Monday, 30 April 2012

3d Sculpture that isnt solid

I watched  a video today about an artist who makes a different kind of 3d sculpture.
I always nieavley thought that 3d sculpture had to be sculpted in some way like clay is sculpted with tools or hands or something but Janet Echelman uses air to give her "sculptures"  form and I think that is brilliant.


What is most inspiring about Janet Echelmans work is the back story behind it. It is a classic example of an artist taking inspiration from the world around her. Something we ae encouraged to do and why not?
She was inspired by the world around her when her artwork didnt arrive for an exhibition she was doing. she found fishing nets on the beach and that inspired her to make something with that.
She went on of course to make many of these net inspired sculptures even finding new materials to make them with that would withstand the elements.

Its cool because it makes one think of the possibilities and the things you can do that may appear in the most random of ways. I wonder if there are any other artists that use elements to give there sculpture form.

From insanely hectic to insanely quiet

One thing that drives me nuts about academia is that it is insanely hectic during term time and insanely quiet during non-term time. I'll admit that I dont enjoy the inconsistency. It drives me insane.

Kids are still at school, so most of the day its dead

Mr Victoria says "Im only happy when I keep myself busy", and that I should go over my old work and try and make it better just for practices sake. For what its worth I agree with him.
I have to keep myself busy. All of the time. Ok we have a summer project and a book to read ( mortal engines, half way through, cool) but still.

Im getting into this character design though. Trying to find new ways in which to approach it so that it isnt reminiscent of some of the sterotypical generic rubbish I have foolishly produced in the past.

For the visual design work I am going back to the traditional media I used to swear by.  Its hilarious because Ive wanted all year to get better at digital from the zero I was. I have gotten better no doubt about it. 3 months ago I could barely do it at all until I studied monet.

But the thing about digital art that bugs me is that it doesnt exist. not like a painting or sculpture that has form. I suppose the same could be said for 3D. There is something about traditional art that is speicial.

pencil work. thats what im doing and watercolour and traditional 3d sculpture. My inspiration wall is covered at the moment with loomis pictures of correct proportions of males and females, loomis heads  the skeleton and muscle structure pictures.
In regards to 3d im using this as an oppurtunity to get that rigging right, and thse textures and those meshes, for next year. Try out that normal map baking.

And Mr Victoria has even agreed to be the model for my henry viii character as he is 6 foot 4'' and 34/36 waist the exact proportions of henry viii as a young man.
When thats finished im going to set myself a new project, and keep brushing up on everything. And post it up here.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Designing known characters

Summer project. Starting the summer project I was in two minds as to whether or not to do the spaceship crash site or the henry VIII one.

I love space games, namely metroid but Im also really interested in history. I decided to do the henry VIII project.

Thinking about it in more detail and after studying character design I thought to myself are there different rules for designing “known” characters. If the character is well known such as henry VIII, people tend to have a preconception on “who” the character is. I think that including elements of this is important when designing a well known character that already has a sense of identity.

Take a well known character for instance that we are all familiar with. Lets say Alice from Alice and wonderland and find some examples.

The blue dress and pinny is pretty standard attire for Alice. What if we take it away? What happens to her.


She looses her identity. She is not “her”

What about henry? Are there rules for him. Fat, Red hair? So how could one go about keeping a characters identity without making it stereotypical, unoriginal and boring. That IS the question. 

 That will be another post.

image sources

Beyond Good and evil

I managed to get my hands on a cheap a copy of a really good fairly old ubisoft game beyond good and evil.
I actually for some reason forgot this game existed. I had it in 2003 when it came out.

When We spoke ages ago about particular games that inspired I said okami, but forgot about beyond good and evil. Regardless it is awesome.

It has a big explorable environment that rivals Zelda. Instead of a horse or boat you get about via hovercraft which means you can go straight from land to sea and buy upgrades to jump into other areas and even fly to the moon later in the game.

Image source

The game starts by literaly throwing you in at the deep end and the story evolves as it goes along without any agonisingly boring cutscenes.
The protagonist jade lives in a lighthouse with her uncle pey'j who is a pig. Her planet is under attack by an alien species called the domz and the first "domz attack" begins immediatley. The alpha sections are the speicial army in the game that protect you from the domz or so you think at first. Early on in the game Jade accidently joins the rebel organization the iris network and fins out what the alphs sections are really up to.

