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.

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 10

This post is late because I spent last weekend and the early part of this week bringing all of the elements of my thesis together rather than blog-writing, but it's all done now: my thesis has officially been submitted!!!

I'll go into the details of how I finished it off when I post my week 11 journal entry this weekend, but, for now, here's what I did during week 10: I rendered. That's about it. I mean, I spent some time writing my thesis summary for my presentation book, but mostly I rendered. I rendered beauty shots of models whose turntables were completed, all of the extra frames for that gallery turn-around (which works like a dream now, by the way), and wireframe images for my gallery. Here are a few examples:

I was fairly pleased with these wireframe renders, but both of my instructors expressed concern over the varying line width. I'm currently working on finding a solution to this problem.

I also sought advice on my Addict model this week. I don't recall if I've mentioned this before, but after I made the displacement maps for my Warrior I decided to try generating displacement maps for my Addict so that I could bring down his poly-count. It worked fairly well. He looks good everywhere except for that ridge down his spine which has been problematic ever since I brought the model out of ZBrush. That ridge flattened out quite a bit again, but it doesn't look completely horrible. I couldn't decide whether I should re-render all of his turnarounds with the low-res mesh with displacement or just keep the turntables that I already had. One of my instructors told me to stick with the high-res model while the other told me that if I was really concerned about it I could always keep the high-res textured turnaround and just re-render the wireframe with the lower-poly model. I decided to do the new renders at least, but I haven't fully decided whether to actually make the switch in my project yet. (Even though I already turned in my project I can make revisions up until the day before my review.) I'm really happy about being done, so I'm tempted just to leave it as is for now and wait to make any further revisions until I start texturing the untextured models after I graduate, but I also want to ensure that I've put my best foot forward for my presentation, so we'll see...

Fall Directed Study - Week 9

My Warrior's normal maps and turntable are finished:

The only work that I have left to do with him for my thesis is to render a few beauty shots for my presentation book. Since the renders of his turntable frames took about 30 seconds apiece, however, I don't think that that will be too difficult...

I was really happy that his turntable frames took such a short time to render: it was a nice break from all of the 40+ minute per frame renders that I've had to make time for recently. It was also amusing to be so relieved by 30 second renders one day of this week only to spend the next day setting up and rendering an image that required eight hours and seventeen minutes of render time:

This single image took over eight hours to render because it's got all of my models with all of their maps and textures and multiple subdivision levels filling the entire frame that I sized at full HD resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels. I'm sure that I could have cut the render time down somewhat by lowering the subD levels on the character models since they take up so little of the frame, but I didn't feel like going through so many objects one by one to see how far I could drop the subD settings when I knew that I was only rendering one frame. If I were making a video of this shot, then I would do it, but for one single render... I just set it to render before I went to bed and by the time that I woke up the next morning it was nearly finished. I'm really happy with this shot. I set the final color render output settings to a gamma between the two frames that I was trying to decide between last week, and I'm pleased with the results: it's got some pretty good contrast, I think, but it still shows off the model well.

Other than that, this week I finished rendering the first 180 essential frames of my gallery scene, but I was unfortunate enough to discover a problem: the view spins too fast. It's just a little dizzying. I'm not quite sure what to do about this, as, even with my newly extended deadline (I have to turn in my thesis one week before I present rather than two), I don't have time to re-render twice the number of frames that I've already rendered for that shot:

I have two methods that I'm currently working on to try to fix this problem: First, I doubled the length of time that it takes to complete the exact turn that I've already rendered all of the frames for in the video above. Then I set Modo to render only the odd numbered frames. In theory, all of the even numbered frames are the exact same frames that I've already rendered since it's the exact same movement over twice the time period, so I won't have to render those again. I just have to render another one hundred and eighty frames set at every other frame between the existing frames. This theory would be sure to work if the movement was steady, but I fear that it might not work because Modo automatically adds an ease-in and -out to its animated motions. You can see it in the graph editor when the change in position over time shows up as something of a wave or S-curve pattern rather than a straight line. For a normal turntable I would get rid of the ease-in and -out in the timing of the movement because I need the model to spin at a constant rate, but in this case I kept it. It's not a full spin, so I thought the eases would be kind of nice. I'm not certain however, if these transitions remain proportional when the length of time that it takes to complete a movement is doubled. If they don't, my every-other-frame renders won't match up to what I already have. I compared the animation graph that showed up for the original movement with the one that I got after extending the time, and they appear to be the same shape, but I'm just not sure: the tiniest difference somewhere in that graph would throw all of the frames after it off. I also rendered the first set of 20 in-between frames last night and put them together with the first 20 frames from the original movement today and it seems to work perfectly. Thus, I'm going to continue rendering the extra frames overnight and testing it out daily to make sure that everything continues to line up. I'm also going to try another option suggested by a classmate tomorrow: time remapping and frame blending effects in After Effects. I watched a tutorial video on a link that he gave me today and it looks pretty simple. I'm afraid that it could bring down the quality of my video, but it might provide a good enough back-up solution if I can't get all of the new frames rendered before I have to turn my thesis in.

