Wk 1: Development

This week was our first class to 3D Graphics. I was initially intimidated by this subject as I have never touched 3D graphics / modelling / animation before. It is such a vast industry, it seems as though I could study forever and still only be competent in a small area. However, I have managed to grasp the basics of 3DsMax. Well, I can make boxes and navigate the viewport and make a robot out of primitives, but at least it is a start. After getting over my initial trepidation I am much more confident with the program. I have found that the concepts and actions are quite easy to grasp, but it all relies on my ability (or lack thereof) to execute them in a complex and new program. It can be quite frustrating but I will be trying to practice daily.

In addition to 3DsMax, the basics of 3D graphics and a quick overview of the industry, we were taught about the steps in the 3D production pipeline. This will be explored in the next post.

Wk 1: Research

Typical Stages in a 3D Production Pipeline

3D production is a complex and precise operation. In order to remain effective and efficient 3D production typically follows a standard pipeline which helps streamline the process. On larger productions different stages may be executed by different people.

1.   Preproduction and Blocking

This is the initial planning stage where the final designs and assets are determined. Some productions, e.g. video games, may choose to use concept designs and development sketches to design their 3D assets. The visual development process involves taking the (usually) 2D sketches and concepts and determining how they will function in 3D.

journey_conceptsConcept designs forJourney, a 3D video game. Source: http://conceptartworld.com/?p=17180

In addition to this, the role of the asset, how it will interact (and move) and its relationship with its environment is determined through the process of blocking, a term that most commonly refers to actors working out a scene (Marshall, 2010).

Tangled

Character concepts for Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled. Sourced from: http://characterdesignnotes.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/disneys-tangled-character-design.html

 

2.   3D Modelling of Required Assets

Modelling is the process of taking the asset design and recreating it in 3D computer generated graphics. There are a variety of programs for this, including paid programs such as 3DsMax and free programs like Blender. Modelling involves the manipulation of vertices, edges and polys in order to create 3D shapes and assets (Slick, 2014). They are many different techniques in which to do this.

3d model

3D Model for Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled. Sourced from: http://xnuccio.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/animation-pipeline.html

 

3.   UV Mapping

In this complicated and fiddly stage, the 3D asset is “unwrapped” so that it lies flat on the UV plane as a mesh in order for a UV map to be created. The UV plane is a 2D platform in which the U and V respectively represent the traditional X and Y axis (Guerrilla CG, 2009). In order for a texture to be applied to an asset its UV map must lie completely flat on the UV plane. In the example below, a cube is ‘cut’ and is in the process of being flattened (this is stylised for educational purposes).

part_05_02

Sourced from: http://www.chocofur.com/tut_01_e.html

Once flat upon the UV plane a texture or image may be projected onto the cube’s mesh. This is shown below:

Cube_Representative_UV_Unwrapping

Left to right: 3D cube with the applied map; map being applied (or “wrapped”) around the 3D asset; the 3D asset sitting on top of the UV map. Sourced from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/Cube_Representative_UV_Unwrapping.png

 

4.   Texturing

Once the asset has been unwrapped the UV map can then to painted or edited in order to give the asset texture (Bourdon, 2013). This can be done in programs such as Photoshop.

mdd_03

Clockwise: final texture when applied to the 3D model; the 3D model without texture; the flattened texture maps ready to be applied to the model. Sourced from: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/news/2013/03/why-a-camera-is-a-texture-artists-best-friend/

 

5.   Rigging

The 3D asset is then bound to a character rig: a skeleton system of bones, joints and control handles which allow the character to be moved, as a doll would, into a pose (Slick, 2014). When rigging, kinetics and joint hierarchy must be taken into consideration.

MuscleRig

A complex character rig for a human model. Sourced from: http://alexnikolaev.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/advanced-rigging.html

 

6.   Animation

Similar to 2D animation, 3D character animation involves creating a series of poses in a timeline that, when played, give the impression of movement (Boudon, 2013). Poses are created by moving and adjusting the character rig. Other animations, especially VFX such as shattering or exploding, may be pre-programed into the software, allowing the animator to save time (Boudon, 2013).

tumblr_naohablRFI1tzcyqvo2_250

The principles of animation, including follow through and overlapping animation, are still essential for creating realistic movements (as seen in Disney’s Tangled). Sourced from: https://www.tumblr.com/search/tangled+gifs

 

