Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Beauty Render

Last week was bootcamp at Stafford University, it is a time where, once a year, a group of lecturers and students gather out of their free will to make a group collaboration project and attempt to complete the development in a week.
If I've learned anything in bootcamp, is that my skill have DEFINITELY rusted up from being a full time carer, while my modelling isn't slow by any means, now I actually have to think about it, it fell out from being second nature to me, and my painting skills have decreased, everything I learned in the previous bootcamp is gone, what I did for this year is more like pixel art, not good pixel art at that!
Lily flower - bootcamp 2012 
Not sure if its due to not drawing/painting by hand in the last year, or a placebo effect where I just lost confidence in my skill due to my responsibilities, regardless of the circumstance, there is one thing that is very clear now, I MUST REGAIN MY FORMER GLORY! This has to be a daily thing or I'll lose it all over again by next year, and with the launch of my business around the corner, I need to be my absolute best now more than ever before.

To do this, I went back to the "presentation" part of my R&D, so recently I've been browsing the net, looking and comparing how people present their work, etc, and there are a lot of ways to do it! Polycount forums have been an instrumental resource for gathering this information, thanks to the countless of users who cares about the presentation standard of their work, I think I figured out how to best present my own work while giving all necessary information for the contents of the image, yet not intrusive to distract you from the image focal point, which if your work, but not so small or invisible that the viewer finds it hard to find or read the information, and this is what I came up with:
Until I have the rest of my stuff sorted, some things remain undecided, such as adding Illustrator to the roster of software on the bottom right, or renaming the the software under titles, such as texturing to 2D software, and re-arranging the order so that 3D modelling can be directly to the left of rendering should I chose to not render using the 3 software I listed, etc. But aside from these nit-picks, I am happy with the progression of this case study of professional presentation style.

And then there is the logo, that has evolved a lot in the past year since I first launched Playing with Polygon on Facebook back in August 2012, looking at it's evolution, I feel...kind of proud, it's strange how much work and thought goes into it, yet in the end, the less I did for it, the better it looked, proving the old saying that "less is more" to be true

The starting point for me, a smiling face.
I liked the idea of a smiling face that I tried to keep it, while fitting the original Facebook Banner
Then I thought "lets give this a real go!" and came up with this...
I can't believe at one point, I thought this was "cool", look at it! it is too noisy, and the reflection of the text causes it to be confusing, a logo needs to be simple and concise! and this logo does not send any message of who it is across, so back to the drawing board I went.
So I made something really simple, at the same time I came across an article about colour study for logo at Social Media Today, to my surprise, my original colour scheme for the logo name was that of trust and creativity, total fluke, but an awesome coincidence!
In the end, I wasn't happy with it due to being TOO simple and the colours not having enough emotion. so I revised it and worked out a way to "direct" the viewers gaze when reading the logo by further separating the 2 "P" and set them closer to the "W", so you have  better chance of reading it as "PWP" instead of "PPW" or "WPP". I also put a box silhouette frame so it resembles that of a cube, to most, the first 3D object they ever created in a 3D program, right before you start playing with polygon ;p

This just shows, you can't force evolution an idea, but when it finally evolve, you will be proud of it.

From all this, I learned I have a new favourite image file format, .PNG! It's soo much better than .TGA, especially for rendering from 3DS Max, before I use to have to save out as .TGA at 32 bit so it has an alpha channel that then I can later use to delete the areas which is not part of the object, but with .PNG, it does that automatically! so it's like .GIF, but with no artefact noise! making it the best translucent image based file format ever!!!

To close this rant, I will make a list of stuff to do by the end of the month, if I'm lucky, I'll actually achieve it since I have a tendency to over achieve without realising, it might sound like boasting, but it's really not! its like being a perfectionist or OCD, it's a hindrance to your life! so here it is, what I consider realistic goals to achieve by the end of the month:
  • Learn digital painting and concepting
  • Learn more Zbrush
  • Complete the steam punk chick
  • Learn more UDK
  • Create a foliage environment
  • Learn NDo2
  • Learn Ddo
  • Produce my first 3D asset which can cover a myriad of platforms, from DX11 to the Nintendo DS 
  • Buy/prepare/launch playingwithpolygon.co.uk (COMPLETE!)
All this must be achieved within 25 days while juggling being a:
  • Carer
  • Lover
  • Cook
  • Gamer (especially with E3 around next week)
  • And maybe an employee soon 
This month will be nothing short of FUN! {sarcasm}

update: My Spouse bought/lent me money to buy a Wacom Cintiq 13HD to help me with my endeavour to master digital painting...just when you think you can't love someone more, they prove that you can :D

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Amazing texturing software!

