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Becoming a 3D animator!

qiulien

New member
How did you get started at 3d?

Actually, I almost never got to do 3D at all. I originally saw myself taking Creative Advertising in College, since I thought that was the field where I could best apply my love for drawing. Back then, 3D animation was not quite as big as it is today. After going through different courses the college offered, I came across a 3D animation course. It ended up becoming a draw between that or Creative Advertising, but I eventually chose the former rather than the latter. To this very day, I still thank my lucky stars that I chose what I chose because I have heard from a few friends in advertising that it is in a slump right now.



What are your main sources of inspiration?

I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books, so the bulk of my ideas are sparked either by something I read, or something that I saw on the screen. Also, everyday surroundings can be a great source of inspiration for me. If I see something outdoors that piques my interest, I tend to translate it either on paper or through the computer.

What's your favorite genre, theme?

I would have to say science fiction. I grew up with the Star Wars series, so the majority of my work will always reflect on my love for spaceships and weird aliens. Sci-fi is a genre that really gives an artist a chance to let his/her imagination run amok. That is why I love it so much. I also like to do imagery that deals with modern life and issues. I've always wanted to duplicate the many compositions of some of the grittier photographs that can be found in LIFE magazine, or National Geographic. My first attempt in this would be the RUSH HOUR image.

What are your strong points?

Modelling and animation would be my strong points. Modelling, for me, is the ultimate kick when doing 3D. I get the most of my satisfaction through that part of the process. Animation, even though I havent done it in a while, is something that I really devote my time to in order to make sure everything looks right.

Tell us a little about "Rust".

"Rust" is supposed to be a title for this series I had in mind. My original plan was to create little 2 minute animated shorts that took place inside this Rust world. Its your typical post-apocalyptic world where all its inhabitants wear worn leather and look weird...very Mad Max-ish. The main character (the one in the picture) is a loner type who travels the land on his hoverbike. He's basically your archetypal hero who wanders around and gets himself in trouble. I wanted to give the model a very weary appearance. He should at least have the look of someone who has been travelling thousands of miles while fighting evil.

How much time did you spend on it?

I worked on him whenever I came across a break from the job that I was doing at the time. I devoted at least 2-3 hours everyday for one month modelling and texturing him.

What kind of reference material did you use?

I created the Rust character after a year of not modelling anything remotely human in 3D Studio MAX. Because of that, I wanted to make sure that I had enough reference material so that the model would progress fairly well. I ended up buying a lot of books by Burne Hogarth. The one that I really used was "Burne Hogarth's Drawing the Human Head" since the references inside had more of a comic-bookish quality to them. It offers a very extensive look at the head as a structure. I love how the author reduces the head into simple geometric blocks to show the readers just how exactly it would look when each section of the face is broken down. For other references, I also checked out many drawings by Frank Frazetta and Simon Bisley for muscular and defined faces.

How did you model the face?

For the face of this particular character, I decided to use the very popular method of Surface Tools modelling. I started off by drawing the face on paper. I did several drawings, each of them with varying degrees of detail. After I decided on a particular look, I then drew highly detailed views of the front and side of the head for reference. From there, I saved out the two drawings as bitmaps so I can place them inside 3D studio Max as a visible texture. Once each textures were placed on their respective viewports (front and side), I then proceeded to draw the main countours of the face via splines. Its basically like tracing the drawing and connecting the dots. After each spline is placed accordingly, and while making sure all spline corners were set as CORNERED for easier manipulation, the next step was to pull out the structure in 3D space. From there, it was just a matter of tweaking, and converting certain areas of the spline into bezier to give the model a smoother, organic look.

Once you have all the vertex of your spline cage placed, do you transform directly corner vertex to bezier vetex or do you also use smooth vertex in order to save time adjusting all the bezier control points?

Once I have all the vertices connected, I make sure everything is set to CORNER. This is because it is a lot easier for me to pull it out into 3D space. Having the corner vertices as smooth, or bezier can be a pain when pulling out because of the way they sometimes interact with each other. Set to cornered verts makes for easier and faster manipulation. It is only when I have all the vertices placed in 3D space that I turn the corners into SMOOTH. From there, I tweak the individual points, turning some into bezier, to get the features of the character out.

Do you have your spline cage on paper, or do you imagine it as you move on?

I just create the spline cage on the program itself rather than on paper. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm pretty anal about the separation between where the traditional aspect of the process ends, and where one begins. I get a better feel of where to place the splines when the reference drawing is staring at me up in my monitor, instead than on paper. Although it shouldnt matter at all if you do it on paper or in the program itself.

How did you model the other parts of the body?

I would say at least 80% of the character are composed of splines. The rest, like the utility belt, the strap, and other parts of the gear, are composed of lofted geometries. For the straps and belts to conform, I just took the lofted objects, and added a path modifier with a spline guide that followed the contour of the character's body. From there, it was just a matter of using the free form modifier to move sections of the belt so it wou

I dont usually create my textures below 1000x1000. Very large texturemaps lend to the image and gives it a very crisp and rich appearance. Of course, computer resources tend to suffer, but for the final output, its definitely worth making your maps HUGE!

What are the maps to pay attention to in order to have a realistic looking skin?

From my experience, the most important part of making a texture look realistic is through a good mixture of specular mapping and bump mapping. Also, the bump map should not be overly high setting-wise. Sometimes people make the mistake of putting in a high number for their bump map, making the image look somewhat irregular. Subtlety goes a very long way when making skin maps look realstic.

Which coordinate system do you think is best to use, when dealing with characters?

When mapping characters, I like to use cylindrical coordinates. It makes creating the texture in Photoshop that much more easier because once you unwrap the mesh with the cylindrical coordinates, the wireframe image is neatly laid out for you to paint on. This pretty much depends on the form of the character though. If, say, I was going to map a fish, I would use a planar map instead. I would then create the texture by using the profile render of the fish as reference in Photoshop. If a little bit of stretching happens in the middle area of the mesh, I just apply a mask with a top texture to blend it together seamlessly.

What do you think of 3D Studio MAX texturing features?

I havent really explored the material editor to its fullest extent, but from what I have used, I think that it is one hell of a powerful tool. Its filled to the brim with options...from unlimited material channels, to its awesome procedurals, its pretty safe to say that its probably one of the most powerful editor of its kind in the industry.

Tell us a little about "Logan".

I created the Logan image for a contest that was held at 3dluvr.com. The contest called for me to make a 3D composition with a comicbook superhero as its subject matter. I chose the Logan character because I have been a big fan of the X-men ever since I was in elementary school. For the contest though, I did not want to create your typical spandex clad superhero. To increase my chances of winning, I decided to create the character in a realistic manner thru the use of real world clothing. Since I could not really afford any of the cloth plugins for 3D Studio MAX 3, I decided to model the clothes via vertex pushing and Meshmooth (NURMS). Needless to say, I encountered a lot of problems and headaches, but I am very happy with the results. From a composition standpoint, I wanted to create a scene that was dramatic, yet simple. The juxtaposed images of the Logan character ready for attack, and the peaceful, almost serene background, turned out to be an interesting contrast.
 

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