Inspiration for Style
I've been browsing through various 3D content on the internet these last few days, namely some of the other LudumDare 37 entries and various features on SketchFab.
Here's examples of a couple that caught my eye and how I've used them as inspiration for my own experiments.
I was interested in this model not only because of the simplistic black and white style but there was also some trickery going on with the outline around the character. This is something I had always assumed to be attribute of rendering but as I looked closer into the mesh, I noticed each polygon existed twice, layered over one another.
It clicked, the outer material had 2 sided shading turned off, meaning you could only see the inside of the mesh with the original covering up the back faces. I was amazed and had to experiment immediately. Even understanding how the style works, its mesmerising to look at!
Seems to work well, with black at least. Using a white material cast shadows across itself. I also attempted to render in Arnold but the effect didn't work so well. This leaves me wondering if there is a better way to create the effect.
After further thought, I realised this may not work for complex shapes. I tried to apply it to a character but the effect didn't work in so many ways. I tried a complex shape that is much more simple; a torus.
The borderline works on the outside of the shape, just not on the inside as the inside of the shape requires being scaled down rather than up. Only way I can think that may work is to duplicate the object and extrude all faces, this means that the faces will move in a direction relative to itself, creating an even outline. I imagine this will work well for the torus and will require some further experimentation with character objects.
A Voxel based game with a grey-scale colour theme with basic squash & stretch animation coupled with some particle effects. I loved how much mood has been created through such a simple style of environment, character and animation.
This has lead me to consider how I could potentially use Voxels in my squirrel animation and whether or not the style would work with my current story idea. Coming into uni I was set on doing 2D and had created a fairly sizeable database of 2D animation reference. Now understanding a lot more about 3D I can objectively look at other 3D animations in the same way I did 2D. I started to think about other Voxel animations I'd seen and I remembered that there was a huge database of Voxel animation on Youtube; Minecraft. First one that comes to mind is Fallen Kingdom by Captain Sparkles.
The animation in this is not amazing, however, the mood & cinematography of the shots work great to tell a story alongside the music. Whether you like Minecraft as a game or not, it provides a platform to create environments interactively. You can do this solo or with a group of people and is now especially powerful with tools such as WorldEdit & VoxelSniper. Not to mention it comes with a huge audience. Even after the over-saturation of content on the platform, Minecraft still remains to be popular. Minecraft has set a good foundation that artists can build upon in their own way.
Importing Minecraft into Maya
I found that to do this, I needed a program called Mineways. This is a very powerful when it comes to exporting Minecraft worlds into different file types, though we're only currently interested in the ones that work with Maya. Of course, to truely test this out, I wanted to get back into Minecraft and do some building. Hey, I'm not playing games, this is hard work... It didn't take me too long to build a small set, compared to the time it could have taken to Model, UV & Texture a scene.
1:30:00 consolidated into 3:25 minutes. I kept the build short as this was just an experiment.
I created a small animation using some models I'd made previously to see how it would look to use the set. Quite good fun, definitely learned that its much easier to implement that I had expected. Did require some adjustments to each of the object materials as Alpha maps and such weren't automatically applied. Also had to change the texture filtering on each material to get the crisp edges. Some various other visual artefacts, though spending some time fine tuning a scene should be a enough to fix these. This also goes to show that I don't necessarily have to build an entire set if I keep camera angles in mind.