Daily Art: Three Weeks of Daily Art

I've been working on the most recent pages of my Cut-Up Sketchbook for the past few days while I've been out of town:

Day 98:

 

Day 97:

 

Day 96:

 

Day 95:

 

Then I spent this past weekend with my niece and nephew helping my sister prepare for my niece's birthday party, so the art on those days is all party and kid-related:

Day 94:

On Sunday I acted as the unofficial photographer of the birthday party. I won't post pictures of the kids online, but I will show a snippet of an action shot of the piñata smash:

 

Day 93:

Saturday was cupcake decorating day:

The crab was following a design that my sister found (on Pinterest, I'm sure...)

 

Day 92:

On Friday I drew some pictures of "Frozen" characters for my niece and nephew that they chose to fold into fans. My nephew wanted Olaf and Sven, which he then colored before adding drawings of his own of Anna and Cristophe:

And my niece wanted Elsa, which I colored for her:

 

Day 91:

And before that was more Cut-Up Sketchbook:

 

Day 90:

 

Day 89:

On day 89 I spent the better part of my work time taking screen shots, editing, and compositing progress photos for this blog. I think this qualifies as Daily Art considering the amount of time that I spent working in Photoshop, but it does not yield its own images. You'll just have to look at days 76-88 to see the results of day 89's work...

 

Day 88:

A tree:

In the form of a photo collage.

 

Day 87:

I made a list of all of the remaining tasks to complete in the revision of my Juggler's textures this day.

And then I decorated it:

 

Day 86:

The 86th day of Daily Art was a Saturday on which I spent 5 hours face painting. Here's a sample of my work:

 

Day 85:

I also face painted on Friday:

 

And made a quick sign advertising the face painting:

 

Day 84:

On this Thursday and the two days before I spent time creating a 10 second long demo reel for my former school's Spring Show. As a student who was enrolled in the fall I still qualify for entrance into this year's show despite the fact that I've already graduated. This is the reel that I submitted:

 

Day 83:

I submitted that reel because I realized that the submission guidelines prohibited having any contact information anywhere other than the first frame of the 10 second time span (I edited out that frame for posting on the internet). This is the reel that I created the first time around (and the way that I would have left it had I had free reign).

 

Day 82:

This was the day that I began the reel-editing process.

And the day that I discovered that the resolution requirements were full 1920 x 1080 HD and that I had to re-render a couple of my turntables.

(such as the Juggler wireframe turntable that includes the image above.)

 

Day 81:

I spent this day trying to turn detail that I'd previously achieved through a normal map into detail achieved through a displacement map.

It worked in general, but lacked much of the sharp definition provided by the normal maps...

 

Day 80:

Daily Art day #80 was filled with technical behind-the-scenes stuff that provides no great imagery, like transferring sculpting from one object to another to utilize the UVs of the new item rather than the original one...

 

Day 79:

On this day I concocted some designs for face painting:

 

Day 78:

I reorganized my Juggler's UVs this day so that each individual piece of her won't require its own unique map when I texture paint her. I probably ended up averaging 3 - 5 items per map instead:

 

Day 77:

On this day I finished UVing every single piece on my Juggler so that I could really texture paint her rather than relying on procedurals as I did previously:

And, before that, I built a new mesh for the tire in my Juggler's shoulder:

It has far fewer polygons than the tire with the modeled tread, but I think that I should be able to create the same look of a tread by creating a displacement map with the tread pattern in it.

 

Day 76:

And, finally, on the first/last day (depending on how you look at it) of Daily Art for this entry, I created a new, solid mesh to replace the very high-poly wire mesh in my Juggler's tea ball.

Then I created and tested displacement and transparency maps to use on the new mesh to make it look like it's built from the same wires as the original mesh:

 

That's all folks!

Daily Art: 3D Print Prep & More

It's been a busy week and a half since I last posted. I let a bit too much time get away from me between posts again, but it was for a very good reason: I put in an application to a Talent Development program at a major animation studio this week. Fingers crossed that something amazing comes of it! Now, back to daily art practices:

Day 75:

I revamped my demo reel a few times this week. Today I completed the most recent version; I fixed a couple of errors in the revamp that I completed earlier in the week. In the earlier version both my Gecko and my Juggler models disappeared shortly before the screen faded to black. One minute they were there, then suddenly they weren't, then the frame faded to black before progressing on to the next set of turntables. They both did this in slightly different ways for slightly different reasons, but I was able to identify both problems and adjust the file accordingly. I don't know how I missed it before I uploaded the version that I completed earlier this week to the internet...

 

Day 73 & 74:

I worked on the same thing two days in a row and never paused to take in-progress screen shots of it. So here is the finished image covering both days' worth of work.

