Tuesday, 12 February 2013

FMP - Character 1

This is my first final major project character that i'm modelling. The concept is by Calumwatt! 
I decided that I would work from someone else's concept to see how well I could interpret from a concept and whether I can retain some of the aesthetic qualities from the concept. 
"Although initially I thought this would be fairly straight forward, it was quickly apparent that task was more difficult that it seems. Firstly I have to find a balance between stylisation and realism which is something I haven't really attempted before, which is the first and foremost challenge even from a texturing perspective.
The first step was to do a basic block out of some of the basic features using a base mesh and get a basic overall look. 


I also started doing a quick block out of the face; I gathered some refs first and then I sculpted a few faces, which I shortly narrowed it down to 2 and t the moment I'm favouring 2

It was quite evident that the initial sculpt did not give the look that I was going for, so I exaggerated some of his features to match it towards the concept.

There were many issues that I wanted to address, especially on the props and more importantly at this stage I was at a stale mate as I could not initially figure out what where I could push further and one of the main reasons was that I was working on the same mesh for some time and I needed a slight break, so the next week or so I will test out different techniques that I could incorporate to speed up my workflow. 

Ok, I've spent almost a week or so exploring a variety of techniques that I could implement and I was slightly glad that I invested this time as I found out some ideas how I could speed up my current pipeline. 
Suddenly, I felt I was slightly behind everyone so I just wanted to make some significant progress so I started making a lower resolution mesh with a near finished topology and projected some of the higher poly details on the mesh so now I at least I know everything I have can be baked later.  

Once I had some of the main base mesh, I continued sculpting and re imagined some of the initial areas such as the jacket, (which went through many iterations) as I was spent some time learning folds and such as I was re-concepting areas but also trying to make it look believable. There were areas around the model which was quite symmetrical too so I wanted to ensure that I break this up as much as I can, so almost immediately the amount of work increased as I not only had to resolve existing areas but also concept and tweak areas.



I started incorporating morph targets to concept areas so I can switch between 2 meshes 

I also made some high poly meshes in zbrush using features shadow box which enabled quick near final mesh creation inside zbrush.

I also revisited areas around the face and tidied them up

Right now the high poly is almost done, I just have minor areas to sculpt like the edges and the folded jeans.
This character has already dragged on for an exceedingly long time so I intend to finish this character before 21st march. I don't think this character will take so long to finish but I've given myself some extra time just to be on the safe side. I think right now I also have a better idea of the time frame that will take for rest of the character.

At this point most of the basic silhouette is done. The stage up to this is usually quite quick and fairly straightforward and generally its almost 70% of the sculptural details are complete,however from here onwards the amount of time vs the level of detail required is quite steep as for every 5%-10% I end up spending a vast amount of time and usually polishing the model to ensure that areas do not appear muddy.

I started resculpting and tidying the face as it wasn’t really finished so I refined some of the details but still tried to keep the details minimal. Although the details in general are quite believable I did not want it to look hyper realistic or too worked on. I also tried to add some asymmetrical details to add some character but I haven't done anything too extravagant; the face complexions are also quite subtle and soft.


The way you sculpt hair is quite important to get the correct layering to get a believable look. The hair should generally sculpted from the edges/crown to the middle.

Initially I was quite indecisive of how I wanted to approach the hair on whether to lay alpha cards or sculpt the entire clump but in the end I decided to sculpt as I thought it would give a slightly stylised look.

 The hands is quite chunky with some chipped nails which I’ll later add during the texturing process

Ok, as you might wonder how is this any different to the previous supposed sculpt, the main thing is refinement and tidying areas where it was previously much more muddy. T this point everything is sculpted.

Lady Character
This character quite basic in terms of silhouette but I wanted to ensure that the all surface properties are fully realised so I immediately made a base mesh for the entire character so I can start working of the high poly straight away.

The initial jacket was one of the the most challenging areas that I had ever sculpted as he folds and the small subtleties made it extremely challenging to get a believable look and I was very glad that I had done a base mesh as I was able to export the low res models back in to max and add more details ( which is essentially more loops) and re import them back again to zbrush and project the high poly sculpt information.
This process what the underlying theme for this entire character as the final mesh was already built at the beginning so most of the issues have been figured out already.The majority of the model went quite quick and as you can see the lady is quite bulky and although the initial silhouette is not as exaggerated or exciting as the first guy the texturing will add a lot of interest and character and also the prop which is a stop sign which she will be holding.

