Making a Mess of Topology, Learning the hard way

Making a mess of geometry. Next we used the Decimation Master lugin to remesh the model into a manageable poly count allowing us to move the model into Topogun. This is where I learned all about the importance of edge flow. I made a lot of mistakes as I found out later when trying to UV the model. This is a classic case where you need make mistakes in order to learn from them. The next topology work I do will have more thought out lines. After unwrapping my first attempt at UVing the character looked more like a spaghetti monster.  

Next was to play with some topology software called Wrap 3 by R3DS. They have a 15 day trial so I gave it a shot. It seems to work best with hi-resolution scans but I was able to get some decent topology after a while very quickly. The more I played with it the faster the wraps took. 

Zbrush Character Progression

Learning Zbrush has been a challenge. Starting with the interface, It took several days to get a feel for how you use it. To me, it was unintuitive and overwhelming. Like many software packages it's bloated with old tools alongside the new tools and offers hundreds of options that take some time to feel out. The modeling and sculpting process  are also very different as you learn to navigate the various meshes while exploring brushes and tools at the same time. This blog is a record of my journey. 

I'm starting this in the middle of the quarter just after Midterms were due this is my progress so far. I will do some backtracking to record my achievments and mistakes.

Blocking Out and initial Shape

These are some early attempts in Zbrush. I have had a hard time understanding the remeshing process between Dynamesh, ZRemsher, and Projection. My detail levels have been all over the map. For now I will continue to focus on the face because most of the body will be coverd with armor. 

My goal is to create a SciFi Marine inspired by the ODST from Halo. The reference image in the center will be what I am going for. I built out the parts individually using the Zmodeler tool. I sat and watched all the short tutorials on Pluralsites learning page about the Zmodeler tool. It was well worth it. It's intimidating at first, once you understand Qmesh you can quickly block out hard surface parts. 

Updated Arnold Shader and Tracking

They say three times is a charm. I re-shot the footage a third time and finally was able to pull a halfway decent track. I struggled with my original two tracks for many, many embarrassing hours. They drab colors along with my inability to understand how to frame track-able backgrounds worked really well together. It's all a learning experience, so they say. Lets start with some good news. The photo below is an updated render of the VTOL with Arnold shaders. It is starting to look much better but still needs work.

The next group of photos follow the usual setup. Notice this time I managed to frame lots of detail to help Nuke better track the shot.

The next group of photos are a short series of screen captures that show the track and the point cloud.

Now that I have imported everything into Maya there is a large mess to unwrap. Any progress is good progress. I clearly screwed up scaling along with the xyz axis.

Footage and Preliminary Tracking

I shot footage on the top of an open parking garage. I used two different lenses, 35mm 1.8, and a 10-16mm 2.8. The wider lens seems to have a lot of distortion or possibly a rolling shutter issue. I brought the wider footage into Nuke and started tracking the shot. The project presents many new difficulties to overcome. Accounting for size and spacing is very different. In my situation i will be landing or having a space shuttle/craft from the rooftop.

The next images are the clean plate, white balance, gray ball, and HDRi.

Early Nuke tracks as I attempt to build a point cloud to bring into Maya

Project 3 Concept

For the third project I am interested in incorporating a scfi aircraft or shuttle into a live environment. My pan would follow the aircraft through an unlikely location, landing it in a driveway or ally. 

Model credit: Digital Tutors

Dragon Re-Render

Here is a re-render of the original dragon animation. I have fixed some of the issues but it still needs work. The sky-dome layer somehow became offset in the frame count so I had to unhook it in Nuke.

Below you can see the repaired reflection pass along with the other layers that were brought into Nuke. There is no longer a red ground shadow reflecting up from the ground plane. 

Nuke tree and a screenshot of the last render.

Progress on the Dragon

The first composite did not turn out well. Mistakes were made. Long drawn-out fights with the render farm ensued. I did learn a lot from the experience.

Poblems with my layers

Some of the issues I encountered included forgetting to double check some of the overrides that I set within certain layers. I am new to rendering layers and shuffling AOVs. One valuable lesson that I learned is to stay extremely organized and carefully name everything. Above you can see where I forgot to tun off the sky dome in the reflection pass. Also I left on the cast shadows for onr of the ground passes causing red reflection in the dragon.

The renders above were from my final composited animation. YOu can clearly see many issues that I will be working out over the next couple of weeks.

Putting it all Together


I am far from happy with my results so far. The project needs a lot of work and the clock is ticking. The above images include CG representation of the sphere and cube, this helps me align the cameras and match the sunlight and shadows within Maya. The cube is for perspective and alignment while the sphere is to see the specular diffusion cast from the software lights. Below are some test renders within Maya, They include the sky dome, spotlight, dragon, and a ground projection of the environment.


These are some of my original test renders and variations of the shader as I explore Arnold and fine tune the lighting. The render layers include Sky dome, direct sun, object occlusion, ground shadow, and ground occlusion. The next step is to bring them into Nuke and see how they look stacked up.

Nuke is a cruel mistress. Compositing is fun but a new mountain to tackle. I have included some early srcreen grabs of the layers within Nuke. I am in the process of sett