I've been working on my presentation documents this past week as well, and, while I'm not as far as I'd like to be with them, I'm not concerned about the amount of time in which I have to complete them. I really want to get all of my beauty and process shots rendered, screen-captured, or composited before I sit down to seriously write out my project synopsis, but I've been spending so much time rendering and editing video over the past couple of weeks that I haven't had much opportunity to render close up beauty shots of my models. The textured character shots seem to take at least an hour (sometimes even two or more) to render, so I'll need a few days in which to complete these. (They take longer than the turntable frames because the model fills a significantly larger percentage of the screen in close-up images than it does when I have to fit the entire model on-screen for a turnaround.)

I began rendering detail shots of my Juggler today, and expect to spend the better part of tomorrow on her as well, since she has so many different details from so many different angles. After that I'll move on to my Addict, which I expect to take a fair portion of a work day to complete. My Gecko renders are finished because I took beauty shots of him when I completed him back in the summer. My Warrior shouldn't require more than a couple of hours for rendering all of his shots, since he renders so quickly compared to everything else. My gallery will probably take at least an hour per frame to render, so I'll probably need up to a day to finish all of the renders that I want of that scene. I should be done with beauty shots by the middle of the week, then I can spend a couple of days writing and laying out the pages of images for my project synopsis. I expect to be finished with that by the coming weekend, and then I can spend the weekend putting all of my turntables (and the new gallery fly-through renders that I'm rendering daily overnight) together into my thesis and demo reel videos. By Monday I'll be able to upload my thesis project to turn it in online, and I'll still have a couple of days to spare. If all goes as planned, then I'm well on my way to being finished!

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 7

In the seventh week of the last semester of my graduate school career I made a few adjustments to my gallery scene and continued building and sculpting my Warrior.

First, I changed the proportions of a couple of items in the reading nook of my gallery environment according to critique that I received from Tareq last week: I revised the couches in the reading nook by making the back cushions thinner and their overall height a bit shorter; then I enlarged the table between the two couches slightly so that it was a little more proportional to its surroundings. 

I also spent the week UVing and baking normal maps for the sculpted gallery pieces, but I haven't gotten them into Modo so that I can get images of the items with the normal maps on them yet. (I'm stuck on arranging wood pieces in the fireplace because I foolishly laid all of those out before UVing the initial model, and the fire log's one of the few pieces in the gallery that I've sculpted and normal-mapped, so it needs UVs...) Once I get that done, however, I expect the gallery to be finished quite quickly.

The next thing that I did was to continue work on my Warrior character model. He now has a sword, scabbard, and helmet to go with the other pieces that I modeled for him previously, and he is also now UVed and sculpted about as far as I can go before breaking symmetry. I'm almost ready to pose him and then finish sculpting things like an actual facial expression and folds on his cloak before moving on to sculpting a wood-like surface-texture on him. I intend to give him some knots and gnarls and nicks of the type that might be left by a chisel or carving knife. Basically, I'm going to rough him up and make him look more organic - more like a wooden sculpture rather than a pristine 3D model.


As far as the state that he's in now: I know that his muscle lines are quite strong at the moment - I will remedy that later (there's actually a method to my madness on that). Also, the many places where the geometry of his armor is intersecting his body and other pieces of the outfit are intentional as well. He's supposed to be carved all from one large piece of wood, so I figured that things like the helmet and greaves and whatnot would be carved right onto the surface of his body rather than clearly delineated as separate pieces the way that they would if he were supposed to be a more realistic character. I just wasn't mad enough to try to model and sculpt them all as one piece... There is also an unsculpted ear in one of the head-shots which I have no intention of detailing: I originally modeled the character's base mesh with an ear, and then when I was modeling the helmet it occurred to me that you will never see that ear. The helmet's supposed to be built onto his head, so it's never coming off. Hence, I actually removed the ear from the mesh to cut out the extra polygons when I UVed the character, but when I projected the sculpted detail back onto the UVed mesh it of course transferred the appearance of an ear back onto the head. I have actually smoothed that section out a bit since I took these screen shots, but I have no intention of making any further efforts to remove it completely. So, in the end: yes, there are unsculpted ears on the high-res character, but I'm leaving them alone because they'll never be visible.

That is, unfortunately, all of the progress that I have to show for week seven. I've been working so hard lately that I got a bit burnt out and am afraid that I slacked off a bit this week. I would have had more progress to show if I'd worked more diligently, but I guess that everyone needs a break sometime. I'm just sorry that I chose to take one so close to a possible deadline...

Fall Directed Study - Week 3

At the beginning of my third week of directed study I took a day off from sculpting my Addict and worked on building my Gallery structure. I built the walls as panels that I could duplicate around the room, but I had a bit of an issue with the curvature of the round room.

