Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 194

Next I sculpted the ear which turned out pretty well. One thing about this book is that it goes over a lot of anatomy stuff. One of the authors is a real world sculptor turned digital sculptor so the book has a more artistic vibe compared to the more technical feel my other books have. After the ear, I made the hair to finish off the model. I didn't follow the book and just did my own thing for the hair. I pulled out the general shape of the hair and then drew in a bunch of fine strands of hair. 

The above left front view is a orthographic view which means there's no perspectiveness to it (the front is the same size as the back and not bigger like it would be in the real world) so it looks a little odd to me. On the right you can see the pony tail I kind of bulged out of the back of the head. Because I built this big ponytail out of this small area of the head, the density of polygons in the tail is less than the rest of the head which is why it's less detailed. I could have increased the number of polygons but that increases the file size a lot and the tail isn't that important. The egg that I made earlier had over a million polygons and ended up being a 200 megabyte file. I think this model has closer to 500,000 polygons.

There's really no great way to model the iris and pupils so they aren't the best. Overall it turned out ok. Not bad for the second thing I've ever modeled in Mudbox. It doesn't really look like the photos of the real girl but it does look like a girl so I consider that a success.

Day 193

Apparently after modeling a bell pepper, you're qualified to model a person. Here the goal is to model a young girl. Mudbox has some basic shapes to help you get started. One is of an adult head which I'll be using. I also imported some reference images.

First thing is to get the general shape right. Here I used the grab tool a lot. Instead of pushing in and out the surface of the model like a lot of the other tools, the grab tool lets me click on a point and then pull it in any direction I want. So to lower the ear, I just clicked on the lobe and pulled downwards. 

I switched the material of the model to this more matte white one. This is a tip that my other Mudbox book gave me. I allows me to see the surface more accurately as I'm working. It also means you all can see any inaccuracies as well. Along with the two reference sketches above, I was also given a bunch of photos of the real girl I'm supposed to be modeling from different angles. I put them on my phone so I could look at them easily while working. Hopefully, it won't have to explain why I have photos of a random little girl on my phone to anyone. Anyway, I used those photos to get the head shape to a more final state. Next I increased the number of polygons and created a new working layer for the nose (and one for all the future parts as well).

So I sculpted the nose followed by the mouth. On the left, you can see the top half of the head is missing. I can select different areas of the model and hide them. This is so I don't get distracted by other parts or it allows me to see what I'm working on better. It also gives my computer a break since it doesn't have to render those areas. Finally I moved onto the eye. I had some trouble smoothing out some parts of the eyelid. I forgot to mention that I have reflection turned on for all of the tools. So whatever I do on one side of the face gets mirrored on the other side. 

Day 192

I decided to switch books yet again since I can't paint in Mudbox. This book is still focused on Mudbox, however the first few chapters deal just with sculpting so I don't have to worry about painting for awhile. The first lesson was on making a bell pepper. I started out with a sphere and flattened the top and bottom. Then I pushed in some guide lines to help me get the general shape.

With all the pushing and pulling, the model tends to get a little lumpy. Luckily there's a smoothing tool to help with that. After getting the final shape, I moved onto the stem. I used another tool called the freezing tool. This allows me to paint areas blue which indicate areas that I don't want changed so I can focus on the stem without worrying about accidentally changing the pepper.

After making the stem, I had to give a slight texture to the pepper so it isn't perfectly smooth. I did this using a stencil you can see on the right. There are a variety of stencils in Mudbox and they appear as a flat image in the work area in front of the model. Now when I push and pull, it will mimic the stencil's pattern. Below I have the final pepper.

Day 191

My book started with creating an egg which doesn't sound that exciting or difficult. However this lesson was designed to show all the features that Mudbox has so I get an overview of the program. Looking at the reference photo on the top right, you can see that the egg isn't perfectly smooth so there is some work to be done to mimic that.

I start out with a simple sphere and then I uploaded some reference images. I probably didn't need to place references to create an egg shape but they wanted me to see how to import images for future projects. I also changed the material of the model from the default brown to white to allow me to see things a little bit more clearly. 

