Thursday, August 22, 2013

I revisited a painting I started a while ago. I ended up working mostly on the character and teensy bit on the background. I may just get rid of the trees in the background or alter them drastically. I could really use some feedback on this one!

EDIT:  I've started a sketchbook on CGHUB and posted for feedback over at the paintover thread and got some helpful suggestions.. Will post the finished version soon!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Modeling progress

I was busy with assessments (we got done today!). I finally got some time last evening so I spent sometime noodling with the helmet and building parts for the model.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Character renders

These are a few renders of the character  that I worked on for the  short film.. While texturing and developing the skin shader of the character, I watched Peter and Wolf to emulate the look of traditionally built puppets. I added a fingerprint texture as bump map to create finger impressions on the shader, as well as crinkled paper texture to the skirt. For the skirt's material shader, I looked at references of lacquered wood. Both the research and development of the textures and shaders for this project was a lot of fun to work on since they were stylized and I could go crazy with it. The skin textures are a mixture of hand-painted paint blobs and photo real textures to capture the nuances of skin.

Paint effects & tilt-shift camera

Like I  mentioned earlier,  I was working on creating pfx for the short film. It needed to look stylized but believable to match the look of the film. Rendering pfx was tricky, but  using the steps outlined here, helped bring down the render time and I am quite pleased with the results.  I used principles of tiltshift photography  to help recreate a miniature set like effect for the film. I was working closely with Isabel who is working on the composting for the film. The depth pass rendered out from Maya came in really handy to create a shallow depth of field, essential to get this look.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Production management

Over the last few weeks I worked on setting up all the 16 shots of the short film  to render. It was a daunting task to say the least with each scene presenting some new challenge. Some scenes inevitably required re-rendering, while finished renders had to be moved on to compositing without losing time and my colorful .xl sheet came in quite handy in keeping tab of renders and keeping the rest of the team informed.

Production schedule for the semester

 keeping tab of render progress of shots

Zbrush Renders

I created a couple of still images rendered out of Zbrush to use in photo frames in the short film. They are seen very briefly in the first half of the film. The male character was sculpted and textured in Zbrush. I used a skinshader matcap  downloaded from the Zbrushcentral download center. Both characters were posed using Transpose Master in Zbrush and rendered using BPR and comped in Photoshop. I used really bright colors for both characters to be  in sharp contrast to the more muted tones used in the rest of the film to indicate happier times.

Short film production notes

Do's and DONT'S!

At the end of working on my first 3D short, I feel compelled to record my thoughts that are still fresh from my first experience. While working on short films in small teams, across specialisms and working to tight deadlines, the challenges that present itself are unlike those normally found in studio production setups. In addition to executing the concept, which most of us as artists can tackle, there are added responsibilities of managing work and people, planning a workflow, managing files and working to self-imposed timelines.

It is handy to have a checklist going during production to make sure all aspects of production are maintained in the most efficient way possible:

Pre-production: Spending time on pre-production, nailing down important aspects of the film-mood, tone, scale of the project and moving on to details like the various sets that need to be built, character description and having as clear and idea as possible at the start of production goes a long way in working efficiently.

1. I personally prefer working with referenced assets from master files from the get-go, especially if there is extensive set building involved. This way it's easy to make changes to assets, textures, add and delete them from the scene in a non destructive way.
2. Getting feedback from client/team regularly and frequently
3. Working in layers in Maya. Similar to photoshop, I tend to store assets in layers- characters in one background in another, smaller parts bundled together etc. making it easy to delete/access assets
4. Overlapping aspects of production, for instance, setting up render layers early on, possibly alongside blocking out lighting and look development.
5. From the start of production its essential to factor in the end resolution and format for the film being made. This will in-turn determine texture quality and size, render settings, modeling details among a whole host of other things.
6. While building textures I like to use a non destructive, easily editable workflow - like painting textures in photoshop in layers, this way its easier to make changes based on feedback and building them one size bigger than required. I then write out .tiff files to be used as texture nodes in Maya. It's also useful to write out a small and large size texture file for use in tests and one for final use.
7. Scene naming, clean Outliner with clearly labelled assets, texture files and following a common naming convention during all aspects of production are key to keeping things organized, especially when team work is involved and files exchange hands.
8. I now consider factoring in render time from the start of production on a short film to be vital. Especially while working on large and complex scenes with high poly count,  heavy texture files and lots of lights in turn requiring higher shadow samples, anti aliasing and ray tracing values etc we can end up looking at unweildly render time- hours and days on end while using efficient render farms. On our project, the scenes were relatively simple, but when it came down to render time, even the 'simple scenes' were taking hours to render. Spending time optimizing scenes really pay off by drastically bringing down render time.
9.Optimizing scenes for rendering-
  • We maintained Master files for all the scenes and made a separate copy of scenes for rendering. 
  •  While setting up render layers, I added only those elements that would be visible in the shot camera view, using textures that are driven by the final render size and deleted models not visible in camera view, unused nodes from hyper graph, unnecessary layers. i.e. clean scene file with only assets needed for the shot.
10. Lastly, while working in teams more often than not, the team's vision or directors vision takes precedence over personal likes and dislikes. Being able to evaluate it and combine it seamlessly with your own aesthetics effectively and creatively, speaks equally about one as an artist. 

