Directed Studies - Week #1

This week was the beginning of my sixth semester at the Academy of Art University, and my first semester of Directed Study courses. I’m taking three courses this semester, and all of them are Directed Study (DS for short). My first course was a Modeling and Shading GDS (Group Directed Study) with Tareq M. on Tuesday, followed by “Creature Design and Sculpting” with Micah M. and “Photo-Real Rendering for Modelers” with McKay H. on Friday. After the first round of classes I have very high hopes for this semester.

I was able to get quite a bit of modeling for my gecko sculpture done in Tareq’s class, despite the fact that it has an 8:30 am time slot. When left to my own devices I always work better at night, but the GDS setting lends itself to productivity somehow. Tareq seems very knowledgeable on both his subject and the industry in general, so this should be a great class.

I’m really looking forward to the coming weeks in my Creature Design course. I’m using this course to create a portfolio piece rather than applying it directly to my thesis itself since I’m very interested in potential creature design jobs and, yet, actual organic creatures are one thing distinctly lacking in my thesis project itself. I suppose you could technically classify my sculpture characters as “creatures” if you stretch the definition a bit, but I tend to think of “creatures” as primarily organic beings, whether they’re alien, animal, humanoid, or otherwise fantastic. I would like to produce a really well designed and modeled example of one of these. My homework this week is at least 20 thumbnail sketches for design ideas. Then, in the following weeks, we are going to narrow down and refine our designs until we produce the best design that we can. This is what I was hoping for from the creature design course that I took last semester but didn’t get. I’ll admit that I got some good experience with animal anatomy from that course, but there was no time to refine designs at all for that course. I was harried enough with the workload trying to wrap my head around learning and adapting the anatomy of such different creatures as dogs and monkeys and birds without designing 20 thumbnails for each type of creature we designed, and I’ll be the first to admit that my work suffered without the brainstorming time. I didn’t push my designs enough. The course I’m in now is all about pushing the design. This is definitely something that I need to practice more, and I’m certain it will benefit all of my design work in the long run.

The last course of my week, Photo-Real Rendering, already blew my mind today. I watched my instructor texture and render a 3D model of a diamond ring to look Photo-Real in five minutes or less in Modo. I’ve done a little bit of texturing in both Maya and ZBrush (not a lot, I’ll admit, but enough that I have a fair grasp of what those programs are capable of) and their rendering materials and engines are extremely weak compared to this. The render view window updates changes to texture and lighting and whatnot in seconds, not minutes. It’s not quite real-time, but it’s close – much closer than anything else I’ve seen. Plus, you can move the camera right in the render window – you don’t have to go change the view in the scene and then go back to the render view – you just grab the image and rotate the view… Mind. Blown. I can’t wait to learn to navigate this program. This will be perfect for my juggler. Now I just need to get to modeling her pieces to get them ready for texturing.

I can’t wait to start my homework!