’t chrome if it’s not reflecting something. So Maya was used to render simple shapes, in our case, white illuminated capsules in a square room. This makes for nice reflections on our vespa. This technique is pretty common and popular when showing off new products, such as a watch, tablet, or smartphone. We’ll follow-up with a tutorial on how that’s accomplished later.

Here’s the best part: They’re FREE. Have at them for commercial and non-commercial use. Use them in your games, animations, product visualization- whatever you want. You’re welcome.

In the package you’ll find:

  • 8 Spherical High Dynamic Range images in .hdr format (4096 x 2048)
  • 8 JPG preview images (1024×512)

Here’s a preview of the 8 images in the pack. Keep scrolling for the download. (Yes, we’re gonna make you work for the freebies.)

  • SynthetikSky-Sky1
  • SynthetikSky-Sky2
  • SynthetikSky-Sky3
  • SynthetikSky-Sky4
  • SynthetikSky-SkyClear
  • SynthetikSky-Sunset
  • SynthetikSky-Capsules
  • SynthetikSky-CapsulesRandom

Download Synthetik Skies

The Bigger Design is a hands-on kind of place. We tear down and build everything from computers to robots. So it just goes to say that we think a little different when it comes to marketing. That and we like to save our scratch for the fun stuff.

Case in point: our LEGO logo. Created with the highly effective interlocking method and a mess of blue bricks, we made this tabletop display to really stand out. Plus, it was easy and fun. Especially with the construction crew we secured from E-bay. Piles to stencil to awesome in just a few days.


Another case in point: our massive stamp. Ever printed envelopes and then rendered them useless by moving? Me too. After making that mistake once, we invested $85 in a Texas-sized stamp (and inkpad the size of an aircraft carrier) that marks everything from envelopes to boxes. Plus, stamping is almost as fun as LEGOs. Almost.


Last case in point: business signage. If you’re like us, you work in a cool place with a bunch of cool people. But you need to make your mark somehow so clients and lunch dates can locate you fast. We created our company sign on a glass door using a new-fangled high-tech device called a “grease pencil.” Seriously. People love it so much they want to touch it. And they can because the drawing is on the inside of the glass. It doesn’t smear as long as you keep them rubbing the front of the glass not the back.


So whatever you’re doing—whether signage, letterhead or proposals—be crafty with your brand. Ingenuity can save you money and provide hours of fun. What’s been your craftiest marketing tactic?

We can finally talk about our latest project – a NERF installation at MailChimp headquarters in Atlanta! We designed a custom cart to hold dual Vulcan guns so they can lay down some hurtin’ over the interwebs. We’ll post more once we get off the plane and back to our HQ. For now, check out MailChimp’s blog and the video below.

The Bigger Design presents you with the intial release of the Sentinel project. We strapped a NERF BFG on a homebrew swivel stand, hooked up some wires with an Arduino board, slapped a webcam on top, and brought it all together with an Adobe AIR application to make it sing. Now you can too.


The Sentinel project is a mashup of ideas and is based on several freely available AS3 libraries. You can do whatever you like with it as long as you don’t sell it. If you do create a unit, please let us know.


The Orbitron font and AS3 libraries are included. You’ll need an Arduino board and a webcam to get it started. From there you’ll also need a NERF Vulcan, a few servos, etc. A tutorial is in the works to get it all going, but you can start looking around now and seeing how things work.


  • Tutorials on how to create your own base/stand, configure Arduino, making it all sing, etc.
  • OpenCV integration for face tracking
  • Moving in the X and Y axis without buying a $800 base. The jury is still out on how this is going to be done affordably.


I’d like to thank Jack Doyle, Justin Windle, Grant Skinner, Björn Hartmann, and Matt Przybylski for making their awesome AS3 libraries publicly available for the Flash community.


If you have any questions, please contact us at: info@thebiggerdesign.com

Download The Sentinel Source Code from Google Code

Adobe called a few months ago and expressed interest in having The Sentinel as part of their keynote at AdobeMAX. After mulling it over for .001 seconds, we were in. We put together a tech-focused video on the project, since it was created with Flash and runs on Adobe AIR, and sent it their way. Next thing you know they’re calling back and wanting it in person. Copious amounts of packing materials and extra parts later we’re in LA rubbing elbows with Ben Forta, Ely Greenfield, and Matt Chotin, and the rest of the Adobe gang.

Here’s the video that aired during the AdobeMAX Day 2 Keynote:

Once through with the keynote, it was off to a few sessions on GoogleTV, new 3D technology for Flash Player, multi-player gaming, and more. Check out all the sessions for AdobeMAX on AdobeTV.

In addition to a great conference, the amount of goodies acquired was epic. All attendees received a Droid 2 phone from Motorola and a Logitech Revue from Google. This is in addition to thumb drives, water bottles, Flex books, etc.

Additionally, head over to Flickr for a few more pictures.

The NERF Sentinel Project is going open-source, so you’ll be able to build your own system to automatically protect your domain. We’re cleaning up the code and preparing a series of technical tutorials on how to get your gun up and running. Look for more information in the coming weeks.

If you’re at AdobeMAX and want to see more of the Sentinel, message @thebiggerdesign and we can arrange a demo in the pavillion.

So it’s been about a year since this blog was updated, so we’re bouncing back into the blogoverse with an epic post to make up for the hiatus. The Bigger Design presents you with our Sentinel project. We strapped a NERF BFG on a homebrew swivel stand, hooked up some wires with an Arduino board, slapped a webcam on top, and brought it all together with an Adobe AIR application to make it sing.

This was part of a larger presentation given at this past spring’s Columbia Adobe User GroupRefresh Columbia double-feature meetup. Here’s another short video demonstration of the Sentinel from the meeting, courtesy of Greg Lunn.

Now we’re brushing off the cobwebs and bringing the Sentinel project back into the spotlight. Over the next few weeks, we’ll break the project down, describe its biggest challenges and how we solved them. If there’s enough interest, we’ll get your trigger finger itching with details on how you can roll your own.

Check out our Sentinel photos on Flickr.

No, not like that, though I’ve seen people give Flash the finger far too many times. In our case we want the cursor to change to the finger cursor. This is the same cursor you would get when hovering over a link. By default this is turned off for MovieClips. To enable it, we add this line of Actionscript for the movieclip:

myMovieClip.buttonMode = true;

Simply take your MovieClip’s instance name and set the attribute buttonMode to true. Now when you publish your movie, rolling over the MovieClip changes your cursor.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Let’s say there’s a MovieClip in your library that needs to be used several times to contain text, such as a list of buttons. You set up the MovieClip as a class to re-use, you pull in the XML content to each class using a for loop, and then add it to the stage with buttonMode set to true. Now here comes the pain in the neck. When you hover the mouse over the MovieClip you get the cursor change, but when you move the mouse over the part of the MovieClip with the text, bye-bye cursor change.

This result is due the default behavior of text with the cursor. To disable this behavior, set the textfield inside the MovieClip to this:

myMovieClip.myTextfield.mouseEnabled = false;

Presto! Now your MovieClip behaves like a button, the cursor is not affected by the text, and you don’t have to give Flash the finger.

So you’ve managed to find our blog! Here you’ll find out all about 3D, video, web, games, and all the in-betweens. We’re just getting this thing going, so bear with us as we get the kinks out. Our goal is to have fun and learn something on the way.