Sunday, 31 December 2017

Last of the Old Year

A new year has dawned, 2018 has come so at a slight delay I introduce some of my last bit of work for the year. The main area for the Dwarven fortress was the start, so with time today I looked into refining the elements which could apply to the rest of the structure. Which have given me a chance to look into how the UV editor has changed since 2016 extension 2 (turns out a fair bit, not least of which the arrangement of the UI).

  The stairwell was an interesting concept to work with - it needed to fit the hall, but also be shallow enough to plausibly allow carts to travel up and down it. Holding the whole structure up will likely be large columns that extend the whole way up and down.

  Some geometry cleanup, a ceiling and a tweak to the length of the tunnel and the model is taking shape. The next likely stage is to block out the rest of it with simple geometry - clutter might not come until most of the structure has been blocked out but one of the really fun elements I'm looking forward to is that the site within the Dwarf Fortress playthrough sits inside a huge deposit of marble but also shale, feldspar and some microcline.

While the structure is predominantly white, this means that there could be plenty of opportunity for other colours that add variety like warm greys, teals and either rose or terracotta.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Today's Post is Rated D for Dwarf

  Over the summer I had taken the interest in Dwarf Fortress, an indie game that despite the use of ASCII-based graphics is incredibly deep. With experimenting in fortress designs (the game encourages players to design everything from water systems to complex traps and even optimise architectural layout for maximum production of goods) I got inspired to bring my designs to life in Maya.

  I thought it would be a good chance to try out Maya Light 2018 after concluding that if I want to go commercial with anything, I need a proper license to make a commercially viable model. There might be some omitted components such as the water channels that bring water into and out of the fort and the road entering the construct itself.

  Important areas like the workshops or the temples and taverns could also be designed. Because this involves Dwarves it's all a primarily-underground structure; so it will all be cavity spaces. Today alone, I've only laid out the outline and some basic elements for the main concourse. From this chamber can be found ramped passages to the different levels and thoroughfares into the various annex chambers like the workshop main floor or the dormitories.

  Dwarf Fortress's grids are vague in how much space they occupy (a rat and a bronze titan both occupy one square, but can't occupy the same square, which means that a hydra which is presumably the size of a small house can fit though a Dwarf-made door) but there is a guideline that each square can be extrapolated as a 2x3x2 metres in the XYZ orientations used in Maya. So for ease of design each square in Maya's grid will be imagined as two metres in length and height.

 The game is also interacted with in a top-down view so there is absolutely no information when it comes to ceilings. For this, I have full freedom to create anything form flat slab rooves, beams and vaulted ceilings which can also add depth and scale to the structure.

    Alongside this I got back into more building work, another palace layout that will be inspired by the style introduced by the French Second Empire such as angled rooves

  I might tone down this structure compared to the last attempt. Working on Four I've developed a new appreciation for spatial awareness and designing structures proportioned to fit the inhabitant from the start rather than halfway though.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Badge and Emblam Ideas

  As the new year approaces, I have lately been pondering writing. It was one of my strengths at university and before and I've been really getting into writing regularly over the summer. Although I didn't quite live up to my "nulla dies sine linea" goal ("not a day without a line"), I appear to have taken a new motto: "not a day without a word."

 To accompany a possible publication (which is in a state of revision for final publication) I picked up a stylus and powered up Photoshop to do some drawing as I like to combine words and images. In this case the goal was a logo for an airborne military division that is the centrepoint of the story.

  I decided on something more elaborate to separate from more tried designs and try something distinct, the central idea being the wearers of this symbol, these badges, are heroic fighters who fall from the sky and turn the tide. "decisive" "falling" "speed" and "celebrated" were key words that rang though my head over and over while I was designing the emblam. The initial ideas for the design (above) just didn't feel right for the society portrayed in the story, so I moved away from sci-fi and looked at paratrooper badges for inspiration.

What I have may change over time as who knows what could come from this.

  I might go back for some character drawing as the t-shirt sales plan came back. Although thinking about it, this emblam could look nice on the front of one. Maybe accompanied with a phrase from the book "strike hard, strike fast, seize victory." (might revise this)

This could be why I've been quiet for a month.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Red and the Kingdom Of Sound: Out the Doors

  The Project that I have contributed for since July has since begun rehearsals for initial tour of Europe, starting in France and then moving to Germany before containing across the rest of the continent. I was only brought in on July, when a good two thirds of the project was complete but that didn't detract from the enjoyment of it all.

To paraphrase; the whole effort was a 14 month development involving 17 people to realise and everyone on the project had a wonderful time making it.
  The bulk of my contributions were on the bystandaer animations for the Overture, where I worked with my classmates Jack White and Max Ashby. The bulk of the models for characters and environments had already been completed, providing focus for the animation phase. The library of movement sequences I had contributed were used among other libraries in a number of the other districts including the trombone and trumpet districts and the finale. There was certainly no shortage of work, especially near the end when there was a push to get everything ready for rendering over at GarageFarm by the beginning of November.

