Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Let the final bout commence

So since I've been back in Leicester, my work productivity has gone from waning, to almost none existant. Basically, my intention was to maintain my regular weekly tasks, in the rush up to eurogamer. However, the joy that is my life had alternative plans involving paper work for arizona, unpaid money and dealings from the tenancy last year and spending a few days in london saw that things didn't go to plan. The result was an amalgimation of unfinished works incvluding 3 characters, 5 heads and an environment.

Since actually visiting eurogamer, I've had a sudden flush of ideas for work towards my portfolio. Only one of which I've been able to begin, which is this Chameleon:

It's still very much a work in progress. It still needs to be retopologised, and then baked onto the low poly model, but it's been a nice bit of zbrush practice. Unfortunatly, the 3rd year semester officially started yesturday, so whilst trying to do this, and my other ideas; they're going to have to take a back seat to my course projects, of which I have already started.

I think since I've been back I've just tried to take on too much at once. This semester will be an interesting test of my overall time management. I'll either fall flat on my face or I'll do well. It's one or the other.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Carry on Doctor

uhh worst past couple of weeks have been just about the worst ever. I've developed myself a nasty little stomach ulcer so i've spent most of that time writhing in pain in my bed. Apparently, according to Mr French doctor, it's been brought on by accessive drinking. lol. I blame society. No, I guess the past few years have caught up to me. In any case, I did try to get some work done as I became more mobile. Not much but it's better than nothing.

I decided not to wait to finish the hair on my self-portrait and just use alpha channels for an opacity map.

To be honest i think it's turned out quite well. The main error with it i think is my jaw line. Once I was doing final renders I noticed how overly elongated the jaw was. I spent time trying to correct it, but it got to the point where the more I messed with it, the more I destroyed the silhouette, so this was my final result. Next time I need to really check the overall proportions before I put in too much topology. a really basic error that I seem to insist on continuing to make. In comparison to the self portrait i did 6 months ago:

I think I've improved quite a lot in terms of my understanding of topology, shape and form, and triangle efficiency. Considering that this was at the front of my portfolio when I applied to Ubisoft, no wonder I didn't get the job =/.

Anyway, I've also made a start on a female character. It still needs a LOT more work.

As you can see the legs are a little on the long side, even with the heals, so they need shortening. the shape of the face isn't how i want it, the hair line, and the rest of the hair needs sorting out and finishing, and The normals on the dress need more detail, because at a distance they don't even show up. This I do also intent to rig and hopefully animate. But for this week. That's all.

Monday, 22 August 2011

High-Poly Insanity.

So this week was definitely interesting. My aim for the week was to take a side step from my comfort zone of doing low poly models and work on my high poly modeling. The first thing I decided to take a bash at was the wood burner we have in our living room.

To be honest I'm happy with the final aesthetic, I mean, that's exactly what it looks like. However, when modeling this, I found it to be a little bit messy. The only difference between this model and one of my low poly models is that with this model i have edge loops going everywhere, which normally I would refine to reduce the triangle count. The total Triangle count for this was between 8 and 9 thousand so it wasn't anything rediculess, It was just a little out of my comfort zone. This method of modeling as well took me a lot longer; almost twice as long. Most likely due to the large amount of topology involved in making manor changes. Had this been an industry job, and I'd been given 2 hours to model, unwrap and texture an environment model like this, I would fail flat on my fact at my current working speed. Even in my low poly modeling I would struggle. This is one thing I most certainly need to work on before my FMP.

In any case I decided to take a short break from the high poly thing with a bit of speed painting,

and then a little speed modeling to boost my confidence again. This time, since we get Langoustine in the river that runs through the end of one of our fields, I decided to model one of those. This time I wanted to do a speed model that I could put into my Portfolio,

At the moment it's unfinished, the texture and the claws themselves need a little work, before I actually put it into my portfolio. However, I then started setting up a render shot for this which managed to consume 2 and a half days of this week. In the scene set up I was trying to create an underwater scene that replicated light refraction of the surface of the water, under the water. Having never actually looked at water before in max, and having nothing to work with but the default render settings, this was my result:

Which to be honest, I'm really happy with the result. What I intended to do then was apply a sandy dirt texture, add some rocks and import the langoustine to the scene. Only problem was that when i tried this, it consistently said that it couldn't find enough unused memory to render the scene. So, this has been added to another of the ever growing collection of assets and scenes that I can't wait to actually do when I get back to leicester. Only 2 weeks left now. ^^

Having had to put that on hold, I moved onto some more high poly modeling. This time I was going to attempt to model my blackberry.

