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 # 20

Day 49:

Today I edited the turntable video of my Gecko to include the new color renders of the fully textured model:

I'm quite happy with it. Now I just need to edit it into the longer video of my demo reel.

Daily Art # 19

Day 48:

I've textured my Gecko in Modo.

I altered his color maps just a bit, tweaking levels and saturation for individual diffuse and specular color maps, and I also created maps for specular amount from a combination of the color and normal maps. I put them on a metal-like material that I made in Modo and the above images are the result.

Next step: rendering a color turntable. 

Daily Art # 18

Day 47:

Today I painted more textures on my Gecko 3D model in Mudbox.

Then I tweaked a few things in Photoshop.

The next step for him is creating his specular maps and putting it all together on a material in Modo. Then I get to render again...


Daily Art # 16

I have begun the digital painted version of Mother Nature.

Day 45:

The first stage of the wind turbine on which Mother Nature is frolicking.


Day 44:

The sketch depicting the general layout of the digital image.

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. 

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.

Summer Directed Study - Week 5

Directed Study - Sessions 9 & 10

This week I completed the first half of a task by the time of my first directed study session and the second half of the task by my second session at the end of the week, so I'm combining my updates into one single progress report rather than my usual two.

My Gecko is now completely sculpted:

I sculpted the Gecko's metal texture using the revised method that I described in last week's blog entry: a combination of ZBrush's Blob brush set on "spray" followed by a whole lot of hPolish. I used this method on all 113 pieces of the Gecko's body, the hammer, and the paintbrush and brought him into class for evaluation on Friday. I was told that he looked really good, and advised to make sure that when I got around to sculpting the detail of the hand that I didn't let its presence distract from the Gecko by being either to well or too poorly done.

 I sculpted the hand earlier today, and I think that I managed to find a non-distracting balance to its detail. It's presented with all of the major wrinkles, but I left off any finer surface detail. I'm pretty happy with how it came out and hope that it meets with my instructor's approval when I show it in class on Tuesday. Now comes a whole lot of exporting and importing and normal map baking, between which mundane tasks I shall continue to make progress on my Juggler, which I'm working on normal maps and ZBrush sculpting for at present.

Summer Directed Study - Week 4

Directed Study - Session 7

I finished posing my Gecko. The following screen shots are actually from just before I finished the posing fully. The grey pieces of the ridge down the Gecko's back and the "bristles" of the paintbrush are still not fixed in these images, but they were fixed within an hour or two of the file from which I took these screen shots being saved. The colors were basically a system of organization that I was using to denote my posing progress. The code was really quite simple: if the panel was colored, it had been properly posed. If it wasn't colored, it either needed no adjustment or was still waiting to be adjusted.

The ridge and the bristles were fixed by the time that I made this turntable as a placeholder image in my demo reel for one of the classes that I'm currently taking: 

  As I explained in my previous blog post, I posed the Gecko with a series of smooth-bound rigs in Maya, but I fixed any areas where the resultant geometry  panels were penetrating each other using the move brush in ZBrush. It was the latter step that I completed this week.

Directed Study - Session 8

I lost all of my Gecko's UVs.

Luckily, this wasn't as big of a disaster as it sounds: I was able to recover them. It was a tedious, time consuming process to do so, but not nearly as time consuming as having to re-UV everything. The Gecko and his base together have 115 pieces. It would have taken me a couple of days worth of work to build all of those UVs over again. Instead, it only took a couple of hours to transfer the UVs piece by piece from the last version of the Gecko that was not-quite-fully-posed in Maya to the fully posed OBJs that I pulled out of ZBRush.

I learned something new about ZBrush this week: It deletes your UVs when you merge and split subtools. I was not aware of this. I've combined and separated meshes without any ill effects in Maya so often that I never even suspected it could be a problem in ZBrush. Apparently, it's a big problem - assuming, of course, that you care about UVs.

I do care. I care very much.

As I stated, however, I was at least able to recover them thanks to a script that my roommate has for Maya. I will be obtaining this script from her for future use very shortly. In the meantime, she let me use her computer to transfer all of the UVs back onto my posed Gecko. Then I had to go through all of the UVs and unfold them to account for any stretching that the pieces endured during the posing process. This is the step that I had been intending to complete when I first discovered that the UVs were missing: it wasn't an extra step to go through because they were lost. I was actually surprised by how long this step took. Relaxing and unfolding UVs sounds so easy, but I guess doing anything 230 times (115 objects x2 UV shells each) won't be the quickest of propositions. I also spent a good chunk of time arranging the UV shells in the UV space so that when I eventually get around to texturing the Gecko (which is not part of my thesis, but is still something that I hope to do eventually) I will easily be able to tell from the UV snapshot which pieces are which:

I then spent some time exporting the UVed pieces of the Gecko and base in very small groups as OBJs so that I can have multiple subtools in ZBrush without threatening my UVs. I can work on even overlapping panels on the same subtool individually using polygroups, but I still don't want too many panels on the same subtool, so I had to create quite a large number of OBJs.

Basically, most of the work that I got done this week was tedious and time consuming technical tasks that I don't have a whole lot of visual progress to show for, but which needed to be done, regardless.

