Its been a while since my last post, as are my posts really...few and far between! But never fear my life has been full of 3D!!

I've started on a new project, I wanted to experiment with hard surface modelling in 3DS Max and I also wanted to have a crack and create a character that I could then rig!

So lots of new concepts to research and learn on this one!

My inspiration for the piece comes from one of my favorite cartoons of my childhood! Astroboy!!

There is an a 2 part episode called 'Greatest Robot in the World' and it stars one bad ass robot called Bruton!!

So my project will be an adaptation of that character. Below see some WIP shots!!

Bruton in all his 80s Anime glory

WIP #1 - Arms and Chest

WIP #2 - Legs and Hips 

So I completed the my first Zbrush project and even though I did not expect to create a polished render at the end of this learning exercise I'm really happy with the outcome. I learnt a great deal about sculpting, poly painting and even post processing in photoshop.

Here is a run down on the workflow I went through to get to the final render

1. zSketch Concept

Using zSpheres and zSketch I drew out the basic module I was looking for. It was originally going to be a Chinese dragon, but it evolved into a snake.

2. Sculpting Phase

From here I created a skin for the zSketch and began sculpting. I mainly used the brushes Move, Dam Standard, Smooth and Standard. I also used the insert mesh and dyna-mesh feature to allow me to add the teeth and tongue, which I sculpted separately.

3. Adding Details

Next I continued to add more details and created a scales brush to add the scale details, I also used appended two subtools for the eyes. You can see below a couple of different scale patterns I tested on the snake,

4. Poly-Painting and Rendering

Next I began to paint the model, firstly but creating base layers then adding more colours and details as I progressed. I then output a couple of test renders at various stages to see some lighting effects and how the colours would look. It was here that I decided to run with the fire snake theme.

4. Post Production

The final step was to do some post production working photoshop. I had never done any extensive post production work before so this was a great learning experience. In zBrush you can render out various passes, when is great for then importing into photoshop. Below you can see a specular pass. I also added the fire and heat effects in photoshop. The final render is shown below.

I've slowing been churning through the 'Intro to Zbrush' book, which I am getting a lot out of. I found a lot of good information on the creation of brushes and alphas and I subsquently spent ALOT of time mucking around with scales for my snake sculpt, which has now become my main project for learning the techniques in the book.
I now consider the sculpting part of the model complete and I will be moving onto poly painting and materials in the final chapters of the book.
Hopefully in the end I should have a fairly decent render of my snake!

Here are some WIP shots, i'm running with the 2nd scales version!

Making Scales Alpha 

Snake with scales version 1

 Snake with scales version 2

I've been carrying on with the Intro to Zbrush book and I must give credit when credits due, the book is easy to follow and understand. Eric Keller seems to focus on creating dragons in the book and I've followed through but all of my creations thus far have deviated somewhere along the line to become something other than dragons!

I've also started working with a Wacom tablet. I bought a Bamboo Fun - Pen and Touch which is the upper end of the Bamboo range but definitely not an Intuos, which I here is the more professional tablet to work with. My experience of the Bamboo so far has been anything from greatly impressed. It seems the touch sensitivity is not as good as I expected, for those who want to read more about my Wacom woes, here is my post on the 3dtotal forum 

However I can see the benefit from sculpting with a pen and tablet as it does feel more 'natural' so I will continue to practice with it.

Here are a couple of sculpt screens.

The Dragon Head that turned into a lizard creature

A Snake Head started as zSpheres and zSketched out

The Snake Head sculpted further.

Its been a while between posted but i have still be dipping into some 3D art whenever I can find that time. I focusing my efforts on learning ZBrush at the moment.

I'm running through the book "Introducing Zbrush by Eric Keller" So far i'm finding it very easy to follow. I've at a bit of a play in Zbrush in my last couple of projects, just I've already picked a bunch of thing that would have been useful to know. Such as Dynamesh and Subtools !!

I've also decided to invest in a Wacom tablet to assit with my sculpting, so that should arrive in the next few days and I'll have a new toy to learn with :)

Here are a couple of WIP screens of a Lizard Beast i'm creating as I work my way through the book.

