Jan15
2015

By: Sarah C                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationInspiration

Michael Hirsch reveals how he modelled, textured and lit the ultimate, luxury sports-car from Italy in 3ds Max, using the Madcar plug-in.

CONCEPT BACKGROUND

There was a fantastic, expensive car, built in Italy, called the Lamborghini Aventador that featured a V12 engine, capable of 0–100 km/h in 2.9 sec and with a top speed of 350 km/h. With futuristic styling for the carbon fibre body, I was really impressed by the car and decided my next CGI project in Maya would be to create one.

To start with, I had the idea of an old factory building in combination with a new piece of architecture which should symbolize the temporal change, and somewhere in the middle would be the Aventador.

It was time to think about the car paint colour. I knew it should be a bright colour, maybe metallic white. I love white cars and in my opinion, a white paintwork fi ts perfectly into a sunset situation. I used this creative decision as a starting point for my new project which was to be called, “Dream Factory”.

Step 1: Modelling the Factory

First of all, I went on the web to search for some photo reference materials. By looking at the actual car from various angles you get a good idea of how it should look. The alternative is to get hold of blueprints of a vehicle, if you want to make a perfectly accurate version. For modelling the assets, I used the poly modelling technique. I just added details at the points of interest. The first stage was to build the factory itself.

Step 2: Adding Details

The key point was to have a roof overhead, but that the side would be wide open to let the light in. I added basic circular tubes as supports and created the fence and doors to the factory area.

Step 3: Unwrapping the UVs

For the UV setup I used standard mapping techniques like planar, cylindrical and automatic mapping. Furthermore I used a very nice tool called “ZenTools”. This tool makes unwrapping of complex geometries very easy. You just have to select the first and the last edge of an object and the tool does the rest – very clean and fast.

Step 4: Creating textures

For texturing the buildings and the floor, I used Photoshop and my DSLR camera. I shot all images in RAW format to achieve more flexibility and higher quality textures. For the floor I created three different high resolution displacement maps. For a better result and more flexibility, I split the ground plane in smaller pieces by the same proportions.

Step 5: Angle Hunting

Almost every time, when I start modelling an environment, I know pretty well how the scene should look before I am finished. It’s exciting for me in a still project to find a nice camera perspective. In this image, there were a lot of things I had to pay attention to. The first was the car’s position. The second was the final alignment of the buildings. The third was to find a good looking camera angle which is equally suited for architectural photography and also car photography. For the maximum amount of realism in architectural photography it’s best to keep vertical lines actually vertical. In this case the camera has to be at a 90 degree angle, horizontal to the floor. To get the result I wanted I took advantage of a technique called “lens shift” so that the car was standing in the position I wanted with the vertical lines of the architecture still in their vertical position.

Step 6: Shading and Lighting

After modelling the scene and creating the UVs and the textures, it was time for a render preview in an Ambient Occlusion look, to prove whether all the geometrical parts and the displacement textures were working.

Step 7: Lighting positions

For lighting the scene I used three different types of lighting. You can see in this screenshot all the various sources, designed to shine onto the car to make sure it was bright, even with the bright sunlight outside.

Step 8: Natural light

For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.

Step 9: Paint shading

For the car paint I used a V-Ray blend material to control diffuse colour, specular highlights and reflection values separately. In realistic environments, the car paint consists of more paint layers. For example, the base colour layer, metallic effect layer and a clear coat layer.

Step 10: Rendering the scene

For rendering the whole scene I used V-Ray. I rendered the complete scene with render elements to get maintain flexibility in the post process later. I rendered eight different layers plus some RGB masks for the car and environment. These included diffuse lighting, normals, reflection, refraction, shadow, specular layer and Z-depth layer. For the linear workflow I used the method with a gamma correction node in all shaders and not the method over the linear workflow button in the Vray Render settings, because this button is for testing purposes only. For better handling in Photoshop I rendered the car and the environment separately. Step 8 Natural light For the natural lighting I used a V-Ray Domelight with an integrated sunset HDR. Furthermore, some area lights for the building were used to simulate artificial light sources. The car itself interacts with all the light sources in the scene. For accentuating the car body form, I used specular lights in the form of area lights. The wheels got a brightener in the form of two spot lights. On the opposite side I used a rim light for the trunk to get the feeling of more depth.