I did begin sculpting finally, but just barely. Can you see it in the image below?

I didn't think so.

How about now?

These are two of the three sculpting techniques that I tried. The left one was completed using only the hPolish brush in ZBrush. The right one was completed with a combination of hPolish and Blob set to scatter. I like the right one. The left image is the progress that I showed in my GDS class. Then my GDS instructor mentioned how the hammer used in shaping sheet metal would create dings and rough up the surface of the metal significantly. He suggested trying to rough the surface up in Maya by selecting random pixels to move to break up the smooth surfaces. He suggested that it might be faster than ZBrush sculpting and the eventual normal map creation to show off the ZBrush sculpting in another rendering program and all of that. He may be right, but I really wasn't happy at all with my experiment with the method that he suggested. So I settled on ZBrush. His suggestions did make me realize, however, that even with the polishing the ZBrush version was a little too perfect still. It needed to be a little more banged up. That's when I brought in the Blob brush. It creates some nice random dings in the surface. I polish some of them back down, and others I leave as they are. I don't spend too much time on any one section: it's supposed to be random and imperfect. I think that this method of working is serving me well, and will give me the look that I want for the piece overall. Now I just need to roll with it and get to work.

Summer Directed Study - Week 3

Directed Study - Session 5

My Gecko's UVs are done. I still have some UVs to create for the base, but the creature itself is done:

 And these are all of the pieces:

It was a lot of work.

Altogether the Gecko model is made up of 98 individual pieces. Luckily, I didn't have to UV each and every one of those pieces because the Gecko was still in a neutral, symmetrical pose; I was therefore able to UV all of the pieces along the center and on one side, then duplicate the UVed pieces that repeat from one side to the other. I think that I probably ended up UVing about three-quarters of the Gecko because so many of its pieces are along the center line, but not having to UV that 1/4 was worth it, especially since my Maya likes to crash when the UV texture editor is open for some reason. UVing is therefore always a tedious, nerve-wracking process for me. I save often lest the program crashes and I lose all of the work that I just did.

  I learned a couple of things about my Gecko while UVing:

First and foremost: he was going to deform a lot more than I had anticipated during posing. UVing allowed me to study his structure again, which I hadn't really looked at since I built him at the beginning of the year. I built him with lots of bent joints intentionally so that things wouldn't have to change position too much when I posed him. This was a good move, I believe, but still not as effective as I thought it might be. His neck had to bend so that he's looking forward rather than at the sky. One of his arms had to pull back significantly at the shoulder. His hands and feet were built with palms facing each other and soles facing each other: they all needed to rotate ninety degrees. There were a lot of little things like that. I had been planning to rig the Gecko in Maya by parenting his pieces to joints to pose him because I didn't think that he'd need to deform much, but, clearly, I was wrong. I decided to try ZBrush's Transpose Master instead of Maya for posing.

The second thing that I discovered was that I hated the way that I'd built the Gecko's tail. It was messy. The geometry wasn't performing the way that I wanted it to. It had lost the sharp edges that it was supposed to have to denote the cut ends of the sheet metal. I just wasn't happy with it. So, I deleted half of the tail's geometry and rebuilt it in Maya. It took quite a while because the only way that I could see to do it involved a lot of pixel-pushing, but it was worth it. I'm much happier with it now.

After completing the Gecko's UVs and the rebuild of the tail, I decided to take a break from UVing the base and put the Gecko into ZBrush to test his polygroups and begin to pose him. I figured that since the base doesn't change at all in the posing, I can UV it anytime before I actually begin sculpting. This is as far as I got:

I fixed the interpenetrating pieces in the Gecko's face again before I started posing (which is the work that I had somehow lost around the time of my last blog entry), because I was certain that it would be easier to do with symmetry still in play. I didn't expect his face to deform too much in the posing, so I thought that I would save myself some work by fixing these details before sculpting. I didn't bother too much with the rest of the body because I knew it would deform enough in posing that I'd just have to fix it again later.

Directed Study - Session 6

It was a good thing that I didn't get very far into my ZBRush posing, because I learned a much better way to pose my Gecko in my next GDS class: a skeleton joint rig with a smooth bind to his "skin" (metal plates).

I kept the pieces of the rig separate so that I would have better control over the points where the limbs met the main body. As such, I had one rig that served as the spine smooth-bound to all of the pieces of the Gecko's head, neck, back, abdomen, and tail. I had another rig smooth-bound to each of his arms, and another smooth-bound to each of his legs. (Five rigs in total.) I had to amend the rigs and start the posing over a number of times as I came to better understand how the rigs deformed, but the image above was the final set-up that I ended up using. Then it was just a matter of matching him up to the image planes showing his character design as best I could. This was the result:

I made one change from the Gecko's original character design: I wrapped his tail around the front of the hammer rather than the back. The tail seemed to follow the flow of the spine better that way, as well as providing some extra ballast, rather than having all of his weight on the far side of the hammer. 

Next, I'll fix the places where the plates are cutting into each other using the move brush in ZBrush. Then I'll begin sculpting.