Monday, 17 March 2014

Flame Troll #3 Flame Spear

Flame Troll "Hey I'm Walking Here!"
Flame Spear #1
Here comes the Flame Troll with his Flame Spear! The animated gif was grabbed from the Maya file using Fcheck with the high quality render on the viewing panel. High quality render is in terms of real time not really high quality just a quick grab. I thought seeing as in my previous Flame Troll entries I mentioned how I had him walking around, I should provide evidence of this. The reason why I didn't put him up before, I suppose some of you might be able to guess; the rigg is my standard rigg which I use for most of my models and most of my models are sci-fi orientated so the troll was walking around with the same giant laser gun most of my characters come equipped with.

The Flame Spear is a pretty simple model, I enjoyed making it and it made a nice change from having to worry about skinning and all the hassle I had with making the functioning plate armor for the troll. I was really happy with the way the design turned out and having to work through all the surfacing on the armor suit and the designs of the seals and sigils on the armor definitely helped me with the spear.

I loved sculpting the details in Z-Brush, the flowing fret work I did in the centre of the spear was done with masks and using the symmetry feature where work on the left half is repeated on the right. Very quick to do so I think I did a few versions but very fun, the kind of thing where it's so easy you feel like you're cheating.

After having an easy time of it with the sculpting I hit a brick wall with the normal mapping and couldn't understand why. I was getting very strange warping on the blade edges of the spear which made no sense to me as the high poly sculpt and low poly base were extremely similar. I turned to the internet and searched for the solution but it seemed an uncommon problem. I found many tutorials on how to make edged fantasy weapons, none of which had the same problems I was having. I finally found something about triangulation needing to be the same in Xnormal as in the source program (maya), my low poly model was mostly quads so I triangulated it and that solved the problem. It never occurred to me that Xnormal would divide quads differently.

Flame Spear page

I've used a little bit of self illumination, (or incandescence as it is in Maya) on the spear jewel. It's a separate map like the colour map but it holds only the colour that should glow, in this case a subtle rosy red  on the jewel itself and also on the metal around the stone. It gives the impression that the luster from the stone is reflecting in the metal.

Below is the colour map and normal map. The incandescence map is not much to look at being mostly black. I put the normal map in as I talk so much about them but I guess if your not used to 3d you would not have seen one before. The normal map works with the three colour channels red, blue and green. Each colour behaves as a projected light hitting the detail of the surface of the model from a different direction. This information then gives the impression of surface detail when rendered in a 3d program. It's similar to the old grey scale bump maps I used to use except that they are just dealing with height, black being in white being out to give the impression of bumps hence bump map.

Flame Spear Colour Map

Flame Spear Normals

 Below is the Z-Brush sculpt of the spear, there was some fret work on the base of the spear that was so fine it was really not worth the bother, as to see it requires getting so close to the model that the low poly nature of the base model ruins the effect. One day I will learn not to go over board with details....maybe.

Flame Spear Z-Brush

Flame Troll and Spear #1
 To finish a couple of renders of the full model, I will be returning with more of the Flame Troll as I have built an environment for this character too, an archetypal dungeon/ castle cell with flaming torches, sturdy hewn stone walls and studded wooden doors. I am intending to animate some new work for my showreel with this set up as in my recent audition work I am often asked to animate scenes which I don't currently have on my reel. I think there are way too many walk cycles in my reel and it needs some Flame Troll to liven things up.

Flame Troll and Spear #2

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Flame Troll #2 Armor texture and surface sculpt

Troll Prototype
Proto Troll needs texture love

Back to the Flame Troll and this is where I left it last time; an early base mesh for a full plate armored suit. Some skin tests done to check the mesh, I got the troll walking around, textures are placeholder tests and no real UV mapping done at this stage. The Troll is fully articulated without too much fancy rigging.

My next step was the UV map, for this I use a mix of Maya and Z-Brush UV Master. I sort out my UV islands in Maya first then I go into Z-Brush and Use the UV Master plugin for a straightforward flatten but keeping my UV islands, I generally end up re-positioning the layout of the UVs in Maya at the end to tidy up. A bizarre mechanical job but it has to be done. Below you can see the entire armor suit except for the shoulder, elbow and knee pads which I put on a separate texture page. I always snap shot my UVs before I go into texturing so I have an overlay which shows me where and what I'm painting. Sensible layout of the UVs also helps with this so for example at the top of the page in the middle are all the Troll's fingers. It makes it easier to paint if elements of the model are where you expect them to be, otherwise you have to cross reference with Maya to track down what you want to paint. Although there is generally an unavoidable period where you need to familiarise yourself with your new UV map.

Troll Armor UV

 Once the UVs were out the way I took the model into Z-Brush and started sculpting. I quickly discovered that I could not get the level of detail I wanted with out hitting the poly limit for my machine so I had to divide the model up into several sections. In this way I could go to the maximum poly limit on each separate piece and so have an overall poly limit that was much higher. The body had 6 separate sections in the end which were: arms, chest plate, gauntlets, legs and additional armor plates.

Below you can see work in progress normal maps on the model. What I usually do is set up with Xnormal so I can drop my normal maps onto the model as I am adjusting my sculpt in Z-Brush so the screen grabs below are from Maya. It means swapping around between software which is a drag. When I first started using normal maps I would do all my sculpting, finish it and then generate my normal maps and drop them into Maya. This means less messing about but can lead to unforeseen errors which you can catch if you check your work as you're creating it. I find it less of a headache to keep an eye on any developing problems as I'm working rather than get all the way through the sculpt and then have a nasty surprise.

