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.

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