Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Weekly Update #19: Ruk Scar Landscape

A few weeks ago Monte Cook Games commissioned a second piece of work from me. This one described a Ruk native descending some ruins inside a floating city, looking down on a city below that one. This was honestly something I was quite worried about completing. But I'll walk you through my development towards the finished piece.
First I created some quick value roughs. I had originally started these as pencil sketches to keep them loose and easy, but began working into a few favourites in order to show the art director some of my personal favourites. One stood out to us all; the bottom left, and it was selected. This was also however the one with the most confusing perspective. I'd knew what I was hoping to achieve but I'd not actually planned much of it out.
So what I'd done to fix this was use a program called Carapace. It allows you to draw your perspective lines on your scene and move them freely and it really helped speed up my process. I'd decided to do a more flat landscape for this cleaned up rough, but soon I felt like the emphasis on this persons descent was not in focus.
I'd shifted the perspective down to really have the viewer look down on a damaged city and began working into this now as a good base for the final image.
I flipped the image to have a more readable composition and soon I had my value section worked. Now it was just time to paint some colour on.
This image I'd felt really drew the viewers eye to all the key points, and I'd almost consider it finished. But the fact the main portion of the image, which is a damaged city beneath, was just a tiny section in the corner I didn't like. So I began to cut into the ruins and work more of the city into the scene.
Now I had a final image. The Ruk Scar Landscape. I've also spent this week working on some textures for Alpha, but alongside that I've also been taking some courses outside of my university curriculum. And so here is some of the work I've been doing on the side:
I've been doing composition and value studys of old masters work as well as focusing on some topics I struggle with. Namely clouds for this week. That's all for this week anyway. Until next time!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Weekly Update #18: Team17 And Awesome Lighting

I've applied for an internship at Team17 (The guys who make Worms), and they invited me for an interview. Since then I've spent my time travelling up to Leeds where they're based, both visiting them and some friends nearby. I've not yet finished my course but they seemed particularly happy with the work I'm producing and said that hopefully, come graduation the position may still be open for me. Alpha has developed too. We've begun working on lighting tests created by our wonderful TD John Benson:
We needed to start figuring out how we were going to produce godrays and create a more atmospheric scene. And so with our other props not allowing for light to filter through them I began to make a tree variant of my own. It only took me a couple days to go from nothing to a finished untextured model but I really like how it turned out.
This should hopefully allow for some really nice lighting! Carrying on with university work I've also decided to go back and begin reworking my old Milita piece. It's not finished but here's the updated version so far:
As well as this I've also begun blocking him in on Maya, no robotic arm just yet, but I'm making a failsafe that requires less work just in case Alpha eats way too much into my time.
That's it for this week but I'm working on a large piece that I should hopefully have ready for you next update!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Weekly Update #17: Painting Fur

Texturing has been the main goal this week. After rooting out the problems encountered last week regarding displacement maps, we now have our 3D models working perectly within Maya. Now it's on to texturing. This was something I was looking forward to, but again, issues arose. I decided to try learning some new programs in order to try and facilitate faster production times and better results. The main program I was aiming to use was Mari, something I had hear much praise for. However, it's through using Mari I learnt that my mac has not aged well in the last two and a half years. It struggled to even turn around the high poly model. And so after a few days of trying to work out a way of making it usable, I instead opted to transfer my license over to my pc. Suddenly everything works much faster. Suffice it to say, should my mac die... I shalln't be renewing it. I digress, texturing began with the creature first:
As you can see there is a gentle progression through the texturing of the creature. But after rendering it through Arnold I've discovered that most of his face and fur looks 'flat'
I've since spent the last day collating stylised texture references and I'll begin really working into the detail. I'm just slightly worried about 'over defining' things like shadows.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Weekly Update #16: Trouble on the Rocks

Today I found out we had lost one of our environment artists. It was a sad thing to hear, especially since we were already running low on environment props and artists. But it had been something I was preparing for too. I had created a short guide (23 pages) for our entire production pipeline after experiencing the rendering issues of last week. This was my attempt to try and halt some of the issues I knew may come up if the other artists were less experienced in programs like Zbrush, and was also an attempt to try and encourage some work out of people. Just in case the idea of not knowing what steps to take seemed like a bit of a daunting task to some of the second year students. Sadly we still lost one of our two artists after this, but I also decided to try and take some time to produce some of the props we may need too. I've been far too focused on making high end characters and creatures etc, I hadn't thought about how long it might take me to actually produce a simple prop for our production. Turns out getting something from Maya, into Zbrush, and back really isn't too hard. An hour and a halfs work resulted in this:
this is exactly the style of rock that I was hoping for. And now I know if I have time spare I can at least sculpt them. Detailing might be another issue however... I have recently purchased a student copy of Mari, hoping that this texturing program might give my work a bit of an edge when it comes to both this production and my portfolio. However after several days I've experienced nothing but problems. I'm now much closer than I was a few days ago, but every day I spend learning is another day I could've spent doing texturing using practices I already know work. But I want to develop as an artist, and I feel pushing myself like this will help. Now I've got more to grips with it, perhaps more texturing will be on the way. Speaking of Textures, new issues have arrived around my displacement maps. After talking to several tutors, I found that our original export of our character Keeva had some issues with the OBJ's. We had also decided to try a new texturing method when it comes to the eyes and eyelids considering the toon style of the animation. We'll be using custom textures for each expression. This however, meant new sculpting had to be done to remove some of the grooves within the characters head to better display them. This however is what we've resulted in ever since then: BEFORE:
AFTER:
No one seems to have any idea as to why this distorting of the hands and fingers is happening. It appears to be an Arnold issue, as a tutors experiements in Mental Ray seem to resolve the issue. However, our entire pipeline is based upon Arnold, and so we have to figure out how this is can be fixed. I've sent messages to several people, and forums. Hopefully by this time next week there'll be a solution available. As for the icon that is visible upon the rocks. I also managed to spend a day whilst I was waiting for replies to knock out more work required for the animation. Namely a logo to put on our production work and in our short.
The logo is essentially like one from an online game called 'Dofus', but it fits our needs quite well. And after several attempts to contact capable graphic designers, I've decided to take it into my own hands instead. Anyway, that's enough for this week. Wish me luck in resolving our displacement map problems!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Weekly Update #15: Teeth, Tongues and Trouble.

