Thursday, December 29, 2011


So after spending countless hours on developing a manga look for Duke vs. The Dead, I realize now, it’s not really the style I want. I like manga, but I don’t think it fits who I am.

Looking at the Vikky manga model, I feel like it’s a little generic, and not as interesting as I’d like. I think I’m going to go back to the original look I came up with, but I’m just not sure how I’m going to do it.

Last night I did a quick sketch of Vikky in the original style, but this drawing is more orthographic. Hopefully it will help me model her out. I guess we’ll see.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Parcel from France – Handcrafted Compassion.

I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard a knock on the door. I was wearing my bath robe and drying my hair as I peeked around the corner. It was the FedEx guy standing on my front porch with a box in his hands. He was looking for a signature. I opened the door, signed his digital tablet, and he handed me the box. 

It was a present from my friend Alexandria, shipped all the way from Lyon, France. She had told me that she was sending something, but it wasn't supposed to arrive for another few days. I was excited to see that it had gotten here early. 

I hung him over my bed. He watches over me as I sleep.
To my surprise, inside was a handcrafted piece of art she had made. It was a beautiful thought to think that someone had taken so much time to make something for me, I couldn’t help but smile. Even now, I’m at a loss for words to explain just how precious I think it is to do something like this for another person.

Handcrafted presents are always so much better than anything a person could ever buy at a store. The true gift comes in consideration the person puts forth. You can look at the details and see a part of that person in them. It’s unique, and nothing beats that. 

If you truly care for someone, make them something. When you give it to them, you are giving them a piece of yourself. 

Alexandria (left) and her sister Lilie (right)

I've known Alex for several years now. She found me when I was promoting my book, Richard Longtails. Her and I just kinda clicked right from the start. She’s one of the sweetest and kindest people I know, she’s always there for me and I’m thankful for that.

I'm really looking forward to making something for her.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Phonemes, Morph Targets, and the Study of Expression

A few years back, I was writing dialog for a cat with a Scottish accent. He was from the Richard Longtails series. His name was Finlay McFinn. At the time I was having trouble bringing out his unique accent without it being too distracting. It seemed that I was either overdoing it, or not doing it enough. 
(It’s a delicate line to walk.)

Anyways, because I was having so much trouble, I decided to do a study of pronunciation through TTC.  It was a short course, but at the time it didn’t really help much with my writing.  I remember how the instructor emphasized his words. He would explain how all these different shapes and muscles in our faces could produce the sounds that we use to make speech.

I found it kind of fascinating, but it also felt rather pointless. After the course was done, I walked away thinking: “Speech is a natural thing, why am I studying this?”

I guess you could make the argument that any knowledge is good knowledge, if applied in the right situation. But at the time, I couldn't fathom an application to where I’d be using this information; I hadn’t a clue that I would be pursuing animation, so the thought never occurred to me.

Now as I’m faced with the task of rigging morph targets for characters, I’m pleased to have taken that course, because now I have an underlying concept of what’s going on (physically) when someone say’s something. 

For me, morph targets are new ground. It will be interesting to see them in action. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rigging and mel scripting.

The past week I’ve been immersing myself in mel scripting, and rigging Vikky inside of Maya. I’ve done basic rigs for characters before inside of Max, but this is my first time, doing full-production rigging in Maya. The concepts and principles are similar to Max, but there are probably some tools inside of Maya that I have yet to discover. From what I’ve read Maya 2011/2012 has a lot of rigging improvements for character production.  
With Max, I would typically use a biped, or the CAT system, and it worked, but I never really got into the fine tuning of things.

However, being that Duke vs. the Dead is an animation, I figure it’s best to take the extra steps and really make the rig as robust as possible.  This includes all fun stuff like reverse foot locks, inverse kinematic and forward kinematic switching, spline averaging, deformation controls, etc.

Here is the start of Vikky's custom rig,
sided by a scripting window and the outliner.
Without a doubt it’s a long and tedious process, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. Right now, I’d consider myself about half way through, and already I’ve spent 40 hours on it. One of the reason’s I think it’s taking so long is because I’m also learning mel script, which is awesome; it’s powerful and can do a lot of stuff quickly, but it takes a while to learn.

