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!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Weekly Update #12: Starting Fur

I began this week by working on some assets for Alphas production that had not yet been spoken for. Because of our limited artist supply both our environment and story assets were suffering slightly. We currently have enough full time artists to create our main characters and a small array of props such as trees etc, but items that are essential to the production, such as the book our character reads during the short, or the spikes that cause alarm to our creature are currently in a grey area. My choice is about whether we can afford to put such prime assets in the hands of our second year students, or if I should adjust my schedule and instead try to create them myself. Right now it's split between both and I've taken command of some whilst I guide the spike production from the hands of one of our second year artists. This week it's the book:
I quickly drew up some early sketches, trying to focus more on a magical tome style of book to fit in more with the production.
I then worked up my sketches to make them more presentable to everyone. Once we selected a few to narrow down our choices I then made more variations using more slight adjustments to make sure we had something we wanted.
Once I picked a final design for the book I decided to make a quick turnaround for it and make a mock up in Maya.
The mock up has currently been sent to a rigger in order to make sure that the current prop can deform in the way it needs to and I'll update this blog on it further as it continues. This week also saw the production of our monster who has yet to be named. Taking into account the nature of the creature's natural posture he had to be sculpted in a way that was slightly unnatural, but would allow for the correct deformation when he eventually becomes rigged and animatable. I had originally attempted to begin working on him by starting his sculpt in Zbrush as opposed to the Maya beginning our character Keeva had. But after spending a short amount of time on this pipeline I found his low poly version to be lacking the precision I had aimed to have. Luckily I was already a few days ahead of schedule and could afford to experiment, at least this way I knew I was taking the correct steps to achieve the model I wanted. I then spent some time creating a my low poly in Maya, getting the correct poly count and loopflow I had wanted. It was more fiddly than Zbrush and slightly slower, but the result was exactly how I had wanted it.
After throwing this creature into Zbrush I then experimented with techniques like creating Alpha swirls in order to plan out where it's swirly tufts of fur might protrude. Those experiments however resulted in some lack luster sculpts, and once again, I decided to take my time and begin to work slowly into the work to allow the detail I had wanted. This production has only just started but this is the result so far:
And that's it for this week!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Weekly Update #12: Sculpting Them Curves.

I began this week by working on something I'd been looking forward to for a while, Zbrush sculpting! As much as I'd wanted to get the low poly of our character 'Keeva' to be correct, I was looking forward to really adding in the detail and style I knew I couldn't do in program like Maya.
I started off by simply working in the general shapes into the body, trying to define objects, and larger details like the cuffs etc. Sculpting into the basic red clay didn't feel right however. After looking up some tutorials on stylised character sculpting I decided to try a different material and also try experimenting with the style of certain elements.
With the planes for the eyes and eyebrows missing, I began to wonder if perhaps the character needed to have sculpted in details on the face as I began working on the mouth. Whilst I do think it would have worked quite well, I don't feel it suited the style of the actual animation, and therefore I quickly dropped it. One problem I did have however was the detail required is certain areas such as the mouth. With this character being highly stylised I began to run the risk of over detailing the body using real references. Details that would sharply contrast against our soft illustrative style. In fact, after doing much of the base sculpting I simply began to work into it and flatten areas out to achieve the kind of look I desired. I first began noticing how to go about sculpting the style we wanted when I started cutting down on the detail on Keeva's trousers.
These hard the kind of hard edges style I wanted, as well as the very traditional material feel. Once I completed this I began really focusing on getting the model completed as I now had a direction to aim in. Pretty soon I had sculpted in most of the details.
Currently I'm only experiencing one problem, our characters main clump of hair. During the concept art stage you can see that it is largely messy and undefined.
This was clearly an oversight on my part. I had not anticipated how hair like this would not suit the style of the final model. My attempts so far have resulted in this:
I'm really not sure if this is how I want the hair to look, but unless I diverge from the turnaround sheet it seems like that's what we'll be using. I may attempt to go back to a simpler style from some of the earlier designs. But at least I now know the kind of foresight I should be applying when it comes to character turnarounds and designs.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Weekly Update #11:Character Low-Poly

This being an animation project, I was tempted to simply start my modelling right in Zbrush. I decided spending some time making sure I had all the correct loopflow might have been a better idea though so that when it came to the animation, there were no issues.
After a few days this is what I created. I'm sure after sculpting in Zbrush there will be some slight differences when it comes to the low poly. But this is a good start. That's all for this weeks update as it has been spent resting and working on private commissions on top of this work. Expect more Zbrush screenshots in the near future!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Weekly Update #10: Pre-Production Rounds to a Close.