And on to the next project now!

Rendering Zdepth

Creating a depth pass can be a quick and cheap way to create Dof and fog in the composite as opposed to using Mental ray lens shaders. However, various issues can arise while rendering a depth pass depending on the scene. I came across a way to set up zdepth in one of the Gnomon tutorials which uses Maya Software environment fog as a quick and easy way to setting up zdepth in Maya. I've briefly outlined the steps involved in setting it up:
1. Add assets to new render layer
2. Assign a surface shader as material override with out color set to White
3. In the render settings window, switch to Maya software renderer, and under render settings>  switch on apply environment fog and switch back to Mental ray
4. In the environment fog material shape node change color to black and turn off color based transparency to make sure the fog renders. Change saturation distance and clipping plane fog near and far distance based on camera distance to the nearest and furthest point in the scene

** The depth pass doesn't require lights in the scene so make sure to not add them to the layer

Possible issues that can occur while using this method.
1. While switching to Maya software renderer the Image format resets to Maya IFF
2. If the camera has an exposure node it needs to be disabled in order to render zdepth using this method.

Test renders at 25% - Top: rendered with camera exposure node, bottom: after disabling it

Alternately you can add a depth pass  instead of a separate render layer by adding camera depth pass and selecting render pass attributes > switch presets to luminance depth. I have found the results to be less reliable than the first method.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Troubleshooting render issues

Most of last week would fit perfectly into the first half of the film Turbo. Lots of work and what seemed like no progress-failed batch renders, artifacts, undecipherable render warnings.We finally managed to get things going by yesterday evening. Our team met with John on Monday,Wed and Friday for showing updates and feedback which really helped move things along by getting an outside perspective. Last 2 weeks were spent mostly on getting scenes ready for rendering and composting. I was troubleshooting render issues with shots-reducing render time, fixing broken light links, checking issues with shaders rendering black.
I set up most shots for  multipass render, set some up for test batch renders & managed to do a test batch render for the pfx scene. It was taking too long to render despite using particle instancing- a ridiculous 40 mins per frame- which we can't afford right now, so I reduced the particle max count down, tweaked the texture emission file with more greys and used a stronger bump map for the ground texture to fill in the gaps in the grass patches. I tweaked the lights a bit to get faster renders and reduced the noise in renders. The render time is down to a sweet 15 mins. (The Forests in Maya MR thread over at CG Talk has some useful material on getting efficient render time for pfx.)
We got shooed out of uni for a week in a row and I dint manage to grab the screen shots I'd saved, so no image updates for today.

So much empathy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I haven't managed to glance at my sketchbook all semester, so the crazy render times at this stage are a blessing in disguise! I managed to get in a wee doodle today after flipping through the Pacific Rim artbook that my friend was marching around with.

The secret life of pfx- contd.

texture emitters & particle instancing pfx

Some more in-progress shots. It was evident early on that we'd need to fill large patches of grass and deal with close-up shots of it while watching the render time. I used particle instancing to fill in the patches and controlled the pfx emission to only  areas visible in the scene using a texture emission  map. The process is similar to the one used in the Gnomon DVD, Grass and Plant instancing. These really bring down the render time, with this test render taking under a minute. The final scenes will take much longer with bigger resolutions and the final light in place. Although familiarizing myself with dynamics seemed daunting at first, I've come to really enjoy working with pfx after I wrapped my head around it.

