Thursday, 23 March 2017

Character Sketches & Renders


I've been doing various sketches of the character to get a feel for the kinds of poses I think she may make, capturing a sense of gesture and personality.


Renders of Poses

I've been doing some further experimentation with posing my rig and I thought I'd also throw in some scenery, lighting, materials as general practice and see how it works with the character.

This render is intended to be part of an illustrative piece. Using Photoshop and compositing to complete the scene. The girl will be walking through the snow. I also used a noise bump map on the body and used separate materials to add different texture to the skin and eyes. Definitely like how this changes the model and may utilize this in a Specular, Diffuse & Bump map for the character. Though main focus currently will be getting the animation done as I can update the character textures at any point before rendering.

Wanted to do something that utilized the IK feet and arm settings in an interesting way. So I created this Spiderman-like pose. Pretty fun. First started with trying to use Hardware renderer and then moved on to Arnold.


And of course. When posting this to Instagram I looked at various filters. Really like some of the effects that I could potentially get from post processing my renders. Will be something to consider when doing my final animation.

Final Poster

With playing with Arnold I had the idea to create a mirror. I put the character in front of the mirror to see how well it works, how it looks etc. it then got me thinking, what would my character do if they were looking in a mirror? So I did some posing.

Sketchfab Preview
Wanted to try SketchFab's animation function so I created an animation and uploaded it to SketchFab to embed here. Baked the animation and exported as FBX, did some final adjustments in the SketchFab settings.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Character Rigging Process part 2/2

Pre Paint Weights Posing

Rigging Part 1/2

Pretty much calling the rig done at this point and moving onto UVs. UV unwrapping is a nice challenge sometimes, oddly enjoyably tedious. However, quite annoying when unwrapping AFTER skinning. Oops. Did this once before and it worked fine after deleting non-deformer history. Pretty sure that only worked because I was unwrapping in the bind pose, having set up the rig and going through... Rigorous changes and iterations, the bind pose had been lost, even whilst all controls zero out. So from here, I found the best course of action to unbind the skin, do the UV's and rebind. Pretty simple.

Starting my UV's, not really going too well with the unfold, ran into trouble with non-manifold geometry, even when unwrapping sections that aren't non-manifold. This is when I was introduced to Bonus Tools, pretty nice little tool, adds both general and specific functionality to Maya. Definitely something I am enjoying using. But this tool adds some deliciously beautiful tools for UV unwrapping. Made the entire process so much easier, quicker and produces UV's at a higher standard than I was before.

Time to rebind the skin. Ah, well, no. Wasn't too concerned about the weights and the hands being fairly close together in the new unbound position, but I did hit trouble with Bind pose as the joints had a bind pose saved, but of course all the controls were pulling the rig out of this pose. I simply saved a new bind pose over the original and I was able to rebind the skin. In Hindsight I am wondering if resetting the bind pose may have alleviated my troubles with the delete non-deformer history breaking UV's.

Finally back on track. starting to paint weights until I come across another problem. Due to my rig being changed a lot. I then his some troubles with mirroring the skin weights. Somewhat annoying, but luckily I was able to change the mirror settings and all is good.

Having this done, I jumped in and blocked in some colours, colour picking from the original illustration as a base. Suddenly my character has much more life. I also fit in a little reference image into a gap in my UV's, because why not.

Despite all of these troubles I've really enjoyed navigating through problems. Furthering my understanding of problem solving in Maya and finding out a good sense of what order I'd want to approach a similar character in future. Eagerness to animate my character before UV unwrapping, not the best approach. Glad I've discovered Bonus Tools, really beneficial to my workflow.


Fit all my objects into the same UV space and opted to use a 4096x4096 texture as its easier to scale down than it is to scale up.

Took the character in and did another animation test. See how things are holding up. Doing good.

Just been doing some final clean up on the file making sure everything is pretty much named and organised. Looked into further functionality, but being mostly done it'd be difficult to go back and add further functionality at this point. Calling most of this here.

During clean up I noticed some random keys in my graph editor so I deleted them. Then my set driven key broke and I re-did them. I accidentally did this a couple times in different instances before I realised that I was deleting my set driven key.

Even when I think I am done. I find something else to do. Nothing too complex, just further clean up and colour coding some of my controls, which I find makes the rig look much more professional and the controls are now feel easier to deal with.

Full Rig Overview

Notice some misuse of Terminology, but I guess that's what I get for doing a single take.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Visual Journey 005 Creature Feature

Song Choice

Wanted to find a song I both enjoyed and also had some interesting sounds to create visuals too. I listened through a number of my different playlists to find songs that I liked the sound of. Some songs sounded great and worked well, but depending on my mood, sometimes I just didn't quite feel the sounds in the song. Leading to mostly a visual representation of my frustration with the music at these times.

One evening it clicked and I remembered an album by The Blue Man group that I hadn't listen to in a while that I knew had some interesting music. This lead me to choose Creature Feature as my song for the project.

What is nice about their music is that it often comes across as experimental. Meaning there's a lot to work with in regards to sounds and shapes.

Listening to the music I started looking for shapes and colours and experimented with different brushes in Photoshop.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Character Rigging Process part 1/2

Rigging Part 1 / 2
This is a difficult one to document as my rig has undergone MANY iterations, improvements and struggles throughout. I'll piece things together as best I can with a final demonstration of the rig.


First started by creating a simple rig setup with a IK arms, Spline-IK spine, Reverse foot lock and Eyeball aim constraints.When modelling the face I kept in mind that I may want to try and use blendshapes. So I created some blendshapes to see how well this works.