Sadly, this week started off with a lot of issues. After spending much of my time sculpting the monster in Alpha I found there were several issues when rendering out this monster back into Maya. It's all well and good having a sculpted creature is Zbrush, but without a way for the animators to utilize it, it'll be essentially useless.
After some experimenting inside Metal Ray I found the displacement maps I had been exporting didn't react in the way I was expecting when applied to the low poly OBJ in Maya.
Some tweaking of the settings resulted in closer results, but still. it's a far way away from this:
I decided to leave this section for now as I was getting nowhere. I thought it best to simply stop and move on to another part of the project whilst I waited to talk to those who may know something more about my issue than I. I began working on features I hadn't yet sculpted or exported. Namely the teeth, tongue and eyelids.
This may not look like much, but this character now has a whole world inside its head it didn't have last week:
This is another part of this project I'm relatively new to. I hadn't yet worked on details inside the mouth. Frankly the close proximity of so many objects worried me, I didn't want any undue clipping, and without any experience I found myself running on guess work and trying to remember what I had seen in games before. In the end I wound up with objects like these:
With the short time limit I simply decided to take those objects and reshape them for our female character too. Saves time and doesn't look half bad either.
Luckily, by the time I finished these objects, I had wound up finding the correct settings and rendering our objects correctly in Arnold too!
This week also saw the end of my daily sketches. I had wanted to carry on with them, but with production on Alpha going from a stage where I knew exactly what I was doing, to toying around with various programs and renderers, I found my time being eaten away and soon I didn't even have a spare hour to draw creatures. I'll post the last few up, and now production on Alpha begins to get intense.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Weekly Update #14: Prancing and Bears

So during the last week I've made sure to keep on with my daily sketches. I won't share every one of them but here are a couple of my favourites for the week.
I had actually found this harder in the beginning. The loose nature of the sketches meant my pool of metal resources was spread far too thinly, I soon found myself needing to limit my designs in some way. I had thought this may actually make my designs less interesting, but I actually found I was better able to come up with more unique designs that I could really push. Rather than just touching upon ideas briefly. This week also saw more sculpting work being done on Alpha's cute little Alpacca/Sheep monster. I had found the sculpts of the fur clumps in last weeks models to be too round and bulbous for my liking. I decided to smooth out much of the area and rely on DAM_Standard brushes to carve the swirl grooves I required
And I threw in a bit of Zsphere posing for good measure :) Everyone is really happy with the way he's turning out, and I couldn't agree more! This week I also had time to work on Chris Oatleys Magic Box tutorials, the first assignment is to take an old portrait and place a creature in the spot of the subject. I've chosen my art piece, and having looked through my resources on Pinterest decided to use a Kermode Bear, which is essentially a subset of Black Bears. Here's what I've managed to do so far:
That's it for this week. Hopefully next week will have more sketches and Alpacca monsters!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Weekly Update #13: Sketches and Curls

This week has moistly been taken over by sketches. After joining twitter and seeing some of the excellent work some of my favourite artists produce daily I've decided to allocate myself time ever day to produce some drawing or painting work of my own. Right now I've setting myself aside one hour very day for quick sketches. Mostly creatures but I feel the need to expand and do some mech or environmental work also. Let's hope I manage to keep this up for some time to come. Here are some of the sketches I've produced so far through this: Day #1 Sketches
Day #1.5/2 Sketches
I've also been entering something called Sketch_Dailies, last nights topic was Jordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation:
As well as trying my hand at environments, as they are currently what I consider myself weakest at.
With my extracurricular work set aside there's also been some progress with Alpha. We currently have the lovely Matt Lee (https://soundcloud.com/nicewizard) working on music who's recently joined the team. I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses! Development with the creature has also progressed:
The fur is proving just as tricky as I had expected it to be, sadly. Right now I feel it's close to how I wanted it but it requires some tweaking possibly. As well as some adjustments to the overall shape of the creature too for rigging purposes. That's it for this weeks update. Next week will likely include smaller tweaks and maybe a few more sketches to fill the gaps!