And Now for Something Completely Different…

Alright, so the whole “One Post Per Week Minimum” thing kinda crapped out there for a few months. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back into the swing of that though. I actually had a productive night after one of my long work days, so that’s an improvement too.

And, as the title of this post implies, I’m trying something new. It’s no secret I’ve had a bit of a problem keeping myself interested in the last couple… everything… I’ve started lately. What may actually be a bit of a secret though, is what I’m thinking might be part of the cause for that:

The Game Art program at Ringling, at least when I was there, was heavily focused on creating Environment Artists as a complement to their character-focused animation major. Had I been more canny in college, I might have noticed this disparity, noticed the way my interests leaned more towards creatures and characters than towards environments. I might have noticed that, left to my own devices, environments are not the things that I wanted to fill my sketchbook with. Had I been more canny, I might have done something with this knowledge.

Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am if I were more canny in college, so I kept plodding along, trying to force myself to like environments enough put the time and effort into being able to create professional environments rather than figuring out how to add what I wanted to learn to what we were “supposed to be” learning. But now, going on three years out of college and without having added more than one new piece to my portfolio, I’m starting to think that “not working hard enough” isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing wrong.

To that end, I’m going to take a stab at changing paths, and if I’m wrong, well, hopefully the “At Least One Post a Week” thing will stick better this time so that all the business about probably not being destined to be an environment artist gets buried by the time I come crawling back to environment art.

I’ve started attending Open Figure studios at our local art college. This is something I’ve missed. Just drawing from observation feels so good, even when you’re insanely rusty because it’s been over 3 years since you’ve done it…

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And I recently found the needlessly well-hidden free membership option at 3d.sk (seriously, you have to be on the verge of trying to see if anyone’s uploaded their stuff to thepiratebay before they’re like “Wait! Wait! We’ve actually got a free account you can use!”) to start getting image planes and figuring out how to model and sculpt the human form.

20140214_libusaBaseMeshStart of a base mesh after a couple hours tonight. I was working from this tutorial to hopefully get something approximating good topology, though, I’m a little surprised at how many N-gons are just sort of left in a very highly regarded tutorial. Will have to figure out how to clean those up before moving on…

Holiday Update

Okay, by no means was I supposed to get so little 3D done this month, nor do I really think I’m getting away with anything here (except that, I’ve apparently got two readers at this moment, so, it’s not like I’ve got a huge audience to disappoint). Whatever, December’s been busier than I anticipated, and lazier too. I’ll figure out something enjoyable to work on soon.

In the meantime, I spent all day today in the kitchen rather than at my computer. I think I’m probably winning Christmas. Best one-size-fits-all gift in my family, I suspect. My siblings and cousins are each getting a package of spiedini:

spiedini01Deliciousness in its purest form. Fresh beef ( I’ve heard of doing it with other meats, like chicken, or swordfish, but I’ve only ever eaten or made beef. Maybe next time…), sliced suuuuuper thin, and covered in olive oil, cheese, and seasoned bread crumbs. So far as I know, no one in my family, outside of my second-cousin at whose deli I learned to make this knows how to make it. This is only my third time ever making spiedini, but I think all the practice I got today counts for a couple times.

spiedini02This is less than half of the final product. Six pounds of meat netted me eleven of these skewers, with 8-10 pieces per skewer. That meant I could easily give each of the people on my list two skewers and still cook up one for dinner tonight to make sure it was as good as ever.

spiedini03Lest you think that 3D is the only department where I’m kinda sloppy about final presentation. Also, I hate my phone’s camera almost as badly as the Static Mesh Editor for making things look less good than they actually are.