7.   Scene Assembly

Similar to blocking or staging in a theatrical sense, scene assembly is the process of positioning the assets in the 3D space and manipulating the camera through the creation of camera paths (CG Architect, 2013). This allows the artist to recreate the storyboards, movement or scene outlined in the initial planning stages (Dreamworks, 2013). The assets may be from multiple different files and varying in size, some being extremely large like, a 3D forest environment, which will cause many computers to struggle (CG Architect, 2013). Scene assembly must therefore be carefully planned and many artists will use secondary programs to help with this stage.

asdf (2)

Rough scene assembly. Sourced from: http://www.dreamworksanimation.com/insidedwa/productionprocess

 

8.   Lighting

As the name suggests, lighting is the process of incorporating a virtual light source into the 3D scene (Boudon, 2013). This stage needs to be carefully done in order to create the desired effect (Chang). Lighting gives the 3D objects shading and shadows, allowing the scene to appear more dynamic and realistic. However, different assets will need to be lit differently and/or have the settings adjusted: a light source, for example, will shade a metal surface differently to a wooden surface and this must be taken into account (Chang).

How-to-Train-Your-Dragon-2-International-Poster-slice

Observe the different highlights on the scales, armour, cloth and hair. Sourced from: http://www.moustachemagazine.com/2014/06/at-the-movies-44/how-to-train-your-dragon-2-international-poster-slice/

 

9.   Rendering

One of the final steps, rendering involves taking the 3D scene, the camera placements and movement, lighting and effects and outputting it into usable files (Boudon, 2013). Different rendering settings will give a different final product; it is therefore important that much time is left for experimentation in order to gain the desired effect for the scene (Bourdon, 2013; Chang).

quicksilver_hardware_renderer

Front: the rendered image including camera affects and lighting. Behind: the 3D scene. Sourced from: http://area.autodesk.com/3dsmax2011/features

 

10. Compositing

In this stage, the rendered file (an image or animation) in brought into a compositing program (Chang). This stage includes everything from special effects, to final touch-ups, to the combining and assembling multiple visuals, possibly from different renders or sources (Chang). For example, a rendered character may be placed into a live action scene. Specialised visual effects artists will play a large role in this stage.

237-7

The rendered animation (left) has special effects added to it (right) in a compositing program. Sourced from: http://www.motiondesignandcompositing.blogspot.com.au/

 

11. Video Editing

Lastly, video editing is the final, but still important stage, in the 3D production pipeline. The composited footage undergoes final editing: this includes the addition of audio, sound effects and, possibly, adjustments to camera and framing (Chang). Due to the addition of audio, this stage is extremely vital and quite extensive: the process of the final mix must not be passed over (Dreamworks, 2013).

slide18

The process of the final mix for the movie Puss in Boots. Sourced from: http://www.dreamworksanimation.com/insidedwa/productionprocess

References

Boudon, G. (2013). Understanding a 3D Production Pipeline – Learning the Basics. Retrieved from
http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

CG Architect. (2013). Scene Assembly. Retrieved from
http://www.cgarchitect.com/content/posts/legacy/VisualizationInsider/Week12/Scene_Assembly.pdf

Chang, A. The Process of 3D Animation. Retrieved from
http://www.media-freaks.com/the-process-of-3d-animation/

Dreamworks Animation. (2013). Production Process. Retrieved from
http://www.dreamworksanimation.com/insidedwa/productionprocess

Guerrilla CG Project. (2009, June 5). The Basics of UV Mapping [Video file]. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIvTUDgaXik

Marshall, P. (2010). The 5 Stages of Shooting a Film Scene. Retrieved from
http://actioncutprint.com/filmmaking-articles/filmmakingarticle-05/

Slick, J. (2014). 3D Modelling. Retrieved from
http://3d.about.com/od/Glossary-M/g/3d-Modeling.htm

Slick, J. (2014). What is Rigging?. Retrieved from
http://3d.about.com/od/Creating-3D-The-CG-Pipeline/a/What-Is-Rigging.htm

Wk 2: Development

Modelling

This week I learnt a lot about modelling in 3DsMax, both in and out of class. I am much more confident with navigating the viewpoint and selecting specific parts of the model by vertex, edge, poly and also using rings and loops. In addition to this I have learnt about insetting, extruding, chamfering and adding additional polys through the connect tool. I am quite confident that I understand each of these but sometimes it is quite fiddly and takes me longer than it should.