 I didn't complete this entire storyboard in the two days that I worked on it. I actually began the thing a few years back, then lost interest in it in favor of other projects. It's been nestled in the back of my mind on my to-do list, however, and for some reason I really felt that it would be a valuable example to add to my Talent Development program application portfolio. Most of the work that I completed over the two day span was coloring the panels. All of the initial drawing and layout was already completed, and I had blocks of color multiplied over each panel depicting the dominant shade that I wanted each frame to be. The work that I did over the weekend was pretty akin to coloring in a digital coloring book of my own creation.

 

Day 72:

Saturday's work was just a quick sketch of a lion head. I found myself studying the contours of the face of a leopard whose photograph appears occasionally as my computer's desktop wallpaper and wanted to draw a new version of it. Changing the proportions of the face turned it distinctly lion-like, but, as I wasn't really aiming for any type of cat in particular, I was pleased with it. I'd like to turn this sketch into vector artwork in Illustrator someday.

 

Day 71:

Friday I spent a short amount of time UVing the clock on my Juggler:

 

I've been UVing all of the Juggler's pieces separately because I started working on the character this way, but I know now that that was a mistake. Having a separate UV map for each piece of the character wastes space and makes the character far too data-heavy to function efficiently. I can't do much to fix all of the UVs on the objects that I've already added normal and texture maps to without re-doing an awful lot of work, but I can, and will, combine the UV maps of some of objects that have no texture information to them yet before I go about adding such information. I'm planning to dispense with the procedural textures that I gave the Juggler for my thesis and texture paint her in Mudbox instead. She will be a wonderful piece to add to my texture portfolio, which is distinctly lacking at the moment.

 

Day 70:

My art on Thursday consisted solely of a quick little face-painted mask of-sorts. More practice for when I begin doing this at the farmer's market.

 

Day 69:

Wednesday was the day that I truly revamped my demo reel. I fixed the little issues that I missed later in the week, but this was the day that I truly put effort into working on it. It's fairly similar to the reel that I've been using (it features many of the same models with the same turntables), but the turntables are re-ordered to showcase my best models first. I know that this is how a demo reel should go: you show your best work first so that the recruiter who views 100 demo reels per day becomes interested immediately and doesn't just turn your reel off thinking that everything on it must be as mediocre as the first thing and move on to the next reel. I know that's how it works, and yet... I've been using my thesis reel because I know that it has my best models on it. The problem is: I designed my thesis reel to work up to my best work because I knew that the panel that it was intended for was going to watch the entire thing and then discuss it. I saved the best for last, which is exactly opposite of what you should do when you create a demo reel. And somehow, until quite recently, I missed the error. I never revamped my thesis reel to make it more appropriate as a demo reel in any way other than changing the slate information to be more suited to its purpose; until now.

The new reel puts my Addict first, followed by my newly-textured Gecko. Then comes the Juggler and the Warrior. Next is the Gallery environment. I nixed the still image of all of the models in the environment together because it no longer reflects the current state of the models now that the Gecko is textured; it also makes the addition of my Felix model tagged onto the end distinctly out-of place.

This version of the reel includes the 8-bit Dragon for "Amazing Adventure" at the very end after Felix, but I nixed that turntable later in the week when I fixed the errors in the reel because I'm just not happy with the quality of the turntable that I created for that model. It's not lit properly, the speed isn't constant, there's no wireframe view... It just looks unprofessional compared to the rest of the reel. Felix doesn't have a wireframe turn either, but the quality of the turn-around that he does have is so far above the one that I quickly set up and rendered of the dragon that I'm still satisfied having him at the end.

 

Day 68:

I spent the first three days of this round of daily art prepping my Szeth-Son-Son-Vallano model for 3D printing.

I'm not planning to sell him or anything of that nature, but, after the artist who designed the character said such nice things about the model, I figured that it would be nice to have a physical representation of him. I might even try to send one to the artist and the author who created the character if I'm successful; I know that the author, at least, really appreciates fan art.

Unfortunately, getting a model such as this ready for 3D printing is no easy feat. First off, The model has to be water-tight, which means one single, solid piece. When I built the model he consisted of exactly 15 different pieces. It also has to be under one million polygons, and the model that I built had something like 8 million quads if my memory serves me correctly. There is also a minimum thickness that any part of the model can be (how much that is depends on the material used to create the print), a minimum distance between two separate sections of the model (which means no intersecting or otherwise touching geometry), and a slew of other stipulations about the dimensions of the piece which will cause me less grief than the few that I have already mentioned. This means that I had to decimate the model to bring the poly-count down below one million while keeping all of my sculpted detail, and then connect all of the different pieces and any piece of geometry currently touching any other (this includes connecting the fingers resting on the surface of the model's face to the face as well as attaching the wrists to the sleeves and the coat to the shirt and the pants to the belt and every other piece to all of the other pieces).