This week Project Alpha goes into Production. It's been several weeks and one long vacation since the last update and so there is a lot of work to keep you up to date with. First off let's start with our main character:
During this process I hardly hardly touched upon colour schemes for Alpha's protagonist, but I already knew roughly where I wanted her to be. I drew up these quick colour shots to both get a feel for what I had wanted, and check other options to make sure I wasn't being blind to any sort of combination that may have worked better. Now it was time to narrow them down.
With these few options chosen, only one or two really stood out now. I could have spent more time tweaking them, but pre-production time was running out, and so it was necessary to move onto the next step.
With the base colours down, it our character was ready for a final render pass in preparation for both promotion and examination.
Watercolour textures were added on top in overlay layers in order to attain the traditional feel we were looking for. More vibrant lighting was also added to make her stand out. I believe her colour scheme may need some additional work if time allows in production as right now she is quite monotonous, but she should hopefully stand out quite well in comparison to the environments. I had also spent some time developing our monster in much the same way. First we began the colour tests:
The main problem I had with these was that unlike our protagonist I had not developed any semblance of an idea as to what colour I had wanted it to be. What was most important was the fact that we had to have our creature stand out when it came to the environment, as there was no way we wanted it to be drowned out by the colours. But we also had to make sure it both meshed well with our protagonist, but didn't feel like much of the same. With that some of our favourite colours were added next to our already rendered character in order to make sure they suited each others tones.
The team was split as to which one to choose. However a general consensus was agreed upon and I immediately began working on rendering a final image for our main monster.
We now had final images for our main characters, but the environment was still largely unspoken for considering the complications that could arise should our characters not suit it. Luckily, I had already sketched a rough of what we expected the environment to be like.
Originally I had sketched an image with the emphasis on the grand scale of what we had hoped to achieve, however I felt it was more useful for both anticipating what our own scenes might look like during our animation, and our lighting artist who needed to know what he was aiming for for us to use a specific scene, and so I chose our characters coming upon the very claw mark that would initiate our story.
And so we had our environment sketch. I do hope to finish off this piece in time, but for now I believe the emphasis should be on guaranteeing production needs are met. I have already begun modelling our main character and should have more on that in the following week. There was also a slight change when it came to the animation prop design also. Originally we had intended for there to be spikes that shunt forcefully into the ground. However, I had suggested we use the idea of totems in order to develop a more interesting visual language of the world. Not much work has been done regarding this so far, however I had drawn up the following using this previous monster design from several months ago.
Also, alongside this project I am also developing a personal project to fill in the needed modules for my course. I realise that in my portfolio there are certain gaps, such as the development of video game material, and less focus on realistic characters. With that being said I started (and finished) work on the pro-production for a man in the militia, focusing mostly around the Middle-East and India.
One thing I was trying to make sure within my work was to not adhere to any sort of stereotyping when it came to this character, I wasn't recreating a trope. I wanted my character to be someone who had survived rough times but still stood for something. I wanted their armor to be tattered and their body in much of the same condition, but this within a time not too far in the future. So I grafted an exoskeleton onto the character and gave them a prosthetic arm. I didn't have long to complete this project and so I quickly began sketching.
The sketches to the left felt far too westernised to me, I wanted my character to be very evidently from this part of the world, and not merely a solider in another countries army. Luckily I felt my sketches on the right were much more in line with what I was looking for.
Some quick colours thrown on top gave me an indication of what I needed. I wanted this character to be colourful, but not so much that they would stand out badly against a dusty backdrop. I could now begin my turnaround for when production began.
I must admit the sheer amount of props within this project is slightly higher than I would have liked. Should the need become too great, I may remove certain features like the exoskeleton, the guns or some bags in order to just create a detailed character. I knew developing new weapons would become far too much work for the timescale I was allowing, and so I decided to use weapons that already existed, in particular the HK G28. I quickly took up what photos I had and began making a turnaround and texture sheet for it.
With all that done I moved onto the final pieces, the final render and it's accompanying texture sheet.
And so with that all of the pre-production for this entire course rounds up to a close. Some pieces may be worked upon further for my website, such as the militia or the environment pieces. But I hope the production itself proves as effective as this has so far.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Monte Cook Games: Sculpting Light

This is my first commission for roleplaying game company 'Monte Cook Games'. I've loved the work of 'Numenera' since I first saw it almost two years ago, the colours are amazing, the world seems fantastic, and a few months ago when I was contacted by them to produce some work for their 'Numenera' and 'The Strange' I jumped at the chance! This is my first piece of work produced for them, and I'll post up a few WIP shots so you can understand how I arrived at my final piece. The brief was as follows: This image is of a male human wearing a science-fiction (with a little superhero) inspired body suit. The figure is outlined in a nimbus of glowing orange light. He’s projecting a stronger pulse of this same light from his hands, which “Green Lantern-style” has formed into a protective shield between him and the attacks of an advancing troop of 3-4 venom troopers. I was provided with the following image for reference when dealing with the Venom Troopers:
I began by sketching very rough ideas in my sketchbook for test when it came to composition. I'll admit, I had a very solid idea before I even started this project. But by going through this process I was able to find better variations. Once I had a solid idea down I began shooting myself as reference. I found a pose I felt was both defensive and interesting and began working that into the composition.
Soon I found myself feeling restricted by it, the silhouette wasn't particularly interesting and I decided to try giving the character a more powerful pose.
Now I had the roughs of the characters fleshed out and some of the values down. It was time to start adding colours and work towards getting a variation ready to send to the art director.
I was happy enough with the image at this point, but some things still bothered me.
The perspective, the camera, the values, anatomy and colours all needed work. The art director was pleased with what I had so far but requested the character have more of a sci-fi motif in their design too and so I made then wear a more metallic body suit with lights in the crevaces. Now I no longer needed to worry about having to start from scratch and could focus on rendering the image.
One more message from the Art Director as he requested more cool tones to contrast the warm orange light. I agreed, but tried to downplay the blue so that it didn't draw focus away from the central point of the image, the focus of light. And now we have a finished piece:
This was great work for me, I was extremely nervous when I received this commission. It being my first from a large company, and with all my final year project work going on also, but I managed to fit the time in to complete it and I feel like I learnt a lot doing it too. I hope to share more work like this soon!