The secret life of pfx

Sooo I started tinkering around with paint effects- mostly grass and plants to create a forest. This is from one of the earliest tests using Maya physical sun & sky, mia_material_x_passes custom shaders and textures. I did a quick test with zdepth and lens blur in Photoshop to test the final look. I played around a bit with the camera once the grass was in the scene. In addition to improving the composition with the geo in it, I also wanted to economize render time by avoiding filling large stretches of grass. I think we've managed to find a happy balance of both by going for a really low angle close up of the grass. There were a few issues with the look of the shader in the scene- reflectivity and fresnel which have been fixed now.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hard Surface Modeling- Mech Suit

I've been tied up with the film for the most part and since I have been working mostly on texturing and rendering scenes at this stage, I went back to tweaking the model to get my fix of modeling and sculpting. I built a lot of small parts for the mech suit in Maya and blocked out the overall shape of the helmet. I've used a bunch of references from pipes and hydraulic engines to more organic forms like insects, but the mix of texture, geometry and hard and soft  in the image below has been my key inspiration in building parts of the model.

Link:My online ref base on Pinterest

Material &To-do list

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I developed expression blendshapes for the characters for Lilly to use in the animation. They'll be used to add subtle detail to the character to show the different emotions of the character in the absence of dialogue. I used the Zbrush blendshapes plugin to generate the blendshapes and I could spend a whole month doing just these since they are so much fun! I then imported them into Maya and transferred them onto the rigged character.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Homage to Giger

I recently watched Giger Revealed for the nth time and ended up with a fresh dose of inspiration.. and a well spent Saturday!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Interior texturing

I got a bit carried away texturing the sofa for the interior set and went ahead with creating color variations since I was having so much fun with it. Most textures are done at this point. I've used Mia_material_x_passes, Leather, wood & crinkled paper textures and test light rig for the house interior, rendered in Maya Mental Ray.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A wee sculpt

Version1: feedback-looks older than she should

  Version2: younger character

I did a bit of sculpting for a character in a short film being directed by another group of classmates. The final sculpt and texture didn't end up being used in the film, but I thought I'd post it here anyway. The base model built by Sean was already quite close to the final look they wanted. I was given a base mesh with UV's and who can say no to some quality time spent sculpting! I sculpted the clothes and the upper half of the character.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Transfer Attributes

After most of the work on the character was done, i.e the modeling, UVing, sculpting,  texturing and rigging  the character, I noticed that the UV's on the animated character in the scene had got messed up at some stage after I had passed it on. I was faced with the prospect of having to redo UV's and re-project the sculpt etc which would have been an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, a bit of research led me to the Transfer Attributes node in Maya(Polygons>Mesh>Transfer Atrributes. Using the feature you can transfer UV's between two objects. Since the animated model with the broken UV set still had the same polycount, I managed to transfer the UV's without much problem. They didn't line up perfectly enough and the results of it can still be seen in some areas of the model which need to be revisited.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Texturing the set

images from test renders at 25%

I blocked out textures for the house interior. I am currently working on the basic structure of the house- the floors, walls, ceiling and panels. I have also blocked out a 3 point area light rig for the interior to be used for texture and shader tests. Some of the  materials used include wood panels, cardboard paper, crosshatched textures and some stylized test textures created in Photoshop.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Final Character model



I wrapped up the character model, UV, sculpt and started texturing in semester two. I spent some more time experimenting with getting a mix of the wooden texture to blend in with a sculpted texture (Image 1 is the final texture and shader that I intend to use. The one below seems to block out the skin shader more than I'd like it to) . I also went ahead and created final textures for the characters clothes based on feedback and suggestions during the peer review.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Least Wanted

It's been a while since I sculpted faces in Zbrush, so did a quick study using mugshots from Least Wanted.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ichabod Crane

Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane. Quickie for a weekly portrait challenge. These are so much fun and super addictive! Kinda ran out of time but here it is.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Character design & development sketches

Front & side orthographic view

 Paper dolls: testing patterns on cloth

  gesture sketches

 front and side body ortho

 Initial concept sketch
Conept sketches and development of the character for our short film