If I built the walls at a low resolution as I originally planned, the shape of the room would still be perfectly round everywhere once I welded the panels together and smoothed them except at the windows, where I was forced to put in extra edge loops to fit the window frames into the panels. The portions of the wall with the windows would have lost their perfect roundness and instead become slightly faceted as the extra edge loops held the geometry in place rather than letting it spread out evenly in perfect roundness. I was concerned that if this happened you would see the unevenness in the way the light hit the walls near the windows, even from fairly far away as my renders of the gallery will be.

My other option was to build the walls at a higher resolution, with vertical edge loops holding the definition of the curve all along the length of the wall at the same interval as existed between the edge of each panel and the edge loop defining the position of the window frame. All of the vertical edge loops would still be evenly spaced, and the curve of the wall wouldn't pucker from extra edge loops breaking the rhythm of the curve. The problem with this option is that it seems overkill to have high-res walls. Walls shouldn't have to be high-res: they're flat blank spaces with no detail to speak of. It seems ridiculous to have high resolution walls... In the end, however, I went with the ridiculous. I couldn't bear the thought of modeling the whole beautiful gallery only to be unhappy with the way that it renders because the curvature is slightly off at the windows and causing errant highlights on the otherwise-perfect roundness of my room. (Despite my best efforts, I did end up with extra vertical edge loops around the window frames as necessary holding edges, but you can't even see their influence in the curvature of the walls because the close intervals of the other vertical edge loops across the rest of each wall panel makes their influence so minimal that it's not even visible.)

I spent quite a bit of time building the walls and windows: making the flat glass window panels fit into window frames on curved walls, modeling the trim around the window that holds the glass into place, making sure that the different panel pieces connect correctly... In the end, I wound up with five different window/wall panels to duplicate in various positions around the room: One blank wall piece, one full window piece, one wall piece with trim to finish off a window frame on the right, one wall piece with the trim to finish off a window frame to the left, and one wall with trim to finish window frames on both sides. You see, each window panel ends in the middle of the trim so that, when the windows connect, there's no wall area between them. This, of course, means that when a bank of windows ends the next wall panel needs half the width of trim on the edge to finish off the window next to it. Hence: five panels.


The last thing that I did in my gallery was block in the columns and major furnishings. This process actually caused me to resize and slightly reproportion my room when I discovered how little room I had left for the reading nook. The way I see it, your average couch is probably around five feet in length; when I made my couches that long they took up very nearly the entire floor space of the reading nook, leaving no space to actually access the bookshelves. So, I thought again. I moved the five-foot couch place-holders over to the reading nook area of the floor plan, then resized the floor plan image plane to fit them, leaving enough room to walk around and between the couches to navigate the nook area. Then I scaled the walls up evenly to fit the newly resized floor plan. I then scaled the height of the walls back down so that my ceilings weren't ridiculously high. In a room this grand, I do want high ceilings, but not completely, outrageously high. I've decided on an eight inch crown molding at nine feet with the actual ceiling topping out at twelve feet. I've been in houses with nine foot ceilings before and they're really nice, but I think that in a forty-five foot in diameter room (which is what the gallery turned out to be after resizing for the nook) they'd make the space feel just a little bit claustrophobic; so I settled on twelve foot ceilings. I then spaced out place holders for the columns and bookcases surrounding the reading nook, and that was the end of my work for the day.

For the next few days, I finished sculpting my Addict:


Tareq had mentioned when I turned in my last week's progress that the character's wrists looked broken: that the hands met the arms at the wrong angle. I worked to remedy that problem, then went on to finish sculpting the face, refining the hands, and sculpting the divisions into the forearm sleeves. Then I exported the 2nd subdivision level character mesh, unfolded the UVs a bit, and baked my normal maps:


I was concerned that I was going to get a lot of problem areas in the normal map where the geometry of one part of the body pressed against the geometry of another part in the pose that he's in (i.e.: the fingertips pressing against the face, the back of the thighs pressing against the calves, the inner elbows pressing against themselves), but, surprisingly, I had very few issues. I did end up separating out some pieces of the high- and low-res meshes and re-baking normal maps for certain areas (such as the face) and compositing the new maps into the the full body one, but I didn't have to do this for nearly as many pieces as I expected to: most of the anomalies in the map were able to be fixed with just a bit of healing brush application in Photoshop.

Then I started work on the color map.

The image above took about a day's worth of work to complete - a very full day of work, but a day nonetheless. In this map, nearly all of the precise divisions are done. The shoulder pads and the ears still have to be subdivided according to the information in the normal map, but the rest of the precise linework is done. It looked great on the model:

I figured that it would take another day or so to complete the designs in the color section on his body. After all, the designs are just doodling - most of the precise work was done. 

Oh, how wrong I was...