I was toying with the idea of committing all the commands and flags to memory, but as I thought about it, I figured I’ll just pick up the ones I need as I go. I don’t really consider myself a programmer, and don’t ever care to. I’m excited to see what my custom production rig will do for my character.

As an alternative to the hours spend on setting up all these controls, I also happened to stumble onto a site called The site is pretty awesome, basically you upload your character and Mixamo will auto-rig it for you, for a small cost. They also sell different movement cycles like walking, running, shooting, tons of stuff, you name it, they have it.

To be honest I was skeptical when I saw it, I didn’t think they’d be able rig something properly, with an auto-rigger but I was wrong. I uploaded Vikky, and 5 minutes later I had a rigged model. I was kinda blown away. My only complaint, (and it’s not really a complaint at all) is that the animation looks kinda stockish. It’s like something you would find in a videogame; which is fine, but just not applicable to my situation. However if I’m ever working on a video game for a client, then I’ll definitely be back to use their services. Their customer support was fantastic; I was emailed by a real person, asking how I liked the site/services. So, if you are into rigging, you should definitely check them out.

Here's a video of Vikky with the autorig from Mixamo:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vikky Miller - from 2D to 3D

I'm almost done modeling out Vikky. I've really enjoyed the process, it's been both challenging and rewarding. It's really fun to watch a character develop and to have a direct say in what looks right.

When I first started with her, it was taking a lot of time to accomplish simple tasks, (just because I'm still somewhat new to Maya,) but now I feel pretty comfortable with the interface.

I think the challenge with a character like this, is to make it as simple as possible, but still convey a certain look. In addition to modeling, you have to make sure your UV's are laid out in a way that makes sense. I used to hate laying out UV's, but now I don't mind it so much. It's still kinda boring, but I'm starting to realize a good set of UV's go a long way.

The cool thing is, you have to be able to see your model in 2D, before you want to make it 3D. You have to figure out what's the best way to spread out the surfaces, so that you can preserve detail where you need it. It's a lot of problem solving, but it's fun.

To the left is the texture map I made for her shorts.
I tried to keep the UV seams where the actual fabric seams would be in real life. I painted this texture inside of Photoshop. There's always the option of pulling the model into Zbrush and painting it in there, but I feel that Photoshop allows a lot more control. When I use Zbrush to paint, my results always look video-gamish. It could be that I just don't know Zbrush as well as I know Photoshop, but this seems to work for now.
(get it? SEEMS to work - I know, I'm hilarious.)

My next step it to rig her. I've rigged inside of Max, but I've never rigged anything inside of Maya, so this will be something new to me. I'm thinking of taking a very aggressive approach and using a method called Motion Flow rigging. Supposedly, it mimics our natural movements more so than standard rig would. We'll have have to see.

I'm also contemplating rigging her face with a more advanced curve based system instead of morph targets, but I'm not sure if it's entirely necessary, just because I plan on setting the animation tangents in her face to more of a step-like setup, rather than curves. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New territory for me - manga of the dead.

This is a gesture sketch I did a couple days ago.
As you can see my style is still developing,
and far from anything manga-like. 
 So after evaluating the work from my previous sculpt/model, I realized I’d like to take Duke vs. the Dead in a new direction for its look. The previous model was just too video game-ish for the story I want to tell. I need something more stylized.

My first attempt at a manga style.
I’m exploring more of a manga look for the series, and I’m really liking my results, but what worries me is that I can’t draw in a manga style at all. In fact I’d say that my style of drawing is the exact opposite of manga. Manga is smooth my flowing, but my style is more jagged and dirty.

I picked up a few books to help me learn, but I don’t think they will do much. I think with this style, you either have it, or you don’t, but I guess we’ll see. 

Vikky Miller's new look - done inside of Maya/Photoshop.

