Summer Directed Study - Week 1

Intermission - Week 4:

As predicted, I didn't get a whole lot of work done during the last week of my break between semesters. I did some behind-the-scenes organizational work detailing what kind of jobs were left on each of the pieces making up the Juggler sculpture, and then I made a couple more graphics that I converted to normal maps for the ball and the block that make up the Juggler's left shoulder:

I had a few problems with the normal map on the ball. I had to make a number of adjustments to get the center line encircling the ball to match up at the UV seam. I also had a problem in which all of the ball's UV seams were showing when the normal map was applied to the ball, even in the neutral areas of the normal map. The smoothed version of the ball was perfect, but as soon as I applied the normal map the geometry appeared to be pulling to reveal circular caps on the top and bottom of the ball and a pinch down the side along the UV seam. It took me quite a while to figure out what the problem was, but I eventually figured out that the pinching/pulling was being caused by the shade of color in the neutral portion of my normal maps: it wasn't quite as neutral as I thought. It was all the same shade, but apparently that shade must have indicated the slightest bit of a rise or fall to the surface of the normals so that when the UV seams met up they no longer met at quite the right angle to be invisible. When I compared the ball's normal map from xNormal to one generated directly from geometry in Maya for another object, I noticed that the background shade was off slightly. When I adjusted the background color by my best estimation and reapplied it, I almost solved my pinching problem. When I used the eye dropper tool to grab the exact color from the other map, I did solve it.

Then my new semester started.

Directed Study - Session 1

Session 1 of my directed study class was basically everyone's introduction to one another. We talked a little about ourselves and our projects and our career goals. During these discussions my instructor talked a lot about the importance of staying on schedule for our thesis projects. I was not on schedule at all, due to the fact that when I made the schedule I had no idea how much time it would take to complete a project of this scope. I'd made models before, but only in Maya and ZBrush. I'd never had to deal with getting a high-poly mesh out of ZBrush and back into a program that can't handle multi-million poly meshes. I'd never made a normal map in my life, and my experience with UVing was minimal, to say the least. I'd also never had to put over sixty different objects into one piece before... Needless to say, I grossly underestimated the amount of time necessary to complete these models. Luckily, though, I did know that I have a habit of underestimating the time I might need to complete artistic projects, so I gave myself a lot of extra time at the end of my schedule in case I had to push things back. I hadn't looked at my schedule in months, because I knew that everything that I had projected was basically moot by this point, so my directed study instructor requested that I update the schedule to fit with where I am at in my project now. Here is the updated schedule:

 I tried to match the schedule to what I've already done, as well as projecting my work for the future. It's cutting my work closer to the end of the fall semester than I wanted, because I don't know exactly how early thesis presentation dates begin, but I think it will work out pretty well: this time I tried to overestimate how long I expect some of the tasks to take, just in case I run into unexpected issues. Then I got back into my thesis work.

Directed Study - Session 2

 My group directed study class this semester is being run more as a critique class than a working class. Each class we present our work in much the same way that one might present "dailies" in a production environment. This seems to me to be quite similar to the way that I am trying to present things in my blog. There's a little more talk in class about where we are going with our projects, rather than what we've done, than I tend to put in this blog, but the visual recaps are pretty much the same. As such, my blog posts this summer will consist of much of the same material that I present in class.

As you may have noticed from the revised schedule above, I have decided to shift my focus away from the Juggler for a bit. I'm getting a bit burnt out on texturing issues and wish to shift my focus back to modeling for awhile. I also want to finish something, and I believe that my Gecko sculpture may be nearest to that goal. I'm not texturing the Gecko, and I've already built his entire character mesh.

To recap briefly, this is where I left off on the gecko toward the beginning of my spring semester:


As you can see, nearly his entire character mesh has been built already. (I actually thought that it was all built already, but it was pointed out to me in class on Friday that I was mistaken: he's missing a shallow ridge down his spine.) I left him in need of the entirety of his base, posing, and some very simple sculpting after he's posed. That's it. Then he'll be finished as far as my thesis requirements go. I hope to texture him eventually, but I would not attempt it until the rest of my thesis is completed. 

So, this week I modeled the base mesh for all of the pieces of my Gecko's base in Maya:

  I had a bit of trouble trying to decide where to point the paintbrush to ensure that it will interact with the posed Gecko sculpture, but I think that the placement should work out ok. I can also turn the hand or bring the bristles of the paintbrush forward or back if I need to once I get the gecko on the stand. 

I then exported the OBJ's of all of the base pieces to ZBrush, where I will create panels to mimic the appearance of sheet metal around the hammer and the paintbrush, as I did for the Gecko's body earlier in the year. 

The last thing that I did this week was to make a few minor adjustments to the gecko character mesh, apply some colors to more clearly tie the pieces of the model to the pieces in the design drawing, and render a ZBrush turntable of my Gecko. There was some discussion, and confusion, in class about how exactly he was constructed, and any possible variations that might exist between the design and the model, so one of my classmates suggested that I render a quick turntable to give everyone a better view of where I'm at with the character model. I believe she had a valid point. The quick mesh adjustments and color assignments that I made to the model before rendering the turntable were more to make things more clearly definable to others rather than to really contribute to the model's progress, but I think they were worth it:


There are still pieces of geometry interpenetrating one another, but I'm going to wait to fix those until after I pose my gecko, because chances are those pieces will shift in the posing anyway.

In the coming week my plan is to finish the Gecko's base. Once that is completed I will move on to posing and the simple sculpting that the character requires, and then I will have completed my first thesis model!