One thing to remember is that although i've spent quite a lot of time sculpting the majority of the character and story of them will come through from the texture work but its just that a really good sculpt will reduce the amount of time spent on texturing by a considerable amount and also gives clear and crisp details.

The Crazy dude
The Crazy guy was probably going to be the most challenging model and I wanted to also incorporate some design ideas from another concept piece and I decided that adding the arm gear would add a lot of interest and also some colour ideas could be transferred to give a nice overall finish
The first thing I did was start a brief block out in 3ds max and as soon as I have a brief overview I decided to take it into zbrush to really try and do a quick sculpt which I could later polish and refine it and bring it to a finish

 One of the piece which I wanted to incorporate was the arm piece as this would give a lot of character and also a great challenge. It was definitely interesting to try and figure out how the folds for this as the concept was quite vague on material I decided to go for a padded gear with the surface more like a black garbage bin bad and I thought that would give a nice finish for the model. 

The cargo trouser was kind of the material I wanted to go for as I wanted to alternate between the busy arm gear to the simpler vest and then the cargo trouser and then back to some simpler long boots and I thought this will create a nice visual alternative rather than having everything just full of detail and noise.
As soon as i finish this then its time to start making all the bones and really tightening up the entire model.

The main bulk of the model  sculpt is almost finished as I tried to give as much attention to all areas of the model as I can

The sculpts are all finished and its time to retopo and start baking them down and for this I primarily used 3ds max to retopo some of the areas and other areas I was happy with using the mesh that I started out with but things like folds and such i need to redo and tweak.

Big dude  AO + normal

Lady _ AO + normal

Crazy Dude _Ao + Normal

Now that all the baking is finished, I started blocking out all the main basic colours and used various custom brushes like cloud brushes and such to add subtle texture work. The overall finish was a stylised look so I ensured that i did not overuse photo textures textures.

Final images


I think the the project in general went quite well although I had some serious concerns over some of the quality of work. The beginning phase of the project i was quite confident as I was working from a pre-existing concept so I was quick to start the modelling process an immediately started the high poly for my first character ( big-guy). i started testing out various workflows and techniques to get finer result so i spent a week or two just exploring this fully knowing that I will be able to catch up; which i did.

Everything seems fine..So where did it all go wrong?

Folds. This was one of the aspects  that I underestimated because although I was doing a stylised character they still resembled a general human proportion ( although some aspects were exaggerated to add character) the stylisation came mostly from the simplistic and colourful texture work so i still had to make all aspect of the character look believable. Also stylised character is no excuse to do poor quality sculpts or get lazy; this meant that i now had 3 characters with various clothing. Although it seemed quite simple, the amount of work required to do a polished work will be quite challenging as I would have to effectively differentiate the materials to sell the illusion which meant a lot of refining with a lot of going back and forwards too. There was also the task to imagine fabrics as the concept was quite loose so it meant I will have just imagine what type of clothing/gear they are and this also proved to be quite difficult.

So what happened?

The sculpting of clothes gave a unique challenge as each time I finish sculpting major areas, I also gained more insight on it and this meant that i could see some of the things that i did wrong which I will now have to fix. I was also getting crits on how to improve which also meant that i would have to revisit areas of the model which i thought i had completely finished; it almost felt as if I was taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Once I was out of this phase the rest of the model went quite smoothly, however the going back and forth took almost majority of the  fmp.
Also I had some crits from the guest character artists that gave demo and useful tips  on improving which essentially meant that I had to revisit some of the sculpts again to redo some of the folds as I learnt a lot from them.  So all of this meant that I now have less time to spend on the rest of the process and meant that I wasn't able to give as much attention as I could have otherwise. On a positive note since the sculpt was quite detailed I was able to bake additional maps to assist the texturing process which was crucial to finishing the project in time. However i later discovered new techniques which I could not attempt entirely due to the fact that I was very short of time. Since I used 2 texture maps for each character, if I were to redo all the character’s spec and gloss map that would mean to do 12 textures which was not possible in the short space of time so also some of the maps were ok, I think there are many things which i would change for me next character ( workflow wise)

So could this have been avoided?

Well, personally i felt that i was glad that I took a slightly longer road to learn some of this.This was mainly because I would have to resolve this issue at some point which was to learn to how to make clothing and folds; I also learnt how to efficiently sculpt faster as there were many flaws with the workflow i was previously using. It is also worth mentioning that since this process was very tedious it was all the more reason to attempt it while i’m still in university as the environment provided a committed atmosphere to push through the work while getting useful crits and encouragement from peers.

To sum up I think I learnt a lot of industry techniques and also learnt what my personal weak points are so i can work on improving them.