How to best model a tree in Maya?

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Old 04 April 2013   #1
How to best model a tree in Maya?

I'm working on a project where a tree in the spring time will be sort of the center piece. So I need it to look high quality.

Does anybody have any suggestions on how to best model a high poly tree with leaves? I don't want it to look like a game model where the leaves are obviously just planes with alpha maps.

I'm also familiar with ZBrush and Mudbox if it would be better done in one or those programs. But I think the part I am not sure about is how to get good looking leaves efficiently.

Thanks!
 
Old 04 April 2013   #2
For the body of the tree, you could create a low-poly cylinder and draw curves extending from it like the branches/roots. Then extrude faces from the cylinder along those curves to get the basic form. Then take the model into mudbox or zbrush and sculpt it. I've done that a few times, but I've always wondered about creating leaves on them. In the past I've faked it with shadows and keeping the top of the tree out of camera view.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #3
I'd start with paintFX, then take the trunk and large brushes into ZBrush to give them a bit more character.
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Old 04 April 2013   #4
depends on the kind of tree and on the tools you have at your fingertips. The tree below is a mixture of several techniques: polymodeling, procedural modeling (for example with Xfrog or GrowFX) and then particles or similar (I used Mograph from Cinema4D).

If needed you can sculpt details into the trunk and the larger branches.

Or the other way around, start creating the trunk and main branches in ZBrush or the like and then distribute branches and twigs.
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Old 04 April 2013   #5
Thanks for the advice guys. I was planning on taking advantage of dynamesh in Zbrush and just going crazy. The only thing I was really worried about is making the leaves realistic. Any ideas?
 
Old 04 April 2013   #6
that depends on:

- what species do you want to create (some have "simple" leaf shapes, others very complex outlines)
- how close do you get

Usually I create a simple leaf shape, using several polygons so that you can give some depth to the leaf. Thats also helpful for speculars/reflections, those usually look ugly on flat planes.

In case of a tree with simple outlines and if I donīt get to close, this is sometimes already enough.
If you want to get closer, or if the outline of the real world leaves is complex, then you still can make use of opacity/alpha maps. In above example I used this mixture.
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Old 04 April 2013   #7
Originally Posted by Walli: that depends on:

- what species do you want to create (some have "simple" leaf shapes, others very complex outlines)
- how close do you get

Usually I create a simple leaf shape, using several polygons so that you can give some depth to the leaf. Thats also helpful for speculars/reflections, those usually look ugly on flat planes.

In case of a tree with simple outlines and if I donīt get to close, this is sometimes already enough.
If you want to get closer, or if the outline of the real world leaves is complex, then you still can make use of opacity/alpha maps. In above example I used this mixture.

You won't really be close, but it is going to be a high resolution still scene, so I want to make it as high quality as possible. I just don't know the most efficient way to create a bunch of leaves with slight variations and have hundreds of them all over the branches.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #8
If you're not zooming in super close, you're not going to be able to tell if the leaves are cards. Doubly so in a still. Just add a few subdivision so they're not perfectly flat (six polygons per leaf is probably enough), and have a variety of leaf textures.

This is all done with cards for leafs, for example: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/st...9/#.UXw_8bWsh8E
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Old 04 April 2013   #9
Originally Posted by Meloncov: If you're not zooming in super close, you're not going to be able to tell if the leaves are cards. Doubly so in a still. Just add a few subdivision so they're not perfectly flat (six polygons per leaf is probably enough), and have a variety of leaf textures.

This is all done with cards for leafs, for example: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/st...9/#.UXw_8bWsh8E

So what would be the most efficient way to get then everywhere over the tree? Or is it just going to be s tedious process?
 
Old 04 April 2013   #10
Originally Posted by strausd: So what would be the most efficient way to get then everywhere over the tree? Or is it just going to be s tedious process?


Again, I'd suggest paintFX (or, better, xFrog or similar if you're willing to get a new program). You also might be able to use zbrush hair and micromesh.
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Old 04 April 2013   #11
Originally Posted by Meloncov: Again, I'd suggest paintFX (or, better, xFrog or similar if you're willing to get a new program). You also might be able to use zbrush hair and micromesh.

I'll look into xFrog and paint effects. Do you know if ZBrush micromesh or hair would render in Arnold?
 
Old 04 April 2013   #12
Originally Posted by strausd: I'll look into xFrog and paint effects. Do you know if ZBrush micromesh or hair would render in Arnold?


You'd export it from ZBrush as polygons (that's what micromesh does; replaces the hair follicles with geometry), so yes, it would.
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Old 04 April 2013   #13
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