Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Technical - Modeling Psychemy

Richard has a series of drawings that I love that are called, collectively, Psychemy. He's had some of these up in art galleries on both coasts and keeps adding new pics into the collection. It's basically a loose series of weird little mis-en-scenes or scenarios. We've talked a bit about working these into short little animations. They're really weird and fun and moody and full of character. Since Ilksville is so cheap and we're working on a slightly longer form piece with a big story(more later), I think any Psychemy stuff will be, instead, about style and execution, really hitting a mood and a look. So anyways I'm slowly getting started working on some pieces for these projects (I have two of these Psychemy shorts in mind right now, this is from one of them).

So anyways this fella is from one pic (I've cropped the rest of the image out so as not to give away any story).
I thought I would just quicky post about starting to model out this character. Any crits comments welcome . . .
Today . . . the head.
So. . . I just started modeling yesterday. I think the idea will be to go pretty realistic and tone it down from there if necessary. So I'll just show some shots of where I am and how I got there.

(click any pic for larger)

So basically, I start with a unit cube and move it 0.5 units in x til the edge lines up with the origin. Then I delete the origin-side face so I have a box with the open side facing the origin. I center the pivot on the origin and then use the poly proxy to duplicate the object and set up vis layers. (Back in the day, I used Connect Poly Shape to do this. It's built into Maya now). So basically I'm modeling the entire head on only one side and the poly proxy ends up duplicating the other side. I can smooth that or leave it rough modeled, hide or show any version of this. All these visibilities are useful depending on the stage. Here's after ten minutes or so of getting the rough shape. It's important to make sure you really pay attention to each vertex you add, moving it to enhance the shape.

Here's with a few more loops added. I'm basically just adding loops at this point and shaping the head each time. You can see for the eyes, I'm starting to add the shape of the loops. I'll have three major sets of edge loops: 2 eyes and the mouth. The nose kind of works off all three. BTW, I'm NOT a great modeler, but I try to make sense of it as I go, so bear with me if you know a better way (and be sure to tell me anything to improve my sh#t). I just added the eyes by cutting (chamfering?) the vertex where the eye will be.

Here's what I was talking ab0ut with the proxy stuff. I often model only on half the face, then periodically look and see what it looks like whole and smoothed. you can see the starts of the loops for the eyes and mouth. There are definitely some problems at this point. The laugh line isn't really right (look in the mirror, it goes up onto your nose) and the mouth loops are a bit wonky. Even on simplified or non-real characters I thinks it's pretty huge to have the topology at least close so the deformations when you animate work well. As I said I'm not a great modeler, but having an idea helps. So I'll usually stop at a point like this and rework some of that stuff, adding edges and deleting them til it works a bit better.

So here's where I've ended up at this point. I've added a few more loops around the eye and ended up turning the chin inwards, making it much "weaker". I've added some really rough ears, too.
At this point I only have half a head. I'll leave it that way til I'm really sure it's right. This character is pretty asymetric so I have a bit of a dilema. The two options are to just create a symetric model, which is much easier to work with and rig (especially if you have any heavy rigging stuff you want to dupe from side to side). Then I'd model the asymetry and use it as "permanent" blend shape later. Or I could just finalize the model and "hard model" in the asymetrical changes. I'll do that for now just for testing. (it took about 5 hours to get to this point.)

Here is the smoothed poly proxy. I'll just copy the scene and get rid of the stuff I don't need. BTW, I save a new version about every 10 minutes. I have about 15 versions of just the head. I've used the autosave version stuff and it's fine, but I don't always trust Maya, so I manually "save as".

I'm not going crazy with this, since I'm going to go back and tweak the ears and a few other things, but I just wanted to do a test to make sure the asymetry worked OK. It pretty much does. I'm back to low-poly merged version (acutally an older version, sorry) and I pretty much just used some soft mods (about 10) and pulled points. A couple of quick tweaks to line up some verts and this is what I got. Not quite there, but close enough for now. (some loops need some work, but I'll redo all this later)

Here's a smoother version. Obviously I'll have to make some changes. There's still way too much symetry and things a bit too "normal". I like to pull out renders (or screencaps) to look at stuff so I can judge things as from the third person perspective. I'll make notes and go back later and make things works better.

So aside from adding an inside of the mouth/teeth and "lumping" things up generally, here are some things I'll change when I get a chance to go back to the model. Having worked with Richard's illustrations before I know that I always have to go back and add in "quirkiness" later. The model might look fine (or might not), but it needs to match his mood, which is really unique and great, so I think it's worth the time to pull around a few pixels to get it right.

Hopefully, I'll have some time soon to go back and polish this up. I think the body should be pretty easy, so I should do that in a day or two also and post it when I'm done. I'm still trying to figure out whether to go nuts with the hair and clothes, or keep it easy. We'll see.