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.