Friday, July 19, 2013

The Legend of Barash the Buff

      Before recorded history, great barbarian's roamed a planet where human contact was rare and nature was unkind. One of them, was Barash the Buff  Barbarian (buff as in naked, not strong). The smallest of the Giants, often teased, took upon the shoulders of the largest of giants as compensation. He roamed the land proud and arrogant in his reputation for being a fierce barbarian. He does this, giving no credit or acknowledgement to the key factor the largest giant plays in his reputation. He is so bold in fact, he rides around in nothing but a helmet and rarely even acknowledges that the largest of giants exists. Instead he basks in his delusion, parading his horribly kept body and enraged when anyone even hints that he wouldn't be great with out the giant.

("FEAR BARASH THE BARBARIAN!" - "...and the largest of giants?" - "NO! ONLY BARASH!")

     This story comes from two places. The first being a fellow Columbia Alumn was looking for me to contribute to his barbarian sketchbook. This lead to conjuring up some characters in a realm I usually don't think about. The idea of using that space to create narratives about perception versus reality and delusion whether personal or public, proved to be intriguing. So I jotted down an idea for a character outside of this one. It will probably won't be until next year before I start seriously writing anything, but there is a arch I have outlined that shows promise. The character above came about from being in that head space.
(I scrapped the idea of placing him in an environment. I wanted to wrap this one up quickly.)

     There is a quite a bit I could improve here but I need to move on. I could have worked in some more detail to make the mountains and grass feel more connected to the larger giants body. The smaller giant looks a little too floaty as well. If I were to spend more time I would also create a more interesting design to the house around his neck and add a lot more ropes. More ropes that are smaller would help support the scale and also the idea of the larger giants strength. Lesson going forward, work in more visual rhythm, make things feel connected where necessary and support the narrative with detail.

(A quick comparison of the rough linework compared to the final render.)

     I mostly set out to have fun with this one and not worry too much about learning a lesson from it. Inevitably I did, learning to better wield a particular brush as move towards a better balance of line-work and painting. Not there yet, but I am getting close. In the end I like the idea more the my execution. I still need to push for a loose feel to the pose to really sell the movement. I also still have quite a bit of work to do as far as rendering characters from imagination and maintaining perspective. The work still looks overly labored if that make sense. It comes from hesitation and lack of confidence in certain areas. The more I learn the more confident I become and that translates into the brush strokes and ultimately the final image. There was a nice simplicity and flow to the clouds I really liked. I would like to start to work in the feeling into characters. 

      That is all, have a good weekend and what not. In the next couple of weeks I will post some practice routines and references for educational materials I have found particularly helpful.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry V - Two Fers!

Robots and Weapons

      Things are getting very busy so the write ups will be a bit shorter on these. I figure I have done enough of them. This entry goes over a handful of concepts and some sculpts. These particular assignments were a part of significant improvement. 

 (This sheet shows some of the iterations and the wrong directions I took early on. It needed to be bulky but I had more of a lean look to start.)

      One of the characters I worked on was the robot guard for Strykers Island. I stumbled a bit through the process but it marks a moment that was a bit of a break through. After this character I learned enough to build some confidence and push myself to another level of ability.

     (This is the final sheet on my end. This one was challenging at the time, looking back now I realize I made a lot of unnecessary mistakes that prolonged the process.)

      Eventually I got something close to what they wanted. I handed it off to my lead and he made some adjustments and additions to get it exactly the way he wanted. The final version of the unfortunate robot guard can be seen when fighting at Strykers Island. Any super hero is free to steal his gun or even use him as a baseball bat. Poor, poor robot.

(Production sheet showing the different stages of development.)
     This is a giant, organic, alien laser that Senestro summons after lifting you into space and smashing you between two asteroids. It blasts you back down to earth, where you continue to fist fight as you were. Everything about that makes perfect sense. 
     This was a cool prop that got done quickly as I was able to sit down with the Art Director. The lead was out so he sat down and critiqued one on one. Although it is a bit of a complicated form, I really should have knocked out a version in perspective to illustrate how the rib formations wrap around the barrel. It was simply my lack of a ability at the time, in the future I need to step it up.