To be honest, I'm really rather happy about the final look of it. Aside from a few minor faults on the curvature at the back, It's pretty much spot on. However! and this is a mahoosive HOWEVER, by the time I finished modeling this, it was about 25,000 triangles, not a problem, but then, I decided to turbo smooth it like crazy, just to see, only, i went too far, and couldn't co back, and i didn't save it before turbo smoothing... so the topology now looks like this:

It's now so dense in places it just rendered as a black block. Hmmm i think there's a lesson in there somewhere. Had i not been silly with this, I would have been able to sort out the curvature issue. Topology mess aside, the major problem with this one, like the last high poly model was time. This took me WAY too long to model. texturing was actually really fast and easy. It took me about an hour to unwrap, texture, and play around with the lighting. Yeah, safe to say I need more practice with high poly modeling, and after 2 years you'd thing I'd have learn't to save regularly =/.

In any case, That was last weeks productivity. What's on the cards this week I haven't exactly decided yet. I'd like to have another low poly model and more speed paints to keep my practice up with those at least but I feel like now I need to spend more time on my high poly modeling, since I've clearly neglected it.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

What happened to the high-poly models?

Uhh, this week has been a terribly stressful week, mostly for financial reasons buy lets just leave that at that. this week's productivity, again, it is what it is. Although, despite the amount of work that i've gotten done while I'm out here, in 3D modeling, I miss doing traditional art work. In my over-zealous packing, I didn't pack my sketchpad or any pencils or anything. My grounding skills have always been in traditional work and for me to spend so much time away from it is weird, and uncomfortable. I'll be a happy bunny to get back to paper, pencil and paint when I get back to Leicester.

In any case, the next best thing is my digi-painting and so in keeping with my weekly plan I've done a few paints.

The last two are incomplete because each was an attempt at a speed paint. One thing I've never been much good at is getting doing the general impression i want to create down, quickly, to build upon later once I've gotten the core details right. I've generally been a much better technical artist, working in finer detail and working my way round the image. This way, I hope that once i get more used to working this way, it'll help me with my life drawing skills, and maybe I'll actually get some images finished with in the time constraints before the model has to move. Learning to work a speed as well will no doubt help me when it comes to working in the industry, should I ever get a job that is based in concepting or illustration.

On the other hand my speed modeling is coming along quite nicely. This week I did one of the Geese, soon to be fattened up for christmas T_T.

This weeks result I think is much more successful than the chicken. Within the time limit the texture has turned out a lot better despite the fact that it is half the size and can be saved as a 24bit image to further reduce the size to to the lack of alpha channels. In addition, I also discovered a nice little trick for low poly models to make the model appear smooth edged instead of hard edged. In the bottom image of the goose is displayed the topology, which gives the goose quite an angular silouette. In the top image i used the "use NURSM subdivision" at 1 iteration to make the the edges of each poly, curved instead of straight, which results in the render looking smooth finished.

This week I also started on another self portrait 3d model...

Unfortunately this is as far as i got. As you can see in the left viewport image, I managed to get the hair near enough to how I wanted it, however, I completely forgot that my laptop was refusing to do hair at the moment and when I pressed F9, the image to the right is my result. The hair just didn't appear at all. Rather disappointing because now I can't fine tune the hair, but again, I am looking forward to getting back to Leicester where I can get on a decent computer to try and do some hair! but thus is my week.

Having looked briefly over my summer work one thing that is like a big smack in the face is that I've just noticed that everything that I model is low poly. Even the stuff I consider to be mid poly, in real terms, it's low poly. Just about the only model I've made worth being referred to as mid-high poly is the Matrix sentinel I made and then dismissed as being too high poly. So for this week, I'd like to add to my list of things to do, being a high poly model. I'm going to set myself a minimum triangle limit, of around 20,000 depending on what I choose to model, and see what I come out with. I can't afford to neglect my high-poly modeling too much because when I get a job, I wouldn't be surprised if for texturing, high to low poly baking was required.

Monday, 8 August 2011

lost week

This past week unfortunately has been really slow. Out here in the waists of France my Brother, Girlfriend and his son decided to spend the week here, so I was dragged left right and centre, not to mention the lack of quiet, as my exuberant nephew charges round the house. That aside I did manage to get some work done.

Nothing too fancy. This was just a low poly model of a little statue in our living room. This however did give me an idea to do a still life setup, as a 3D model scene. This was in could create a scene which shows off what I've learnt in making different surface textures all in one render, which I could use as a portfolio piece.