  The work was certainly ambitious, I don't envy the studios that have far more resources so it was exhilarating to get some really busy but well-designed layouts processed for our small team. It's going to be exciting watching it travel around Europe.

There might be more of the sequence to come. The scenes we have may be out the door but there is no shortage in the variety of instruments that make up a healthy-sized orchestra, each of which is ideally going to be represented at some point.

  Photographs are courtesy of project lead Phil Gomm and his assistants when they accompanied the project to a rehearsal in France.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

WIP: Rabbit Warrior

  Over the weekend I felt like my model design skills needed a tune-up. So to alleviate this I took on a challenge for a friend and built one of his character ideas as a 3D model. There is still work to do, particularly texturing, accessories and inside the mouth, but so far the model has come out reasonably well and has allowed me to brush up on some anatomy skills.

  It was also fun to keep my creature design skills sharp as, as the character has a number of animal-like traits. There is also room for texturing tricks like alpha channels, material mixes and blending that should keep me occupied.

I am particularly interested in rigging the character up. I am familiar enough with digitigrade legs but the ears and maybe even the hair are going to be a fascinating rigging and animation challenge.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

November 2017: Modified Showreel

I've been especially busy on the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra project this past month. Work has been coming thick and fast but we are over the crest and things are falling into place.

In preparation for the project's conclusion I made some tweaks to my public animation showreel,  I felt like it needed a little more information and flow for clarity, to assist it in working better. These modifications include a few different sequences and details on the project the titles relate to and where I worked when it was created.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

YPGTTO: Crowds, Gatherings and More

  With a month to go work has been getting intense in the YPGTTO team as we all pursue the project's completion. One of my leading tasks as of late has been assistance in populating the environments with large populations to make the city appear busy and lively.

I expect the next five or six days are going to keep me extremely busy as the team prepares to get everything out the door. But what we are creating so far is looking rather impressive with the numbers the city in the Overture is being filled with..

Monday, 2 October 2017

Personal: A few Posing Designs

  While I may be going back to an old subject, I've been thinking lately on using my ideas. To build a lifestyle. The one thing I was told on thinking of such a direction was whether or not there was a market. I intend to use these images to look for that market. While dragons are perhaps a rather saturated direction, preliminary research always intrigued me that dragons and armour had almost two constants beyond the "anthro" communities, which unlike my ideas used human torsos and human spines:
  • Armour featured scale patterns, scallops and thorns, reminiscent of Gothic plate amour
  • Reptiles of any kind are frequently draped in all kinds of Mesoamerican motifs and designs
Some of it could be explained in how scales can sometimes (especially on much larger reptiles) be depicted as an armour of its own.But the Mesoamerican connection for any reptiles always confused me as to why this was the principle.

  I believe i could go further with these, I will be doing research in the coming days on whether there is a market for this kind of thing.

  It can't be all boyhood fantasies, one thing I'm aiming for with my research is variety, something to build off of. So it's not just warriors and swords and all that, what other avenues could be explored?

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

YPGTTO: Modeling Crowds

   To get some of the crowds, the YPGTTO team developed a plugin for preparing animations for  use in large crowds. In order to do this, each animation cycle was processed into an alembic cache, where it would be brought in and looped. A random generator allowed for the random application of colour and an animation offset was set for each citizen to give a bit of randomness to what stage of movement each of the population were in.

  The most time consuming part, once the caches had been created was to insert the crowds into the scene and have them follow a path, this was slightly tricky due to the meandering nature of the highways which went up and down as well as curving around.

  For a first test however, this turned out well. The crowd feels reasonably organic and there are plenty present to demonstrate the scope of the population within the Kingdom of Sound

Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Modeling Sandbox

  I've been doing a little practice work on a model that I made long ago, I've had plans to revamp it for a while. With time in Mudbox I hope to make the skin considerably more convincing, which right now primarily serves as a base texture to build on. I mostly wanted ot go deeper with my modeling - better skin, better texture, better skinning, a test-bed for ways to create models that are a little more convincing

  The process was similar to the refinement of Four: A 3D model created in Maya transferred over to Mudbox then brought back to Maya as a low-poly model overlaid with a normal map.

It's not all geometry, underneath this structure is a skeleton so when the whole mini-project is finished this creature should be poseable, animatable and something that can be brought in to a more complex scene. At the very least I'm getting more familiar with Mudbox sculpting tools.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Showreel 2017

  As time goes by and the summer passes I feel it's about time to unveil a showreel composed of my best work up to the end of 2017. There's still some personal question of where to go but lately I have been drawn to character and creature animation. There remains a soft spot for the modeling side which I plan to brush up on.

  I don't have many examples of facial animation, having only really picked it up in my last couple of projects, but I plan to rectify that alongside a whole heap of ideas. I have my whole life ahead of me, time now to make the best of it.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Seat of Power Progress Stage Two

  Over the past weekend I felt sorely tempted to continue working on the throne room I had been building. Parts of it are coming together but I feel that while colouring has definitely brought out some of the design, there is still more to do.

