Frustrating baking problems with ZBrush & xNormal

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  06 June 2013
Unhappy Frustrating baking problems with ZBrush & xNormal

Hey there 3d masters!

I've been reading lots of threads and watched lots of tutorials in the net already to fix my problems and while I did find lots of useful information that could help me out a lil, I just fail to nail it. Unlike in many other high-to-lowpoly workflows, I didn't have the pleasure to start with a lowpoly that I'd subdivide later on for highpoly sculpting. I directly had to start with a highpoly and now I'm sort of stuck getting all the details including polypaint on my lowpoly.

Okay, here's what I got:
  1. A mainly symmetrically sculpted highpoly with some polypaint and no subdivisions, no UVs. Fully done in ZBrush.
    Highpoly sculpt (without polypaint)

  2. A lowpoly done in 3dsMax with UVs from ZBrush UV master (based on polygroups).
    Lowpoly w/ polygroups:

Obviously I want to grab all my maps from the highpoly and bake them on my lowpoly. First I tried projecting in ZBrush, but it was incredibly frustrating and didn't work so well.

So I wanted to use xNormal, unwrapped my 3dsMax lowpoly for it in ZBrush basing on their polygroups. I get results from baking, but only crappy ones. I highly suspect that either my xNormal settings, my lowpoly and/or the suboptimal UVs are to blame for that.

That's the ugly unusable result when I bake my Highpoly with polypaint on it:

When I bake a highpoly without polypaint, I get this normal:

That looks quickly rendered in Max like this:

I baked the normal only with AA x2. It has those weird "negative reflections" in Max, I don't know what's causing that. Sadly that's the best I got yet..

How can I bake my polypaint and my sculpt as color map and normal map from my highpoly to the lowpoly that has its own UV? What am I doing wrong and how can I fix it?

I've become so desperate about this, but I just have to get it done asap. :S
  06 June 2013

I uploaded a new album, tried several xNormal configs for baking. I always flipped the green channel, baked with x2 Anti-Aliasing, never changed the standard settings for the highpoly mesh and decreased the edge padding to 8.

As you can see there, I made several test bakes with .obj and .sbm lowpoly meshes. Maybe someone sees the mistake(s). SBM offers the best results, the normal's still acting weird though and I can't figure how I get these black-white shines at Max Renderings?
  06 June 2013
Smile Retrospective

Heya there, I just wanted to say how I solved things up:

Baking setup: One gets clearly better results when baking subtool by subtool as opposed to complete lowpoly vs. complete highpoly. In order to do that, you gotta split up both meshes, lowpoly and highpoly. Takes more time, but the result is definitely worth the effort.

xNormal: I experienced that the xNormal raytracing tool & external cages proofed really useful, xNormal cages rather useless. Indeed, you may get other results depending on your stuff. Also, if you can, use the native SBM xNormal format for at least the lowpolys and their cages. OBJ doesn't suck, but with SBM the results are cleaner and smoother.

Aligning Low & High: I got the best align for lowpoly & highpoly when both meshes intersect each other, none should really incorporate the other fully.

3dCoat: Didn't like it in the beginning (weird camera movement), but it really has an edge over other tools at retopo and UVs. Even if you're short on time, the trial is definitely worth it!

Export/Import: The numerous mesh transfers between the tools may result in weird compatibility issues. You might take that into account when things not working the way they should.
For example, my normal map was weirdly shaded because of 3dsMax's Gamma/LUT configurations. Disabling them solved it, the shading and smooth display of seams is alright now. - So, whenever you port from one tool to the other, I can only recommend: Check for your smoothing groups, UVs, shaders, render setup and other elementary configs. Don't - trust - dem monsters!

ZBrush Projection: Trying to reproject all your highpoly details in ZBrush ('ProjectAll') on a lowpoly that was created at a later point in time is no good. Don't waste your time with that unless you're a crack on building flawlessly compatible topology.

High-Low workflow: That all said, if you ever intend to get a lowpoly from a highpoly in ZBrush, don't start as stupid as I had to in classes; just follow the tuts out there: Do the lowpoly first, do subdivisions and keep 'em, do all the fancy stuff, etc. etc. - Do NOT use DynaMesh in this workflow, since it simply destroys the downward compatibility to the lowpoly.

Most of these things will probably be pretty self-evident to the more experienced artists here. I'm just leaving these here bundled, cause I didn't really find these essential rules as quickly in one painful week of endless research and trial & error. So, hope that helps anybody out there!

  10 October 2013
Thankyou for this mate, this really helped me out! Here's a bump so they dont close it too soon!
  10 October 2013
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