For everyone who wants to play along at home:

Apologies about my lack of precise measurements. I almost never measure when cooking; I go for what looks like a big enough pile, or what smells like enough of a given seasoning and add more as needed. It’s worked out so far, though I know I could never take that attitude to any sort of baked good…

Ingredients:

  • Beef (I’m pretty sure I got top round) sliced thin. Definitely, get the slicing done at the butcher’s. If you have to slice and pound the meat to get it flat enough, you’re going to be sore and frustrated before you even get to the fun part. Just over 1 pound of meat will get you two skewers of 8-10 pieces, if it’s sliced as thin as mine was. (It worked out to about 1.2 lbs of meat per two-skewer package this time. The last time, when I was pounding out my own beef, because I couldn’t get it as thin, 1.5 lbs got me about the same number of pieces)
  • Bread crumbs.
  • A dry Italian cheese, finely grated. I used Asiago this time, but Parmesan, Romano, anything like that will work. If you’re not making enough that grating your own cheese sounds utterly insane, grate the cheese fresh. It’ll taste better that way. Don’t use the stuff in a can, not just for this, but ever.
  • Herbs and seasonings. Dried basil, oregano, and garlic powder is what I had available, so I used that. I’ve seen recipes that also include things like pine nuts and raisins and, though my Sicilian culinary background probably has an easier time with that than I expect most do, I’ve yet to try making them any other way than plain.
  • Olive Oil. Don’t tell anyone, but I cheaped out and didn’t buy Extra Virgin. I’m a little ashamed of that, but it didn’t ruin anything.

Instructions:

  1. Mix bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs and spices in a large, shallow bowl or plate.
  2. Fill a smaller bowl or plate with a little bit of olive oil. I found it’s easier to have a very shallow pool of oil and refill it frequently than to go really full and have every slice of meat just drenched in the stuff.
  3. Dip a slice of meat in the oil, then in the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides thoroughly with both.
  4. Move the meat to a cutting board or other clean working surface, and roll it up tightly.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with each slice of meat, setting the finished rolls very close to each other so they can’t unroll. Alternatively, you may wish to skewer each roll as you make it, but I like to use two skewers to make it easier to turn them while cooking, and it’s a lot easier to pass one skewer at a time through all the pieces of spiedini than it is to push two skewers through one piece of spiedini at a time.
  6. Cook, either in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil, or on a grill or in the broiler after brushing spiedini with olive oil. Regardless of your cooking method, they only need about 3-5 minutes a side.
  7. Serve with long pasta (e.g. spaghetti or linguine), tomato sauce, and crusty Italian bread.

Hopefully we’ll be back to 3D before too long. The design of this website really doesn’t lend itself to too many more cooking episodes…

 

 

 

Chair Rematch

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Okay, I really really do need to work on anything but this for a while. Two consecutive months on one prop is pushing it. Any more will almost certainly drive me crazy. But I couldn’t leave it at where I had left it with the Sick of Looking at it post. So, as a promise to redo it later, I went back and rebuilt parts of the Low-Poly and decided to be slightly less miserly with my tri-count. Before I was kind of wrecking the silhouette to shave out tris, which seems like a bad practice…

Chair Update: Sick of Looking at It

This is probably going to reflect poorly on me, but I’ve been on this for over 2 months; I’m sick of it. If I don’t work on anything else, I feel like I’m liable to stumble back into that terrible phase where I went a year between updates, and nearly as long without working on 3D. It may be a far cry from “hitting the visual target”, but it’s also a far cry from where I was back in September. I’ll mark it up as kinda a win that I’m no longer flailing about quite so hopelessly whenever I have to open a sculpting package or a texture file.

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Alright, now. If all goes according to plan, this time next week will see my first progress from Polycount’s Monthly Community Noob Challenge for December (they’ve lengthened the titles since the last one of those I participated in. I’m out of breath just typing it…).

Maybe I’ll redo this in a few months to test how much more I’ve improved, but at this point, I know I’m not improving without restarting, and that’s the last thing I want to do right now.

 

Technical Difficulties

I really do hate my tendency to make excuses (and I really would rather be done with the chair than dragging it out any longer than needed), but this has been a week of just about everything going wrong that possibly can, so I think this time it’s warranted (all the other times, less so). My Maya license expired on me in spite of me taking the exact actions suggested by their built-in authenticator. My tablet seems to think it’s a funny game to just sort of go narcoleptic if I let my stylus get more than, like half a foot from it, and my computer has been running extremely loud just about all week in spite of a thorough cleaning.

