Saturday, February 12, 2011

Projects 350 - Week 5 Progress Journal

Less progress then I'd like, but lots of technical background work, prepping the model for the next phase of development.

I've spent a lot of time working on getting the model cleaned up and making sure the topology is where it needs to be in order to animate well. I'm considering this last version the final, and am moving on to getting it unwrapped, rigged and ready to go.

I spent a little bit of time re-familiarizing myself with projection mapping tools in Max, and was able to create a reasonable tiling texture of chainmail, to be used on my little goblin friend's loincloth, which will add a little fun secondary animation to the model. To do so, I created a torus, rotated it into place and then duplicated it and moved it, creating a single pair of linked rings, then duplicated that set and moved it into place. By doing this step over and over, I created a good base mesh for the chainmail.

Once I got it set up over a plane, I scaled it to the point where I was reasonably sure it would tile well, then used the Render to Texture panel to project the chainmail mesh onto the plane below, creating an alpha, normal and ambient occlusion map set.

This resulted in three 1024x1024 texture maps, one for each of the passes. The transparency map will be hidden in the alpha channel of the diffuse map, once I paint over it. The ambient occlusion pass will be used as the base color channel for a paintover to create the diffuse map, and will help inform the specular map, as well. I'll be laying over rust colors and textures to help that process, when the time comes.

To test the new setup, I imported the file into CrazyBump to ensure it tiled well, and it does, at least reasonably well. It isn't perfect, but for my purposes it'll do well.

I'll be using this method to create better normal maps for a number of the props and pieces of my environment, and using CrazyBump to help create texture maps for much of the process, as well, as it seriously helps speed up the process - making normals for pitted iron for the shoulderpad and anvil, for instance, or the bark of the trees, is a snap in CrazyBump.

I've begun unwrapping the model, and am looking at a number of tutorials and plugins to help expedite the process. There are good ones available at the classily-titled site I've gone back and forth on this process a bunch of times, getting mixed results, but I'm determined to have this portion done by the end of the weekend.

Finally, I've also begun rigging the goblin in Maya, and after speaking with a number of fellow students I'm moving forward with the process.

I've got the skeleton itself in place and have begun basic tests for the skinning showing a lot of progress - the joints seem to deform quite well already without having gone into the weighting refinement process, which means that completing the skinning should go pretty well once the rig is complete.

I've started the process of setting up three arm bone sets so that I can have a switch between IK and FK-controlled arms, which will be crucial to the animation I have planned. I've found a good tutorial here that should help the process.

I've also learned how to set up additional attributes and link attributes in Maya to controllers or controller sets, so I can do things like have a single controller for all of the fingers on one hand, for example. This will greatly ease the animation process, and is good experience to get under my belt.

I'm going to keep pushing forward on this stuff all weekend, and I have an appointment for later this coming week with Micah Zahm to help fix any issues I can't resolve myself. All in all, I should be through with this technical hurdle soon, which is exciting - this is what nearly sank my project last semester, and I've learned that it is best to go into something this technical that I'm not particularly strong at by planning carefully and seeking help from the folks that know it well, rather then keep bashing my head against the wall and hoping for the best.

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