Art Updates

Problems with Expressions


Rose’s face is proving to be a bit more trouble than I originally expected…

Some of her expressions require just a hair more know-how than I currently have, or have the patience for.  For example, I have it so her smile can be cranked up to 200% for a nice, Joker-like grin.  This requires another shape to move the nose up, but I hav no idea how this will mix with other nose shapes.  Her teeth and gums will also need to move, though I’m starting to think it’ll be better if I just don’t push her that far.


One annoying problem comes from her “mouth corner in” shapes – on their own, each of these will move the mouth to either side, along with the nose.  Combined – with the aid of a corrective shape – they form the “pucker” shape.  But when I move the sliders from 0 – 1, her nose shrinks and moves up at 0.5, only to return to normal at 1.  I tried to add another correction to compensate for this, but it only made things worse – now her nose shakes te 0.25 and 0.75.


But by far the biggest headache might be Maya’s expressions.  I’ve never used them much, and definitely not for faces – I’ve always preferrred to use utility nodes.  But I like the idea of only having a few expression nodes, rather than dozens or hundreds of utilities.  Figuring out the code to do the jobs of the utilities is a challenge, but not too difficult.  The real headache comes from Maya inexplicably mixing up my code – expressions that were working find before, and that I haven’t even touched recently, may suddenly drive the wrong shapes, or a control in an expression will be swapped out for another.  This could be a big problem, and I have no idea why it’s even happening.

Those final baby-steps


Aside from shading, Rose is close to being complete – all that’s really left are her eyebrow blendshapes. I’m not very motivated to model them, though, because I’ve lost my kinda taste for pushing and pulling points. Fortunately Zbrush can be much faster, even if I’m not quite used to its interface yet.


Something else I ended up doing out of boredom, was using Rose as a starting point for a new Daisy model. Unlike her old model, this time I made sure to use proper reference drawings –


It’s still rough, but it’s a start.

One From The Archives

Malana1Back in 2007, I was trying to figure out what to do as a follow-up to my Mary-Anne model. I was only just starting to develop stories for Mary, and I hadn’t yet run into any problems with the character, but I needed something to switch off to in the meantime.

At some point, my coworkers convinced me that I should create a video tutorial on creating 3D pinup girls, and maybe sell it to Digital Tutors. At the time, DT didn’t have anything like that, and what they did have used models that lacked appeal. That settled it – I was going to make a tutorial series!

…I was also hilariously in over my head, but I wouldn’t realize that until later.

I don’t remember spending much time on planning or design. What would the character be? French maid? Sexy nurse? Naughty Librarian? No, it should be something different… How about a hula-girl? Sure, why not, voice in my head!

I quickly settled on a design inspired by Chris Sanders’ work, drew up a model sheet, and started modeling, making sure to record video of the entire process. I had to be careful though – often I’ll zone out while I’m working, so for this project I had to stay alert and remind myself to at least mutter some vocal notes into the microphone. The actual instruction would be dubbed in later.

…or it would have, if my microphone had been working more than half the time. Once I was done modeling, I decided to review and attempt to edit the footage. Only half of it had any of my mumbled notes. The rest was dead-silent, and I know longer remembered what thought process was, or what points I intended to make. Unfortunately, this would not be the only time this happened.

Rigging is where the whole thing started to fall apart. I didn’t know nearly as much about rigging as I do now. I barely knew anything. What I did know was learned from other tutorial DVDs, which I was now regurgitating. A tutorial video doesn’t exactly work if half-way through you need to refer your viewers to someone else’s video. The only technique I could truly say was mine, was the character’s breast rig.

Also fairly late in the project, I realized I had no idea what to do about the character’s hair. Realistic hair wasn’t much of an option – Maya’s nHair either didn’t exist yet, or I didn’t have access to it; Shave And A Haircut is a plugin that not everyone would have, and isn’t/wasn’t good at long hair, so why waste time covering it? Solid, sculpted hair didn’t appeal to me. Textured strips are still a technique I haven’t figured out.

So, between the rigging and the hair, I ended up abandoning the project. honestly, if I wasn’t yet at a point where I could figure those things out on my own, then who the hell was I to teach anything to anyone else?

Malana2Looking at the character now, I’m thinking it might be time for me to clean her up and finally finish her, if only so I have a new portfolio piece. Maybe I could even turn around and sell the model online, since I don’t have any other plans for her. I also think it’d be funny to make another attempt at a tutorial video, but only for the breast rig. People would buy it. Or maybe one would buy it, and everyone else would pirate it. :p

The Eyes Have It

I spent most of today setting up the pose sliders for Rose’s eyes, but I’d say the results are worth it –

Yesterday I noted that it is much easier to understand how a rig works by rebuilding it. Something else I learned today, is that a character’s skin solution isn’t set in stone when you start rigging. As you’re setting up the rig, you may find it necessary to add helper joints to assist the deformation. In this case, Rose’s eye corners were sinking into her cheeks when I pull the slider down. Some extra joints help to pull the surrounding areas down, to even things out.

I’ve also added something I think the Malcolm rig was lacking: having the eyes affect the surrounding mesh as they rotate –

One other trick I’m trying out might be overkill – rather than using a wrap deformer to attach the eyebrows, I’m using a series of joints that are constrained to the surface. The main advantage to how I’ve set it up, is I can easily pull the eyebrow away from the surface for a more cartoony effect. I suppose I could have gotten the same effect by applying a cluster to the wrap-deformed brows, but I’m sure this technique may have its uses elsewhere…