So, if I don’t make my self-imposed Wednesday posting deadline, or if I make it in a less spectacular fashion than I’d hoped, that’s what’s up.

Thursday Night Update:

And, for no apparent reason, UDK refuses to launch tonight, and I really don’t have much time to troubleshoot it right now on account of needing to be at work early and all day tomorrow. So, I guess the bake and my WIP textures aren’t getting thrown into this update. Not much point making a separate post when all I’ve got, then, is the one screenshot from Mudbox then.

chairRound3_sculpt_20131119Alright, hopefully I can get the UDK shenanigans sorted out, and hopefully, I’ll only need to have reinstalled one program in the week of technical difficulties…

 

Chair Update Sculpt Round 3 WIP

Well, this isn’t where I planned to be 4 days later, but, computer and website freakouts last night, sudden plans tonight, and a disinterest in sculpting on my birthday (so I UV-ed instead? Well, Happy Birthday to me…) left me here so far. Eh, new habits take time, and Wednesday is still theoretically, a better day for the week’s absolute posting deadline habit to fall given my current schedule.

chairRound2_UV_20131111 chairRound3_sculptWIP_20131113

Sculpt, not even close to finished. Will edit with more details later.

Okay, so, unexpected plans unexpectedly aborted, but not before losing 4 hours of my night, and now that I’m back, computer is chugging and making scary noises again. I did manage, however, to get a little bit further along in the sculpt, though, not without smoothing it down and restarting another two or three times (which, along with going back and changing the base mesh at least once) is a big part of why there hasn’t apparently been a whole lot accomplished here yet. I’m steadily getting closer to getting those dimples in approximately the right spots, though hitting that sweet spot between “noticeable valleys between the dimples” and “accurately subtle valleys between the dimples” is still giving me a Hell of a time.

chairRound3_sculptWIP_20131113_02

We’ll see where this goes over the next week, but for now, time to back up and blow all the dust out of my computer and see if that helps with the noise…

Chair Round 2 Quick Update

Just a short update tonight, for a number of reasons.

  1. My computer is running noisily enough that I’m concerned for its safety if I keep making it hang out in Maya with subdivided-thrice models from Mudbox.
  2. I’m thinking posting on Saturday isn’t all that great with my current work schedule, coming as it does after my two longest days of the week at my day job. It’s a good recipe for procrastination, so I’m going to try to make Wednesday my posting deadline (though I’ll need some White-out for my calendar…) and hopefully force myself to better use all the time I’ve got available in the early part of the week.
  3. I’m probably going to give the sculpt at least one more go, since it’s been recommended, but that wasn’t something I really wanted to start on after two long days at work. That’ll be up on Wednesday

chairRound2_HiLoCompare_20131109_01 chairRound2_HiLoCompare_20131109_02

Alright, so, knocked it down to 1,166 Tris so far, beating Round 1 by over 100 Tris. I don’t expect there will be any drastic changes to the silhouette when I update the sculpt, so I feel pretty confident the Low-poly cushions aren’t going to change, and the frame isn’t getting touched again anytime soon.

Chair: Round 2 FIGHT!

Alright, as promised, only a day behind schedule, we’re back to work on the chair and this time, I’m gonna get it, if not right, then not so glaringly wrong as before. Now I’m as into the swing of things as I’ve ever been, the tricks that I figured out with Mudbox and Spec Power maps are fresh in my mind, and now I can go about shooting for accuracy rather than wrestling with the software.

chairRound2_HI_20131103

So, here we are. Remodeled the base pretty much from scratch. I kept the casters and the seat frame since all they needed were some tweaks to their proportions and positions from the original version but were otherwise pretty accurate.

chairRound2_sculpt_20131103

Sculpting is where things kinda got fun. I mayhaps shouldn’t have just started over from the base mesh I sculpted on before, if for no other reason than that I forgot until I brought it back into Maya that they were exported at a time when the frame was in a very different position, and stuff just plain doesn’t line up (most notably the indent in the backrest cushion caused by the armrests wound up too high, and the seat and backrest don’t quite line up right in Maya either). However, I’ve definitely managed at least a 100% fluffiness increase over the previous version of the sculpt. Probably going to require a bit of bouncing around between Maya and Mudbox next session to get everything lined up properly.