I originally thought that I could complete the task of connecting all of the different pieces of the model fairly easily by putting all of the subtools on one layer in ZBrush and Dynameshing the entire thing, but it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. The geometry that Dynamesh produced needed so much clean up that it just wasn't worth it - at least by pixel-pushing and merging vertices in Maya I have more control and can keep track of what's going on with the shape of the model. I couldn't even make sense of all of the intersecting geometry that Dynamesh created...

So, after trying and failing attempted shortcuts in ZBrush a few times I brought the decimated model into Maya and have been merging vertices "by hand" ever since. The model will still require a lot more work before it's done, as well as some additional ZBrush sculpting to clean up the flow of the seams once the model is all one piece, but it's coming along:

The above image illustrates where I've deleted geometry from both the shirt and the belt in the areas that it overlaps. Next I will connect the vertices to make it water-tight.

This image clearly illustrates why the model will require extra sculpting in ZBrush to clean up the newly-created seams between the previously separate items.

 

Day 67:

On this day I connected Szeth's calves to the inside of his trouser legs:

 

 This image shows all of the successful connections that I have made thus far:

 

 

Day 66:

The first day that I worked on Szeth I began by connecting his shoes to his feet.

 

That's all that I did last week. The coming week should be very heavily Juggler-oriented, as I'm trying to create all-new textures for her in the hopes of submitting her for consideration in the Academy of Art's Spring Show. I think she'd be a fine fit for the Hard-Surface Model category.

Daily Art: Face Paint, Harley Quote, & UVs

This past week I've neglected my art a bit: I only did quick little projects here and there. I didn't spend any great amount of time on any one thing. Early in the week I tested out some new face paints that I got so that I can begin earning some extra money face painting at a local farmer's market. In the middle of the week I switched gears to a drawing/painting that I created as a birthday gift for my father, and this weekend I've UVed a couple of objects on my Juggler, because I want to go back and hand-paint all of her textures rather than using procedurals.

 

Day 65:

A quick UV job:

 

Day 64:

Push pin UVs:

 

Day 63:

I painted (well, sort of: I cheated by using a paint pen rather than a brush) text on a painting/drawing that I'd completed the day before.

I'm not entirely happy with the text. It's a little squished at the bottom and a bit too large up top, but there wasn't much to do about it unless I'd re-painted that whole section, and I lacked both time and motivation for that...

 

Day 62:

The painting minus text:

I keep calling this a "painting" or "painting/drawing" because it's actually mixed media. The only colors that I painted were black and white (and the white was only for the signature). Everything else was pastel. The pastel was originally much more vivid, but it developed dark spots following the "grain" of the cork that I painted the image on when I sprayed it with a clear gloss coating. I'm not entirely sure why that was, but I also wasn't too upset by it because the new texture reminded me quite a bit of the rough rubber texture of a tire. So I went with it.

 

Day 61:

On this day I put together the cork pieces used in the image, painted everything with a black base coat, and drew up a couple of quick concepts for what I wanted the image to be. This one won out:

 

Day 60:

On day 60 I had my first successful test with the face paint that I was practicing working with:

The ones that I did before this, however, were not nearly as successful...

 

Day 59:

The above image is what I painted and a guide for what I decided afterward that I should have painted. The painted image was too far back on the face: the rainbow should have made a tighter curve around the eye so that the pot of gold would land more on the surface of the cheek rather than falling off the face down toward the neck. Now I know for next time.

 

Day 58:

My first test with the face paints wasn't on a face, but rather my own hand.

This image has all kinds of glitter and shimmer powders and such on it because I wanted to test all of the different types of products that I'd gotten and then make sure that it would all come off with the make-up remover cloths that I got to use with the paints. I just kind of doodled whatever came out of my head here, and I'll be the first to say that it wasn't very impressive, but, hey, it was just a test... I'll get better at improvising with this stuff.

Fall Directed Study - Weeks 12 & 13

My final thesis video presented at my final review on Nov. 27, 2013.

Well, I'm posting my thesis progress from week 12 a bit late, and week 13 a bit early, but this is as good as it gets right now. I'm currently on vacation visiting my family for Thanksgiving, so I don't have much time to write an extensive blog post (or two). First, the news:

I passed my final review!!!

I presented my thesis to four reviewers and they all said that they were impressed, which was really nice to hear. They complimented me on designing a project that has a very good mix of hard surface and organic modeling elements and making it unique. I told them that I was planning to continue the project by texturing the untextured models for my demo reel and they agreed that that was a good idea. They said that the Addict was my best model and the Gecko second to it. They recommended that I go back and paint some more of the Juggler's textures by hand instead of using mainly procedurals, which I agree with emphatically. I've been wanting to do that, as well as adding some more bump and normal map graphics to some of the objects on her, but I knew once I got her to the point that she is at now that I had to stop working on her, call her "good enough" and move on if I was to have any hope of finishing the rest of the project to the standard that I desired. Their strongest criticism was that the Juggler still looks a bit too CG. They also recommended that I update my reel, because the models in what I dubbed "my reel" are all a bit dated, but, since I'm planning to basically use my thesis reel with a few minor tweaks as my demo reel, that's not something that I'm overly concerned about.

