Friday, August 13, 2021

Demon Axe and Jelly Witch Complete, RIP Cyclops

I finished this all up a week ago and got really nice feedback during my last industry review so.. here ya go!


You can look at more progress pics on my Artstation.

Honestly my artistic growth at FIEA has been hard to wrap my brain around and I can't say I have any regrets coming here. I got pushed to my limits and at times I felt like I was going to break, but it was worth it. If any 18ers are reading my lame blog - you're in for a wild ride. Just strap in and try to enjoy it, roll with the punches, be kind, and make all the friends you can. Having that companionship is the secret to making it through this program and feeling like it all mattered, especially when things get really overwhelming and that familiar doubt inevitably starts creeping in. Hang in there, if my dumbass made it through, yours definitely can. Just please make sure you're getting sleep and food in you every day! This isn't worth your health - nothing is.

Feel free to reach out to me for advice or feedback whenever you need it! One of the biggest regrets I had was not reaching out to alumni during the earliest stages of capstone. Being an art lead is just ????????????????? (????????) and a super alarming amount of responsibility with very little guidance, so for real, hmu. I'll be around. :)

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Demon Axe Week 3 - Textures

 My hand feels like it's going to fall off. This is going pretty well but I'm getting too anal about painting in every minute detail so I need to focus on the broad strokes and move faster...... I need this AND my cyclops done before Thursday so it's PAIN TIME. But hopefully it'll be the last PAIN TIME for a good long while! Let's go!

Research Project: Nomad

One of the best, albeit pricy, purchases I've made for myself as an artist has been the IPad/Apple Pencil combo. Not even a Cintiq can touch just how natural and responsive the Apple Pencil feels, nor can Photoshop hold a candle to how easy it is to just get in there and start drawing in Procreate. After a few years of happily doodling away on this thing, it only just recently occurred to me to check if there are any sculpting programs on the IPad and there were! The one I went with is called Nomad.

Nomad is available on both Apple and Android and costs $14.99 which is a one time fee. This is an absolute steal considering that this is basically a pocket ZBrush, which goes for almost $900. 

So lets get into it! When you open a new project in Nomad, it instantly kicks you off with a sphere (though you can change it up to a cube or cylinder or torus or ?icosahedron? among a few others) nestled between a few fairly self explanatory toolbars. I've labeled them here.

The UI in this program is simply just... amazing. It's such a breath of fresh air after dealing with the 500 nestled menus in ZBrush. Everything is very clean and clear and oriented so that you can quickly change brush size/intensity with your free hand as you sculpt, and got all your different brush options where you'd be resting your drawing hand (you can flip this if you're lefthanded). It makes the sculpting process feel fairly mindless.

Another thing I love about the UI is that Nomad uses the same 2 finger double tap = undo and 3 finger double tap = redo inputs that Procreate does, as well as the pinching/expanding finger gestures to zoom in and out on the sculpt. All these simple, intuitive controls make the sculpting experience feel more fluid which is great because sculpting can get overwhelming real quick, especially if you're a beginner.

Now lets talk features: Nomad has a surprisingly diverse amount of utility, providing all the core features you'd need to do some serious sculpting such as:
  • Multi-res sculpting
  • Voxel remeshing (dynamesh equivalent, subdivision, and dynamic topology tool)
  • Vertex painting (base color, roughness, metalness)
  • Brush customization
  • Importing custom alphas
  • PBR lighting
  • Rendering/post-processing
  • Layers
  • OBJ export

So to test this thing out, I decided to just roll with a portrait to get a feel for all the tools. I gelled with it pretty quickly since it has all the brushes I'm accustomed to using regularly on Zbrush, like clay, flatten (aka trim dynamic), smooth, move, drag (aka snakehooks), inflate, crease, and masking. Scupting with the Apple pencil is honestly a dream - it's so responsive it makes sculpting so much fun. Here's what I ended up with in around an hour of getting a feel for everything and aimlessly pushing a sphere around.

Performance-wise, one hour of sculpting actually didn't crater my battery life at all, which was really surprising. I started off around 85% and finished the sculpt with 71%. My Ipad felt a little warm but overall, I'm really impressed by how light this program manages to be despite holding fairly dense meshes. This one is about 1.09mil polys, but I only ended up with 3 subtools so maybe with multiple dense layers the battery life won't be as hearty.

After sculpting, I tried their painting tools out. I haven't really used Zbrush's polypainting much aside from using it to create polygroups so I can't really compare them, but I really enjoyed painting in Nomad! Its pretty straightforward and it's easy to just mess around with colors and blend/build things up. You can also paint using the layer system which is pretty handy if you're not a destructive, single layer kind of gal like me.