Step 11: Compositing and adding the final touches

The time had finally arrived to add the final touches in Photoshop, to bring more drama into play, with sun rays, haze effects, a little bit of photographic grain, depth-of-field and so on, but with as little manual retouching as possible.

Step 12: Reflection layers

I try to squeeze as much as possible out of the 3D part so that I have as little as possible to add in Photoshop other than final colour corrections and some reflection improvements. For the reflection improvements of the car I rendered four different reflection layers – one each for the side, the trunk, the front and the top part. This is nothing different to what a professional automobile photographer does when shooting on location to get the most out of the car.

Excerpt from Digital Mayhem 3D Machine Techniques edited by Duncan Evans © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group.

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Nov19
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Roger’s top 10 reasons why you can’t select your object


MY GOOD FRIEND Roger Cusson is, like me, a longtime instructor on 3ds Max. One day we got to talking about the challenges of teaching such a large and complex program, and we agreed that the biggest barrier new students have is confusion about selecting objects.

Roger proposed that since we go over these pitfalls in every class, he should publish a list of Roger’s Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Select Your Object. The list never actually got published until the first edition of this book. Here is the list, printed for the first time in the first edition of this book and back by popular demand, including a cutout reminder list that you can tape to your laptop or monitor for easy reference.

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Sep17
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

When you clone a layer, any changes you make to the clone will also alter the original, and vice versa. One example where the technique may be useful is for creating a character shadow on a wall. The character can be cloned and the clone used as a Shadow matte. Any changes you make to the character will also be made to the shadow.

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Sep01
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

The base rig acts as the first layer of our multi-layered rigging approach. This is by far the most important layer, and it consists of three main components:

1. Joints and bones

2. Skinning

3. Exported version

Nothing flashy, exciting, or particularly complicated lives in the base rig. However, get something wrong at this stage, and all subsequent layers will inherit the problems, sort of a domino effect.

At its core of the rig is the skeletal system that is used to drive the creature’s fleshsurface deformations. Correct placement of joints and bones is what matters here. Using our research and development, as well as anatomical studies, should allow for optimum placements to allow the best articulation to be achieved. Changes to the skeletal structure at a later point cause a lot of repercussions, not only to the other layers, but to the components that make up this layer also.

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Aug06
2014

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneralSIGGRAPH

We are are at one of the  biggest computer graphics events – SIGGRAPH! The  team here at Focal Press is hard at work on last minute preparations.  It is our favorite time of year!  We are excited to meet and spend time with Focal fans old and new.  This year, we are co-exhibiting with CRC Press – Come by our BOOTH #1213 and check out all of the new releases, receive 20% discount on our books, enter for a chance to win free books, and say “hello!” to the team.

This year, we are giving away a 1-year license of Toon Boom Harmony software at our booth… in honor of our new book coming out, Animate to Harmony. Don’t miss out!

We hope to see you soon!

Here are some of the books you will see at the conference:

Can’t attend? Well you see have a chance to win some free loot. Sign up for our newsletter, and we will select one person to win a free book of their choice.

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Jul21
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooks

The number one goal should be to create an environment that can be multipurposed. This I learned from a stop-motion animator who created a film that takes place in a hospital. The character runs through what seems like endless hallways, but in reality the animator had created just a single hallway with a turn at the end. When the animator needed a turn in the other direction, he just flipped the frame when he was done shooting. When he got to the end of the hallway in a shot, he would just cut to a new angle and move the camera and character back to the corner to give himself plenty of room to shoot. And he would control the set dressings (plants, doors, chairs, lights) meticulously so that each stretch of hallway felt unique. I thought it was brilliant and it inspired me to do the same thing.

To really take advantage of the modular middle, you must also try to maximize your environment design. Your middle is not truly modular if you have to create a custom environment for each shot. Props, on the other hand, are fi ne to create on a per-shot basis.

