Final module reflection post

Graphics in videogames are changing very quickly and the production’s quality is reaching realism levels never imagined before. Thanks to software like Zbrush the modelling time process has been reduced astoundingly and the Zbrush’s modelling tools and methodologies have allowed character artists like Kris Kelly, Furio Tedeschi and Frank Tzen to create high realistic characters with incredible details, like wrinkles and pores and render them in real time in engines like Unreal.

A thorough understanding of anatomy is an important part of the realistic character creation we find some examples in Kris Kelly work where its faces maintain realistic proportions and are anatomically accurate. I have studied anatomy and always try to use this knowledge in all the characters I do, humans or not.

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It is also important to be creative when necessary creating other type of characters like aliens is or demons are needed to be created. Furio Tedeschi is a good example of imagination applied to the job. I tried to do similar concepts for our project but no so detailed. I will use their work as a reference to improve the detail of my models adding more wrinkles and textures to the surface.

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In the case of the hair creation for characters, there are three available options: to use block modelling hair that will work for cartoon characters but will have no realism or use polygonal cards and alpha maps creating and effect of volumetric hair like the Gears of war 4‘s models made by Shifally Rattani.

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There is a third option, combining both methods like in the case of Uncharted 4’s character Nadine made by FrankTzeng using Yibing Jiang’s shaders  that combines cards with tridimensional curls. Nevertheless, the quality of the textures will always depend on the GPU capabilities so, even being able to produce a realistic character in videogames, will be always necessary to render it in real time. Therefore, it is necessary to optimize the resources. Uncharted 4 is a very good example of optimization getting an incredible result. Yibing Jiang and its team implemented innovative techniques in order to achieve this, like adjusting the cards’ normals in order to get the hair look volumetric, using ID maps with ramps to control the depth of the strands instead Normal maps and use shadow maps to create volumetric shadows. I’ve never used these techniques before but I will research them in order to implement them in my own workflow. Also, is important the light scattering to make look realistic the hair and skin. One way of getting this effect is with the Fresnel effect to reduce the GPU cost. All these processes were achievable through experimentation getting a lot of issues in the process but reaching a better result at the end. Therefore, due to this necessity of research in order to get better results with the optimal amount of resources, experimentation will be always a big part of all game artist work.

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After creating the concept art for my characters I decided to centre my attention in the creation of realistic hair. Until that moment I had always used block meshes to do hair because my characters have always been cartoonish and there wasn’t need of doing cards. Nevertheless, As the group decided that the project would have a realistic aesthetic and one of the characters I will have to model had a ponytail, I decided to study the usage of polygon planes in order to do so. I started from the basic, trying to test the simplest methods and create my own cards with different shapes. I learned that normally wasn’t necessary to be very creative with the planes and square polygons are the usual. I learned also that all the hair strips should start on the head because of the transparency would make visible the UV cuts. In the case of the ponytail I think I chose one of the most difficult things to do because was a big ball of hair without anything inside that make it less transparent. Therefore, I used a mesh as ponytail’s core to fake the density. During this process I found several interesting scripts and plugins like spPaint3D, that allow the painting of objects over a surface, in this case the cards over the head and GMH2.6 that is a plugin that assist in the creation of hair by creating polygonal strips using a base polygonal shape as a pattern. It also has a hair system that helps in the creation of hair with polygonal tubes as strands that allow the baking of them on the used polygon strip. The learning process was slow and difficult; I had to make a lot of different testing in order to understand the use of the script. The capability of baking the maps allowed me to create easily all the textures necessary to make the hair to look realistic using alpha, specular and normal maps.

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As I also wanted to understand the use of Unreal engine material editor I also dedicated part of my research time to do so. In that way I learned how to do Metallic and reflective maps, transparent maps like glass and also some other effects like moving textures or Fresnel effect, all this thanks to several tutorials. After that I tried to do my own material for the alien leader visor by creating a gelatinous material from a texture. First I learned how to create tileable maps on Photoshop and then, with a bit of research I found a nice programme, named Pixplant, that allows the transformation of an image into the different maps necessary to create a material. Then I started my experimentation process to get the desired material. I had some issues like using the emmisive channel and having an undesired effect in darkness or getting a correct amount of transparency by tweaking with the refractions variables. I think I still have to do more test in order to get the desired material but I have learned a lot in the process.

