It’s been 30 July to 5 August 2017. I took this week away from the day job to relax and recharge, catch up on some movies, maybe get Shot 3 of AAAAAAAAA done. but mostly I wanted to get on top of an impending backlog of soldering.
The soldering I managed, and I made at least some progress on the middle goal too!
Do you think their arms get tired while they’re in T-pose?
This cute little cockatoo will be riding the cactus in Shot 3. I want to have it rigged and ready to animate tomorrow. Since I have no more synthesiser kits to build, that could very possibly actually happen…
On Monday I’m back at the day job next week and I’ll be hitting the ground running, so we shall see whether this cocky gets to dance or not. Hope so!
So this is a somewhat unique project language-wise, which makes it somewhat unique production-wise. I’m doing vocal passes in English to get the emotion and timing about right, then dropping in replacements in the main character’s native language.
With only some of the phrases recorded in dialect, the characters jump in and out of English. The effect is kind of cool, a bit Hunt For Red October even. Writing-wise there’s a bit of pre-written stuff and a bit of improvisation which gets written down afterwards. The usual.
The opening scene involves the main character feeling nervous before a mysterious appointment at “Central Assessment”. He watches a news report from his home planet. I recorded two slightly different middle versions to see how they sit.
In the “spicy” version, he ends up ranting at the TV, forgetting his nervousness entirely. Watching the report gets him pissed off enough to get over his nerves. The anger makes him feel like he’s on a righteous crusade. He’s young and driven. But.. the idea of keeping that kind of character consistent episode after episode is a bit exhausting.
In the “less spicy” version, he’s fired up in a more subtle way, reminded of the reason he’s actually around, and there’s more backstory in the universe too. He’s got more of a wry, reserved confidence, out-thinking the forces of oppression instead of shouting at them. He watches his energy and channels his discontent into sheer determination. More mature. More believable. I like this guy better to be honest.
The project is so different from what I had in mind at end of August, mid-September, even the beginning of October before I decided to make a series. But I like where it’s going. Over 145+ hours of writing, drawing, voice acting and everything else over the last two months, it’s taking shape nicely.
I spent all of Saturday weighting the rig then had to take a break on Sunday because my brain was turning to cheese. I can’t go to the day job with a brain made of cheese. It wouldn’t be proper.
Here is a dubious facial expression with the final weighted lips, locks and probably-not-final brows. Fur and colour is temporary. Rig weighting vert by vert is tedious as hell (especially when symmetry doesn’t want to work) but man it feels good when the character begins coming to life in front of you.
I love faces. It’s satisfying when the character can move around, for sure, but when the character’s face suddenly becomes mobile and can emote, that’s kickarse. Like all kickarse things i tend to want to rush towards it and skip past everything else.
I redid the blink so it’s more alien and weird. People have told me it’s freaky – some have said it fits the character, some not.
I’ve been peeling off versions of the main file to do little experiments with weighting. The soft-body and cloth simulations were hilarious but not constructive. It could be fun to run the head with a bit of wobbly simulation running on the “tentalocks” coming out the back, but i’m thinking not.
The weighting from the lip rig led to some interesting happy accidents, such as discovering a way to bring the flesh of the snout up over the eyes to change their shape on the picture plane. The lip rig is ten handles with eight bones joining them together. Each joining bone copies the handle bone at its tail and stretches to the handle bone at its head. The joining bones do the deforming while the control bones determine where the joining bones start and end. This means the lips are pretty flexible and can make all manner of silly faces as demonstrated here.
The tongue rig sucks a bit to work with, but that’s to be expected because it was quick and dirty.
Mucking around randomly is how i am discovering most of these things right now but over time it’ll turn into a good set of quality-checking heuristics and general methods for making better custom rigs quicker. I like the idea of character TD and animation as a single process too.. much more like cel where the character’s expression space is potentially infinite.
Back to it, then!
Topology i think i’m OK with. I’ve got practised confidence now in my ability to make a mesh that works. I don’t have the anxiety i used to have and that’s all come from practice. So that’s good.
Yesterday and today i pressed on with this character, going into the unwrap and texturing phase. It was tricky to get the colour to feel right (right being “early 1990s heavily saturated rainbow”) – i ended up working with two textures, both painted onto the character directly in Texture Paint mode. Each texture pass was saved out separately to be composited into one texture outside of Blender itself in Paint Tool SAI, then brought back into Blender as a single texture. There were also a few adjustments to the geometry as i went because the mouth wasn’t looking right.
At the end of the day while i was rendering a turn to check for black slashes*, i decided to make a simple rig for the character so i could have some fun mid-project by posing him. Then.. i realised i had to light it. And thus began the light and shadow game… which i tired of rapidly. (Getting Blender working on my new portable workstation ate hard into my sleeping time. Still, it’s nice rendering on one machine while continuing to work on another.)
Lighting, texturing, setting a scene.. it’s practice in the end. In the end i just have to stick with it and be patient instead of declaring “stuff it” and letting impatience for a result (however flawed) overwhelm curiosity and determination to make something good. A good night’s sleep helps..
* Black slashes in texture maps happen sometimes when subdivision surfacing is applied – the mapping is subdivided, and sometimes instead of finding colour within that subdivision along the texture seams it finds a background colour instead and maps black lines and dots. It’s annoying but easily fixable when you can smear/clone the problem away.
A sculpt of another old character. Skin modifier came in handy to kick this off with, MakeHuman was helpful to get the proportions more or less what they needed to be and dynamic topology is awesome. Also matcap is fun for presentation too.
It’s not that i’m avoiding character animation. I’m just in a character making sort of mood. This sculpt will be retopoed over but i’m not sure if i’ll use the sculpt for a normal map. Probably not.
The ugly details are kind of funny though. It’s great knowing a bit more about anatomy and rebooting a character you’ve had for ages, giving it a more grounded-in-reality look. (And making them fat and lumpy at the same time because you know if that character were real it would irritate them.)
More Dooj WIP. He is this week’s project.
I rushed to production a bit soon to get some colourful stills out (whoring for feedback, very sad) – alas, there was much more to be done even just in terms of modelling. Mainly i wanted to try some different hands and feet. I decided i wanted something “friendlier”, so that’s what i’m going for.
“Friendlier” seems to mean flatter and broader. A geometric motif is starting to form (round with a flattened bottom plane) so that’s good.
Also the facial topology has been worrying me so i tried another shape keyed expression. He looks a bit high, but that’s OK because i think he’s meant to.
I’m learning Blender to teach myself creative patience. Music doesn’t take as long as 3D by a long shot. But sometimes i get to a point with modelling a character where i just want to colour him in and go WOOHOO.
I had some coffee, which i normally don’t do, and i stayed up all night doing a rough model of Dooj’s hair, then a rig and texture. Like, really rough. Rough as hell. But there’s something to see now, which means there’s something to show.
Sometimes i cut my creativity short in search of feedback. This is probably one of those times. For instance, already those knuckles are annoying me and it’s been barely five minutes since i posted this thing. Oh well. Digital is good like that – nothing has to be finished if you don’t want it to be.
After i handed in my final weekly exercise for CGCookie’s modelling workshop (which was superb, by the way – i highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to model well), i realised i need much more practice – so today i decided to put a character building workflow to the test using an old character i did some rough model sheets for last year.
I started by roughing out the proportions and posture of the body using Nicholas Bishop’s awesome Skin modifier, then subsurfed the result and loaded it into a build of Blender featuring Nicholas Bishop’s even more awesome Dynamic Topology system. Neither is without its quirks but in the end i got myself a decent basis to begin building an animatable character from.
From then, it was into retopology land, which is where i am now.