FIG 4.11 Here is my environment design. Yep, that’s all of it. When you are planning on a modular set, all you need is one section to be done and you are finished. Imagine the time saving over having a large number of detailed sets.

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May14
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooks

The first stage of 3D pre-production is deciding what should be created and what can be purchased or downloaded. Remember, your main consideration is finishing the film, so the first question you must ask is whether you can create the asset yourself in the time that you have, not whether you could make something better. On a long enough timeline, of course you could model something that is better than the freely available version on Turbosquid.com. Give me a couple of years and I’ll model you all of Manhattan, but the one available online for $50 will suffice. The next question, even more crucial than whether you could create the asset in less time or better than what is obtainable online, is how important is the asset to your film.

If you are talking about the main character of your film, then it is risky to use a distinctive downloadable character for the role. CreativeCrash.com has dozens and dozens of character rigs that are free to use in non-commercial projects, but just because they are free doesn’t mean that you should be using one of them for your main character. Your short film is your calling card, and if you aren’t making a strong design statement with at least your main character, your short is only going part of the way to show the world who you are as an artist. If it comes down to a question of your not being able to create your main character yourself and you cannot get help from a friend, it is time to go back to your story and figure out if there is a simpler way to tell it. Another reason that using a downloadable character for your main character is dangerous is that there may be hundreds of animations floating around on the internet with that character animated poorly, with a different voice, or worst of all, animated in a distasteful way. As beautiful as your short may turn out to be, if your main character suddenly shows up in a viral video humping a fi re hydrant, your film’s success has been severely undermined.

Remember, I pointed out in the story chapter that your story does not have to be told with a bipedal human character. The story about the kids playing soccer is told just as well with simple box characters or flour sacks. Think long and hard about how complex the characters really need to be to tell the story you are trying to tell. In the end, my hope is that this first film is just one of many that you produce and finish. Each successive fi lm can be more detailed, complex, and ambitious.

Booty Call ’s Downloaded Assets

For Booty Call there were only a few assets that I determined would not be economical for me to create myself. The biggest consideration was how much screen time was going to be allotted to the assets that I needed to create. After hearing that, you might have already guessed which assets I downloaded. If you guessed the pirate ship and the rowboat in the first few shots, you would be right.

FIG 5.1 The pirate ship is hugely detailed and perfect for what I needed. But since it is only seen in its entirety in a single shot, it would have been a huge mistake to work on it myself.

Take a look at this ship. It’s actually beautifully done. I found it on Turbosquid.com for $200, and it’s called “Jolly Roger Pirate Ship” by MantifangMediaPro. It needed to be retextured and a little bit of topology changed for my film, but altogether it took perhaps two hours to get this asset in shape for production.

Compare that to an estimated 40–50 hours to model the ship and it was a no-brainer. However, if the film took place on the deck and there was a huge amount of interaction with the ship itself, it would be a totally different story. I might have opted to build the ship myself and be sure that every plank was in the right spot. Imagine how disruptive to production it might be to discover that a problem with a downloaded model is holding up your shots.

FIG 5.2 The rowboat was also downloaded from TurboSquid. Why reinvent the wheel (or the boat, for that matter)?

I found a great rowboat on Turbosquid for $15, called simply “Boat” by Panait George Dorin. It was highly detailed and even included the piece of rope dangling on the bow. The main consideration again was time and energy. I don’t know how the boards actually go together on a boat or really anything at all about hydrodynamics and boat design. I could have faked it, but that would still have taken hours and hours. For $15 I was almost 90 percent done with this asset. All that needed to be done was rig the oars to move correctly in the rowlocks and add Babinsky’s lantern. Overall, maybe three hours of work, saving another 20–30 hours in total.

There’s no rule that says you can’t download a free asset and take a closer look at it. I do not want my advice in this section to discourage you from experimenting and exploring the offerings of the free online model repositories. On the contrary, you should be downloading all of the free models you possibly can! Amass a gigantic model library and see how much easier it makes it to populate your film with sets, props, and characters.