I am, however, working much faster than I was at the beginning of the week. This is largely due to losing the 3DsMax files I created in class, resulting in me having to begin the treasure chest over again. Upon reflection, this was a very good thing as it gave me much more practice with the program and my first chest was also not quite right. This following GIF is the development of my treasure chest (the second one) from start to finish:

modelling

Shown below is the completed chest from different angles and as a wire frame:

completeChest

 

Wk 2: Research

Current trends

The rise of the “indie” (independent) game industry has caused (or been caused by) a shift in 3D modelling. The most relevant change in 3D modelling is the software used to create it. Free programs, such as Blender, Sketch Up and the free version of Unity, have allowed independent or small companies to create 3D models and video games for free, thus gaining a foothold in the industry (JPR, 2012).

Typical 3D Modelling Pipeline for Games

Concept Drawings

Concept drawings are used extensively in order to flesh out the game concepts, aesthetic and feel (Ciszek, 2012).

Sunset_Overdrive_Art_by_Vasili_Zorin_01

Early concept work for Sunset Overdrive. Sourced from: http://conceptartworld.com/?p=34097

From these concepts drawings the core shapes, structures and visuals are broken down in order to begin the process of prototyping and developing the assets (Epic Games, 2012).

Sunset_Overdrive_Concept_Art_Character_Design_VZ_02

Refined character concept art for Sunset Overdrive. Sourced from: http://conceptartworld.com/?p=34097

Modelling

Using the concept art, the modeller creates a 3D model of the character or asset. Programs such as 3DsMax and Maya may typically be used for this. First, a medium to high poly mesh is created and then transferred to another program for sculpting (Epic Games, 2012). Ciszek (2012) notes that “in the game industry, most models are created as surface models”, as opposed to solid models, as both the modellers and game engines can handle them better.

Huntsman_Lowpoly

From the concept drawing (left), a 3D model is created for Assassin’s Creed Unity. Sourced from: http://www.pierrebertin.com/search/label/AC3

Sculpting

Sculpting allows extra detail to be added to the model; this is typically done with additional software such as Mudbox or Z-brush (Ciszek, 2012). In this step the artist is able to bring the concept drawing to life by adding fine detail and refining aspects such as clothing and facial features.

Huntsman_Highpoly

The model is refined through sculpting. Sourced from: http://www.pierrebertin.com/search/label/AC3

High to Low Poly

As video games are rendered in real-time, the poly count of the final asset must be low (or lower than the sculpted version) in order for the game engine to handle it (Epic Games, 2012). Converting the mesh from high poly to low poly can be done in a variety of programs such as Z-brush and Maya.

naga_high_and_low_poly_by_audreee-d4o3iag

Low and high poly versions of the same model shown side-by-side. Sourced from: http://audreee.deviantart.com/art/Naga-high-and-low-poly-282339160

UV-Mapping and Texturing

Through the process of unwrapping a complete set of UVs are created, ready for texturing (Bourdon, 2013). Texturing may be done in Photoshop and/or used with secondary software such as Quixel. After the texture maps are finished, they are baked into the low poly model; a game character will typically use diffuse, normal, ambient occlusion and specular maps (Ward, 2013).

Kila-PT4-V2-Preview

Before and after texturing. Sourced from: http://cgi.tutsplus.com/articles/game-character-creation-series-kila-chapter-4-texture-baking-building–cg-28262

Rigging

The process by which the character or asset is set-up for animation (Bourdon, 2013). Consideration for what movements the character will make must be taken into account.

KilaPart06_2_39

A game character is rigged using Maya. Sourced from: http://cgi.tutsplus.com/articles/game-character-creation-series-kila-chapter-6-basic-character-rigging–cg-31083

Animating

By manipulating the game character through their rig, the animator is able breath life and movement into the character (Bourdon, 2013). Just as in feature films, good animations should be more than just the required actions.