Finishing up the last minute changes to my reel and book, revising the book to turn it into a presentation format, and presenting my thesis was the bulk of the work that I completed in week 12. For week 13 I'm taking a break from my "Fearless" project and working on a model for a friend who will be presenting his animation thesis next semester. It's a pretty simple model (an 8-bit style princess), but it's taking a little while to build due to the fact that I'm working on my laptop rather than my PC, which is currently the more powerful of my two computers. My Mac doesn't have a whole lot of space left on it because it's an older computer, so my Maya is running quite a bit slower than I've become accustomed to. I've spent part of the day transferring unnecessary files to my portable hard drive, so I'm hoping that that will give my computer a little more power to speed things up, because it's tedious to select something and wait, and then move something and wait, and then select something else and wait again while trying to model. I'll post some progress pictures next week when I'm a bit closer to being done with her. Then, after she's done, I'll return to texturing my thesis models. I probably won't get very far into texturing before I take another break for the holidays, but I do expect to make at least a little progress since I'll need some kind of work to show for my last week of school.

Fall Directed Study - Week 11

This is my thesis demo reel. It won't be my final reel (I'm allowed to make changes to it up until Tuesday, the day before my review). It was going to be my final reel for a day or two, but both of my instructors had some concerns over the varying line widths in the wireframe gallery renders, and I recently discovered a new way to render wireframes in Modo, so I'm revising the wireframes in which the line widths currently vary. I will also be replacing the high-res Addict model with the low-res, displacement mapped one. 

Here are my new wireframe gallery renders:

And here is my new Addict wireframe turn-around:

This model is just over 20,000 polygons rather than the 325,000 polygons that the higher-res mesh contained.

I am also working on an additional pose for my Addict to show off the texture work that I did in the areas where he has to pull himself apart to unfold:

I'm not too happy with this image yet, but I'm having a hard time deciding how to fix it. His calves are much too wide, his head is too far forward still, and there are a few places where the geometry got tweaked in such a way during the posing that it's pulling on the texture. I can fix the first and last problems pretty easily: for the last problem I just need to make my final adjustments to the geometry with the texture applied, rather than blindly tweaking the low-res mesh alone, and to fix the first problem I just need to re-pose the head and the eyes. The width of the calves is the problem that I'm really wrestling with. They are currently as wide as they are because he was supposed to be built kneeling, which flattens out the calves quite a bit. Since he is supposed to be rigid, I feel like those calves should remain as wide as they are to keep the integrity of the character. However, it looks bad. It looks like I don't understand basic anatomy, and since this is a portfolio piece to show my skill, that's a problem. I think that I'm going to just end up fixing the shape of the calves until it looks better, but I still feel like I'm betraying my concept for the character by doing so...

 Anyway, those are the changes that I expect to make to my presentation in the next couple of days. As far as the work that I did to submit my thesis, however, it all came together pretty easily. I made/modified After Effects compositions for each of my characters and my environment and perfected their individual video segments in their own space, then I put all of the compositions together into a larger composition in which I created the transitions between the turntables and added the concept art frames and informational slates. Then I worked on the book. Well, actually, it wasn't so much "one then the other". I had already started work on the book prior to this past week, but as far as the order in which I pulled all of the pieces together goes, it was the reel first, then the book. It took me until Monday or so to get all of the beauty shot renders done. Then I had to go through them and prepare them for the book by adjusting and merging the layers of render passes and cropping images when necessary. I finished the written portions during render time. Then I just put it all together into a book format as best as I could. Here are a few sample pages:

(I think that I forgot to mention that I re-rendered the inhabited gallery scene to produce the image in the page above. I moved the models around a bit, added some extra lights, and used a wider angle lens for the shot. At first, the shot had the same issue that I was having when rendering my Juggler: disappearing polygons and jagged-edged meshes. Then I finally stumbled upon a solution to the problem online: I had to increase the geometry cache size in the render settings. The time to render this frame dropped from over eight hours the last time around to only three hours with the geometry cache raised. Needless to say: I approved.)

The whole book is 83 pages currently, but will probably expand to 85 by the time I add the revisions. 

Fall Directed Study - Week 8

It's official: I have a date for my final review: November 27th. The day before Thanksgiving. This means that I'm either going to have a spectacular or a really bad holiday (hopefully the former). This also means that I have until the 13th of November to finish my thesis and presentation. This isn't the greatest news since I discovered this week that my gallery takes 40-45 minutes per frame to render, but it's also fantastic news given that it provides me with the extra week that I knew I'd need past the earliest possible deadline that I could have had.