Basic Head Sculpt

Experimenting with Horns and Teeth

Better looking horns

Adding a Z-Sphere Body

Inital Body Sculpt

I have just finished my recent project which I call 'Mind Fields' I wanted to make a detailed post outlining the work flow I took to get to the end result. I dedicate this to my sister who complained about my last piece and said I should make something 'pretty'. So I wanted to show her that 'brains and eyeballs' could be pretty too ;)

1 - Initial Modelling

I had already modelled the brain and spine in my last piece using Zbrush, I just needed to create the 'coxic' bone at the end of the spine which I did in 3D Max along with the rest of the scene. I knew I was going for a stylised scene so I didn't need to focus on too much detail.

I modelled wings using boxes and I used the loft object for the flower stem and I created the main flower petals using box modelling as well.

I used the bend modifier to shape the petals, wings and bend the 'butterfly' spines into the correct shape, so they appeared to be flying around the flower.

I used a capsule primitive for the rock then applied a noise modifier to give it an uneven surface.
Wing with base material

Eye ball with eyelid

2 - Modelling Detail and Base Materials
The next part of my work flow involved adding some more detail to the scene and getting some base details into the project.
I used the fantastic free plug in for 3ds max 'Grass-o-matic' I'll add a download link soon! With a bit of playing around I add a grass surface to the rock.
I also created a 'sky dome' using a half sphere with the normal modifier applied. I have it a gradient material then I created a bunch of atmospheric gizmo's to create the clouds.
I found a great tutorial on this process here - Creating Volumetric Clouds.
I also added some simple models for additional details, small flowers in the grass and hanging flowers off the rock and of course added my 'eyeball flower' to the centre of the rock.
Base Scene with Sky Dome and Clouds
3 - Materials and Textures
The third part of my work flow was to create materials for all the various parts and get things looking 'pretty' I wanted something bright!
I used UVW Unwrap modifier to get a base texture template for the wings, the took the template into photoshop to create the patterns for the wings.
I also created various textures for the spines and brains, nothing too complex, I just stuck to my idea of bright and colourful.
UVW Template
Wing Photoshop Texture
Brain-Butterfly Material Layout
Textured Butterfly
4 - Particle Effect
The next step was to create some particle trails for the butterflies. I used the max particle system to do this and created some spiral loft objects to act as the paths and particle emitters.
It was a standard flow, with 5-side star shape at about 130 amount with some random rotation.
I applied some mental ray glow materials to the particles to get a bright effect.
 Particle View for the 'star trails'
Particle Test Render
5 - Render, Lighting and Post Production
The final part of my work flow is rendering and lighting. I used a standard 3 point lighting system to light my scene, although I modified the sky dome so it would not receive shadows. Here is a great explanation on 3-point lighting setups
Mental Ray was the render engine used.
I used a final gather at medium, sampling at 16/16 Mitchel and enabled global illumination The final resolution was 2000 x 1500. The render took about 25mins on my beefy laptop.
Here are a few test renders that occurred along the way, that show how the project evolved.
Butterfly Test Render
Flower and Base Scene Test Render
Scene Test Render
Black Background Test Render
Sampling Render
The very last part involved a tiny bit of colour correction on the final render in photoshop, and here is the completed image.

So I have finished with the 'Brain' scene. Its not exactly what I had in 'mind' excuse the pun ;) when I first started the project but I did learn a tonne from doing it.

Working with Hi-Poly models definitely makes it harder on your PC and in turn can slow the whole process down. I also experimented a lot with importing and exporting between ZBrush and 3DS Max so lots of good take away points there.

I also learned a lot more about UVWs and the unwrapping process! Getting nice materials is definitely a huge part of a successful final image.

So my next project is going to use some elements from this scene, but will be a lot brighter and hopefully have a warmer feel :)

I will also render out a few more images from this scene when I get a chance.

Here is one final render.

Here is a clay render

So I have been slowly updating my latest scene. There have been a few changes and I find myself moving between modelling and materials. Not the ideal workflow but it helps a lot with my creativity.

I've been wresting with the UVW Unwrap modify which is taking some getting used to but it definitely is must improved in the latest version of 3DS Max, I also like that you can now just render out the UVWs without needing a plugin like texporter as I previously used to use.

Ok so here is my latest render test.

I have started work on a new project. In this project I wanted to get some practice with ZBrush. Initial impressions of the application are good and I can straight away see how powerful it is and how easy it is to create some detailed models.

It definitely is a very different way of working in comparison to 3DS Max, the controls are quite different so its taking a while to adapt moving from one application to the next.