 

Usual [at-least] Weekly Update

Has to be delayed, on account of this throbbing pain behind my eyes  that’s been bugging me all day and kept me from my plans to steal away every chance I got in between visiting with family from out of town to try and finish up my new and improved sculpt of the chair. I was considering screengrabbing where I’m at and suffering through making a post with a bunch of caveats about what’s left, but I figure, instead, I’ll just finish up tomorrow (mystery headaches permitting) and make my weekly update just a day late, covering the whole redo, through High-Poly and sculpting.

Chair Update: K.O.

(If I follow the anonymous advice I was just given, that title will probably make more sense next week…)

chair_tex_20131026

chair_textures_20131026

Nailed it. And by it, I mean the technical difficulties I was having with my spec power, that I didn’t make a big enough deal about for anyone to know about because they fell in the middle of the week when I didn’t really have anything to show except technical difficulties. Apparently, UDK wants a Specular Power value far in excess of 1, and, when I plugged in just the grayscale map, I was giving it values somewhere between 0 and 1.

I couldn’t figure out why I was generating these jagged highlights that just basically looked like they were using the Spec map for diffuse (and I kinda wish I had screengrabbed them, just because it was a cool effect, even if it was tear-your-hair-out frustrating when I couldn’t figure it out). After enough looking at UDK’s own materials (not immediately helpful because I didn’t see a single Spec Power map) and trying to track down explanations of how Spec Power worked, I eventually noticed the trend that all the ones I was seeing were somewhere between 10 and 100. So, once I figured out that I needed to think of my grays as numerical values (0.2, 0.8 etc.), and suddenly the Multiply node made perfect sense! I wasn’t looking at a pure white map. I was looking at a bunch of splotches of 10-times-whiter-than-white, 40-times-whiter-than-white, and so on (shut up. This is a big realization for me). And then I had myself some metal getting tight highlights, just like I wanted, some polished wood getting almost-as-tight highlights, and some cloth and leather getting much softer highlights.

So, done, right?

Ehh… much as I’d like to be, probably not. Of course, it would happen while I’m high on the sensation of finally getting it right and hitting up my blog for the first time in a week, ready to post the “I’m done. Moving on to something more fun,” post, I see a critical comment making the dreaded “You should probably start over” suggestion. And this one has the gall to be straight, to the point, and not feel like the author is going out of his or her way to insult me, my education, and all those other anonymous things that Anonymous said so anonymously whenever the Hell that was (Last year? Longer? Blog time is so far removed from real time the way I’ve used this blog over the years).

And yeah, my sculpt didn’t exactly turn out great. I was so psyched to just have Mudbox doing what I wanted it to that I settled for not making sure I was using that awesome power to attempt to create an accurate simulacrum of what I was looking at. I spent so much time frakking around trying to just get my Spec and Spec power to behave that I’m sure I let the textures suffer in other areas, and I know there’s some proportions that are all wrong (the feet are too wide, for one) that have been bugging me ever since I erroneously called the model “done”. I think I may have to actually take the advice this time. I mean, I did say I was going to stick around until I got it right (wait… I only thought I said that? I could’ve said “to Hell with this” any time, but didn’t? Ah crap, well, I’m saying it now. No sense rushing it and being able to proudly declare I spent more than a month modeling a simple prop, but not doing it very well), and I don’t know what “fun thing” I was going to do after this, so I might as well say that this time, I’ll bite the bullet, go back to square 1-ish, and make a better product this time around, closer to my reference, and with a Hell of a lot less procrastination and a little bit more knowing-what-the-Hell-I’m-doing. Maybe I’ll even go completely mad and say that I’ll put some time into lighting that actually shows off the asset and putting it in a room that kinda makes sense instead of just a mishmash of Unreal materials.

After all, I might as well at least try to please my one apparent reader…