The first thing that I worked on this week was my gallery, and thank goodness for that! I started work on it first because I figured that I'd get it out of the way - get it off of my plate while I finished up my Warrior and started work on my presentation materials. Then I discovered how long it took to render a finished frame and I think that I died a little... 

Ok, so that kind of statement may be a bit over-dramatic, but it feels right. I only got my date on Friday, so as far as I knew for most of the week I had the potential for having to turn my entire thesis and presentation in on Monday, November 4th (the day that I'm writing this, as it happens) and there was no way that I could finish everything by then with the renders taking that long. I did the math and discovered that I would need over four straight days and nights of rendering to finish just the essential frames that I needed for my thesis. And I still needed to finish sculpting, normal-mapping, and rendering my Warrior. Not to mention compositing my whole reel and finishing all of my presentation materials - which would require additional beauty shot renders. Thankfully, I have two computers that I can work on (which is how I'm currently rendering gallery frames while typing up this journal entry), but only one has enough RAM to render from Modo in a manageable time-frame (the 45 minute renders on my PC took over 3 hours each on my much older Mac laptop) or handle models with over 10 million polygons in ZBrush. I can work on my presentation materials and directed study journals on my laptop, but the most crucial and time-consuming elements of my thesis all require the same computer to function efficiently, and 4 straight days of rendering did not fit the schedule.

Thus, this past week was incredibly stressful as I waited to find out my date - all the while hoping against hope that I would get a presentation date at least a week later than the earliest one so that I could fit my newly-expanded gallery render time into the schedule. Any time that I haven't been working directly on my PC I've been rendering on it, and I got a pleasant surprise last night when I discovered that the second half of the gallery turntable frames have dropped in render time from 45 to 40 minutes per frame. (That extra 5 minutes makes quite the difference in the long run!)

The first thing that I did in my gallery was finish laying out those newly UVed logs that I mentioned in my last post, then I brought everything into Modo. It was there that I discovered that my couch normal maps looked terrible. I ended up using a slightly higher resolution version of the sculpted couches (one subdivision level up from the lowest level which is pictured in the image above) and re-baking the normal maps to get a much more pleasing result:

I spent a full day adjusting the render settings of the scene to account for odd graininess and scattered light beams and harsh-edged shadows and highlights in the initial images that I was rendering, and I'm pretty happy with where I ended up. The only trouble that I'm having now (aside from astronomical render times) is trying to decide which final color pass I want to use for my turntable:

I really like the contrast of the darker view,

but I worry that the lighter frame might just show off the model better...

I'm waiting for opinions from this week's critique to make my decision fully. I'm rendering both passes with each frame (it doesn't seem to change the render time to have two passes instead of just one) so I have until I finish all of the renders and start compositing my fly-through to make my decision.

In addition to my gallery, I also finished posing and sculpting my Warrior character this week:


I'm quite happy with him. I think that the pose came out really well and I think that the surface texture really looks like it could be chiseled wood. I'm especially happy with the rake-tool details; they're the kind of marks that I noticed all over the real wood sculptures that I was using as reference. Now I'm just hoping that the normal maps that I need to bake in the next day or two capture the detail on him properly.

The last things that I worked on this week were compositing the completed turntable renders of my Juggler and Addict characters. I think that my Juggler still needs some work on the timing, but I'm pretty happy with where my Addict's at. I'll fix my Juggler's issues when I composite my whole thesis reel together this coming weekend, but, for now, enjoy:

 

 

Fall Directed Study - Week 1

Well, I'm in the home stretch: the first week of my final semester has passed (and, boy, do I have a lot of work still to do...).

On a very positive note: I finished my Juggler! Finally! It only took about 8 times longer than I thought it would...

I learned a lot creating this model; it was much more complex than anything I've ever modeled before. When I planned my thesis schedule I'd only ever made character models that were one to ten pieces depending on whether they had mechanical parts or clothing or just one solid body. I'd never made anything composed of 60 different objects, many of which are made up of multiple pieces themselves. I had no idea of the scope of what I was taking on when I signed up for this, but I am thoroughly pleased with the results.

I actually had a lot of technical difficulties while on my vacation, so the vast majority of the final work on this model was done after I returned home. I had quite a bit of trouble baking out usable normal maps of all of my ZBrush sculpting on the more organic objects, but I eventually figured out how to remedy that by compositing multiple maps of the same object baked with different envelope sizes together and using healing brushes in Photoshop. I spent a lot of time baking those maps in Maya and more time compositing them, but eventually I was able to move on and bring everything into Modo, which was where my real trouble began.