Was genuinely suprised at how simple this process was to get some basic facial movement. Of course would definitely benefit from having more blendshapes or advanced controls, but the general premise seems pretty simple so far.

 I did some animation tests with the rig in current state to see how it handles. added a set driven key to drive a closed and open hand position.

Because of the limited functionality I had on the hands I made the hand open and close perhaps too extreme in the animation. From this point I decided I wasn't super happy with animating using IK arms and wanted more hand functionality. I knew IK-FK arm switches were possible so I gave this a shot. I also hadn't rigged the scarf at this point. I also wanted to go in and add more hand controls. Did some analysis of my own hand movements to see what I might want to be able to control.

Few things I noticed:
A: My fingers can only really rotate on 2 axis. Unable to twist them.
B: I can move my knuckles independently and keep my fingers straight.
C: The 2 tip joints of my fingers are difficult to curl independently from each other.
D: C is overridden and finger tips can be kept straight if knuckles are curled in.

So, using this I decided I wanted a control for the knuckles and I used a set driven key for the curl on the tips of my fingers, as I will curl them together. There are very few poses that I may not be able to achieve. but easily replaced by similar poses.

Revised some changes and did again another animation test. This time looking at reference video from YouTube to see how I could make the character skip. Though the general concept of using reference seemed pretty simple, it was an interesting challenge to breakdown the movements into poses I could use.

I also did some tests with the FK arms using Breaking of Joints. To see how well it may work. Actually pretty happy with how this looks.

Will continue this in part 2.

Character Modelling Process

Reference Illustration


The first thing I did when approaching this character was create myself some references sketches I could take into Maya.

Using Photoshop, I refined these and gave myself some extra information for modelling.

I wanted to push myself when creating this character so I decided to follow some modelling tutorials on Pluralsight to get the general idea of the process I might want to use creating the character.
Finding some useful tips on how to work with a smooth mesh workflow which has inadvertently been useful for regular modelling also. taking into account minor adjustments to the mesh when adding new topology.


Pretty happy with how this has turned out given it being a first attempt at different modelling techniques.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Photoshop Painting 002

What does sound Look Like?

A question I've been asking myself a lot over the past few weeks. Visualisation of sound is a curious subject as visuals themselves don't often correlate to music while music can often be interpreted as visuals. My thoughts are due to the strong reliance that people have on their visuals. Perhaps sound from imagery is an aspect that goes unnoticed. If I look at an image, nothing abstract, perhaps a picture of an animal. My thoughts associate the image to the sound of the animal, even without noticing. The same can be said about character design. often times we associate an accent. This concept does however seem much more complex when dealing with abstract forms and colour.

Something I did to test this theory was to watch various videos. Putting some on mute while watching. The experience feels empty, hard to understand with a lack of audio. However. reversing the experiment, listening to the video without visuals, a whole different experience, I am able to visualise. This may only apply to me personally, but I found this interesting. Similar to reading a book, emulating visuals is much easier than sound.

For this experiment I chose a plethora of different songs and genres from my playlist and started messing about with different Photoshop brushes. Gives me a nice natural intuitive interpretation of the piece that I can later look back on and question why I chose those colours and shapes. Which I can then later use consciously to create similar effects. At least, that's the plan anyway.

I've been creating these to show some of my digital painting process. This is not only good for looking back at my own work but works nicely particularly for these pieces as I have been able to overlay the music to their respective parts of the time-lapse.

Links to Music
  1. Vi, the Piltover Enforcer
  2. The Stupid The Proud
  3. Dog of Wisdom
  4. Straight to Video
  5. Courtsey
  6. Warriors
  7. Akbar
  8. Project Earth
  9. Earth Sleeps

Photoshop Painting 001

Introduction To Photoshop

Started out using Photoshop with some basic painting and experimentation with different brushes.

Master Studies

Recreating great artists work to understand their process, composition, use of colour and value.

I took some of my Master studies to one side and adjusted saturation and hue. This works nicely on my colour studies as increasing the saturating brings out the major differences in the colours while reducing the saturation allows me to see how close I am with value, even whilst the colours may be incorrect.

Still Life

Painting Objects on my Desk. Felt like this didn't go so well. May revisit at a later date.

Timelapse: Master Studies & Still Life


Feel as though my thumbnails could have been better if I did them in photoshop. Something I'll keep in mind. However, doing the pencil thumbnails was nice to take a break from constantly using software.


Film Studies

For this I decided to look into Wreck it Ralph as I felt it tied nicely into the use of colour to create taste with a large portion of the film being set in a candy land. Scrubbing through the film I found a lot of interesting compositions that I'd otherwise not have noticed, especially the use of colour to create drama and mood.

Thumbnail Refinement

Did some refined thumbnails based on some of these smaller thumbnails. Perhaps didn't go as planned as I found myself creating new compositions during this phase. Which is why I should have perhaps done more thumbnails digitally.

Did some gradient mapping to see how it worked. though I am still unhappy with these pieces. They feel flat and uninspired. Not to mention the value range seems a bit uncontrolled.

This is when I started to do more experimentation and thumb nailing. Having a somewhat of a flipflop between paintings I am happy with and ones that just look awful.

Colour Keys

Further using Gradient Maps, I created a number of colour keys and I also saved my gradients to build a small gradient library that I've noticed myself clicking through to see what might work on some of my paintings. Of course, they usually need some minor tweaks.


Colour Keying becomes a lot of fun when applied to paintings I am happy with.

Timelapse: Film Studies and Paintings & Colour Keys