I hardly know anything about manga; it’s never really appealed to me before, but I’m starting to appreciate it.  If you were to ask me to list off the manga/anime that I’ve seen, I could probably do so on one hand; Ninja Scroll, Claymore, and High School of the Dead. The good news is, even though I can’t draw a manga style, I can sculpt/model it. Below are some results I’m coming up with inside of Maya. I started with a base model that I purchased that had the correct proportions, and then slowly began making it me my own. 

Here I'm trying to develop the right outfit to bring out her character.
I’m excited to see where I can take this. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vikky face sculpt.

Initially I very felt defeated and discouraged when I couldn’t sculpt Vikky’s face the way I wanted. So I set a few days aside and gave it another shot. Below are my results. The center image is my sculpt. To the left is Andrea Boehlke from Survivor Redemption Island, as I mentioned in a previous post, her face was the inspiration for Vikky’s look. On the right is the original concept drawing that I did for Vikky.

So here’s my assessment. I think this sculpt is the closest to a likeness I’ve yet achieved, but that’s not saying much. There’s still a lot wrong with it, it’s just that as of right now my eye can’t pick up on it. I don’t understand what I’m looking for, not yet at least. I’ll have to do some more reading on facial anatomy. The face can have up to 43 muscles, so it’s t

Also, these results took a long time and a lot of tweaking, (about 8 hours) which is frustrating because when I watch a master inside of zbrush, they can bang out a head in like 30 minutes. I guess practice makes perfect and I should keep trying, but it’s still frustrating nonetheless.

The overall look of the sculpt isn’t really what I have in mind for production. To me, this sculpt looks like it belongs more in a video game than it does in an animation. Realizing this, it kind of bummed me out, but then I took at my work from 6 months ago and compared it to today. It’s nice to feel like I’m making progress.

(Feel free to laugh at the troll face on the left.)

In my next post I’ll talk about a new direction that I might take for the overall look for Vikky and Duke vs. The Dead.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Old GPU: FirePro V3750
Yesterday I upgraded my video card. Previously I was running, an ATI FirePro 3750, which was a great entry level card for 3D design, but it was getting a little dated and I needed something new. Specifically, the 3750 had a few hang ups in Maya2012 where the viewport was not refreshing properly.  I’m pretty sure it had something to do with viewport 2.0, but I can’t say for certain.

I ended up purchasing a GeForce GTX 465, and so far I’m pretty happy. It runs on Nvidia’s Fermi architecture. This card is a beast size wise.  I had to remove my ram, hard drive, power cables, and cpu cooler just to get it in. All said and done, it took about an hour or so to install it and get everything back in place.

I have yet to run any serious tests on the card, but I feel fairly confident in it from its documented performance. Windows benchmarked it a 7.6, interestingly enough, the same rating as my i7 cpu. Currently it’s ranked among the top of its class. It takes two six-pin power inputs and runs HOT as anticipated.

If you put your hand in front the exhaust port, it feels like a small space heater.  No Joke.
I ended up going with Nvidia over ATi this time because I’m interesting in Cuda processing. I’ve seen some pretty interesting things done with it, but at this point I don’t know enough to say if it’s worth it. I guess I’ll find out. 

New GPU: GTX 465

GTX 465 Specs:

CUDA Cores352
Graphics Clock (MHz)607 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz)1215 MHz
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)26.7 
Memory Clock (MHz)1603 
Standard Memory Config1024 MB GDDR5
Memory Interface Width256-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)102.6
NVIDIA SLI®-ready*2-way/3-Way
NVIDIA 3D Vision Readyyes
NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround Ready***yes
NVIDIA PureVideo® Technology**HD
NVIDIA PhysX™-readyyes
NVIDIA CUDA™ Technologyyes
Microsoft DirectX11
Bus SupportPCI-E 2.0 x 16 
Certified for Windows 7yes
Maximum Digital Resolution2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution2048x1536 
Standard Display ConnectorsTwo Dual Link DVI
Mini HDMI 
Multi Monitoryes
Audio Input for HDMIInternal
Height4.376 inches (111 mm) 
Length9.5 inches (241 mm) 
Maximum GPU Temperature (in C)105  C
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W)200  W
Minimum Recommended System Power (W)550  W
Supplementary Power Connectors6-pin x2 

The joys of simple work.

