Directed Study - Week 6

I've had another busy, yet productive, time this week.

I built another few items for my Juggler character model.:


Then I got hung up for about two days on an unexpected issue that I was having with her design. I had originally designed the character to be supported on one hand made of office supplies: Her fingers were to be made up of pens and pencils; her palm was a pile of rubber bands, tacks, and clips piled against the side of a rubber stamp; and her wrist was a to-go paper coffee cup which then yielded to the rest of the sculpture above. I made the pens and stamp last week and have had the coffee cup for awhile now, but began working on the rubber band pile just this week. I planned to build it up piece by piece by duplicating the rubber bands and arranging them one by one. Eventually I decided that this was madness: it'd probably take me about a week to build a piece of the character that takes up approximately one percent of her total mass - and it's not even anything anyone would likely be able to see close up in any render or animation that I might use the character in anyway. So, I thought again. I took one of the rubber bands I'd made in Maya into ZBrush and made it into an Insert Mesh brush. I clicked-and-dragged about one hundred times and finally had something resembling a messy rubber band pile. I started using ZBrush brushes to clump it together a bit more and messed the whole thing up. I reverted back to where the tool was at just after I'd built it - before I'd begun moving things - and tried again a little more gently. I then exported it back to Maya and began manipulating the geometry there so that the rubber bands didn't intersect where they were in plain view. I noticed that Maya wasn't responding very quickly, then looked at the poly count of my scene and realized that it was outrageous due solely to the rubber band pile. I'd exported them from ZBrush on the lowest resolution, but  the number of times that that one low-res rubber band had been repeated for that single small pile still made the overall polygon count a little too high for my liking. Not only that, but many of those faces weren't even visible because they were lost in the overlapping geometry in the middle of the pile. So, I thought again. I went back into Zbrush and tried dynameshing the pile, hoping that it would just merge all of my overlapping center geometry into a solid form, which it seems to have done, but it also smoothed the outer rubber bands to such an extent that the whole thing turned into an utter mess. If I'd been trying to model a hairball it might have been perfect, I suppose, but that is distinctly not what I was going for. I tried sculpting a solid center in ZBrush that I could have a few random rubber bands protruding from by placing them carefully in Maya, but that didn't pan out too well either.

Eventually, I scratched the whole rubber band thing and went back to the drawing board. One of my roommates suggested that I support the other half of the coffee-cup-wrist with an on-end bulldog clip rather than a rubber band pile. I started modeling one of those, and then got the idea to have the palm of the hand as the computer mouse with the pens protruding at an angle toward the ground like spread fingers on top of it. I really liked the idea of the mouse as the palm, because it's then sitting in the anatomy of the sculpture in direct relation to where it would be positioned during use by an actual human. I then thought it would also be a great idea to have the whole sculpture sitting on a small platform with a mouse pad on it directly under the hand - something with more area to anchor it directly to a supportive ground plane. I rearranged objects in the sculpture to fit this new vision, then realized that it only created an even more awkward gap between the sloping surface of the mouse and the bottom of the coffee-cup-wrist that I'd have to fill. I considered the bulldog clip again, but decided to sleep on the problem before commiting to anything.

While lying in bed that evening I was struck by sudden inspiration - I'd forego the mouse-palm thing and support the entirety of the bottom surface of the coffee cup on a small desk chair. It'd be a much more solid surface for the cup to sit on, and, since the rear of a desk chair has a fairly flat vertical plane, I could place another solid object (like the rubber stamp I'd already built) right up against the back of it to anchor the statue a bit more, then have the pens and pencils extending off of that. The desk chair can solve two problems at once: number one is the obvious support issue, and number two is a kind of clarification that the objects making up the sculpture are not meant to be to scale. It's been an idle concern of mine that the unnatural scale of the objects could be taken as a mistake rather than a design choice ever since one of my roommates asked me if the objects were meant to be to scale. I had thought that was clear already, but then I noticed how many were near enough to scale that it could foreseeably cause confusion and I became concerned. A clearly undersized desk chair integrated into the design eases my concern on this count. I built a quick mock-up of a desk chair to test its placement in the design and am happy with the direction the design is going now.

I still need a little bit of something to fill up space in the palm, but, since that section of the figure doesn't have the issue of having to directly support the rest of the sculpture like the area under the coffee cup did, I have a lot of options and am confident that I can find a good space-filler - perhaps that bulldog clip that I've started building...

Another object I'm working on for the Juggler is a smart phone. I'm modeling it after my iPhone since it's a handy reference that I happen to always have on me. I've had a bit of trouble modeling it because it's one item that I can't follow Tareq's extremely good advice on and break into pieces. I mean, I can break it up a bit, but the places that I can separate it are not the places that are particularly problematic. The difficult areas are the buttons, which require nice round holes in a piece of solid, perfectly smooth geometry. I've had a bit of trouble with holding edges for the rounded corners of the overall phone shape interferring with holding edges that I need to add for a button, or holding edges for the screen messing up the rounded corners. I've already had to scrap one version of the phone and begin again. I made the screen too small and when I tried to enlarge it all of the holding edges started reacting to each other unfavorably and I lost the smoothness of the overall shape. It started pinching in some areas and bowing outward in others:

I started over again and it seems to be going fairly well so far, but I do still have more buttons to add, so we'll see how it goes...

In other news, I made a bit of progress on my large creature maquette this week:

I had hoped to get all the way through modeling the entire form, leaving just the skin detail for this week, but I was a bit too busy last week to manage that. It took quite a while to get the limbs as smooth as they are: every time I tried to smooth out the clay the wire inside started to break through from the opposite direction and then I had to add more clay and smooth that out. I didn't even begin to attempt shaping or smoothing the fingers and toes. I smoothed out the body and got one half of the back ruffle (for lack of a better word) on, but I still have the other half of that, the hood, and the face to sculpt before I can move on to any detail texture work.

On the other hand, I managed to get much farther than I anticipated on my Modo homework this week. The assignment was to practice our skill at judging material properties by creating 50 textures. I anticipated that I might finish about half of that amount since my other work during the week left me with only a day and a couple hours of Creature Design class time to work on the textures in. I finished all 50. I was (and still am) quite impressed with myself. The materials still aren't perfect, but they're not any worse than the ones I've created in my previous weeks in the course, and, since I finished over three times as many in the same amount or less time than I've devoted to the course's assignments in previous weeks, I mark this as significant progress. This week we move on to texture painting and fur styling, and soon we'll progress to applying textures to our own models - I can't wait!

For now, here are this week's textures:

More next week!