So to get fine detail in the model, I need more polygons. Much much more. In Mudbox, you can easily increase the amount of polygons. Each increase creates sort of a new level of detail to work on and I can switch between the levels depending if I was to do fine detail or general shaping. The sphere started out with about a thousand polygons. Here, I cranked that all the way up to over a million.

Now with that set, I can finally get to work. I said Mudbox is a sculpting tool so how it works is that the black circle represents my brush and I can push or pull the surface of the model. However it's not limited to just a circle. There are a variety of brushes (called stamps in Mudbox) so the one I'm using here is a cluster of dots. So I pushed and pulled the dots all over the egg to create random bumps and depressions. It's not looking too much like an egg though. Another feature of Mudbox is that you can work in layers. So one layer can just be the basic shape of your model and another can be the fine details. This way you can work on certain parts of the model without interfering other parts. If you change your mind, you can also throw away a layer and still keep all the stuff you've already done. You can also control how strong a layer affects the model so I toned down all the dots I made to produce a much more subtle and accurate eggshell surface below. 

At this point, I was going to paint the egg. Along with sculpting, Mudbox is a painting tool and it allows me to paint directly onto the model. I can also sculpt and paint in Maya but the tool set is not as powerful. Being able to paint directly on the model is much easier than having to paint in Photoshop on a flat image and hoping it looks right when I put it on the model. Mudbox allows you to both sculpt and paint in layers so painting in Mudbox is very similar to painting in Photoshop. However, this was when I encountered the big issue I mentioned earlier. Painting in Mudbox 2010 on my computer just doesn't work. Considering how important painting is in Mudbox, I was pretty disappointed. I tried installing Mudbox 2009 but painting didn't work in that either so I've hit a roadblock. My brother has a laptop with a better graphics card that's broken but apparently fixable. I'm going to try to see if I can get that working and hopefully Mudbox with work on that.

Day 189

To recap, I'm in the middle of my fifth Maya book but I've reached a section that I didn't find too exciting. So I decided to take a little detour into another program called Mudbox. While Maya is very broad and deep in what it can do, Mudbox is has a much more narrow focus. It's primarily a sculpting and painting tool and it's more artistic and intuitive to use. A real life sculptor would probably very easily pick up how to use this program. Mudbox and Maya can import and export files between each other. So I can start a model in Maya, fine tune it in Mudbox and then send it back to Maya. The beauty of Mudbox is that I can create very realistic models and create them much more quickly than I would in Maya.

But first things first, I had to get the program working. My laptop doesn't have a great graphics card. Ideally I would like to buy a more powerful laptop or desktop but those things cost money which I do not have an abundance of (I also can't upgrade my current card either). Since Maya works fine on my laptop, I assumed Mudbox would too but I was wrong. I installed the 2013 version and when I started the program, a message box popped up saying I have the wrong graphics card and then closed the program. It didn't even give the program a chance to load. Maybe it would have run sluggishly but at least give me that option. I looked into this and tried to see if there was a way around this to no avail. So then I installed the 2012 version and the same thing happened. Next, I installed 2011. This time the warning message popped up but allowed the program to load. I was happy until I saw a model on the screen or the lack there of. I could see the wireframe of the model but I couldn't see any of the surface shading (ie. the colored faces). I could manipulate and sculpt the model but without being able to see the surface, it was pretty much pointless. So I moved onto 2010 and finally things were working correctly. I eventually came across a big issue but I'll talk about that when it happens. I pretty much spent a whole day on just getting the program to run. After settling on 2010, I still spent awhile trying to get 2011 to work since that version has some cool features I wanted to utilize. Anyway, onto some actual work...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 188

Since I didn't get much done this week, I figured I could talk about sometime that's art related that I worked on about a month ago. A friend asked me if I could design a monogram for her and her fiance which would be used to make a custom rubber stamp. Both their first names started with M so she wanted it to look like an M one way and when turned upside down, it'll look like the initials of their last names W and T. Those letters work out well together so it wasn't too hard to come up with the two sketches above. I went with the one on the right because it allowed the T to be larger to match the size of the W. 