Excerpt from Finish Your Film! Tips and Tricks for Making an Animated Short in Maya by Kenny Roy © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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May12
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Software Used: Photoshop

Using Photoshop, we have all had this thought at one point: ‘’Man, wouldn’t it be great if there was a brush that could do all this, instead of me wasting my life on it?!’’ Well, in this tutorial, I will explain how I create my own custom brushes and how I use them in order to save me an incredible amount of time when I paint.

We will first try to mimic the stroke of a pencil – one of the main brushes I used to paint Sky Machina, along with a textured dry brush. At first, the brush creating process seems a bit tedious, but as soon as you get the hang of it you’ll pretty much fall in love with it. You can create a brush out of everything you paint! So first, let’s open a new file of about 500 by 500 pixels and draw whatever you want (let’s draw dots for the sake of this tutorial). Now go to Edit > Define Brush Preset (Fig.01 – 02). And that’s it! Well, that’s not exactly it, but following that the only things left to do are to rename your brush (Fig.03) and tweak it to get the effect you want, in the Brushes tab on the top menu.

Fig 01

Fig 02

Fig 03

Fig 04

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May07
2014

By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

One of the benefits of using ZBrush is how it speeds up the production process. For example, it is becoming common to skip creating concept art using pen and paper, or 2D software like Photoshop and jump right into sculpting a concept model directly in ZBrush. It is easy enough to try out several variations in ZBrush, and if the concept is approved you’ve already created the basic model! Using DynaMesh is one method for creating a fast sculpt; another is using ZSpheres.

To create a model using ZSpheres, start by selecting a ZSphere (the red twotoned ball) from the Tool menu and drawing it on your canvas. Now go into Edit mode (T key) and press the Q key to get into Draw mode.

Place your cursor over the existing ZSphere and draw out another ZSphere.

Press the W key to go into Move mode and move this new ZSphere around by clicking and dragging it. Notice how ZBrush adds more in-between ZSpheres to fi t the distance between the two? When you are working with ZSpheres, the normal draw, move, scale, and rotate transpose brushes take on different behaviors. You will no longer get the transpose action line when invoking these functions. Instead, simply clicking and dragging on any of the active ZSpheres will allow you to directly transform it. Try the different transform brushes out now. Press the E key to use Scale mode and click and drag on a ZSphere to scale it. Now try the Rotate mode by pressing the R key. Notice the difference between rotating a ZSphere and rotating one of the connecting triangular links between the ZSpheres.

Active ZSpheres show up as two-toned red spheres, while linking ZSpheres that create the ZSphere chain show up as a dull red color with a white triangle-shaped bone superimposed upon them. You can rotate the entire chain of ZSpheres without changing its shape by going into rotate or move mode and clicking and dragging on one of the white connecting triangles. If you move one of the active ZSpheres, the ZSphere chain will expand or collapse to adjust, adding or removing linking ZSpheres as needed. Using a very small brush size when moving, scaling and rotating ZSpheres will make it a lot easier to edit and allow you to be more accurate in your selections.

FIG 8.1 Draw a ZSphere on canvas

FIG 8.2 Draw another ZSphere on the first one

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Apr28
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D Animation

HENRI MATISSE: DRAWING WITH PAPER

This is a level one tutorial from the book The Digital Renaissance: Classic Painting Techniques in Photoshop and Painter by Carlyn Beccia.

“An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.” – HENRI MATISSE

In 1940, in his late 70s, Matisse was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had to undergo major surgery. He begged his doctors for three more years to live to complete his art. After the surgery, Matisse was extremely frail and confined to his bed, but cancer would not stop him from creating art. During this time, he painted gouache on sheets of paper and then used large scissors to cut out his shapes. His cut paper was compiled into a book entitled Jazz. In this book he was able to take his passion for color and reduce it to a more simplified expression.

Icarus - Matisse, 1947 Plate VIII from the illustrated book, Jazz. Matisse’s deceptively simple form communicates the descent of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.

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