It has also opened up so many questions for me about an integrated work flow between applications. Zbrush seems to have powerful material and poly painting functionality, but can these transfer on the exported models to 3DS max? Time for some forum posting and research.

So onto some WIP images of my latest project. Lots of new techniques and ideas coming through.

Clay render of 'Brain and Spine' modelled in ZBrush

Test render in 3DS Max of my scene

I have been using trial products of Autodesk to do most of my work and until recently I had not looked into the pricing of the products I was using.

I could not believe that the Autodesk 3DS Max 2013 product is over 3K USD!

I understand it is a professional package used by large companies but sure Autodesk can come up with a better price for private users.

I do not profit from any of my work it is purely a hobby interest for me and this price is just way above what I am prepared to pay at this stage. Crazy!
I have completed the 'Scary Fairytale' scene and overall I'm pretty happy with the result. I learnt so much on this project, in particular a lot about rendering and lighting systems. My final render was done with mental ray. 2200 x 1700 resolution with very high final gather and 64/64 sampling. It took approx 5 hours on my laptop to output :)

Here are some render process shots.

Here is a clay render done using the Quicksilver renderer.

And lastly, the final render :)

I went searching for some tips and techniques for creating clouds. There are a few tutorials out there on the web for clouds in 3ds Max, some using atmospheric effects like 'volume fog' and others using particle systems and materials. I originally was planning to have some clouds in my 'creepy fairytale' scene but decided against it because I didn't get the look I was after. However here is the best tutorial I found.
I have spent a couple of sessions setting up materials for the 'Creepy Fairytale' scene. I did a few tutorials on materials and textures which definitely helped. But the process of adding materials is difficult and one that I still need a lot of practice doing!
I also learnt that I need to plan better during the modelling stage so I can separate geometry easily to make adding materials easier.
So below is a higher quality render. 16/16 sampling, high level final gather and 1024x768 size.
I think this project is nearing a close for me and I have got a lot out of it. I may just re-texture the tree and maybe had some clouds and tweak the lighting some more, but for now, this is what I have.

Crickey!! Another blog update so soon! What is the world coming too. Well actually my friends this is because I am really enjoying my current project and I'm happy to say I've made good progress. I have completed the modelling of the scene!!

I have been experiementing with various renders and also enviroment fog effects, the renders take approx 3 mins each time for a 640 x 480 shot. I assume now because I have a large number of objects such as stones for the path and gravestones that this is effecting the render time. I am sure I can use something like mr proxy to be smarter with lots of objects but I havent look into that just yet.

It is now time to move on to materials and rendering, but i think I am going to pause on the project for a little while and do some tutorials on these topics to get some more solid understanding under my belt.

I also need to mention my source and inspiration for this scene was something I totally stubbled upon on the web via a good old google images search. Denmark artist 'Thomas Meldgaard'  has an amazing portfolio here and my scene is based on his image 'Bye Bye Mr Moon'

Here is the latest render!

So I've been getting stuck into things lately and I'm happy to say i've progressed nicely with a new project. I wanted to experiment with rendering and lighting so this project involves a stylized scene.

I used the mental ray daylight system to setup a moonlight scene, I followed some of the steps found in this great tutorial.

I created the models so far the church, tree, fence and terrain. I've also added some mental ray area lights in the church. I've had to turn the multiplier up past 10000 to get the lights to show with the daylight system, I will need to investigate this further to see if its the best way to achieve this result.

I've a got a little bit of modelling left then I will look into the materials side of things.

So here is a shot of the scene so far.

A great example of integrated 3D effects into live action video. Very well done and a great game at that!

POrtal: Terminal Velocity
Ok so I know my posts are very few and far between, but I can assure you I haven't lost my interest in 3D art. Personal and professional life have sometimes made it hard for me to find the time to work on projects and keep learning. But over the last month or so I'm happy to say I found some solid time to work on a project and I have completed my first full model and render base around a tutorial on the web. I found the process a great learning experience and feel very comfortable with a lot of different modelling techniques in 3DS Max. I realise I have quite a few incomplete projects which I will definitely endeavour to complete in the future, especially my two vehicles projects! For now I’m currently working on a character model and a stylised 'creepy' church scene. Hope to post some WIP soon! For now here are a couple of renders from my latest completed project "Future Bike"
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