Master and Servant 3D Entry: Trey Harrell

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  04 April 2005
All I can say is that your WIP model is coming along really well.
Water, Electricity, Money, and Life: If there's a way through, they find it.
  04 April 2005
Modeling: Face - Mouth blendshapes

I've realized that once I get him posed, I'm going to want to tweak his facial expression quite a bit, and play with different ideas.

To that end, I've created pretty exhaustive muscle-based blendshapes for the mouth area of the servant.

I pushed and pulled verts, used soft deform, and rigged a jawbone in order to create all of the 'centered' versions. The left and right symmetrical versions were created using Jason Osipa's joBlendTaper.mel -- an awesome tool to really quickly create symmetry in shapes you're planning on using for blends.

I'll be doing the brow and eyeshapes next, followed by a set of custom shapes for the neck -- something you don't often see in a facial rig, but I'll probably have his neck stretched pretty far back so I think it's needed.

It's worth mentioning that these are set up as parallel blends -- so each shape node adds to the face as a whole and can be mixed more convincingly.

  04 April 2005
Modeling: Servant - eye & brow shapes

More blend shapes for the eyes and forehead.

Between the wire deformer and soft mod, these went extremely quickly. I basically blew through the whole face in about 8 hours.

I'd probably take a lot more time finessing the shapes if I were to be animating the servant. As it is, I'll probably have to sculpt some fixes once I've got the emotion I'm going for.
  04 April 2005
Modeling: Servant - neck blends & correctives

Final blendshapes for the neck, other than more correctives once I get closer to final.

These are subtle tensing of the neck muscle groups, as well as a corrective double chin for bunching action.

Looks like I might have time to rig this guy up and play with some faces tonight. Stay tuned.
  04 April 2005
Modeling: Servant head -- blendshape tests

A few little tests of the facial rig that I set up today. They're meant to be pretty absurd and somewhat cartoony.

I wanted to see how hard I could push the shapes before the face starts to break apart, and also check for modeling errors in the heavily used base shapes.

The left mouth character lines are a bit odd, and I need to polish the forehead wrinkles some more, but I think I've got a pretty versatile setup now that'll get me 90% of the way to conveying over-the-top emotions I was looking for.

I wanted to be able to push his face farther than a normal human -- I wanted Jim Carey -- and I think I got pretty close for a first pass.

Going to start blocking out the final composition next.
  04 April 2005
Wow very cool expressions you've got there nice work

Master & Servant

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  04 April 2005
great progress so far.. expressions looking good man .. fantastic.. and i think you have achieved that cartoony like expressions you were after. the second one and the second last on on the top row are just fantastic!

-= Man with One Chopstick , Go Hungry =-
  04 April 2005
Thanks for the replies, everyone.

It's really hard to go for cartoony and photoreal at the same time. What I'm coming up with is really close to the pictures in my head though, so I'm happy -- that's always my goal!

The second and fourth heads were actually test expressions for the scene -- surprise and agony, really. The third and fifth were just tests of a sneer and a 'that smells bad' emotion -- the others were tests of stretching the mouth creases, eye squints and neck tension.

A little more about my methodology for making the blendshapes:

At the core, it's pretty close to what's outlined in the Stop Staring book (I swear I don't work for them, it's just an amazing book and workflow). I've added a little more control on top of that setup with some custom blends for eyelids (including some physically impossible stuff like separate X-wide keys for top and bottom lids for cartoony looks) and the neck tendons because they're going to be really prominent in the scene and they add a *lot* to stuff like agony, pain, anger.

The jist is that you separate mouth, eye and forehead up, down, in, out muscle movements (at last count I had about 65 targets, but they were rough enough to crank out in a day) -- so instead of making an 'angry' blendshape, you'd mix a little bit of:

- browsMidSqueeze
- browsMidDown
- eyesOutUp
- squint
- sneer
- eyestopXwide
- mouthIn
- upperLipCurl
- neckSidetense

And you've got a reasonably good angry that you can now make more interesting by tweaking other groups.

I'm really fond of moving the jaw in, out, left and right, as well as operating each eyelid separately (ie splitting top and bottom left and right instead of having a 'blink' and a 'wide' -- mine go from X-wide to normal to close to closesquint).

Each of those muscle groups have the default 'center' version that I create, as well as the left and right side only versions that I have a script generate for me. Unlike some other workflows, I keep my center version in my blend mix. Why? It makes it super easy to push a certain blend to 200% for a cartoony, impossible, rubber-face look.

100% leftouterbrowup + 50% centerouterbrowsup = 150% (exaggerated) left and 50% center -- and my sliders still work without having to manually type 1.5.
  04 April 2005
Hey tharrell, this is coming along really well! Your character and his rubbery face are great! Keep itt coming
Those who know it can't be done should stop interrupting those who are doing it


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  04 April 2005
Maya solution to eyebrow constraints on blendshapes

Thanks for the encouragement guys. It's nice to know I'm not the only one having fun looking at this stuff day after day!