Recently I've come across a bunch of software outside my small circle of software I use to make 3D stuff, and the potabilities they introduce blows my mind! the fact I'm late to learn of their existence shows how far out of the loop I am, first up is...

Pilgway 3D Coat is a 3D painting program, you might say, yeah I can do that in Zbrush all the same, but fact of the matter is, it's not like Zbrush painting for 2 simple reasons: 1 - Layers just like in photoshop! 2 - you can paint on the mesh you import and the pixel density is not determined by your vertex proximity! the fact you can paint with out having to account for a well distributed edgeflow is great! especially on low poly models, but saying that, is probably has no problems handling the same level of polygons that Zbrush can handle.

Another awesome software is Quixel Ndo2, it's a program that works in conjunction with photoshop, but it's soo amazing that you can literally make an environment texture without ever needed to model of sculpt any part of it, yet it can produce quality that rivals a fully modelled/sculpted one, if you're questioning my madness, then have a read of this PDF, sure it might not make the diffuse texture with the same level on control as the normals, but that is where the next product comes in.

Quixel Ddo is an amazing software made by the same people as Ndo2, where it focuses on the diffuse and specular texture side of thing, this this software, you can texture something from scratch and make it look accurate to the material you are trying to replicate, it is impressive! have a watch how they used it for this character.

I'm planning/hoping to learn these programs so I can streamline my workflow and be able to produce more products at a higher frequency. while I do think traditional art skill is important in this industry, there is no denying with programs such as the Quixel ones, it might render old discipline unnecessary (but those old skills still needed for photoshop and 3D Coat). Currently the only thing stopping me from learning is the cost, even for a non profit personal use, it's a tiny tiny bit out of my wallet range...for now at least. I can always use the trial version and hope I learn it fast enough, but if I don't have money by the end of the trial and I leave it too long, I might forget it all TT_TT

So here to me hoping to be successful at learning them and owning them!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Understanding the importance of presentation

So it has been a while, while my duties as a carer is the same with the now added record keeping and daily health optimisation, the 3D Artist side of me been suffering from the lack of mental exhilaration. A while back I tried to kick it up by joining a Polycount monthly challenge while I started off optimistic, I just did not have any time to do it! And it’s really frustrating when you really want to make something and just unable to due to circumstances beyond your control. So now here we are….again, writing down as if anyone cares, but alas, this is more for me than anyone else, it’s so I can set an anchor to remind myself where I am and where I need to be.

Right now I’m in the process of learning about FX stuff in UDK, this covers a wide range or areas, but mostly particles and post process stuff. This is stemmed from my lack of presentable work, “aside from not finishing and texturing, what else am I missing?” I asked myself, and it became clear that I don’t have and experience in boosting the presentation value of my own work, if I look at current AAA games, they use many FX to make the game you play look beautiful. This ideology is similar of that in modelling, if you make an amazing 3D model but your textures are bad, the final result will look bad, so in the same respect, if I make a good looking textured 3D model, but my presentation is bad, then my overall work will just look sub-par  and it is these chains that I want to break! I will learn how to be an excellent modeller and texture, but also learn how to present my work like that of the AAA industry games standard to greatly boost my overall quality.

A good example of an AAA game which uses FX to  boost its presentation would be mass effect 3, it was made in UDK, and it runs on home consoles and PC. The effect used in this one in-game screen-shot are:
-Optical Lens Flare
-Colour Correction
-Depth of Field
-Film Grain
These are all post process effect which is run on top of the game so the player can perceive it the way the artist wants them to.

Most of these FX comes from different use of lenses under different light conditions, so I hope to also research further and look into EXIS DATA and ISO SETTING in photographic cameras and try to replicate them in the engine. And with the addition with DX11, there are more FX that I can produce, from higher particle counts such was demonstrated in the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo, to Bokeh light FX inside a Depth of Field FX.

I've only started learning the basics of Cascade, which is the particle system in UDK, you might be thinking “but you were talking about post process effects”, while yes I was, particles are also used for its camera facing nature, such as Optical Lens Flare is made using Cascade, and that is why I’m learning them. So here is my current noob level progress, I made a simply particle emitter with the ability to control colour over life, and at a high light values causing the bloom effect, while it might not look like much, trust me, in motion, it is mesmerising!