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In the future I will keep studying and improving my knowledge in the creation of Unreal materials and the different existing nodes and how to combine them. I will also continue using GMH2.6 in order to achieve the same result as the developer examples but I will also try to emulate the methods used in games like Uncharted to get a very realistic hair that will be usable inside game engines.

All in all, I think I have learned a lot of both processes and set the bases to improve even further in both fields.

 

Bibliography:

ArtStation (n.d.) Yibing Jiang [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/yibingjiang > [Accessed 06 April 2017].

Yibing Jiang (n.d.) Yibing Jiang’s Demo Reel 2015 — Real-Time Shading / Shading / Matte Painting [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=umoWC6SGsLw > [Accessed 06 April 2017].

ArtStation (n.d.) Frank Tzeng [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/frank_tzeng > [Accessed 08 April 2017].

ArtStation (n.d.) Gears of War 4 Hair, Shifally . [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artwork/Zx8lx > [Accessed 10 April 2017].

ArtStation (n.d.) Kris Kelly [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/kriskelly3d> [Accessed 13 April 2017].

 KRISKELLY3D.COM – Character Artist, Texture Artist, 3D Modeler (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://www.kriskelly3d.com/ > [Accessed 13 April 2017].

ArtStation (n.d.) Furio Tedeschi [Online]. ArtStation. Available from: <https://www.artstation.com/artist/furio > [Accessed 17 April 2017].

NiZZULiVΞ (n.d.) Uncharted 4 Nathan Drake 3D Model Tech Demo 1080p [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8plj4d2MHM > [Accessed 08 April 2017].
Frank Tzeng on Gumroad (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://gumroad.com/frank_tzeng_art# > [Accessed 08 April 2017].
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Final Project Preproduction #19

I have started the layout of the preproduction document, I need to have it ready before the 24th as Nandor has to gather all the members’ preproduction documents and merge them into one document.

I also have spent a bit more of time looking for information of the GMH2.6 pluging and in the Facebook site of thunder cloud, that is the owner of the script, I found a video tutorial of the process that finally make me understand how this plugin works. Basically, this plugin has two parts first, as i was doing, you can create the hair texture with all the maps and second it helps you to create a series of polygon strips over another object surface. After that the baked maps can be transformed into a material and applied to those strips. Then you would be able to export this strips as an OBJ or FBX in order to place it on a game engine. In the process was necessary the use of Marmorset in order to tweak the result and see if was necessary to start again to get thicker locks or increase or reduce the section of the hair strings. I had to repeat the process several times as all this problems happened to me and also I had to make a third map with a very dense hair strip to avoid the transparency of the interior of the ponytail and applying it to a core ponytail system of planes.

http://www.thundercloud-studio.com/article/gmh2-livestream/

Bibliography:

GMH2 Live Stream – Polygon Hair Style Creating & Baking with GMH2.6 (n.d.) Thunder Cloud Studio [Online blog]. Available from: <http://www.thundercloud-studio.com/article/gmh2-livestream/ > [Accessed 21 April 2017].

Final Project Preproduction #18

As I get stuck in the hair process I decided to move on to the material part of my research and try to continue the hair research later.

I looked for several textures on Google images and on Pìnterest in order to create the mask’s material.

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My main idea is to create a semitransparent material that looks like gelatin but that contain a slimy and shiny material inside of it. So I take the texture I like the most and followed a videotutorial in order to make it tileable. First I used offset tool to move the seams and the spot healing brush and patch tool to fill the surface with other image information.

Slime01

When I finished the tiling process, in order to create some texture maps I found a programme, PixPlant, that creates all the necessary maps from an image being capable of tweaking the results from the parameters inside the programme to get the desired result. Then I exported the maps to a folder and imported them to Unreal.