Before I forget, I'd like to just get down here that I've found the solution to an extremely annoying problem.

When you use an SSS shader for the skin, you can't add beard stubble or eyebrows in to the main skin shader, because it'll get too soft and just look like a shadow -- which is a pain.

Yeah, you can run another render pass with a different shader for compositing, but I really like seeing my stuff interactively while I'm working on it. Particularly eyebrows which are a huge emotional cue.

I combed every book and forum I could find, and most of the answers were along the lines of: make a cluster for every point or CV on your eyebrow object and contrain it to clusters or a wire on the head.

Yuck. I think not. As a programmer in a former life, brute force solves like that are really ugly to me.

Turns out a simple wrap deformer works perfectly. Normally you use wraps to shrinkwrap sub-d's to rigged low poly cages. This does the opposite. It wraps the eyebrow low poly objects (and soon my stubble object) to my sub-d head, which in turn is wrapped by my low-poly head. Eyebrows and eyelashes follow perfectly -- just like if you'd used a closest point on mesh script.

It's really obvious, but I haven't seen mention of it, so there it is for posterity. Hope someone else finds that particular answer far quicker than I did!
  04 April 2005
Texturing: Chair Texture Pass 1

Progress after an evening of mapping some UVs to the chair model and Photoshopping textures.

The scale of the machine is a little large at the moment, and the lighting most definitely isn't there, but it's a start.

To do: equalize the redness in the wood maps, and also bring down the wear on the seat area. A little tweaking on the bump maps won't hurt either as it's rendering a lot soft at the moment.

I'll probably finalize the maps once I get to the rendering stage and I do a bit of set dressing with bolts, etc.

Thinking I need to add some dirt and corrosion to the machine. It's far too saturated, shiny and clean at the moment.
  04 April 2005
Lighting: Lighting & Composition 1

First pass at key lighting in the scene, and I'm playing with a Hitchcock camera angle. If I'm pushing this as cartoony as the image in my head, there's no point in using restraint.

I found a few issues with some of the textures on the chair, and I've started with texturing the environment.
  04 April 2005
Originally Posted by tharrell: First pass at key lighting in the scene, and I'm playing with a Hitchcock camera angle. If I'm pushing this as cartoony as the image in my head, there's no point in using restraint.

Ahahaha, awesome. I love it.
Water, Electricity, Money, and Life: If there's a way through, they find it.
  04 April 2005
Heheh... glad you're laughing, Alan. That's what I'm shooting for.

In other, decidedly unfunny news, I'm running a test right now of my almost final lighting rig and environment. Eight hours a plate didn't seem so bad at 1280x960.

My meager math skills just came to the foreground a few minutes ago when I realized that final render resolution is going to have to be about nine times what I'm working at. Times the six passes that I'd planned on (beauty, spec, ref, ambient occlusion/FG(for color bleed), volumetric effects, z-depth for depth of field fakery). Times two plates for background/machine/chair and dude. It's not really multiplying the workload by the hundreds because the separate passes will render pretty quickly and I can farm passes out to different machines, but it's got me started worrying about time.

Time to start making BOTs (do they really save that much time?), cheating my volumetrics (big expense savings there) and knocking down my soft shadows and reflection recursion. I hadn't even gotten to the point of considering rendering DOF, although the thought of a touch of real motion blur crossed my mind earlier this evening.

Yikes. Any thoughts on other ways to cheapen up the render load? I'm running Maya 6.5, doing the Mental Ray thing.

  04 April 2005
Lighting: Environment lighting & color palette exploratories

I'm pretty happy with the all-around key, fill and gobo lighting values and tonal ranges I'm getting now, and I've done two treatments of a rendered background plate to refine my green/red/blue shades for final.

Textures for the wall, molding and wall tiles are just about final.

Once I dirty up the floor tiles, I think I'm done with my background plate.

Tech details on the lighting rig:

I'm using four area lights at very low values placed like fluorescents for low-level fill lighting to help with my contact shadows.

In addition, I have a single very hot key spot overhead with a very subtle volumetric fog attached to it. I don't want to upstage steam coming out of the machine.

I've got one highly (170% white) incandescent nurbs plane as a 'soft box' fake for speculars on the wall tiles and espresso machine. Finally, I've created a barred window gobo that I've attached to a spot light to fake dawn light through a window.

Interestingly (to me at least!), I decided to force an improper and completely impossible light cast on the walls and I've distorted the perspectives and vanishing lines on floor and wall after seeing the silent masterpiece Cabinet of Dr. Caligari again the other night. It's my homage to somnambulists in particular and the aesthetic of german expressionism in the art deco era in general.

That film was really instrumental for helping me develop my personal aesthetic in my early years, and the subtle skewing of reality was a nice mesh with my theme.
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