Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Crazy golf- building the scene (part 5)

Finally, weeks of planning and preparation have culminated in my scene being fully built and ready to animate. This final 'building the scene' post documents the creation of the remaining two obstacles from my crazy golf plan, namely the gorilla statue and the loop. 

In hindsight, the gorilla was probably not the best idea- purely because it was so difficult to make! Thanks to this difficulty, I was pushed back a day or so from my planned schedule, so will have to catch up somehow. Nevertheless, the results were great, even if I did make a few bad decisions that I will mention in due course. As with all models, I began with a basic polygon primitive (in this case a cylinder) adding a few subdivisions enabling me to create the basic head and torso shape with the move and scale tools.

The next step obviously was to begin adding more detail. The first task for me was to make the basic shape more 'gorilla-like'- i.e. giving the head and torso a very stocky build, defining the muscles and enhancing the overall shape.

Making sure to keep the model low poly for the time being, I moved on to use the interactive split tool to add some more edges to the face area, intending on moving these into position to create the facial features.

From here, I continued to work on the face for some time, a process which proved to be very difficult due to the rather complicated shape necessary. I made use of reference images via Google to ensure accuracy.

Eventually, the face had taken a decent form- but note that, learning from my human head modelling test (here) I knew I was soon to be using the smooth feature. Previously, I had added too many edges, thus the smoothing barely made a difference. To maintain a good balance therefore, I constantly switched between the regular and smooth previews, effectively crafting the model with the smoothed version in mind from the beginning. Using the previews in this way proved invaluable. Here is one such intermittent preview:

Next came the addition of further details gleaned from the wealth of gorilla photographs online, such as a deep groove running down the back, following the animal's spine, and the small ears sitting quite high on the sides of their heads. For the groove, I simply positioned vertices appropriately, whereas the ears began as extruded faces, before having selected edges 'creased' with the crease tool, making sure they kept their form when the model was smoothed. 

With the head and torso complete, I moved on to the (huge) arms, created with basic cylinders separately from the main body. I was unsure for some time as to the best technique for making the limbs, since the gorilla needed to be a single model. My idea was to make the limbs as separate cylinders, giving me ample space to work without having to move carefully around the torso, and later join these to the body using the 'bridge' tool. By selecting two holes with an equal number of sides, it is possible to bridge the gap with polygons. This did mean carefully selecting the faces either side of the torso to delete. The arms themselves were shaped using subdivisions and the ever-useful edge loop tool, the sets of edges being moved into place.

A further benefit to my technique was the ability to duplicate the arm/leg and invert it's scale- eliminating the need to painstakingly create another near-identical model. As you can see below, the hands were basically blocked out using the extrude tool and the basic manipulation tools. There was no need to go into too great detail here since this section of the model will not be seen in my animation.

Below, you can see stages of arm attachment, from the faces being deleted to the gap being bridged. It is possible to select how many divisions you wish the bridge section to have, for which I chose zero to keep the process as simple as possible.

The process was repeated for the other arm, and a lengthy task ensued, in that I had to move the edges and vertices to create the appearance of strong, broad ape shoulders.

At this point, my gorilla was a strange creature missing legs. You can probably guess my next step!

The legs and feet were created in the same manner as the hands with the extrude and movement tools. Note however that I did spend a little extra time defining individual digits for the legs since these will be visible as the golf ball travels underneath the gorilla statue in my animation.

Beneath, you can see the low poly and smoothed versions of my final gorilla model. This is where I made my first big mistake! I was satisfied with the model in its smoothed form, so saved the file without keeping a copy of the low poly version. Not a problem until I was told I had perhaps used a few too many polygons in the smoothing process- so much so that I cannot add a texture to the finished gorilla. Furthermore, I was informed that the model could not be rigged for animation due to it's pose, and also the geometry in places would not have enabled good movement.

All in all, these pointers are useful for me to improve my technique in future, but are thankfully not that relevant to me now! I do not need to animate the model, thus the rigging and geometry are unimportant. My goal was always to create a good looking model, something I feel I have succeeded in. I am a little disappointed I cannot add a texture since I would have liked to use a bump map to represent fur, but since the gorilla is supposed to be a sculpted plastic statue on my golf course, this is not too big a deal-breaker. After all, this is technically my first ever CGI cartoon character!

With a texture out of the question, I decided to add a colour to Maya's default materials. Similarly, I added pupils and irises to the eyes by changing the material and colour properties of select faces.

I am very pleased with the final model, which is by far my smoothest and most polished model yet. It was certainly challenging- and whilst I may have made a few amateur errors in the process, learning of these mistakes will only help me improve in the future. Here are some renders of my gorilla as a part of my crazy golf course, an intimidating threat to any crazy golfer's hole in one!

Moving on to the last object in my scene, the loop was created in a similar manner as the rocky ramp detailed in a previous post here. I began with a helix, which was flattened and modified with the extrude tool to lengthen the ends to be suitable for the ramps.

The main body of the loop began as a cylinder, with several extrudes performed to remove material from where the path needed to go, and also to create the middle section. Overall, the shape of this obstacle was very difficult and required several revisions at a later stage to achieve good topology. 

The ability to set only the selected object to be visible was very useful in allowing me access to the inner edges and vertices of the centre shape. It was necessary to delete some faces where the ramp would otherwise have intersected the base. The fill hole feature was then used to 'patch up' the gaps.

There are two ramps to this obstacle, naturally the entrance and exit. I knew that eventually I would have to make one fit around the other since they overlap, and decided to focus on them one at a time. I extruded the faces to create the entry ramp from the centre island and the side, before shaping these accordingly. Of course, there was the problem of these faces blocking where the tunnel needed to be.

Making use of the selected object view once more, I looked at the shape to determine where material needed to be removed. As said, this was a tricky and complex shape, and it took me a little while to decide the best course of action. Ultimately, a series of edge loops, edge/vertex deletions and use of the difference boolean were my solution.

You can see below the obstacle was beginning to take form, becoming rounder and more consistent. I encountered several issues where a set of edges had useless duplicates (most likely from an extrude that I had forgotten to undo previously), and so I spent considerable time cleaning up the geometry ensuring it was as simple and effective as possible whilst still keeping the desired shape.

The tunnel was created by removing the material of a cuboid from the ramp structure. I then proceeded to edit the shape to be less square with a series of vertices.

With the body shape correct, I was free to delete faces and bridge gaps to ensure the base was a single unbroken object. 

The last task was to use the sculpt geometry tool to give the surface a rocky texture. This also helped smoothen out some of the harder edges.

The final render is below! Note also the change in colour scheme from my initial designs, to match the other stone elements of the course:

This final point is included here since I did not really feel it warranted a new post on its own. I have spoken already about how the golfer will not be seen full-body on screen in my animation, hence why I only constructed the legs. With certain lighting however, it was obvious due to shadow direction and shape that the golfer was not there in whole, something that did break the believability. A good suggestion was made by my tutor recently that I could simply make a very basic outline shape to represent the golfer's upper body, something that would cast a shadow. Taking this advice on-board, I spent a few minutes making a quick body with box shapes, as you can see below- the benefit being that I now have greater freedom to choose my favourite lighting for my scene!

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