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In order to test the material I put in the scenary a SM_Mat PreviewMesh  to apply to it the material. Then I created a new material and open the material editor. I moved in all the maps and started playing with the nodes connections. In order to achieve the Fresnel effect and the transparent effect I followed this tutorial that explains how to create several types of materials.

I started testing the Fresnel effects on different maps like the emission map. It looked very nice with the ambient light due to the high light on the borders of the material but when I tried it in the darkness the emissive effect took place and that wasn’t what I want so I delete the whole node. I tested the different values of the transparency channel’s variables in order to get the look of a lumpy gelatine but I am still in the process of getting what I want. I will keep experimenting and researching till I get what I want.

Biblyography:

Resurrection 21 (n.d.) Beginners Tutorial – Materials – Unreal Engine 4 [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B9k7WwHexQ > [Accessed 19 April 2017].
PixPlant (n.d.) PixPlant: Great Textures, Quickly [Online]. PixPlant. Available from: <https://www.pixplant.com/ > [Accessed 19 April 2017].

Final Project Preproduction #17

I have installed the GMH2.6 plugin and tried to follow the developer’s PDF tutorials. Nevertheless, it is very confusing and I find it very bad explained and unorganized. I tried to find video tutorial of the usage of this script but I couldn’t find any and there aren’t any reference on internet of how to proceed. In my process I get stuck in the baking of the maps. I had to do a lot of testing in order to understand how the properties work and to keep the hair inside the plane.

The process of baking the hair with this plugin is creating a plane per each type of lock you want to use. Then apply a different GMHHair system to each plane and tweak the properties to get the desired result. One important property to modify is the flatness and cross section number of polygons as will determine the tridimensional volume of each hair string. Also important are the two different curves of density decay that determines the length and the width of the Hair strip. It is important to fit the hair inside the baking plane. Then to modify the hair shape the most important property I found was the noise and the noise frequency. There were also options to make wavy and curly hair but since my model was going to use straight hair I didn’t try them too much. Once I had the desired hair shape, I selected them, check the autoUV box and create UVSheet of the selected surfaces. After that  Select the size of the maps and the type I wanted between lit and shaded, diffuse, normal, alpha and displacement  and bake the maps. In order to create the normal map without errors was necessary to move the hair using the oddset property in such manner that any hair strand do not cut the plane surface, if not it will create yellow surfaces on the map.

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The process take like 10-15 min per map to finish so each test to change the maps take a lot of time. More even if you do the postprocess retouch adviced in the PDF’s tutorial, where you have to open the planes in Photoshop, combine some of them or using filters and grey scale value tool in order to get the final result. In my case I have repeated the process several times due to errors in the strips of hair where some of the strings where out of the baking surface and were cuts in the texture.

I have also tried to follow a tutorial that talks about an older version of this plugin. Never the less the interesting part was the recommendation of usage of a Zbrush brush in order to create polygroups strips along a surface. I downloaded the brush and used it to create a series of strips using the surface of the ponytail base. The result was great and very easy to use and tweak. But back to Maya I did not understand the next step in the process of hair creation of the plugin and I get stuck without knowing how to continue.

Bibliography:

Tutorials Section – Thunder Cloud (2015) Thunder Cloud Studio, 25 August [Online blog]. Available from: <http://www.thundercloud-studio.com/tutorials/ > [Accessed 18 April 2017].
Vimeo (n.d.) Zbrush Maya Game Hair Tutorial [Online]. Vimeo. Available from: <https://vimeo.com/88618744 > [Accessed 18 April 2017].

Final Project Preproduction #16

I have continued my hair tests following the instruction of a video to make long hair for videogames using Maya nCloth to set them in position.