Even though the skull and the statue were reused assets, I'm reasonably happy with the result. However, the lighting does still somewhat need to be worked on before it looks realistic enough to put into my Portfolio.

I also decided to make this...

To be honest this was just for fun. A sentinel from the Matrix. As it was just for fun it's a little bit on the high poly side reaching 22,434 triangles. I didn't really see the point of texturing it seeing as it's a useless model. but never the less I have work to catch up on for next week :)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The plan

Before I get onto the subject of my aim for the next month of productivity I should probably cover this weeks happenings. Overall the week hasn't been too productive. Most of the assets I've made have been for personal amusement rather than for specific use. The first of these was the lightsaber.

This model is a rather high poly weapon, and is pushing it even for current generation weapons. however, one thing positive that did come out of this was my further development of different metal materials. There is in fact no textures applied to this 3D model. it is all lighting. The same day I also came to the conclusion that I should probably work on something that was close to my heart and i drew inspiration from, and hoping to be a character artist, it would be appropriate to try and produce a current generation quality 3D model of someone whom I drew inspiration from.

I chose Sir Ian Mckellen, whose career spans from Shakespearean theatre to popular modern sci-fi and fantasy cinema: particularly well known as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Magneto from X-men films. Additionally, in 1988, McKellen came out and announced he was gay. He became a founding member of Stonewall, one of the United Kingdom's most influential LGBT rights groups, of which he remains a prominent spokesman. This man is an inspiration to me both as a performer and as an LGBT activist and this I thought it appropriate to dedicate this project to him; starting with a photoshop paint of him and a 40min speed paint of him as Gandalf the white.

As I was going to make a 3D model of him studying his face was vital before i jumped into modeling, which i soon after stepped into.

As you can see, modeling the face wasn't too difficult and I do feel quite confident that I can work the topology to how I need it to look. Bearing in mind however, that this face wasn't going to be used for animation or rigging, i didn't really need to add additional topology for smooth deforming when working facial expressions in a rig. Unfortunatly, I've hit the same wall as i did with my grizzly bear. My laptop cannot handle much in the way of hair at the moment so in terms of real practice, I will have to wait until september to get onto a better computer for working with hair. Hopefully with hair this model will look more like Ian Mckellen. Until then It's hard to judge exactly how far off I am for correct facial shapes. One alternative to my problem would be to use alpha channels, but that won't give me a realistic look, and it would also be a painstakingly slow process to put all the alphas facing the right direction, but I think I'll leave that.

Next up just as a bit of fun:

To be honest I made this purely because I'm a geek and I was kinda on the subject of Lord of the Rings anyway. In any case In doing both this and the lightsaber, I've come to realise that in making different metals & metalic properties, ie: steel, crome, gold; that they require quite different material affects and lighting conditions. So my messing around hasn't gone to complete waist, and i've made appropriate notes on each metalic effect.

Finally, just as a speed model, since I'm surrounded by poultry, I thought I would work on one. First and most obvious one was a chicken.

This was done purely to help me in modeling faster. It's incomplete and the textures aren't refined but this was the result of 2 and a half hours work. modeling, unwrapping and texturing all in the time limit.

Now to the plan. My plan isn't too exact but the aim is clear. Each week for the next 4 weeks I would like to have 1 speed, low poly model, and a medium poly model. The aim is to both work on the speed at which I model and the quality of my higher poly models to produce work for my portfolio. In addition I would like to have accompanying paints to keep up with my 2d work. Further to that, I would like my model of Ian Mckellen to be finished, even if i have to use opacity maps for the hair. Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have a nice mix of assets that will show my progression from being a second year to a third year computer games artist.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

School's out for summer...and into exile i go

The academic year may well and truly be over, but this summer has been no time for being negligent. After trying throughout the past year, and failing to secure an internship for the summer, along with letting an internship opportunity with Ubisoft slip through my grasp, it's been no time to feel sorry for myself. Rather, my fear of this happening again is so much greater than my crushed spirit. So i've set about being a busy bee to prevent that from happening.

After parlaying with the Art Director at Ubisoft and getting some useful and much needed feedback on my portfolio, i've taken these words of wisdom and begun gearing myskills towards both improvement and understanding of programs for the industry, and aiming those skills towards my FMP, to get a nice little grade, hopefully better than what i got this year!

At the start of this month i moved well away from the distractions of Leicester,and havecome tomy parent's quiet abode in the middle ofnowhere. Aka, France, 40minutes drive from the nearest town.