With colors done, I went to try out the lighting and post-processing features in Nomad and was honestly really impressed by what they had. I threw in and fudged around with 2 lights (which are on their own layers where you can change their intensity and color), picked an HDRI map from a pretty nice and versatile collection, then moved on to their post-processing options. They had all of my favorite stuff like bloom, chromatic aberration, depth of field, and color-grading which is a must. Aside from those they also have curvature (uses bump and cavity maps to create an interesting linework effect), tone mapping, vignette, grain and sharpness.

Here's my render. Nomad lets you render images at up to 4K resolution and gives you little options like rendering a transparent background or with the interface visible.

After a couple of hours of messing around with Nomad, I can easily see this being an app I use to get all of my big shapes done in done in, then bring home to ZBrush for all the nitty-gritty detail work. It's so comfortable and easy to use, and the portability makes it a big plus for me. As much as I love sculpting, it does get kind of depressing after a full day of being chained in my desk. Nomad lets me be...well, nomadic, and exist with others while I get some work done. It's also amazingly special to have a pocket sculpting sketchbook!

A downside to Nomad (aside from not being a crazy workhorse like Zbrush) is that there's basically no documentation due to the newness of the app, but there are still plenty of Youtube tutorials out there to get your feet wet and a very enthusiastic community of users. At the end of the day, Nomad's not a replacement for professional grade sculpting packages like Zbrush but it's certainly on the trajectory to become that one day. For now though, it's an awesome tool to do some really nice looking sketches that you can expand upon elsewhere, anywhere. 

Here's a great video that breaks down the key features in the program for beginners:

And here's some work created on Nomad by other artists:

By Matthew Kean (rendered in Keyshot)

By Follygon

By Nomad artists

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Demon Axe Week 2 - Sculpt

 This week I pushed my axe into sculptville. This went by surprisingly well since the proxy/game-res already had a lot of the shapes built in so a decent amount of the work was already done for me. This has been a relaxing and affirming break from characters! I definitely needed this self esteem boost, haha. I have the UVs cut but not laid out still but this upcoming week I'm just going to dive directly into texturing. My goal is to be finished or mostly finished by next weekend so I could use week 4 to finish the cyclops project.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Corpse Bride Sprint #5

Our team treated Sprint 5 as our tweaks and polish stage, which means these two weeks were fairly relaxed.

I mainly went back to spend more time with Emily in the following ways:

- Fixed her face textures so that it cooperates better with the facial rig, specifically her eyebrows which are textured on. I just made it so they clearly ran along an edge and deformed more cleanly per Abi's specifications.

- Reorganized her hair UVs so that her dissolve effect was distributed correctly. Two of her hair shells were upside down, so I shifted them around and edited the texture maps in Photoshop so that they aligned with the new shell set up.

- Gave her a little "bald cap" the color of her hair on her scalp to make said dissolve effect look better.

- UVed her "little legs" and made it so the UV shells were over the same spot her torso is on the body texture map to help make the clipping look less noticeable. Before her little legs were a significantly darker grey and noticeably stood out. 

- Revisited her roughness map to give certain parts of her more shine (teeth, ribcage, eyeballs) and make her skin look a little more natural in engine. This meant I also tweaked some values in her material itself. It's still rather hard to notice the difference unless you're looking closely due to the bright light on her.

Cool to finally see some facial expressions on her!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Demon Axe Week 1: Proxy

 So for my next assignment I'm tackling a prop so that I could take a bit of a break from characters and give myself some time to work more on my Cyclops project (and go back and tweak the witch some more because I'm neurotic :) ). I was actually pretty anxious about this project because I have historically sucked ass at box modeling but I somehow actually made it happen and now have hope for the future? I also pushed a little extra and have the UVs shelled out, just need to lay them out. Anyway here are some pics.

Concept by Betty Jiang.

Also mini-update on Cyclops. He's all baked down and has base colors on him. Had to do a lot of cleaning up because my ID map was sloppy as hell and I still need to revisit the sculpt to fix whatever's going on with his red loincloth piece but he's coming along, albeit a little slowly. I'm just happy the arm pieces baked down as nicely as they did despite me doing a goofy ass job on the retopo for that (I lost the OG low res pieces, rip). Maybe not as goofy as I thought tho........

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Cyclops Project Week 4

 This week I focused on playing some catch-up and aimed to get the retopo, UVs, and first bake complete. Here's where it currently sits.

I plan to take an additional week to complete textures and final presentation by next turn-in along with the proxy for my final project.

I also finally merged the arms with the back so here's where the sculpt ended up.

Demon Axe and Jelly Witch Complete, RIP Cyclops

I finished this all up a week ago and got really nice feedback during my last industry review so.. here ya go! - You can look at more progre...