GlaDos

GLaDOS, a robot from the Portal games, gains a human-like quality and emotion through animation. Sourced from: http://es.terraria.wikia.com/wiki/Archivo:GlaDos.gif

References

Boudon, G. (2013). Understanding a 3D Production Pipeline – Learning the Basics. Retrieved from
http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

Ciszek, P. (2012). 3D Production Pipeline in Game Development. Retrieved from
https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/bitstream/handle/123456789/40995/URN%3ANBN%3Afi%3Ajyu-201302271274.pdf?sequence=1

Epic Games, Inc. (2012). Epic Games Design Workflow. Retrieved from
http://udn.epicgames.com/Three/DesignWorkflow.html

John Peddie Research (JPR). (2012). The Democratisation of 3D. Retrieved from
https://jonpeddie.com/download/media/slides//The-democratization-of-3D.pdf

Ward, A. (2013). Game Character Creation Series. Retrieved from
http://cgi.tutsplus.com/articles/game-character-creation-series-kila-chapter-4-texture-baking-building–cg-28262

Wk 3: Development

UV Maps

This week I learnt (slowly, with lots of swearing) what UV mapping and unwrapping is and used the techniques on my treasure chest model. The planar mapping on different axis was very easy: it was just maths all over again. However, simple things like forgetting to unselect “Normalise Map” would confuse me and I would not be able to figure out why my map looked wrong. I learnt to break edges (especially if the joint is close to or over 90 degrees) and was able to foresee what I would need to do before it was explained in the video. Although it was very complicated to begin with, I actually think that I got a good grasp on the process. It is similar to paper craft and involves the same type of forward thinking. Overall, UV mapping is not as bad as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very tedious, and I am especially slow at it, but it is extremely satisfying watching the model slowly gain a consistent checkerboard pattern. I just hope that I will be able to transfer what I have learnt onto my hard-surface 3D model.

This entire process probably took me a total of 3 hours as it was my first time ever doing this and I had a couple of issues along the way. I have also learnt that one of the most important things is to increment save like crazy: this helped me so many times and I only ever lost 10 minutes of work, or so, at a time. The following GIF showcases the development of my UV maps:

UVMAPPING

Shown below is the complete UV map:

ChestUV_J

I finally feel as though my Tetris skills were put into use…

Wk 3: Research

Ed Catmull: A 3D Computer Graphics Pioneer

Dr. Ed Catmull, currently the president of Pixar and Disney Animation, was one of the founding fathers of Pixar (PW, 2008). He had the drive to animate but, lacking the drawing skills, Catmull focused on computer graphics, which he believed could be utilised to create feature-length animations.

Ed Catmull_May2012

Sourced from: shttp://waltdisneystudios.com/corp/unit/6/bio/53

With a degree in Computer Science and Physics, Catmull has received several awards for his multiple industry achievements (Disney, 2009). His most notable contributions to the field of computer graphics include: the development of the z-buffer and the invention of texture mapping (PW, 2008).

Z-buffering is an algorithm which manages the depth and positioning of assets in a 3D environment: particularly it ensures that an object in the foreground will block (or partial block) the view of an object in the background, therefore behaving as real life objects would (Rouse, 2005). This demonstrated below:

2000px-Z_buffer.svg

Sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-buffering

Texture mapping is the process by which a 2D image or texture map can be applied to the 3D asset in order to give it a desired look (Bourdon, 2013).

Texturing_a_mapped_model_01

A 3D cube is textured to look like a crate. Sourced from: http://satish3dartist.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/texturing-mapped-model.html

Without Ed Catmull, the graphics industry would not be what it is today.

Democratisation in the 3D Graphics Industry

Democratisation refers to, in this case, making the 3D graphics industry democratic. That is, creating an industry where power, resources and opportunities are spread equally among the people (Dictionary.com, 2014).

Up until recently a divide has existed between the large, professional 3D graphics studios and the enthusiast at home with a computer. However, recent changes in the way digital content is created and distributed have created new opportunities as the industry adapts in order to remain viable in the global marketplace (Estes, 2013). Both software and hardware are becoming more affordable, powerful and accessible; no longer are these exclusive to large companies (CB, 2013). In fact, many graphics programs are now free to install and use, such as: Blender, GIMP, Sketch Up and Unity1 (JPR, 2012).

Created with Blender, Sintel is a 15 minute animation available for free download: https://durian.blender.org/download/

The implications for the industry are as follows:

  • Self-trained artists have the tools and, due to the availability of online tutorials, the abilities to become a viable artist within the industry.
    • This rise of non-traditionally trained talent brings new ideas, creativity and competition into the industry.
    • It does, however, also dilute the workforce, making jobs opportunities even rarer.
  • Independent studios can gain a foothold in the industry, allowing them to reach new demographics and further the marketability and prominence of 3D graphics.
  • With software and hardware available globally, and the ability to communicate online, larger companies can create content across multiple geological locations.
    • This increases creativity within the industry, as new cultures and views will be brought to the table.
    • This drastically increases job opportunities, as one is no longer limited to their town, city or country.
    • Larger companies are once more at an advantage, therefore gaining a foothold above individuals and independents.

