Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Z-Brush Horned Green Dragon

Horned Green Dragon main
Screen grab of Zbrush sculpt with polypaint.
I've been thinking about making a dragon model for a very long time and actually started doing something about it. I decided to just open up Zbrush and go at it. I think sketching in 3d is sometimes easier than on paper. You need to put more effort in to get a decent looking 3d model. However a drawing  can give the illusion of a nice form with out true substance. You find the flaws of the drawing only when you try to build it.
Horned Green Dragon Side View

Horned Green Dragon Low angle

 Inspiration For The Dragon's Head

I've painted dragons here before and read up on descriptions of what dragons look like. They are described as having elements of the horse, camel and dog. A very broad mix to play with and part of why I enjoy making fantasy creatures so much. I have some pictures that live in my head when I think of dragons, I can remember seeing Smaug by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt on the cover of the Hobbit when I was probably 8 or so. Strange to see two brothers credited for the same picture, I had no idea it was by two artists. That picture echoes round the web as well as the inside of my head so I expect many of you will recognize it.

Another big influence for me was lead figures for fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons. I actually went looking for some of the miniatures I used to have and found The Great Fire Dragon, there's clearly an influence there. I couldn't find the artists name but it's fair to say that the artists who made those figures had a big influence on me and I learned a good deal of what I know about painting from painting miniatures. More recently I saw the cover art of John Jude Palencar for the novel Eragon and that stuck too.

Horned Green Dragon montage

 Making The Dragon's Head

I screen grabbed the dragons head at intervals as I was working so you can see how the dragon developed. The dragon started as a poly sphere and I remeshed round about every time I did a screen grab. Remeshing prevents the polygons from being overstretched when you are putting detail into an area which  lacks the required number of polygons.

This model was intended to develop ideas and have fun. I would normally build a base mesh in Maya with a low polycount with the intention of having a fully poseable skinned model. I may still do this but I enjoyed just focusing on sculpting for a change. Low poly modeling is a very different process and not as good for developing ideas. Zbrush has a much more organic feel which very much suits pulling around fantasy creatures.

Horned Green Dragon WIP #1
 I start with basic shapes which I pull around using the move tool.

Horned Green Dragon WIP #2

Horned Green Dragon WIP #3

Horned Green Dragon WIP #4
 Once I had the head shape looking the way I wanted I put the details in.

Scales are quite easy and fun to do using Zbrush.

If you have a nice form to start with the scales almost draw themselves.

That was where I stopped on the sculpt.

Early polypaint, I experimented with some materials too.

Almost there, this is an outliner material that helped the texturing.

Painting The Dragon's Head

I painted the model using polypaint in Zbrush. It's probably the first time I've used it so much and it worked out quite well. Because I  painted directly onto the model in the same way I sculpt, it's much easier than painting an unfolded map in photoshop. I did use photoshop to tweak a little but for the most part it's polypaint. The best part is not having to guess how it's going to look. When you're painting the flat map what you're looking at is a peculiar pancake version of your dragon that looks like it has been skinned ready for stuffing. This is not a rendered model, all the images are just screen grabs so this model could look even nicer with the right lighting.

If I develop this model further (which depends on how much attention it gets) I think I would start thinking about more of a crest of horns and a larger mouth with more prominent teeth. I would also texture the eyes as they are currently just placeholder spheres with a material applied.

If you would like me to develop the dragon further please like, +1 and/or share this post and I will get the message. Thanks to all the plussers on my last post I very much appreciate active readers, this blog welcomes and needs your support.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Animated audition a short slap stick test

Here is an audition I did for a job at the start of the year. The mail came out of the blue on the 3rd of January "We would like you to complete the audition ASAP".  I was given a version of the model to work on by the company but the rigg didn't work and the mesh had errors and too much subdivision to skin easily so I had to rebuild and re-rigged it. It was a bit of a mad rush to get it done in time but good practice. I always liked cartoons like Road Runner and the Pink Panther so it was fun to do something slap stick. One of the best things about it was I showed it to my kids and they loved it. I  really enjoyed doing the animation and hope you enjoy watching it , I haven't done something like this for a while so it made a nice change.

It's a little bit like the style I used to work in when I worked for Kuju on the Eye Toy games, I have an urge to try doing some more work like this as it came very easy to me. The swords and sorcery stuff I'm working on at the moment is a bit of a battle at times. The funny green thing I animated for the audition was much easier to set up and build than the characters I've been making recently. With a bit of Z-brush fiddling it could look really cool I think.

The clip above was a style test I did for Kuju.

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

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