I tried it using the ponytale base to adapt the shape to its surface, never the less it didn’t work very well. I had to turn the whole group in order to place each strip. I also noticed that all the hair strips should start in the base of the ponytail due to the transparency of the texture and being the hair cut in the base leaving a visible edge. Therefore, all the work I did till the moment was almost useless because the length of the planes were too short and in order to make it longer I should repeat the UVs.

I have found a plugin that seems interesting named GMH2.6, It seems that helps in the creation of polygonal hair by having a supporting system that use nHair from Maya to create hair strips with different modifiers and bake the result on texture maps.

Bibliography:

Cannedmushrooms (n.d.) 0204 Maya (Character Development ) Hair 4 [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgQCUvIF550 > [Accessed 15 April 2017].
GMH2 (n.d.) Thunder Cloud Studio [Online blog]. Available from: <http://www.thundercloud-studio.com/shops/gmh2/ > [Accessed 15 April 2017].

Final Project Preproduction #15

In order to place the polygons I have found a free script, spPaint3d, that helps to place geometry on the surface of a second object. I tried it with my hair strip meshes over the exported ponytail base mesh to see the result.

 

Tomorrow I go back to UK so a will not be able to do nothing. I have prepared a list of Unreal 4 videotutorials about materials to see them during the trip, I hope to learn enough to do my own materials and make some tests.

Final Project Preproduction #14

In order to do some tests on the polygon card planes I did, I have Layout the UVs and exported them as an PNG to work with it on Photoshop. I created several custom brushes with dots in order to get a proper hair effect and fulfill the surface faster. It seems that brushes with small dots and very separated between them in a row work better in other to make parallel strings of hair. To get a better effect in the hair I activated the variation of the brush size depending on the pressure of the pen. After several tries I saw that is better to start pressing harder the pen in the base of the hair to get a thicker string and then decrease the pressure little by little till the tip of the hair. Was very difficult to draw more or less straight lines, It was good on one hand because it looked more like hair strings but on the other hade was very difficult to control and very often I couldn’t reach the top of the plane. I did several layers of hair with different colors and different lengths leaving the tip of the hair less dense and using dark colours changing on each nee layer to a lighter colour.

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Back on Maya I snapped the pivot point in the center of the base of each plane to have more control over them and moving and rotating them from the hair root.

I forgot to give a curvy shape to the planes in order to look less straight. I also soften the edges to smooth the surface  I had to unfold each plane on the UV and repeated the whole process of painting.

maya01

In order to create the specular map I copied the diffuse map and desaturate the image and then use the grey balance tool to make thinner the hair in whites and left black the rest.

to be able to use transparency I had to change the material to a Blinn material and apply the diffuse and specular map inside the Hypershade menu.

Hair06

 

Final Project Preproduction #13

Tomorrow I will be flying back to Spain to spend the Easter holidays with my family. As in the first term during Christmas, I don’t know If I will be able to work during this period and even so I will not be able to work as well as with my desk computer as I will be working on an old laptop. I will try to gather some videos about how to create hair for videogames and the use of materials in Unreal 4 during my time there to be able to post something during that time.

Final Project Preproduction #12

As my research is going to be centred on the creation of hair using polygonal strips and get a big understanding in the creation and use inside unreal editor, I created a base model of the head of the alien leader on Zbrush in order to have a tridimensional reference for the hair volume dimensions and shape. It also has helped me to apply some test materials on it and see the results of them on a more final model shape.
I did the modelling taking the head studies as references. I created different parts for the upper part of the head, the jaw and neck and the different types of horns in order to model them separately and easier. Once I had the general shape done I used Dynamesh to merge them in one tool, I did the mask separately as another tool as it is going to be semi-transparent and therefore it will be able to see through it.

I defined the general ponytail’s shape in order to have a reference of the volume and shape when i applied the hair. With the model done I did a remesh using the remeshing brush to define some polygon flows and reduce the polycount to the minimum. This won’t be the final mesh, I will use it only for these tests. In order to start testing with hair strips I created several polygonal strip planes with different sizes and topology to see how they work and what benefits could give me.

Alien02_3DHead

Wireframe03Wireframe02