I had too many textures. Too many normal maps, too many color maps, too many reflections to be calculated on too many different pieces: Modo didn't want to handle my scene. The real-time render preview kept freezing and crashing the program. I eventually figured out a way to work in which I hid the textures on every object except the limb or even just the individual piece that I was working on; then I was able to make some progress.

I gave all of my final objects the appropriate metal textures (many of which I had only to duplicate from other pieces which I had already designated to have the same material), then I began trying to tone down the uber-shiny metal look. It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually I came up with a combination of noise and gradient masks that made the metal look a little less perfect than it started out to be. I then applied variations of these masks to each and every one of the well over 100 different textures that I have applied to the model. It was a time-consuming process, but well worth it; everything still looks metallic to me, but like metal that's spent a little time out in the world, not like a shiny new penny hot off the press:

Some of the noise masks in the above images are still a bit extreme - you can tell that they're noise rather than grime - but I toned them down after seeing these renders. I haven't made new renders yet because it's a bit more of an ordeal to go through to set the renders up than I'd like to deal with right now. I have to open the file in the "modeling" tab which doesn't have the render preview screen built in, turn off all of the textures (which I've put into groups by body area to make the process easier), switch to the "render" tab and position my camera in the render preview window, switch back to the modeling tab, and then go straight to the final "render" from the drop-down menu without seeing the textured preview first. Then, if I need to change views I turn all the textures off and do it all again. It's the only way it works. My computer is good, but it doesn't contain enough ram to let Modo calculate this textured model moving in the preview render screen. I've just got too much going on in it. The final renders, however, calculate much faster than I expected them to given how much trouble I'm having with the preview renders.

Overall, I'm happy with my Juggler. There are still a few things about her that I would like to tweak: I'd like to add some bump maps of etched designs on quite a few of the objects that make her up. I might change a few colors around. I don't think her head is holding its normal map quite as well as I would like: she lost a little bit of volume from what's there in my actual ZBrush sculpt. The apron has a similar problem: I sculpted wrinkles in the fabric that just aren't showing up as much as I'd like with that pink metal texture. I think that my "grime" masks made her just the tiniest bit too dark for what I'd prefer... But these are little things. I think it's important for me to move on now and finish the rest of my thesis. If I can come back and fix them later after I finish the rest: fantastic, but I can't deal with it now. She's 95% to where I want her to be; it's time to call it "good enough" and bring the rest of my project to completion. I could have as long as a month left in the semester after I present my thesis project - I can tweak the little things then.

So, I've moved on to my Addict. This is the state that I left him in back in the spring:

I kept having trouble with the holes in his sleeves. I thought that I could just hollow out the distance between his arm and his inner sleeve in ZBrush, but I hadn't really made the topology to support the right shapes for that. Looking back at it earlier this week I decided it was no good: I had to re-do it. With all of the experience that I gained from the Juggler I looked at this model and saw numerous areas where I was going to have major issues baking out normal maps, even if I managed to fight the topology and sculpt the right shapes in ZBrush. The thing is, I shouldn't have to be fighting the topology: it should be flowing with my sculpting, and the more that I studied this model the more that I knew that wouldn't be the case. So, I went back to my most recent version of him in Maya and re-made his arms. And his toes. And tweaked his hands and his shoulder pads. And fiddled with a few other issues that I found. Then I divided him into the appropriate groups once more and brought him back into ZBrush where I blocked in his sculpting again. This is his current state:

As you may be able to tell, I made each of his sleeves below the elbow into separate pieces from the rest of the body and built the holes into the mesh: it seemed the only way to get it to work properly. I also gave him real, individual toes rather than one solid block to be sculpted into toes. I'm a bit concerned that the model that I modified was not actually my most recent base mesh of the character, but it was the latest one that I found a file for. I'm concerned because the posture differs slightly from the version that I was sculpting before, and there was a row of unmerged vertices in an area that I hadn't modified that instantly separated when I brought the revised mesh back into ZBrush. I took it back into Maya and fixed it, obviously, but I keep wondering what else is different between the two meshes. Were there problems with the mesh that I made modifications to that had been fixed on the version that I'd previously been working on in ZBrush? I've already noticed quite a difference in the shape of the eyes between the two meshes, and am not sure if that's something that I'd fixed in the base mesh in Maya or simply by utilizing the move brush in ZBrush on the first model. I'm going to try refining the eye shape of the new model in ZBrush, but I'm concerned that I'll get into sculpting it and then notice something big enough to cause me to have to go back to revise the base mesh again...

I'm going to progress on the theory that that's not the case, however, and hope that I can just move on from here and get this character sculpted and begun texturing within the week. I don't see anything particularly wrong with the mesh, just things that are different from the previous version, and I know that I tweaked the previous version quite a bit to get the posture right, so it concerns me if that work failed to follow through to the revised character. I think it's ok though: from what I can see now he still looks right to me, so I'm going to continue sculpting him and just make sure that I keep a close eye on his overall shape. Hopefully, when I post in another week, he'll be nearly done.