It is one of those games where you have to sneak. Sneak past enemies and avoid being detected. The environment is awesome though and there are many side quests in the game that include taking photographs of animals and collecting pearls to use as payment to upgrade your ship.

9/10 could have been longer.

weapons project - crit and post mortem

I feel like I havent posted any sds on here for ages. After reading the course handbook in detail ths time apparently we have to document this in detail. I have not done that, I have never documented every single peice of self directed study I have ever done. Time for a change I think.

Reflecting on my finished gun I decided that there were certain elements of the model and the texture maps a that I was not overly happy with. I have taken some screen shots of the offending areas of the weapon so I can explain exactly what it is about them that I dislike and what I can do to rectify the problems.


As you can see from the above screenshot of my weapon areas of the specular map are not as in line with the texture as I first thought. On creating the specular map I was not as particular as I thought I was and some of it looked odd as a result.
This was an easy problem to solve It was as simple as going back to the specular map and “perfecting it” . There were a few other parts of the gun that had this problem aswell. I found this was fairly fiddly due to intricate pattern on the texture but it was just a case of rubbing out the parts that should not be there (the parts in between the actual pattern).
Below image of perfected specular map.

Another specular map problem was that I had forgotten that the polished wood would have a certain shine to it this was easily rectified by adding to the specular map.

Rectified wood. It has a slight shine on it. Not too much though I didnt want to overdo it.

The bottom part of the mesh was put together using the last remaining triangles. I felt that it lacked shape because of this. I tried removing it completely but this made the gun look odd. The only option to make this better was to find a way to get rid of some useless geometry on the gun or make better use of the few triangles I had for this part of the gun.

I decided it would work better if I just made this part into a curve as I had precious few triangles to work with and I found that I was limited with 700 triangles and I had to fit as much appropriate detail in as possible. There were other parts of the gun that needed rectifying and making the mesh more gun shaped. I decided to concentrate on these other parts first as I felt they were more important parts of the gun.

The “other part”

The above screen shot is of the other part of the mesh I was referring to previously. As I had almost run out of triangles when creating this part of the model made the mistake of joining up the vertices. Unfortunately this made this part of the gun more visually reminiscent of an embroidered cushion than part of a gun, this was a lot to so with the texture as it had a slight curve towards the end near the offending area but more to do with the combination of the texture and shape of the mesh.

Offending area

This area of the mesh just needed more definition to define its shape. So I reverted to the previous shape before my triangle shortage panic. I found this did the job and actually looked like part of a gun and not an embroidered cushion. If I ever need to make and texture such a model in the future, This will be how I go about it.

Rectified part.

In an attempt to achieve the appearance of scratches on the surface of the metal on the gun I had not thought about the scale of the object I had made the scratches too large and deep when they should have been small and subtle. Again this was an easy problem to sort out it was just a case of experimenting with smaller lines when creating the height map.

Gun with more subtle scratches.

I felt I had met the brief well as I thought that the final outcome of my weapon of choice looked fairly realistic. I felt I had made good use of the triangle budget especially after the post mortem where I rectified the mesh to make the shape of the gun look more real.
I thought it was a good decision to use an alphad area for that certain part of the gun that otherwise would have eaten the texture budget. As for the other textures I felt they added to the realistic appearance of the gun as I had put extra effort into ensuring that they looked right.
If I could do the project again I would make a weapon that wasn't so long. The small texture budget that I felt that was appropriate for an asset of this size Unfortunately did not work as well as it should have. Although I put thought into the textures there was a lot that had to be included and the overall quality was reduced because of this. On reflection I think I should have laid the parts of the gun that had the same texture over the top of each other at the unwrapping stage this way they would be larger on 512x 512 diffuse map and have a higher pixel density resulting in a better visual quality.

Another thing I would also have done differently was also an issue with the size of the model. The fact that this particular asset had a lot of detail to be included I felt that this was missed and most of it would not be seen by the viewer If it were in a game, however I did think about the fact that a weapon like this may be on a weapon select screen where it could be turned around and the detail would be more evident.
I felt that enough detail was evident and visible at a distance to convey the visual style of the gun.

 Above, detail included here may be unnecessary.

Final render. before post mortem and after

 thats a rap then.

The twin reality of the game artist

Earlier I posted about visual realism vs visual appeal. I have a theory. Brief but straight to the point.