Then I drew a cleaner version of that sketch. Just half since I was going to mirror it on my computer. I took that sketch and digitized it to get what you see on the right. I made a solid black version you see here and a white outlined version. The initial idea was to create a shadow so the M would look like two M's, kind of like the very first sketch on top. Because of this, I kept the design on the simple side. However after getting it onto the computer, I made the shadow and it didn't look very good so I threw away that idea. Now with no shadow, that meant I could do a more complex design.

So I went online and looked at different types of Old English font. I picked different bits and pieces that would mesh with what I already had (I didn't want to start completely over) and sketched some new ideas. Then I took the first digitized version and edited it to include the new parts. The final product is below. I wish I could have made the top of the T a little snazzier but oh well.

Day 187

Next I attached the head to the body. At this point the book told me to make some claws for the hands and feet along with all the inner mouth parts. However I'm super annoyed already and sick so I told the book to shut up and I moved on. 

The only thing left was to texture the cat. I did the nose, whiskers and eye lashes separately. The book provided the texture for the body, one for the front and one for the back. These were just projected directly onto the model from each direction. The book was trying to keep it simple so the textures didn't line up that well when looked at from the side. With everything done, I can say modeling with nurbs is a pain in the ass and wouldn't use this approach ever. 

At this point, I decided to take a little detour. The basic work flow for computer animation is modeling, texturing, rigging, animating, and lighting/rendering. I'm about 250 pages into this book and I've gone over the first two steps. Next is rigging which is making skeletons and all the preparation for eventual animation. I've mentioned before how this isn't my favorite step. Unfortunately, the book spends the next 300 pages just on that so I decided to do something more interesting to lift my spirits out of my sickness induced funk. I'll eventually finish this book since it's stuff that I should know but I'll just get to it later.

Day 186

I'll be modeling the head separately from the body. I started with the neck piece from the body to use as a guide so the head will eventually fit with the body. 

The head will be done a little bit differently. Instead of starting with basic shapes, I'll be drawing a series of lines which will end up being the boundaries of future patches. From a side, I drew a line for the profile that includes the mouth cavity. From the front, I drew in lines for the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

While drawing the lines, I also manipulated them so they're not just flat but are three dimensional. Once I had those basic outlines, I drew in secondary lines while still trying to create a three dimensional shape for the head.

After that, I can now connect the lines together to create surface patches. I ended up with the above right  after tweaking the patches after they were made. Next I made some whiskers and eye lashes. Then I made the eye and textured it. Lastly, I mirrored everything to get the final head. I can't really complain about the final result however all of this required a lot of planning in advance. Nurbs can be very finicky so the book had to explicitly show me where every single line should go which helped me avoid any problems. 

Day 185

So I'll be modeling this cat. The first step is making the body and I start with a cylinder. There are various ways to manipulate nurbs. Here I'm using the pink hull surrounding the cylinder. I can change the hull very much like a normal polygon which in turn changes the shape of the cylinder.

With the body complete, I made an arm with a cylinder and sphere and then a leg with a cylinder.

Now I have to stitch the parts together using the method I talked about in the previous post. So I cut up all the shapes into smaller patches, and then attach and detach ad nauseam until all the parts fit together. I found this process to be extremely tedious since it didn't always work properly. Worst was that such a simple operation required so much work. If these were polygons, I could attach them in five seconds. Instead I spent half an hour just to connect one tube to another.

Anyway after the arm and leg, I had to do the hands and feet. Apparently since nurbs are such a pain to work with, the book provided the hands and feet for me so all I had to do was attach them to what I already had.

So same methodology again. I also had to make a tail. Ironically it should have been the easiest but for some reason, I could not get the tail to attach properly. After spending way too much time on it, I just decided to quit and use the book's result instead.