What do I hope to learn by the end of all of this? Well, Cascade for one thing, a deeper understanding of the powerful material editor, a better understanding of lighting in UDK, and obviously, post process to tie them all together, with these areas covered, my work should look better than ever before! 

And with this rant, I feel much better, because while I knew what I was doing before, it wasn't as clear as it is now, this truly is an anchor for me to pivot on, so I can see all that I am trying to achieve.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I'm back!

So it has been almost a month since my first blog, and not much being going on, doing my daily carer duty 24/7, and desperately trying to learn things in the free time I have assuming I'm not exhausted physically or emotionally. So far, I've learned how to make tileable walls and texture using 3ds Max and Zbrush, learned the proper way to make a hight map, and learned advance mesh painting in UDK. And I must say, they were some awesome stuff I learned, shockingly  the thing I learned most from wasn't in 3ds Max or Zbrush, it was Photoshop, the ability to manipulate the RGB channels and how that can make a big difference in UDK, so instead of importing 3 or 4 greyscale textures into UDK, you can import the 1 greyscale textures, but each channel hold a separate greyscale texture. then I found something else which was awesome on polycount forums, they are holding a monthly noob environment challenge -
It is exactly as the name implies, so it is perfect grounds for me to get back into the game! but despite the name, some people and making some seriously high class stuff in there, so I got a big challenge ahead of me if I want to be good competition, and it is already the 4th one, which will end on the 28th. 

But unfortunately, now I'm down with a REALLY bad case of the cold/cough. Aside from stopping my ability to focus and think, it is also stopping me from doing my full carer duties due to my fathers low white blood count, I do not want him to catch this off me. While this means I have more free time since I'm not needed every 15 minutes, it frustrates me that I can't do work properly, and the competition only has 9 more days! I'll try my hardest but darn it, it wont be my better work :(

 I'll try to keep stuff posted on this, here is the original concept: 

And from that I extrapolated the modular and non modular assets I'll need to make, this was also reacently learned from Chris Albeluhm's website -
Sadly, I don't know the process of creating a mood colour scheme, so all I did for that was use the eyedropper tool in Photoshop and selected light and shadow from multiple places in the concept art:

Lastly, I did a blockout of it in UDK using brushes and a pre-installed asset to see if I can make it resemble the original concept art:

It would seem my ability to perceive shape and form is still good enough despite being out of practice, but waw, it made me realise how terrible I am at UDK, I mean sure, I don't have much experience using it, but my lack of fundamental knowledge was shocking, I don't use Maya, but I still know how to use it. which is why in my sickness, I just keep watching video tutorials and hope some of it remains in my head for when I get better...

Monday, 21 January 2013

Welcome to my blog

Hello future reader! And welcome to PLAYING WITH POLYGON. My name is Omar, I am an aspiring 3D artist, I do 3D models at many levels, from high poly sculpts to low poly Nintendo DS level (and obviously everything in between). I do hard-surface modelling, character modelling, and even environmental modelling. Currently I don’t know what direction to take my skill and focus upon, so in this blog, I will be doing a plethora of experimentation (thus the name) to determine where I should go from here.

While I love 3D, I was originally a gamer from the retro days of 8-bit graphics, my first console was an Atari, and my first game was Pac-man. With the modern day, games have improved exponentially on all fronts, from storytelling to game design to audio and most visually obvious, graphics. I do 3D because I wish to contribute something to the form of entertainment I like most! My other hobbies would be reading books/comics/manga, watching anime/cartoon/tv series/listen to music, etc.

I'm a part time student at Stafford University, the part time is because I'm on yet another year out due to my duties as a carer for my parents, and I only have 1 more semester to do, 3 month! 4 modules! so hopefully, I can find the time to actually finish it and move on with my degree, maybe do a Masters if I have time.

With this blog, I aim to motivate myself to focus on work, keep track of my progress and improvement, and hopefully, in the future when I look at my past work, I will be disgusted at the notion of ever uploading something so bad, because then and only then would I have actually improved!

With all that said, due to my commitment to my family, I might not have all that much time to do work to upload here, so my 3D work may be far and few in between, but I will also share my thoughts and views about other topics.