Mar 23, 2009

3D Dinosaur Make Overs

It is a long week... Yippee.

So in addition to the normal weekend stuff I had to do (food shopping mostly... which takes forever in this town for some reason!), I had time for some major 3Ding.

Which is good, as there is a BIG 3D event on the horizon over at The Tyrannosaur Chronicles.

Due to my mega Dino construction project over the "summer" (known in North of America as winter ;P ) I didn't have many new things to build in preparation of next week's excitement, but I had a few other issues.

A big one of these, which can be tedious and annoying, was shading. Colouring a 3D Dinosaur is NOT fun. It can take up to 8 hours if it doesn't jive, and the Dinosaur is kind of useless till it has colour. The good news was I only had one colour scheme to tackle, and thankfully I nailed it on my first test pattern. Love it when that happens (not often!).

So that left me with two remaining issues. Tweaking the older models I was going to be using, and solving my overall posing problems.

As I was reactivating some 3D models made in the immediate post-proto Larry era, they had some problems (as most of my models do somewhere or another). As I'm on a big kick to up my models scientific accuracy (why I set such lofty goals is beyond me!), these 1+ year old constructs needed some major overhauls!

The only sneak preview you're getting is Lance the Lambeosaur. Now back when he was originally built in Jan. 2008 Lance was the most cutting edge of my Dinos. However sadly as time has gone on, and my skills and models have improved, sadly he has fallen into the obsolete pile. Which when you consider that, it tells me something about my 3Ding lately, when a model this nice is considered crap.

Rather than leave Lance behind the times, I spent a good 2 hours reinventing him.

It was all sparked by an urge need to correct his colour scheme. Though his pink underbelly looks good in the total black modelling window, when it is against a real life photograph it looks awful!

So the first thing I did was change it to a light blue. Which looks much better if you ask me.

As a side note this photograph you'll see him popping up in is not a final shot or anything. Rather just a random photo I stuck him in to see how he looks in composites. I have learned I need to background all my shaded Dinosaurs to test how they look. They all tend to look good floating in ambient black modelling space. With a photo background half my texture attempts are exposed to look terrible.

However this reexamination of the model coupled with the Luis Rey illustrations in my new copy of Dr. Thomas R. Holtz's Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (a MOST owe book for all you palaeo fans out there... best popular book on the subject!) lead me to launch into a further tear apart of poor Lance...

First thing was first. As a duck billed Dinosaur, Lance was going to need such a bill himself. Though I liked my initial bill for him when I first made it, with my recent practise a proper duck bill wasn't going to be too hard.

So after 20 minutes tweaking I was very happy with his improved mouth.

Peter popping up online for one of our usual Prehistoric Insanity scrum meetings, suddenly alerted me to a whole fleet of other problems with Lance when I sent him this picture. I've grown to count on Peter's unrelenting critiques, and though I may "hate" them at the time, they almost always bear fruit when addressed.

Peter's big qualms were how skinny Lance was, and how not tall his neural spines were. Now I'd actually taken the neural spines into account, and gone with the idea of fatty tissue covering them, but both me and Peter in discussion thought an animal living in a tropical-ish swamp land won't need fatty tissue.

I having got out my skeletal references for this, then also realized it was time to be honest, and admit I was putting a Lambeosaur crest on an Edmontosaurs skull. So I was going to have to raise his eyes, and make the head a U shaped one rather than triangular (the shape I try to make everything... for whatever reason I'm geometrically biased when drawing/creating).

So I bulked him up, and raised the neural spines. Peter was right like usual. My skull modification looked good too.

That left me with the long standing problem I've always had making Dinosaurs. Posing him.

You'll note how I've taken his far left leg and bent the joints, and done so with the arms too. However this is not a precise job. All I've done is remodel those pieces, rather than rotate them like a proper limb should.

Sadly when remodelled, the limbs behave more like play-doh than a fixed joint. It is next to impossible to keep segment lengths (as in shoulder to elbow, elbow to wrist) consistent as I have to bend and move each point in them manually (and there are many points between the proper joints, that act like joints in this type of model). Additionally due to the limitations of bending and flexing this types of model, I've always had to keep the limbs simple. Too much detail and I can't pose the limb anymore.

Slowly but steadily I've been losing my patience with my cartoony simple limbs (apart from Lillian's, hers have always looked good despite the limitations) over the last 2ish years. So this weekend I decided to tackle the problem head on.

I was inspired by Angie's rescent creation of a 3D Corythosaur, and in particular her post about "rigging" her model. Way back when I first got Carrara I tried playing around with rigging, but was overly ambitious and tried it on a full Dinosaur model. Let's just say I bite off more than that Albertosaur model could chew (especially given its lack of molars!).

Now if your wondering what rigging is... Here is a visual that might help. Carrara calls rigging a "skeleton". Which is all I'm essentially doing. Each of those blue points you see is an articulation point I've defined for the computer which in THEORY will behave like a joint in the body.

I say in theory, as the problem that drove me from using this system years ago was that these points don't discriminate what they'll bend, and in a full body rig will bend hips along with their leg, or distort parts of the limb or hide.

Just like anything else, I'm sure with practise I'll be able to master this system, but I wanted to use it in a limited capacity now. After all I'd only need a full rig for a moving animation. Right now I was just looking for something to make posing my models quicker and easier, and while I was at it keep their accurate proportional measured limbs.

After some 14 hours of playing with it, I'm proud to say I've achieved rigging level 2! Not Angie's level 10 mind you, but still going from a 0 to 2 over one weekend isn't too bad if you ask me!

My solution was to rig each limb independent of each other and the body, and not connect them. Resulting in very funny action figure style looking models. I leave the head alone as the rigging that goes into them is INSANE (a level 7 at least from my playing with it). Leaving the head unrigged leaves me in control of the eyes, tongue, and most importantly cheeks. Hadrosaur cheeks while I'm sure riggable in theory, are not a beginners friend, and so I'll just manually keep them at my disposal. The limbs were my main concern anyways.

There are still some headaches this causes, but as they say the grass is always greener (especially 3D grass, I can always make it greener ;p ).

If I "attach" my "skeleton" to the model it is stuck in that 3D project forever. Meaning if I want multiple animals in a scene I have to grab them from another project, unattached to THEIR skeleton, and bring them and their rig in and attach their skeletons in this new scene. This means I have to make sure to save a unattached version of each model to copy and paste, and that I have to go through the 5 attachment processes for every Dinosaur I want (which gets time consuming as of Dino #3 onward)

However the results are breath taking.

Though this is not the best example, see if you can spot the beautifully kept limb proportions, glorious proper bending knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles! You may also note that I went in and added a lot more detail to the limbs, as I don't have to worry about bending the model myself (the rig modifies the model for me, in a way I would never be able to!).

Leading to final Lance. Which I let you look again, keeping all these changes in mind, and enjoy this preview half finished final shot. Lance is of course final element in this shot, but there are some other things being added for next week's big event. So watch Traumador for it!


Peter Bond said...

Wow Man! The final shots of a "skeletoned" Lance are the best stuff you've ever produced! Way to go on the breakthrough!!! So sweet!

Raptor Lewis said...

They actually look more realistic. Love the improvement on Lance. This is the best I've seen you far.

Raptor Lewis said...

I forgot to mention the improvement in your skills. Great Work!!

Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

The first one is nice but looks somewhat skinny and fake ... but those last ones! OMG! My goodness! They are realy awesome! great job man!

I think Lance walking on darker grounds would look good too...