(Creative Blog, 2013; Estes, 2013; John Peddie Research, 2012).

Emerging Technologies: Ptex

One emerging open-source technology that could help further democratisation is Ptex. Developed by the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Ptex is “per-face texture mapping system that does not require UV assignment” (Seymour, 2014). Essentially, the Ptex eliminates the process of UV assignment which is time-consuming and difficult (Ptex, 2012). According to their website, Ptex (2012) does so in a way which allows for “any number of textures to be stored in a single file” and for seamless filtering.

ptex-teaser-big (2)

First example of Ptex, with the individual faces displayed (left) and the final textured model (right). Sourced from http://ptex.us/overview.html

When using Ptex, the texture is painted directly onto the 3D model. This saves an incredible amount of time and guarantees no seams (Masters, 2014). Disney has used Ptex exclusively on their last four major works (Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph, Tangled and Bolt) and the program is now being picked up by many, including Pixar (Seymour, 2014).

Speed texturing using Mudbox and Ptex. Sourced from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzIfW1dPNHs

The implication for asset creation is enormous. It cuts an entire step out of the production pipeline and saves a large amount of time. This technology allows film-quality assets to be created efficiently and can plug in to industry standard software such as Mudbox (Masters, 2014). Ptex has the potential to revolutionise the creation of 3D graphics for animations and films. However, Ptex is currently not compatible for use in video games as they must be rendered in real-time (Masters, 2014).

Footnote

1The free version of Unity is available for commercial use as long as the creator/s or company does not exceed $100,000 in profits (Unity Technologies, 2014).

References

Boudon, G. (2013). Understanding a 3D Production Pipeline – Learning the Basics. Retrieved from
http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-a-3d-production-pipeline-learning-the-basics/

Creative Blog (CB). (2013). The democratisation of computer graphics. Retrieved from
http://www.creativebloq.com/audiovisual/democratisation-computer-graphics-10135033

Dictionary.com. (2014). Democratize. Retrieved from
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democratization?s=ts

Disney. (2009). Dr. Ed Catmull. Retrieved from
http://waltdisneystudios.com/corp/unit/6/bio/53

Estes, J. (2013). Is the Demoncratization of Graphics a Good Thing?. Retrieved from
http://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2013/07/24/democratization/

John Peddie Research (JPR). (2012). The Democratisation of 3D. Retrieved from
https://jonpeddie.com/download/media/slides//The-democratization-of-3D.pdf

Masters, M. (2014). Understanding Ptex – Is it the Future of Texturing?. Retrieved from
http://blog.digitaltutors.com/understanding-ptex-is-it-the-future-of-texturing/

Pixar Wiki (PW). (2008). Ed Catmull. Retrieved from
http://pixar.wikia.com/Ed_Catmull

Ptex. (20112). Ptex Overview. Retrieved from
http://ptex.us/overview.html

Rouse, M. (2005). Z-buffering. Retrieved from
http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/z-buffering

Seymour, M. (2014). Ptex, the other side of texturing. Retrieved from
http://www.fxguide.com/featured/ptex_the_other_side/

Unity Technologies. (2014). License Comparisons. Retrieved from
http://unity3d.com/unity/licenses

Wk 4: Ideas for the Hard-Surface Model…

I realise that it is probably far too early to be thinking about the hard-surface model but I had some ideas. Firstly, I think that I would like a make a steampunk style vehicle for the following reasons:

  • The aesthetic is interesting
  • It would be a hard surface model (due to the materials used)
  • I could make interesting moveable parts
  • It would allow me to do some really interesting texturing

A (mostly) hard-surface vehicle I find particularly interesting is the cutter (ship), probably the most basically designed pirate ship. I like the idea of a flying, mechanical cutter. I think this be very interesting and fun to create.

DCF 1.0

Sourced from: http://www.modelships.de/Kutter_Sharke/fg34.jpg

However, this might be very complicated and/or not fit the requirements for the assignment. Therefore, my second choice would be a dirigible.

5311443b135e0

Sourced from: http://www.elpais.com.uy/vida-actual/dirigible-medio-transporte.html

With a dirigible I could (hopefully) create something like this:

airship1 (1)

Steampunk dirigible design. Sourced from: https://overland.org.au/2012/06/mad-scientists-airships-and-class-the-politics-of-steampunk/

However, at the moment my priority is of course the treasure chest model.