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.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Acting to Dialog 1 - Completed

I finished my first CG Acting to Dialog project and will be moving on to the next one this week. You can watch the completed product below:

You can see the blocking stage for this animation in an earlier blog post here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Projects 350 - Week 4 Progress Journal

At the beginning of this week, I had started with the UV unwrap process when Mark Peasley suggested I revise some of the mesh to optimize it for deformation before going too far into the unwrap. As much as I wanted to just get the model unwrapped and start painting the texture, I knew he was right, so I made sure to put attention into the trouble spots on the mesh, which is where the majority of my attention went this week for this project.

I made sure to add additional loops around the facial features that were going to see the most deformation, as well as optimizing the joints.

I added additional loops around the ball of the foot area, as there was going to be substantial bending here and it needed to work naturally. I also added a "patch" around the knee to help keep the form from flattening oddly when it was bent.

The elbows received the same treatment. I also made sure to optimize the loops around the knuckles and wrists.

I still need to go in and add the geometry for his single glove, but that's a trivial matter of just extruding and pushing the mesh and then pushing a couple verts around to clean it up.

I've also begun testing out my first foray at rigging in Maya, and already really like the setup far more then its Max counterpart. I've got a ways to go, especially getting the IK-FK blends set up properly and the facial deformations in place, but I've begun the research and sketching for that process, as well, and should be good to go in two weeks time.

With that schedule in mind, getting the model unwrapped and a base texture down in the next week or two is a goal I can handle. Getting a block model built of the environment, the props built and the initial shader research all in the next four to five weeks is do-able, and I'll be starting my animation planning in that time frame, leaving me plenty of time to complete the project and hit all of my goals, providing I don't hit any major technical or personal snags along the way.