(This process was fast tracked so there was little iterations. I was given a concept sword from the concept team, this was used to match the style and speed up production.)

     An axes for Ares. He summons these and throws them at you. It needed to look heavy as well as match the concept of the sword done by the full time concept team. It also needed to be done quickly at the time. So there was little iteration. Single blade turned to double and it was good to go.

 Sculpting Heads for Cops and Citizens

     It was a bit unexpected, but I was tasked with rapidly sculpting a number of heads to be used for modular sets of NPC's. The heads would then be passed down the production line to be prepped for in-game use. The idea is that these heads can be mixed and matched with a handful of bodies to help add variety to citizens and cops.

(I repeatedly sculpted the jaw line right into the end of the ear lobe. This is a mistake, sometimes it makes sense, but often it is a softer form that moves under the earlobe.)

     The sculpts could use a lot of improvement. Anatomically there are quite a few things I would have liked to execute better. Particularly in the neck forms, planes of the face around the cheeks, where the jaw meets the ear and the forms of the lips. Basically, when I look at them the lack the "pop" I see when looking at really good sculpts of faces.

(Although there is no law, there are some general guidelines I messed up when sculpting the faces of woman. The neck shape and softness of the features could have been improved to create more feminine features. That said, texturing and finished hair pieces helped mask those issues.)

      One major mishap I take responsibility for is the lack of extra information when passing these heads to the next guy. I should have included the photo reference in order to indicate the intended range for skin tones and hair colors. Also, I pushed the changes in the head meshes a little too far without making note if it. This lead to a lot of issues due to the sculpts being fitted to the same head shape. 
      I made the assumption there was flexibility in that area. Key lesson, don't make assumptions and communicate any information that isn't being shown. The end result was some of the faces not coming out as clean due to the features being adapted to a different head shape. This was a valuable lesson that not only helped individual improvement, but also improved my ability to work with a team.

(There was a total of about 12 heads, 6 of those were cops. The approach for them was more rugged and square jawed. These particular cops needed to look like bad dudes, in a good way.)

     Every one of these heads started with a generic head. I then pushed, pulled and carved it into a more unique face. In a couple of cases I sculpted these heads from imagination, using reference to fix inaccuracies. For most of them I collected photo reference of actors and actresses as requested. I tried looking for lesser known faces at the time. The idea was to use them as inspiration to get ball park likenesses to avoid any issues with directly borrowing a celebrities face. In some cases I got a little closer, but was careful to still change things up.

(The faces were a little tricky as I was going for a look that was a mix of realistic representation and a comic style realized in 3D.)

     The studio and artists created an awesome environment to learn. It was always challenging, but always rewarding to see how everyone's personal contributions came together in the beast that was the final game. I am currently in the middle of updating my main portfolio site, but I hope to post one last entry of the series. In the mean time keep an eye out the return of the Box O Zombies Series. There will be a couple new entries covering animation and a review of production leading up to the release of the first demo.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Protest Concept: Composition and Meaning

 (An attempt to create a piece with a very loose but complete feel. The goal was to establish mood and strong composition over detail. )

     After a week of sorting through news updates regarding protests in Turkey and Brazil, inspiration struck. In those countries there was a great amount of anger of increase in transportation fees, poorly allocated finances, the tearing down of green spaces and the dissatisfaction with their governments. It was curious that with the recent wave of news in the United States, there was a surprising lack of anger or any action here at home.
      This is a bit discouraging and in some ways disturbing. Taking to the streets and letting chaos ensue isn't the answer or even necessary, but it would be encouraging to see some protests. Not just emotional protests, but productive and intelligent ones. The system we have does not need to be uprooted, but it could definitely use some pressure from the people. That said, this piece was just a matter of looking at the images from Turkey and Brazil and wondering what it might look like if that level of anger was expressed in our own cities.

 (This was an attempt to track where I was guiding the eye. After updating I would go back and see if anything was knocked off course.)

  (This is a breakdown keeping track of my movements. I tried to have the organic forms in the smoke pillars moving left, while the city structures move against them.)

(I now have an adjustment layer with the saturation at 0 to switch on and off at any time. This allows better control of the images depth as it progress. Even with  this tool I could have done a better job and clearly defining layers of depth.)