Once i arrived, first thing was first. What am I doing for my FMP? so many people know already what they want to do. Eventually i came to the decision that I would base my FMP on Human evolution. I've always had a love of pre-history, particularly the Mesozoic era but that one had already been taken, so this was the next best thing. The idea was to do something i could relate to characters, and make a simple environment. Hypothesis: model 6 stages of human evolution in a small museum environment.

The first thing i realised about this was that I have very little skill and no experience in rendering hair. So the first thing i did was to try and make some models that would allow me to work on this. The first thing i went about making was a baby seal. Evidently, i hate the things, but they're small, and mostly fur, so why not.

This first one i did the only way i knew how. I basically made my model, and then added about 1,000 planes and made them alphas with hair textures on them. the result looked like it was supposed to be hair but hardly what i could settle for if i was to make headway towards my FMP. So I went about a little research and below are me results.

Still not completely realistic, but the hair on this model is massively improved. And no extra triangles were taken up. So the model count was 1,000 triangles lower than the initial attempt, and it saved texture space. I also realised that if i was going to pursue hair, lighting is very important if you want to make it look real.

To work on my hair and lighting technique and understanding a little more, I did a little work on something even simpler. Grass. In fact, all i did was make a plane, apply the hair and fur modifier, and begin to play with the hair perimeters and lighting for a few hours. My result below.

Moving onwards and upwards, I decided to try and apply the same thing to a more complex model, and try and give the hair more of a directional look, as well as taking lighting more into consideration. The model I went for was a male, grizzly bear.

Unfortunatly, after modelling, setting up the rig and making the hair guides, my laptop couldn't handle rendering the hair. =/. How I'm going to get round that one is beyond me. When i return to the UK, I will have at least a month before the next academic year to work more on my ability to make the all important hair to cover my character for my FMP.

Seeing as My production had currently come to a holt, i tried to look for a way to make the best of a rubbish situation. Setting about research for FMP into human evolution, I was quick to discover, rather remember, that France and Germany is a relative hot bed for Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Heidelbergensis remains. Turns out the area I'm in is littered with little museums and what not, specifically on human history of evolution. My mum also has an archive of photos from when I was younger and used to visit all these museums in France. So i began visiting museums and compiling research. I Chose which stages of our evolution i wanted to look into.

Australopithecus Afarensis
Homo Habilis
Homo Ergaster/Homo Erectus
Homo Heidelbergensis
Homo Neanderthalensis - because you can't have a museum on this subject without it
Homo Sapien

I then started to work on paints and ideas for each respective stage of our evolution.

One things is for sure after doing this series of paints, It definitely made me a lot more confident in painting hair in photoshop. It also forced me to actually look at how muscles are composed on the face since i only really had bones and other people's ideas of what they looked like to go off. However, doing paints just isn't enough to give me a good idea of what these things were shaped like and their relative proportions in comparison to that of a human.

My next task was to take a good look at my photo reference from my museum visits,

and then from that make some models in 3DS Max:

All these skulls were done quite low poly. Each was around 1,400 triangles apart from the Homo Sapien skull which came to almost 5,000 triangles. This i found very much invaluable research as it gave me a much better understanding of not only how our decedents' were shaped but also where their spine attached to the skull itself and thus the implied posture that came with it. The study of our skull all became a very useful exercise in understanding how our faces are shaped which will no doubt come in handy with the next character face i model. Needless to say that it also had an added benefit of speeding up my modeling. the final model, the human skull only took me 4 hours to model, unwrap and texture. quite good going i think ^^.

As a bit of a lul in my productivity i decided work on something fun and less taxing. In combination with speed paints I also started to look at things that inspired me. My all time favourite actress Sigourney Weaver, not only featured in the Alien franchise as one of the most badass protagonists of all time, but she has also done a massive amount of support work for the gay community including featuring in the emotional film, "Prayers for bobby". She's a woman close to my heart. Unfortunately, *cough* no names being mentioned, a certain student has already claimed manopoloy over Mrs Weaver and the Alien franchise for this summer: but just for fun, i proceeded to recreate a scene from Aliens, featuring facehuggers. It also gave me an oppertunity to look at lighting, metal and glass, which will be conducive to my FMP Environment.

So that's July's productivity in a nutshell, not including sketches and other traditional work because I'm scannerless out here in the wilds. lol.

What i have in store for next month I'm not too shore. What I would much like to have by the end of the summer is a character, worthy to put in my portfolio, and maybe another environment and weapon to put in there as well. More paints are a must and I could always do with doing more work that is conducive to my FMP, weather it's character, environment or general asset work and research. There's 7 days left to this month so I will have a clear Idea of exactly what I want to achieve in August.