Crane Arm Progress

In response to a posting I made offering my services as a freelance artist, I was sent an art test by a studio who requested I not name them or share the concept art I was given when I post this to my portfolio.

The concept art given was a rough sketch of a robotic crane arm, like you might find in a factory. There were several stipulations about programs and polycounts/texture resolution. However, the most daunting stipulation was that I would have to do the project in 3DS Max, a program I had not previously attempted to use, leaving me three days to learn Max and model and texture a moderately complex prop at game resolution.

After three days of reading tutorials and learning Max by the seat of my pants, I, regrettably, did not finish the test. Max’s interface for UV-editing was simply too drastic a change to wrap my head around in so short a time. Tasks that would have taken mere minutes in Maya, due in no small part to knowing shortcuts, but also because there seems a fundamental difference in the philosophies behind Max and Maya, took two or three times as long.

At the end of the three days, I was left with a middle-resolution model, a Low-res model 1,500 Tris below the minimum polycount, and a reasonably efficient UV layout. I did not, however, have time to troubleshoot my xNormal bake to figure out why xNormal did not seem to have baked to the UV’s as I had laid them out in Max. I also did not manage to sculpt fine detail into a truly high-resolution model.

This project was useful in finally forcing* me to learn a non-Maya 3D program, even if I was unsuccessful (and honestly, 3 days is not a lot of time to wrap your head around a new program. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface after 3 years of Maya). It also opened my eyes to options that I know I have but never use in Maya (e.g. Boolean subtractions. I know those are in there somewhere, but I keep cutting out holes the old fashioned way.) Plus, in spite of the failure, it still demonstrates my adaptability. It may not be a completed project, but not bad for never having done more with Max than downloading it in the past, right? There’s no reason that with a couple more days, I couldn’t have a pretty respectable grasp of Max and a pretty nice-looking robot arm added to my portfolio.

Expect to see more progress on this project soon (as opposed to the other projects I haven’t touched in months, or, in the case of the Deli, haven’t updated the post for in months).I am allowed to continue working on this piece, so long as I continue not naming the studio or showing off their conceptst

First Pass textures on the arm. I figured out my baking error (for some reason I had been trying to bake off a version with outdated UV’s. Next step is getting re-acquainted with Zbrush and sculpting up the Higher Resolution detail. Then putting the finishing touches on the textures. Also need to go back in and fix some of the smoothing groups.

Textural reference. Looking into some beat-up chipped paint, and I really like that coating of dust on the top two images. The little bump pattern  on #3 is also very nice. Need to figure out some labels, safety warnings, etc.

Arm with 2nd pass textures. After some experimentation, I’ve come to the conclusion that Zbrush is rather fickle when I attempt to open it up just to stamp in some paint-chipping and scratching detail and that it will probably be easier for the sake of just getting this project over with and moving onto projects I’m still interested in to just deal with painting the texture in in Photoshop. Now, I just need to refine the technique. Also, add in some labels and figure out that caked in dust from the reference images.

Arm after a label, dust, and spec pass (spec is the alpha channel of the Diffuse Map). I’m currently regretting leaving the nuts and bolts as textural detail as they’re very flat right now. I know this may reflect poorly on me, but I’ve lost all interest in this project so I’m calling it done, probably a large part of why it took me so long to force myself to even get to this point. It was a good learning project, considering that I gained a passing knowledge of 3DS Max in a mere 3 days. I may return to it in the future, but for now, I have only 7 days left with Photoshop access, and I want to get as far on the deli textures as possible before I need to figure out a Photoshop alternative.

Things I would fix when I come back to this project:

  • it was pointed out to me that I could have better articulated the “wrist” joint of the arm. It’s just a block in this version, but some more accurate mechanism is in order in the future.
  • I also need to seriously R&D creating materials in UDK. As much as I enjoy texturing (when my computer isn’t chugging while I attempt to texture), I can only ever get so far with textures alone.
  • Also, I could definitely afford to put some of the nuts and bolts on the model itself instead of just in the maps. I was well below the original tri-count limit and I’ve got spare UV space in a couple spots.
  • On the subject of UV’s, the very top of the model somehow wound up slightly overlapping another shell. Of course the overlap isn’t really noticeable because neither chunk of the model is likely to be seen by the player (the very top and the inside of the top chunk, where the big axle sits)

Somewhat amusing aside, the logo on the upper chunk of the arm is the logo of Cyberdyne Systems, whom, I’m told, are currently at work bringing about Judgement Day with their work on Skynet.

*And I do mean forcing, not just in that the prompt stipulated that Max was required, but also that Maya and xNormal were doing everything in their power to keep me honest, from refusing to import the .objs that I exported from Max to simply baking normals and AO that didn’t correspond to the UV’s on over half the model. These programs are to be commended for their overbearing commitment to my not cheating on this art test.

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