Wednesday, February 2, 2011

some models for the mocap and progress on pbank

The animation of piggy bank has gotten a bit longer than expected. The plan was 2 minutes and now its getting a little longer than 4. Truth be told, I hardly work on it lately because of all the other assignments and the part time jobs (I have two of them would you believe it). My plan is to render it when its absolutely perfect. If this was my job and I was getting my bills paid while working on it every day, I am pretty sure it would have been ready ages ago! It's the polishing that eats most of the time- getting those curves and the timing to work well. I am still relatively new to this 3d animation business, but that doesnt stop me from having high standards and be critical with the work.

You see, its not perfect and when its not perfect, I just dont render and post it. :)

It will be probably ready for the festivals this year, so anyone interested to send/suggest invite for events, please feel free to drop an email with the info.I do appreciate that sort of attention :)

The Mocap assignment
So this semester I signed up for one extra module that I believe will be a good addition to my portfolio, especially if I apply for work as an animator for video games. Motion Capture has been around for quite a while now in industry and we've all seen plenty of good ,bad and ugly examples of its use. My personal opinion about it is more or less the same as any other I've heard from classic animators. The truth is that the moCap data is often awkward when applied to the body of a character. I believe that is due to a number of reasons- one being the movement of the actor (often not an actor) not fitting the design of the character.The timing of the movement is too realistic and snappy, it has some random rubbish that needs to be cleaned up (like random gestures). It will never be able to replace good old fashioned animation, but it certainly will continue to be part of what industry needs, especially for sports games. What I hate about the majority of Mocap is just it's mediocrity and genericness.Generic people doing generic things- fighting, running with guns,doing some sports... That is why my goal with this module will be to give character to my characters, make them unique!

Speaking of the that, let me start by introducing them :

yet another character that I designed and modelled- I call him scissorman
Scissorman aka The Sepia Baron
I created this character as a tribute to classic horror game "Clock Tower".. You might notice my strange obsession with stripes is present here as well. He is kind of like a limping clown. The scissors are there to cut off the next character's head off.

rose creature concept
Plant man aka "The scarlet torn" is a character that I created a year ago. The idea for him came from my obsession with venecian masks+ Edgar Alan Poe's short story
I studied Philology back at the university of my country years ago, so that helped me develop some literary taste and some understanding of ancient to 19th century culture. Ok, enough bragging from me xD moving on

So as you imagine, I will have to model these characters. Well guess what, I already did. I want to talk a bit about the process and some tricks I developed to speed it up. Both characters took two days to model and I spent about 10 hours in total to do them both.
Starting with Z-brush, I first sculpted a high res plantman. Then retopo-ed and UV-ed it in 3d Coat. Getting him back in maya, I started adding the detail that will be on separate meshes (to ease skinning).

The hair, roses, thorns, leaves and so on was all made with CV curves in maya.

Moving on to scissorman,I did him from zspheres and there was no need to retopology, due the nature of his design- Just a bit of extra work in Maya to get the right amount of geometry where needed. I got to the conclusion that the bit that takes me the most time during modeling and is usually the most boring part is getting the topology of the hands right. So, I decided to make a set of hands to reuse in my pipeline, by just attaching them to the model. I made the first hand purely in Maya. It is as low poly as possible. Then I made 3 variations of it, each having a different number of vertices at the connection point- the wrist.

So I took one of them and just stitched it to scissorman and made some minor modifications in the shape. The topology is the best of what can be done on a non realistic character. I dont want to sound a bit arrogant by saying this and it usually happens when I am being critical, but I've seen ALOT of bad topology on hands on the internet. I know mine is no masterpiece too, but some of them real bad ones are being sold for a fortune at cg store websites. :D It's mind blowing. Have they no shame?

Moving on to UV mapping, I realized that I dont really need to use different space of one uv shell, if its going to be exactly the same as it's symmetrical counterpart. So when I uv-ed scissorman, I made sure that his left and right hands,arms, feet, and so on have the same uv shells. So after unwrapping them in Blender (of course- because its much much much better than maya at this) what I did was flip over and lay the left side uv shells over the right side ones. So the left and right hand of the character would occupy exactly the same place in UV space.

The one disadvantage of this is the obvious inability to be asymetrical with the texture.
The advantages are too good to pass on though- Not only do I have to paint only one side of the model at certain parts, but I get to give them all more UV space, more pixels for the texture!

The mocap data is going to be put into short loop sequences that can be used for a game. So the big picture is , if this works out nicely, we will be able to assemble a team of other students from gamings course and import this stuff in a mini UDK or other engine project. I am not going to go into detail about the game at this point, as it is not clear if it all will work out..

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