So creatively speaking the past few weeks have been fairly boring, but I’ve been busy. It’s been mostly mindless Photoshop work; silhouetting, touching up photos, cropping, color corrections, the whole bit.

As lackluster as it may be to some, I actually enjoy it for a simple reason: this kind of work doesn’t have the creative pressures that some jobs do. I know that might sound to be the opposite of what a creative developer should be saying, but this kind of work gives my mind a chance to relax, which is nice. I think on occasion, we all need to take a step back and breathe; but with that being said, I’d probably go nuts if I had to do this kind of work 100% of the time— there is nothing like the joy of creation.

Another added benefit to these low level stress gigs is that it’s really fun to interact with the client at this level because it’s a little more causal. I feel that with this setting I get to know the clients more as people, rather than just clients, which is nice. People fascinate me and always will; the more people I get to know, the better I understand myself and the world.

For instance last week I was working with a print designer out of NYC. She had fallen a little behind on her schedule and needed to find someone to silhouette a bunch of images that were going to be placed inside of a magazine. She ended up hiring me.

Right away I could tell she was a little stressed and rightfully so; she had a looming deadline, and ton of work ahead of her. At that point, I realized that although my “job” was just to silhouette images, the more important thing was my responsibility to alleviate some of that stress.

Rather than worrying about terms, payment, and workload, I put all my focus on getting the job done for her as quickly as possible. I realize that this approach runs the risk of being taken advantage of; but over time (and a few bad burns) I’ve developed a nose for sniffing out who’s going to stick me and who’s not. This route of placing trust in people can be risky business, but in the end, after it all works out, even if you’ve been burnt a thousand times, the benefits make it worth it; for in trust, there lies endless potential to opportunity unknown.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Slay the beast, end the nightmare - Occupy Wall Street.

When I first heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement last week I was astonished; not so much in the fact that it was taking place, but rather in the fact that it had been going on for several weeks with no media coverage. You would think that the start of a revolution would make front page news, but in this instance, (when it’s domestic) it doesn’t seem to be a priority.

The good news is that the movement seems to be spreading across the globe and getting more coverage, which is encouraging; but I’ve also noticed some backlash, fragmentation, and a major lack of interest amongst many of my friends. Some people are trying to bring politics and religion into it.

I honestly don’t think these two things have anything to do with the movement. Mainstream media is dead set on calling the protesters a bunch of liberals looking for a free handout; just a bunch of bums that are too lazy to get a job. I believe this misconception is spilling over into public opinion because I’ve seen user created content that supports this.

A good instance is the image this guy posted. If anything, he’s a perfect example of the stacked deck we are all playing against.

I completely support the Occupy Wall Street movement and I consider myself a very ambitious and conservative individual. (Not that it matters.) I believe in free enterprise. I feel that if you work hard, you should be rewarded for it. Sadly that’s not the case in America anymore.

Our country has been hijacked by bankers, corporations, and policy makers that are out of touch with reality. They value profits and power over the wellbeing of this planet and its people. It’s a disgrace and it needs to end. As humans, I would hope that we are better than this. As citizens, I believe we can do more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Aubrey Egkeep.

So a while back I wrote a little story called The Adventures of Richard Longtails. I haven’t worked on it for over a year. Which is kinda a bummer because the premise is solid, but it still needs a lot of ironing out; sadly, I just haven’t felt motivated to work on it. I feel bad because I know a lot of people are waiting for it, but when you don’t have the motivation, it’s hard to force it. I’ve been trying to milk my creativity back in that direction, so I decided to model out Aubrey Egkeep, a main character in the story.

I’m not sure if this model will be used for anything, because it has kinda different look than I was originally thinking, but hopefully I’m moving back in the right direction.

The 3D Model was done in Zbrush, the cover/concept was done in Photoshop.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Joining the Collective.