Summer Directed Study - Week 8

Directed Study - Session 15

My Group Directed Study session on Tuesday was my last class for the summer semester. In fact, I'm posting this blog entry early because I'm going on vacation soon. (Yay!) I feel that it will be necessary to continue working a bit during my vacation, but I don't believe that it will be necessary to concern myself with keeping up these blog entries during that time, as most of the work that I will be doing won't be visually impressive anyway. I plan to use the time to bake normal maps and UV anything that I previously neglected, etc. I won't be doing any ZBrush work because I'll be using my laptop, which doesn't handle ZBrush nearly as well as my desktop PC. So everything I do will be in either Maya, Modo, or Photoshop.

Before I get to my vacation, however, I do have a bit of progress to show on the sculpting of my Juggler:

You may have noticed that these two collages show two different babies. The first image is the first bit of work that I did that I brought into my GDS class on Tuesday. I was pretty happy with it, but not entirely confident that it was truly baby-ish. I hadn't done any real work on the baby's hand or elbow yet in that set of images: just the face. The comments that I got on it seemed to concur that it wasn't really quite there yet. My instructor pointed out that some features were too defined for a baby. One of my classmates suggested widening the forehead. I think there was a consensus that it needed to be a bit more pudgy all around.

So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with the baby in collage #2. The baby in this image has been changed quite a bit from the first one: the hand is refined, the elbow is refined and resized, the blanket has been refined quite a bit more than in the first image (though it still has quite a bit of work still in need of doing on it), and, of course, the face has been changed. I started out by softening all of the features, which changed the expression and made it much more vague. I think that it looks a bit more authentically "baby", but I'm not sure that I like it any better than the first baby. I think that this rendition of the baby lost the character that the first incarnation possessed. The first one seems to me to be something like a caricature of a baby, while the second one is a bit closer to looking like the real thing. It's possible that I like the caricature better. I like the personality that first baby had: something was certainly making him happy. I'm really not sure what the new one's feeling. I wanted it to retain the happiness of the first in the second, but I really couldn't get that to work while softening the features enough to look more like the images of the newborns that I was able to find for reference online. I think that my main problem is that newborns don't actually have much expression in the real world. The images that I was copying from were either of babies asleep or in the middle of half of a yawn or just making shapes with their mouths. There's no real expression to their faces yet at that age, and I don't really want to look at older references since my baby is still in swaddling and I intend to keep it that way.

I'm thinking that my next step is to find a middle ground. I'm going to try tweaking the new baby face to give it a happier and sillier expression. If it ends up getting defined again while making the changes then I may just say "so be it" and run with it. It's a sculpture. It's not supposed to be a real baby. It's a sculpture of a baby. As long as it comes across as "baby" I think I'm fine. It's not like when I was sculpting the Gecko's hand, which was supposed to be a metal object cast from the artist's actual hand. There's no way to cast a mold of a baby. It would have to be someone's interpretation, and since I want the sculpture to have a bit of a sense of whimsy to it, I think that a baby caricature will be just fine.

I'm going to try to keep moving forward rather than just reverting back to the first baby face that I created. There are good things about the second head: it just needs more expression. I'll work with it more tomorrow before I leave for my vacation and hopefully leave it at a point that I'm happier with than I am now.

If all goes as planned, I should have a lot of good work to show in three or four weeks when I get back to posting after my vacation. I can't wait to show my progress then.

Summer Directed Study - Week 7

Directed Study - Session 14

I have sculpted my Juggler's face. I'm not completely finished with the head yet (some of the features like the hair and the neck muscles and collar bones I've just roughly blocked in for the time being), but I've got a good start. I don't really have a whole lot of information to share about my process on this: I just started sculpting, had kind of a slow start, then tweaked it and tweaked it and refined it and tweaked it some more, and this is what I came up with:

I began my sculpting with just the one subtool of the head and body piece showing, and when I turned on the visibility of the rest of the pieces I realized that the head was just a bit too small, so I turned the resolution down to the lowest level, masked off the body, softened the mask edge, and scaled the head up. I think that one little change helped it a lot. I think that it fits much more proportionally with the rest of the sculpture now:

I'm quite happy with how it's turning out. I'm going to leave the head as is for the moment, with certain elements still in need of detailing, and try to get the model of the baby that the Juggler is holding to at least this level of refinement by Tuesday when I have my last GDS class of the summer. (Actually, I hope to get a lot further than that, but we'll see how it goes: everything always seems to take me longer than I want it to.) Wish me luck!

Summer Directed Study - Weeks 6 + 1/2

I'm getting this update posted quite late this week, so I'm including three Directed Study sessions in this report rather than the usual two.