Troll Normals WIP #1
The mat version above is an earlier version than the shiny silver version below. If you look closely you can see there are lots of blank areas on the armor in the pictures above and below which I filled in later, like the phoenix that I sculpted into the centre of the breast plate. These pictures show the model with just a base one tone colour applied to it. All the rivets and gubbins are coming from the normal map.

Troll Normals WIP #2

 Below you can see the separate sections sculpted in Z-Brush. I really liked the Phoenix design I came up with for this characters breast plate, I decided that I wanted the Troll to have a magic flaming spear and that he needed an emblem of fire to go on his armor. I doodled out a phoenix holding the rune for fire on a scrap of paper and then transferred it to the armor using Z-Brush (by eye). You can find all sorts of runes and ancient symbols by checking the internet and it can be lots of fun researching this kind of thing. Or you can just use your imagination.

Troll ZBrush Sculpts
Once my sculpt was done it was time to move on to the texture painting. Below you can see the model before I started really going into the painting so you're just seeing the detail of the sculpt transferred onto the model through a normal map. The result is a very  beaten up surface that seems peculiarly clean and plastic, time to get painting!

Troll Head and Shoulders Normals

Troll Back Normals
Back view ready for painting
Troll Front Normals
I set a simple pose for rendering so I can check my work as I paint   

Troll Side Normals

Here are some details from the texture sheet, these are the hand painted flat images that I mapped to the model to complete it. You can see the Phoenix breast plate and one of the shoulder plates, these flat images work in combination with the surface sculpt to give the impression that dirt has caught in the recesses and that the corners and raised areas have been scratched  and battered. I use an ambient occlusion map as a starting point to paint from. It often helps the model to paint in details that are not in the sculpt so you should not stick too rigidly to the ambient occlusion, (within reason of course).

Troll Texture Detail #1

Troll Texture Detail #2

Again  as I'm painting I am constantly checking the results in Maya and running off the odd render.

Troll Textures WIP #1

Troll Textures WIP #2

Flame Troll Back View

Flame Troll Front View

So there you have it one flame Troll in a suit of long serving battle worn armor, complete with sigils and magic seals.

 We are not done yet though as next will come the spear.

Flame Spear Wip

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Alien Invader How to strip the rigg

Alien Invader
I've been asked how to strip the rigg from the Alien Invader model and thought I might as well share it here.
If you need to strip the rigg from the Alien Invader model in order to create a fresh rigg or assign motion capture to the model using something like motion builder, here is how you do it. If you have the Cyber Punk, Cyborg or Space Soldier you can use the same process, the only difference will be the node prefix. For the Cyber punk the prefix will be CyberPunk, for Cyborg the prefix is Cyborg and for the Space Soldier the prefix is SpaceTrooper. You can find these and many other of my character models here for download on Turbosquid.

A character for animation has three components:


In order to create a new rigg or new set of controllers you need to strip out the old controllers including IK, control handles and constraints leaving you with just the skeleton and mesh(s). This model also has duplicate skeletons for the arms which are part of the IK/FK switching set up which makes them controls. They are also removed in the steps below.

Step one separate mesh and skeleton from controllers.

Go to frame zero (this is the bind pose). Open the hypergraph find and select node AlienJntAss middle mouse and hold, drag out to the side release. Find and select node AlienMesh middle mouse and hold, drag out to the side release. Find and select node AlienLP33LaserRifle middle mouse and hold, drag out to the side release.

Alien Rigg hierarchy

When you middle mouse drag out a node like this in the hypergraph what you're actually doing is pulling the node and it's children out of the hierarchy and creating a new hierarchy tree. Pulling out the wrong node can really mess up a character model.

Step two delete controllers

Select nodes under node AlienLP33LaserRifle delete. Select node AlienMaster, delete. Find and select node AlienBrainConrtol, delete. Find and select node AlienJntBrain, set rotate Z to Zero.

Step three delete animation

Stripping the rig breaks the animation. You need to remove the broken animation to have a clean model for re rigging. Select every node in the skeleton make sure you have every node. A quick way to do this is to marquee select the skeleton hierarchy in the hypergraph (make sure all joint nodes are visible in the hypergraph before doing this). Now open the graph editor zoom out and make sure all keys are visible select all keys from frame 6 onwards, delete.

Step four optional clean up

You have now stripped the controllers. There are some handles which are left over, if you want to remove these too the cross handles are a display option. Select the node with a cross handle, open the attribute editor, in the display options set display handle to off. For the remaining nurbs handles in the hypergraph right click in empty space >option>display>shape nodes. You will now see that the joints have the nurbs handles assigned to them as shape nodes, you can delete them. They have generic names like CTRL_circle6Shape or curveShape3. An animator would not normally have access to these shape nodes which is why they are not labeled.

How to turn joint displahandles on

How to make shape nodes visible in the hypergraph

Hide the shape nodes through the display options once you have finished editing. You do not want the shape nodes visible for normal use of the hypergraph as it doubles the number of visible nodes.

Note the skeleton joints are named so you should get an idea of what the joint does straight away. You are left with just the character mesh, rifle and skeleton. The model is now ready for a new rigg.

For rigging tips and best practice I recommend Jason Schleifer. I will be back with more from the Flame Troll shortly.
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