To help broaden my views on what’s going on in the world of cg, I’ve recently CGHUB, and Zbrush central. I’ve yet to get interactive with other artists, but it’s interesting to see what others are doing. I’ll update on these if anything of importance develops.

Zbrush 4R2

I finally got a copy of Zbrush 4R2. It introduces some great features like dynamesh. (amongst other things.) It allows you to sculpt without worrying about topology. The only drawback is that it’s not designed for production with animation in mind. (from my understanding)

After you finish, you still have to go back in and retopo the model. I’ve read a few things on topogun, and I’m thinking about checking that out. If I do, I’ll update.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Autumn and the return of all things dark.

October is here and with it my mood begins to change with the leaves. It’s been the same for as long as I can remember. The seasons affect me deeply. I hope that with short days I’ll be able to use my time productively. Farewell to another summer.

I used Zbrush 4R2 to create the graphic on the left. It's designed to be ambiguous, but every time I look at it, I see an old school vampire from Transylvania draining the life from some unknowing sole. What do you see?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skivvies and a Note on workflow

So after looking at Vikky’s Body sculpt in the previous post, I realized the breasts were kind of off. They seemed just too… buoyant? (If that’s the right word.)

Granted Vikky is kinda exaggerated and stylized, but there’s a bold line between good and ridiculous. My previous sculpt had obviously crossed that line. It was my friend who tactfully pointed it out. When I came back to it with a fresh set of eyes, it was obvious and I made the corrections.

One major thing that was tripping me up was how the body looks with and without underwear. It’s subtle, but underwear and bras and what not make a person hold themselves differently. The Bra Vikky is wearing is obviously some sort of pushup. I guess she likes the attention?

Many thanks to YouTube user "ksalki" for posting a a great video on building geometry/clothing in Zbrush. I was going to use the mesh-extraction method, but the video he posted gave me much cleaner topology. His video can be seen here.

On workflow, I feel a bit lost. In a nutshell, here’s why: Zbrush exports normal maps to Maya to make a mesh look smooth and awesome… which if fine, but the rub is that Toon shading doesn’t work off normal maps… (to my understanding?) Sooo… I’m not sure what to do. I think for the time being, I just continue to work on her in Zbrush, and have a hi-rez version that I can hopefully do something with. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

I finished two more training courses, “Introduction to Hypershade” and “Mastering Maya Render Nodes” both courses were informative and put together well, but because of the nature of what they were, I found them to be boring. I fell asleep five times while going through them.

One final thing that I’m really excited about is the fact a friend of mine has decided to join me in bring Duke vs. the Dead to life. (c’mon puns are funny…) She’s seems just as excited about it as I am. We’ll see what comes out of all it.

I need to get back to work.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vikky’s Body - fleshing out the form

Last week I spent a lot of time studying the female body in an attempt to understand Vikky’s form. (I wish I could say I was studying it first hand, but it was all reference photos… Jokes.)

Anyways, below is the progress I’ve made.

Before I attempted to sculpt her, I figured it would be best if I could draw, and because my experience with figure drawing is limited, I thought it might be a good challenge.

I started with a lot of reference, and a bunch of gesture drawings-- I was trying to capture her as she was whipping around, to rear with the zombie in the foreground, but I don’t think I did the pose justice. In my mind it was much cooler. I still need to read up on dynamics/force in drawings. Also the lighting is a bit off, but eh, it was a body study, so I’m fine with it

Once I completed the drawing, I returned to the sculpting aspect. Getting everything proportionally correct took me longer than I’d care to admit. I had to continually superimpose reference of Andrew Loomis’s “ideal” proportions to set the landmarks. I her arms might be a little short, but I’m not sur., I’ll have to see her in a pose, and it should be an easy fix if needed.

Because this model is designed for animation, I made sure to keep an eye on the topology to try and match the movements her body might make. There were a couple times that I had to go in and change a few things. I might still have to adjust the topology in certain parts, but for the most part, I think it’s pretty clean.