Directed Study - Session 11

My Gecko is now COMPLETELY finished as far as my thesis work on him is concerned. I would still like to see him textured one of these days, but, as that's not part of my thesis, that will not happen for awhile.

I am quite happy with him. :)

I spent quite a bit of time baking the normal maps for his multitude of pieces, which combined thus:

 I bumped up the contrast just a bit for these images so that they were more visible, but this is the gist of the surface detail on the Gecko (top) and the base (bottom).

Then when I imported all of the maps and OBJs into Modo I decided to do some quick tests to see if I could texture him satisfactorily solely with Modo shaders. I assigned the various pieces of him to material groups that would coincide with the divisions between the Gecko's final colors and did a test render with metallic materials of my own creation:

It looks ok, but I'm not entirely thrilled with it. I wanted a lot more tonal variation in the colors of the metal: a kind of mottled effect. So I did some extremely quick painting over the UV snapshot and threw the resulting map on a shader in Maya just to see how the textures would sit on the panels and if you could see seams or not, and this is what I got:

That mottling on the blue is exactly the kind of coloring that I want. The material and rendering are obviously not at all accurate in this image, but, comparing it to the image with the flat colors that I rendered out of Modo, this is more like what I had in mind when I drew my character design.

Even the short amount of time that I spent setting these texture tests up, however, reminded me that I did not have enough time to spare for perfecting this. Thus, I resorted to focusing on getting the flat shaded and wireframe versions of the Gecko to look satisfactory. I adjusted materials to get a surface that I liked, made wireframe texture guides out of the UV snapshots that I'd taken of the Gecko and his base, which I applied as both diffuse and specular color in the Gecko's "wireframe" material group, set up some three point lighting, animated a three-sixty turn, and viola! I produced both this turntable and the first images that you saw above:

Then I moved on to my Juggler model.

Directed Study - Sessions 12 & 13

 As with Sessions 9 and 10, there's really no clear division between my thesis progress between sessions 12 and 13, so I'm just going to combine them together here.

The first thing that I did after completing my Gecko was to create a few more normal maps for surface details on my Juggler. I made a map for embossed measurements on the surface of the baby bottle:

I made a map for amounts on the measuring spoons:

I made a map to denote "number 2" on the pencil:

And, I made a "mud-splatter" map for the tire. Upon closer inspection of this render, I think that the splatters that I meant to be embossed on the surface are actually receding into it for some reason. I'll have to fix that:

Then I started ZBrush sculpting.

I began with the mop, turning it into an actual mop rather than a vaguely foot-like shape. Once I began sculpting, I realized that while the topology that I had originally created would flow well for a general foot-shaped object, it didn't work well for something that had to be divided into sections as clearly as the mop strings did. The geometry was twisting/pulling oddly along a couple of the sides. The only way to fix it was to retopologize the thing. So, I retopologized it in ZBrush and then re-projected the detail that I'd sculpted back onto it. Then I moved on to sculpting the pin cushion, the finger puppet glove, and the feather duster:

The sculpting on the pin cushion was pretty simple. I gave the body of it a few stitches and softened the top a bit so that it might look a bit like felt. The feather duster was similarly simple: I just drew a bunch of raised lines and then pinched them where necessary to give it a feathery type of texture.

The glove, on the other hand, has proven to be quite difficult. It was simple enough to sculpt, if somewhat time-consuming. When it came time to bake out the normal map though... Let's just say it didn't go well. I had to keep increasing and decreasing the envelope to get various bits and pieces of it. I made a stitch-pattern normal map in Photoshop and xNormal which I overlayed onto the normal maps that I had been able to composite together from bits and pieces of the different maps that I'd rendered, and then realized once I got it on the model that some of the glove's UVs had stretched in the sculpting, as you may be able to see in the image below (it's most noticeable near the "necks" of the characters in this image: in the stitching just below the heads of all of the characters but the dog):

Because of the stretching I was forced to relax and unfold some of the UVs again, which moved them and made all of the normal map work that I'd already done irrelevant. I ended up altering the geometry of the base mesh a bit so that it would hold some of the sculpted elements better, fixing the UVs, projecting the sculpted detail onto the new mesh,  and resculpting about 80% of the detail anyway because every finger had areas that had been pinched in the original sculpting that didn't project well and required multi-level smoothing which then erased sculpted details. Many of the details also projected a little less sharply than I desired, so I had to go through and refine all of them, even where I hadn't had to smooth things... Suffice it to say that it was tedious and dull and repetitive and I haven't attemptted to bake a new normal map for that piece again since I (hopefully) fixed the problems.

I managed to bake satisfactory normal maps for the mop and the feather duster and bring them into Modo; then I rendered just a couple of images of how far the Modo version of the model has come up to this point:

Now I intend to move on to sculpting the face of the Juggler. I'll post the results of my efforts in a few days.