Day 184

So last week I was getting a little sick but this week I was really sick. Due to that and the fact that the next lessons involved stuff I didn't really like, my motivation to work was fairly low and I didn't get that much done. Anyway, the next part of my book involves modeling another character but using a new approach. Every character I've made so far in all my books was done using polygons. This time I'll be making them out of curved surfaces (aka nurbs). From my limited knowledge of modeling, this method isn't used very often. I think awhile back people thought it would be the next big thing since the models will be smooth and you don't have to worry about the blockiness of polygons. However, nurbs aren't as easy to work with as polygons so they aren't used that much at least in this application of character modeling. This post will be about a general technique called socking where we're trying to connect two nurbs objects. Above is half a sphere and a cylinder meant to represent an arm and a shoulder but really it's gonna look like a penis.

First up is to cut the shapes into smaller pieces called patches. The tube is split into four while the hemisphere is cut into nine pieces with the middle one removed. Then I attached the four tube parts to four of the sphere parts.

Now I want to close the gaps. I do this but cutting the pieces I just attached and then attaching other nearby patches together. Then I detach those, attach others, and repeat until the gaps slowly close. Eventually, the gaps become small enough that I can apply a stitching operation to all the patches at once to close up all the seams which you can see on the right.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 181

With the map complete, I exported it to Photoshop and started to paint the texture. I started with a brown color and overlaid a noisy texture over it so the colors don't look so flat. I wasn't super happy with that so I put in a leather texture to mix it up some more. Then it was a long process of painting in Photoshop and constantly checking in Maya to see how it looked on the model. Above on the left, you see the texture with the map overlaid on top. On the right is the final texture which will get put on the model.

Here are the mouth parts with their texture. This was a little hard to paint because its section was so small on the map. Each tooth was literally like a dot in Photoshop but I got it to work.

I made the glasses black and then gave the existing lens a transparent texture. I made the texture for the eyes using Maya tools. I made a gradient from black to brown to black to white to make all the parts of the eye. Then for the brown, I added a fractal pattern to get the black flecks.

Here is the model with the final texture with and without the glasses.

Day 180

Next is texturing but first I have to create the map for it. Above I've placed a checker pattern on the body and you can see how messy it is. Considering how jumbled the map is on the right, that isn't too surprising.

Just to start out with, I made a new map that just a frontal projection. This isn't a final solution since there is overlap between the front and back of the model.

So I made a cut around the neck and detached the head. I split that in half and now I can see the mouth cavity when I move the two halves apart. I moved the cavity away and then reattached the halves. I made new cuts from the corner of the mouth to the back of the neck. Now I can take these parts and unfold them. Unfolding involves Maya taking the overlapped map pieces and trying to flatten them. Above on the right, I have the top of the head, the chin and mouth cavity unfolded.

Next I detached the arms and then the hands. For the arms, I made another cut along the inside of the arm (so the seam is in a less prominent area) and unfolded the arm flat. For the hands, I re-mapped them by projecting from the top and then cut them to divide them into top and bottom halves. Then I did a similar thing for the legs and feet. 

For the body, I cut a seam down the back and under the crotch. I unfolded the whole thing to get what you see above on the left. The smaller part next to it is the unfolded tail. For the mouth parts, I took new maps from the top and then unfolded them slightly. This centered the crooked teeth so there was no overlap. I also unfolded the tongue.

Finally I rearranged all the parts for the final map. I took the chin and leg pieces and reattached them to the main body piece. If I wanted to be really efficient, I would have overlapped the right and left pieces of the arms, hands, and feet since these parts are mirror images of each other. If I overlap them, then the texture will just get applied to both parts. But the book didn't tell me to do that so I didn't.

Day 179

Next the book wanted me to make the mouth complete with gums, teeth and tongue. However, it just showed a picture of it and said make it with no instructions. It took a bit of time but I figured out an approach that would work. The book made the teeth separately from the gums but I figured out a way to make it as one piece. The version in the book was more detailed but I think I did an adequate job considering you don't see this area that much. I definitely got some flashbacks of dental school while working on this.

Here're the teeth placed into the mouth. With that done, the head is finished. Next I had to take the head and attach it to the body. Below is the finished model.