Anyways, here’s the final model with a fast skin material applied. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but it should work for now. I think the shoulders look kinda wonky, but we’ll see what it looks like once I get shirt over top of it.

My next step for her is to start modeling on her clothing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vikky's Body - still needs work

I completed three more training courses, all by Digital Tutors: Maya Basics, UV Layout, and Female Android Modeling. Sadly, I have to say these courses were not very helpful to me. They are kinda dated, going all the way back to 2001 or somewhere around there. I believe they were using Maya 6 in the videos, and well, some of the processes are outdated. They were put together well, kinda slow in parts, but overall, just outdated.

Anyways, I finished modeling out Vikky’s body, but I’m not very happy with my results. They feel lifeless and kinda blah. I was reading that you should only rely on the base mesh to represent about 20% of what you are trying to achieve, and have the rest be made up with lighting, texture, animation, etc., but still I’m not happy.

I think I’m going to do a quick body study, and maybe spend a day or so drawing another concept piece in Photoshop. Once I finish that, I might start from scratch on the body again, or modify the one I’ve got. We’ll see.

Here is the progress through my training so far:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vikky's Gun - Animated

So I wanted to see if I could apply what I learned with toon shading to Vikky’s gun. Below are the results I’ve come up with so far.

Knowing what I know now, I might adjust my workflow.
Previously I was thinking of taking everything into Zbrush and sculpting in the high detail, then exporting the normals… but that doesn’t really work with toon lines. Hrmm… We’ll see what I can come up with.

As it is right now, I’m pretty satisfied, but I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I spent the last week working through the settings in Maya toon, and now I feel confident in being able to develop a look I’m going to use for Duke vs. the Dead. The course I was studying was from Digital Tutors, titled “Rendering with Maya Toon” Overall it was pretty informative. It was put together for Maya 8, I believe, but all of the principles still apply to the current version of Maya 2012. It started off slow, just explaining ramp shaders, which was kinda boring, but I can understand why the instructor used it as a base.

Overall I’d rate this course a 7.5 and recommend it to anyone looking to get into toon shading in Maya.

My next step is to keep refining Vikky’s body, and then toon it up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mastering Maya – The Long Road Ahead.

I think it’s time to evaluate my ambitions and what I’d like to do with the Duke vs. the Dead project.
As much as I’d like to start with production today, and have it finished in a week or so, and have millions of people viewing it in a month… I simply know that’s not going to happen. The truth is I don’t know enough. I’m still a newb when it comes to Maya.

There’s no doubt, it’s complex tool. To do things right I’ll have to familiarize myself. Otherwise I’ll end up just getting frustrated.
At this juncture I think it’s a good idea to take a moment and look down the road and realize that there is a lot to learn. Below is a list of the courses I plan on educating myself with.

From my count, there are 60 courses/volumes. I’m guessing that each course ranges from 10-30 hours of study time, so I’m looking at anywhere from 600-1800 hours of study.

That’s kind of daunting when you think about it… On the high end, if I spent 8 hours a day on it, it would still take me nearly half a year to go through all these.

To boil it down, I’ll have to remember to try and be patient with myself and focus more on the joy of learning rather than the final result.

There is no benefit in getting frustrated and belittling myself because of time; doing that will only impede my progress. I’m always hard myself, but I think it’s time to start accepting things for what they are; otherwise I won’t be able to get a grasp on the situation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vikkys Gun - Done for now...

I’ve finished with Vikky’s gun. (For the time being, at least.) I feel like it took me way too long. (about 16 hours) Below you can see the model with no texture maps applied.

Overall I’d rate this model a 6 out of 10 - it just didn’t come out like I wanted. There are a few features/brushes inside of zbrush that I’m still struggling with. You can see where the handle and the frame come together, it just doesn’t look right. (I guess I’ll have to read some more.)

I wanted to wire the parameters together so that when the hammer is pulled back the chamber would rotate accordingly, but I think that might be a little too technical for right now. I didn’t add in any fine detail yet because I need to establish an overall look for the animation I’m trying to create. The fine detail might not even show up.