  One thing I felt particularly inspired to do was ring some real colour to the scene. To demonstrate this was the seat of an empire, the room needed colour. It needed vibrancy so I thought to myself perhaps the ceiling is painted or frescoed.

  Perhaps in the final design, along with some decoration to bring out the pillars the ceiling will be decorated with all manner of paintings and murals. When you look above while walking though the room you should get a significant sense of the history and pride written onto the walls. To celebrate their client's glory, the builders of this room would surely decorate it to be the most beautiful in all the land.

  The whole room's purpose is to frame the grand throne in its very centre. Everything about in view needs to draw the visitor to the grand seat, and display it or whoever sits upon it as the most important thing in the entire room. The banners, the stairs, even the alcove at the back are all designed to focus the eye on the grand seat.

  I'm thinking leading up to the throne would be a large carpet, not as wide as the stairs but covered in pretty embroidered patterns.

  My plan for these banners is they would display the crest of the royal family that sits on the throne on the lower half.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Seat of Power: Progress Stage One

  The other night and tonight I got a little experimental again after rewatching some of the older episodes of Game of Thrones. I've sort of concluded that designing environments is one of the things that got me hooked into design so I've set this and the Treacy city as long-term brush up projects, something to let off some steam.

  Thinking on it I've always had a soft spot for the grandeur on display in places that are courtly and the elegant, places of power and majesty. If things are getting difficult to realise in reality, there is always the digital world where almost nothing is impossible with the right plan and a few tricks.

With this design in particular I've particularly enjoyed experimenting on how to make a vaulted ceiling, a staple of cathedrals and grand halls throughout Europe where stone slopes elegantly to meet the ceiling to provide something much more fascinating to the eye than a slab of concrete, stone or marble that can themselves be decorated a variety of ways such as painted murals or intricate stone carvings.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Huabanyouliu: Revising an Old City

As I looked to the future I had a suspicion that I may be looking for a job for a little while, so to keep my skills sharp I went back to an old design, the city I built in my first year with fresh ideas to make it more convincing. Maybe more expansive or more true to something Philip Treacy would design, as while the key buildings are certainly Trracy-like, I feel the rest of the cityscape could do with a more true-to-his-work look.

It's only a blockout so far, but going back to my inspirations I have a few new ideas for the city's layout.

  I went back to my old inspiration, the Zhangjiajie Forest National Park in China where the city was nestled in the pillar-like mountains to look for ideas on layout and construction. Maybe the mountains form part of the city itself. The original city's design involved many platforms, elevated psaces for people to move and interact. The mountains provide a perfect preface for such vertical construction, a foundation as the city reaches out into the air, it's people rooted in the rock but living among the clouds.

  Key structures will be installed, of course - the opera house and some of the platforms will remain as they are symbolic features of the design as it was during my final submission. I might not get to populate it, or expand it as more than an empty city once vibrant, but it's a wonderful exercise to fill empty time.

Zhangjiaje, in particular some rock formations that might work very well in the revised city. (Amusing Planet, 2015)


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

YPGTTO: Yellow Runs of Excitement

Finishing the second half of the task of creating a few running animations. The first was based on one created by the other team members who created quite a feminine gait, which I attempted to convey with these animations. The second, where Yellow runs while holding her dress, may have been a little ambitious. Based on how one way to run in a dress is to hold it up so it does not snag or trip you, in hindsight the dress may be a little short for what was intended but at least some variety is available for the crowds.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

YPGTTO: Animating the Audience

Carpe Diem, as the Romans say. I've felt like things are quiet on my end; a bit too quiet to be comfortable so, introducing some more work done for the animation to accompany the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. So fat I have been asked for two jobs. The first, now clear, was to create a series of bows and curtsies that an audience to the king were to perform. The keywords of 'ostentatious' 'slow' and 'ceremony' gave me clear ideas of what I needed: Something elegant, something graceful and dignified. The highest leaders in a baroque realm were being greeted by a grand audience so nothing short of regal was required.

As well as this, the crowds needed some variety. As the Trombone and Tuba districts were a mix of golds and blues, so did the people need to match the palette of their surroundings. Some colours form other districts were also thrown in to the bundles to provide a more diverse crowd, which in the final production would speckle the seas of people with odd colours to add variety to the otherwise monochrome palettes.

With these, time was dedicated to some running. The project already had some neutral runs so I was asked to create some runs for characters that would be excited for one reason or another, and thus running to a particular goal.

The remaining sequence to make is one or two runs for the female character Yellow.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Planet Modeling: Refining Night-Time Lights

  Along with some other plans I returned to my planet. I'd say it is roundabout complete as much of the time was spent on Wednesday polishing the night map. Looking at the planet with the various layers such as mountains and rivers (which from space would be intensely lit up rather than these dark patches they were before).

  Climate, temperature and elevation might also affect where cities are built, and while I could not quite work out how to turn the illumination off when exposed to a directional light, the daytime illumination doesn't appear too glaring.

Although for them ore intense areas there may be some question as to why the valleys around various riverbanks are practically golden.