Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Modelling the 'Bug Alien'

I began this particular process by producing a turnaround image. Based on my modelling skills, I kept the main body organic and simple as appose to layering up armour parts. I then included the 'mosquito' helmet design from my earlier development:

I felt this was good practice in the area of concept art, my main interest within the game industry. I used guides within photoshop to accurately line up features making the image mostly accurate and precise. One thing I did get wrong was the positioning of the eyes. The side view image shows the eyes on the side of the head suggesting split vision like a for example a bird. The eyes on the front view are facing forwards suggesting they are composed like a human's. When modelling I went for the side reference for the eyes as the alien is depicted standing sideways on in my final shot concept piece. One more problem is that the helmet could be seen as a way of avoiding the use of blend shapes. It is true that I animation is an area out of my comfort zone, although I will hopeful find a way to include blend shapes elsewhere (possibly within my organic environment).

As has happened to me previously, my first attempt attempt at modelling went wrong. After setting up my image planes I decided I wanted to start modelling from the head and work my way down the rest of the body:

Although the head itself wasn't too bad, I felt I had already accumulated too many faces at the base of the neck, meaning extruding down to create the rest of the body would have involved lots of painstaking vertex shifting to get accurate results. This is a lesson I should have perhaps learnt from my last module when modelling a spaceship. Again I began by working detail into a small area making extruding from that point very confusing due to the number of faces. Although I am aware some modellers like to began by modelling the head/face, I decided it made more sense for me to start by blocking out the body before confusing myself with edge loops and vertices:

From this approach I was still able to successfully model the helmet. I feel that my understanding of edge flow is gradually improving. My model consists of only edge loops and no stray vertices. There are some five sided shapes (usually avoided) around the calf muscles and the hips to bring out the exaggerated features from my designs.

I displayed this un-smoothed as it clearly shows the arguably unorthodox vertices. When smoothed however, these exaggerated features fit the geometry nicely. One area of the geometry I aren't too happy with is where the legs meet the groin. Below is the tidy looking un-smoothed results, compared with the stretched smoothed results:

As you can see, the edge flow around the groin is extremely ugly. There was some brief experimentation to try and solve the problem, but I couldn't seem to remove the harsh transition between the groin flowing into the inside of the leg. Realistically, my alien characters in the final shot will be stationary, and I feel that only if I wanted to include a walk cycle would the groin be a major problem. Also the creature will be in a low lit cave quite a distance away from the camera. This means the groin will most likely be in shadow. This groin edge flow however, is definitely something to keep in mind when modelling in the future.

I will also talk briefly on producing the UV texture for this model. This is one area I am beginning to feel comfortable in. I began by taking a front view planar projection of the entire model. Then using the 'Cut UV edges' tool, I separated features such as the arms and various parts of the legs away from the main geometry. This was most useful as the three-jointed legs overlaped making unfolding very awkard. I seperated the three separate sections of the leg, unfolded them separately and then sewed the correct UV edges back together. I always tried to hide the seams in places out of view where possible, as this is the place where the textures are most likely not going to be seamless. The using a special coloured grid texture, I tried to tidy up the UV map so that all the squares of the grid were un-stretched and flowing nicely around the geometry. I didn't spent too long on this as again, the creature will be in the distance and it is an organic model so arguably there is room for subtle stretching. As soon as the grid looked relatively tidy over the geometry I took a UV snapshot over to Photoshop:

In photoshop I was able to experiment with some custom brushes I had downloaded from an artist called Nagel. He created a great creature skin selection, of which one of the scales brushed was very effective. The tessellated nature of the scales meant that they reflecting the mathematical beehive structure informing some of my concept work. I added a simple bump map and applied the textures to a new custom 'Blinn' in the Hypershade menu in Maya. This shiny specular texture gave a wet slimy finish to my putrid insect-like alien. Bellow is the completed UV texture map:

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