My next step is to establish the overall look for this animation.
I’m thinking along the lines of some stylized cell shading, but we’ll see. I want to try and match the look to my original concept drawing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Zombify yourself - Like CGfoxTrot on facebook.

I thought it might be fun to base the zombies in Duke vs The Dead off of real people.

if you are interested in potentially getting zombified,
all you have to do is like my blog page on facebook.

This in't a contest or anything, just a fun way to be interactive.

Simple Shapes and Topology – How I Understand My Model.

When I look at something I see topology. My imagination draws and connects lines over surfaces. I’ve been doing this since kindergarten, only back then I didn’t know it was called topology. I simply called them “computer lines.”

I think I developed this way of seeing the world out of necessity. In the mornings when my kindergarten class was asked to say the pledge of allegiance and place their right hand over their heart, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know which hand to use.

For some reason or another, I’ve always had trouble discerning right from left. It still haunts me to this day; if I’m driving and my passenger says turn right, I’ll turn left. At the time it made me feel stupid. I would look at the other kids and I just couldn’t figure out which hand they were using. I got in trouble for it, but the teacher thought I was just fooling around.

That night when I went home, I sat in my room and tried to understand the concepts of left and right. I think what was throwing me off was that these things are relative. Without right, you can’t have left. At the time my little brain just couldn’t grasp that. Then with my imagination I started to draw lines on the walls. For the first time ever I saw myself in 3D space.

Everything became absolute. Everything I saw had a line and orientation. It was a good feeling.
One of the awesome things about 3D modeling is that it forces your eye to see simple shapes and topology. No matter how complex a model may seem, it still can be broken down into simple form. It’s a lot like creating a puzzle and putting it together all in one step. In the picture below, you can see how I start with very basic shapes to “block out” the form.

This isn’t anything special, most 3D artist do the same thing, but the challenge comes in thinking ahead of the form. If you’re going to lay down a sphere, it’s good practice to understand how that topology is going to tie into a different form, like a square for example.

Pulling topology together is an art form in itself and in my opinion it’s grossly underrated and unappreciated.

 People that don’t know much about 3D modeling just assume that the program is doing it for you, but this is not true. Good topology is a result of a good 3D artist. I’m nowhere near mastering my topology game, but I’m finding Maya’s interface much more intuitive over Max’s.

The tools built inside of Maya quickly let me zip through different options until I find one that works best.

A lot of artists will say that topology isn’t that important – you can hide bad topology with the right lighting and shadows, and they might be right, but that’s not going to stop me from striving toward topological excellence. Ha.

Below you can see I’m almost done with Vikky’s gun.
In my next post, I should have the whole thing finished.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vikky’s Gun – Choosing the right weapon.

Originally I thought about giving Vikky a set of Colt peace makers. The Peace Maker is a classic gun that revolutionized the west and it’s what most quick-draw artists shoot with today, but as I was studying it, it felt like the form didn’t Match Vikky personality and appearance. It’s too masculine.

Because the story is set somewhat in the future, I flirted with the idea of using a more modern firearm but I wanted to keep the image revolver. My first choice was a Smith and Wesson .357. It’s a solid looking gun, but I felt like the modern double action mechanism took something away from Vikky’s charm. She needs single action pistols. In the right hands, a single action pistol has a higher rate of fire. With the double action, the shooter is somewhat limited to the speed of mechanical mechanism. With a single action, all the speed is on the shooters ability. I needed something older.

My next choice was the 1851 Navy. These guns were originally designed as black powder, ball and cap guns, but after the Peace Maker came onto the market, many shooters converted their guns to a standard self-contained revolver. This gun has that old charm to it, but in my opinion, it kind of looks a little frail. I needed something stronger.

The Colt Single Action Army seemed like a good choice-- It has that old charm to it and seems solid, but it felt like something was still missing. I needed something with a little more sex appeal.

I finally came up with the Remington 1875 Outlaw. I think it fits Vikky well.

My next post will be about boxing out this gun in Maya.