     This also served many learning goals. I tried a lot of new techniques with the piece and although it is a little off target, I was able to push myself to a new level of improvement. The composition for this was a heavy focus, not just with the placement of forms but also their movements. This effort to pay more attention to these elements is helping establish a production process that I can carry onto future pieces. It is a mostly from imagination with reference taken from photos and a mirror for specific elements. Rather than build from reference, I fixed from reference. This is an area I need to improve in if I want to get my work to pop more. Reference is something I should be constantly weaving into imaginative forms.
    After writing this blog I realize there is a lot more I can do to improve the piece and I might make a second pass on it next month. At the moment I am conflicted about whether or not to put a cap on it. 

  (The progress as I chugged along. Once the composition was established I moved a lot of the smaller parts around.)

 (A collection of photos I used for inspiration.)

Go Merica!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Injustice: God's Among Us - Entry IV - Damaging Your Super Heros

     This post covers some work I did on the damage feature of the game.I did not create or concept the characters below, but I was asked to tear chunks out of them and beat them up. This was a major change of pace.
     The damage textures were made by selecting a patch of the mesh and when the character takes enough damage, it swaps out that patch featuring a clean costume with a patch featuring the damaged costume. That is the short and sloppy explanation, there is a lot more in the process, but it would be tedious to go through.
     This whole process was made a bit smoother thanks to 3D artist Keith Beu. He built both Maya and Photoshop plugins that automated a lot of steps. In Photoshop layers of costume, skin, muscle and blood were in place and could be exposed by using masks. The general shape and design of the damage was made by selecting areas with a marquee tool then hitting a button. Then an artist would paint over the near final wound, adding a little more blood and bruise detail. Again, the short and sloppy version of the process.

     A very thin line of metal damage on the outside of the clothe tears enhances the quality of the damage. It is too thin to read as metal but still adds a touch of discoloration and scratching that makes things look a little nastier. It also gives the clothe some weight, making it look like the material is a little heftier than just plain cloth. This was particularly helpful with characters wearing a red suit. It helped define patches but creating some separation between the red of the blood and the red of the suit.

      There was a lot of back and forth during this process. The tools were new and my station did not have engine access. So I would review the work in Maya's HUD then send it to Keith for him to review in engine. Sometime I could stop by his station to look over his shoulder and critique the iteration. This provided a lot of productive collaboration. Discussions lead ways of making the process smoother, improving the quality and I could also pick his brain about the tools he created. It was a sudden shift into more of a Tech art position, but it was a fun challenge.

      I also got a chance to do more exciting damage concepts. I was asked to tear up Luthor for a cinematic sequence. My first passes on the damage focused on dents. burn marks and smaller pieces being broken. I was directed to really push it. The fact was that it was a quick sequence and it needed to have a lot more visual punch. So after some feedback and guidance from the leads, I began to rip the suit to pieces and look for particular parts of the armor that would create a more interesting image when torn off. For example, ripping the robot arm to the forearm exposed the human figures underneath. That little detail really exposes the vulnerability of the character and intensifies the level of destruction delivered to the suit.

      During my time at the studio I learned that painting details is helpful, but providing any further information to help illustrate the idea helps.  In this case I prepped a render that was color coded to show wear the breakable seams and pieces connected. Not sure how helpful the concept was in the end. Turned out the damage to his suit was never clearly shot during the cinematic sequences. So a 3D artist may have used some tricks to translate the damage rather than follow a specific map.

      This is unrelated to damage but just something extra. These were concepts for a little orb Luthor summons during battle. It floats around then eventually shoots a small, annoying laser at you. It does not real damage but does more to throw of timing and frustrate your opponent.
     I wanted to change up my pipeline and take advantage of my 3D capabilities. So I did all these concepts in ZBrush. They are quick renders that were painted over them in Photoshop. I put a good amount of time into the sculpts and although I can't say for sure, I think the concept sculpt was used almost as is for the in game asset. It looks as if it was re-topologized and sent on its' way. Personally I really like P1 and P2. I believe they went with P4.

Anyway, this is the very clumsy end to this entry.