Why betty edwards “theory” will sucessfully train accurate artists but can it make great ones?
as it teaches us to draw things as they are in actual reality. Drawing on the right side of the brain lady admits that and I quote

“we don't see things as they are but we see things as we are”

“to truly see we have to admit that we are blind”

 The root of Betty Edwards technique is that it teaches or trains or brainwashes us into seeing differently or seeing what is truly there. The problem with that is that there is only one “actual reality” but what about our own reality, is producing art the way in which we see it one of the important factors in making art that looks interesting?

Say there was a room full of 100 people and they were all sucessfully brainwashed via betty edwards methods to see the world as it really is. What do you think the outcome would be?
"insert Artist Clone machine drawing here" .generic rubbish. accurate but samey and boring maybe?  If trained or brainwashed to see things the same or as they really are, we cannot expect our work to be different and interesting. To do this we need to be able to see things from more than one perspective.

What makes art so great is not just visual appeal its visual curiosity. A piece of art can look pretty without necessarily being interesting. Sometimes we see something in our own reality that deeply effect or inspires us and makes us change the way we perceive the world. And that is the root of imagination. “inspiration”, to be inspired we need to exist in our own reality or be slightly blind sometimes.

Symmetry is what we perceive to be beautiful. But in our own reality we perceive beauty as different as the saying goes "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"  does that mean that we perceive symmetry as different too? In our own reality?
What would happen if we woke up one day as someone else. Would reality change. It would, maybe we would see things from a different view that is why I think it is important to find other “ways” of looking at things all of the time.

Human beings willing allow themselves to be tricked into a sense of unreality that's why so many people love games and films and fiction. I do not think that it is any coincidence that many people who learn to make games have less of an inclination to play them. Being a game artist is different to being any other type of artist because playing games and the skills needed to make them are blue and orange or the complete opposites.

Progress is only achieved by changing our perspective we need to do this all of the time as potentially great game artists. Its the only way to be able to be interesting and accurate.


During the past year I have become increasingly interested and curious about how the imagination works.
I always thought that everyones thought process was the same. Until I started to ask people.

I asked a particular question to different "kinds" of people. That question was "If i asked you to design a new type of cup whats the first thing that comes into your head?" 

My dad who is/was an engineer says that he sees in front of him  a blank white cup in 3D that can be rotated

The graphic designer, sees in 3d in there head.

My mum who works at the bakery said that she sees a flat image of a cup.

Another person sees motion picture in there head of there life experience of cups.

another, thinks of cup without seeing anything, they think without forming any picture.

Someone else starts to think of a new way to drink.

I assumed that most people who are artists whould be visual and see an image. Thats not the case.

6 types of imaginers.

The visual, thinks in pictures or images

The non visual, thinks in words

The three dimensional, thinks in 3d

The projector - actuallly sees what they think in front of them

The Tv, thinks in motion picture

The overthinker. sees beyond

I wonder if there are any others or combination types.

Its strange because different thinkers like dad the engineer seem to be suited to the jobs they have depending on the way they think or imagine.

I think its mint that peoples brains are so diverse.

Positive/interesting games lecturers by clever people

During easter I was missing having lectures so bad that I went and found my own,

I found by extreme shock, some very interesting lectures that said positive things about video games.

None of that "negative" they will rot your childrens brain nonsense.

These are really interesting.  I think its nice to hear a bit of interesting/positive. |I will go into more detail on them at a later date.

Visual realism VS visual appeal

Going back to some character design this week, I thought about the lecturers we have had that have spoken about symmetry.
One of them clearly suggested that we like looking at things that are symmetrical because that is "natures way" that is how everything is formed, in a certain pattern. The "regular brained"  human being see faces that are more symmetrical as being more beautiful. I would say there is a lot of truth in that.

But does true symmetry exist in the faces of people? apparently not. In fact it was never suggested that any ones face was in perfect symmetrical.

When designing characters it is important to know there is a fine line between making a face less or more symmetrical  for it to be visually appealing or convey visual realism to the audience. Is both what we aim to achieve?.
For instance I was designing a head for a particular character which i thought looked a little too symmetrical (going down the uncanny valley) so I made its eye wonky and gave it a blemish near its lip. My 10 year old insisted it was fugly. I wonder what the science is behind that?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Digital painting progress

Ive spent all year trying to do this right. Heres some examples of where I am at the moment as far as this medim is concerned.