3D Character CreationClass 01: Intro to Character Creation
- Course Introduction
- 3D Modeling Pipeline
- Basic Character Design
- Basic Sculpting
- Class 01 Lab
Welcome to the first class!
I'm Jon Cone
I am one of the full-time faculty in Cecil’s Visual Communication Program. I am mostly responsible for the game design and web design programs. I am also a freelance animator typically working on visualizations.
- Office Hours
- Wed 10:30pm - 1:50pm, 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Thurs 1:00pm - 1:50pm, 5:00pm - 6:00pm
- Honestly just e-mail me. I will make time when it works for you!
- Contact Information
- firstname.lastname@example.org (prefered)
- (240) 466-1996 (personal)
- 410-287-6060 X 1470
Actual photo of me.
- What’s your name? What do you go by?
- Why you are here:
- Is this required for your major? Are you taking this course as an elective? Personal Enrichment?
- Do you have any history with graphic arts or arts in general? Any experience with Adobe or other graphics software?
Alright. Here is an actual picture of me.
3D Character Creation – covers polygon modeling techniques relevant to producing high quality textured meshes viewable in live-video situations. Emphasis is placed on converting high-poly geometric details into low-poly geometry utilizing a variety of alternative modeling methods. 4 credits
Each week a new lab assignment will be given. These mimic the exercises we would do in a face to face course. You must simply follow the instructions given as closely as possible but also take liberties. You should, “make it your own,” to create your own designs with the processes presented. All labs will be submitted by the end of the week on Blackboard.
Three long form projects will be due by the end of the course. These are the completion of the labs and polishing the results.
3D Modeling Pipeline
3D Modeling Pipeline Overview:
To produce high-end assets the following is the most typical workflow
- Character/Set/Prop Design (research, exploratory, & turnaround)
- Base Mesh Generation (low poly)
- Low/Medium Resolution Sculpt (silhouette)
- High Resolution Sculpt (anatomy, accessories, details, surface)
- Poly Painting
- UV Layout
- Bake Comparative Maps
- Combine Models, Texture, Lighting to Render
Before you start anything you need to do your homework and produce designs that are not influenced by the computer.
- First Research
- Produce Exploratory Sketches
- Tie Down Final Turnaround
Base Mesh Generation:
The first step in actually producing a high-end model is to produce a base shape you can sculpt onto. It is important to make sure all elements are present in at least a silhouette level.
- Production and Object Specific
- Can be almost entirely completed this way or just roughed in
- Primitive Modeling
- Edge Loop Method
- 3D Scan
- Dynamic Mesh
- Software Specific Mesh Generation
This is very similar to traditional sculpting. It is important to work broad to specific. Develop the whole form overall and slowly tighten the model and work in more and more details across the entire figure
- Low Resolution Sculpt (silhouette)
- Medium Resolution Sculpt (anatomy, accessories)
- High Resolution Sculpt (details)
- HD Resolution Sculpt (surface)
Once you have the “skin” of the model you need to “paint” it. This involves prepping the model by rebuilding it if necessary, filleting the figure into UV islands that are flat and paintable, painting color, shininess, bumpiness, etc. onto the surface of the model.
- The process of producing a new mesh with better geometry over top of geometry that is poor
- Can be done before sculpting, after sculpt, sometimes even after texturing, or not at all if the base mesh is accurate enough
- UV Layout
- Basically taking your 3D model and flattening it into a 2D version
- You typically complete this before texturing but it is possible to complete it after in Zbrush
- Painting color, specular, bump, transparency, etc. information on the model
- Bake Comparative Maps
- Automated process of producing texture maps on typically low poly models from their high poly version.
Basic Character Design
Everything you create in animation will be viewed flat, even if in 3D.
Always look at your designs from a compositional 2D point of view. Sometimes in 3D computer animation people get carried away with things that the viewer will never see. You care what the audience sees first and foremost, everything else is to help inform yourself.
There are three primary shapes:
Circles are the most common shape utilized. The reason for this is more than likely because animated characters have a deep foundation in children’s entertainment and circles are the least threatening shape.
Squares represent stability. They are un-moving resistant shapes. Squares are strong, dependable, solid, sometimes dumb. Often the “hero” or “strong arm” characters are squares.
Triangles are the most directional, aggressive, often the catalyst. Often the “villain” or “sly” characters are triangles.
Cast of Shapes:
It is best to use a variety of shapes. Notice the various shapes in the examples below
It all really comes down to angles. The more angular the character the more aggressive they will appear.
Acute: Sharp hurts. Sharp is scary.
Obtuse: Round is soft. Blunt is non-threatening.
A dolphin and shark are the same basic shape. However the shark is sharp and the dolphin is not. Dolphin good. Shark bad.
Notice how “The Other Mother” gets more and more angular and feels more threatening.
Complimentary and Whole Shapes:
Your characters should work as whole shapes, not a bunch of individual one’s. There should be one dominating mass that all other elements are drawn from.
You should utilize repeating and complimentary (similar but not same) sub-shapes throughout your design to make it more cohesive.
If you look at these three interpretations of Batman you can use the bat symbol as a guide. Notice the first is the most “middle of the road” design. The middle version is square-ish. All other elements are also (head, shoulders, cape, etc.) Gives strength but slowness. The last version is much more sharp. All elements are very pointed. This Batman is weaker but fast and agile looking.
Shapes are made of angles and lines.
Straights and Curves:
Curves should never be more complicated than an ‘S’ or ‘C’. Anything more does not read well. This includes animated movements.
The simpler you go, and you want to go simple, the more precise and accurate your lines must be.
Do not only use one type of line you must use a selection of both straights and curves. You need the contrast (like big hand and small forearms). Straight lines are fast and curves are slow.
You can see that the characters are made up of only ‘C’, ‘S’, and straight lines.
Autodesk Mudbox will be the primary piece of software used in this course. It is free for students to download and use with proper registration. This application allows you to create organic high-resolution models and textures. It’s primary focus is on a simple intuitive interface that utilizes a robust layer system that allows the artist to sculpt and paint directly on the polygonal form.
…You can sculpt and paint cool stuff.
The core of Mudbox is sculpting. More than anything else, this is what separates it from other programs.
- Sculpt Brush
- The most basic brush. Simply does addition or subtraction from the surface
- Move Brush
- Allows the user to pull and push the surface of the object
Hotkeys (with Maya preset):
Like most 3D programs it is required that you learn certain keys to quickly select tools or modify an operation. Below are the most useful. There are more that you may find by going to Windows>Hotkeys. You may also adjust, change, or create hotkeys in the popup menu.
- Alt + Left Click & Drag
- rotate camera view
- Alt + Middle Click & Drag
- Pan camera view
- Alt + Right Click & Drag
- Zoom/dolly-in camera view
- Frame on mouse
- Frame selection
- Wireframe visibility toggle
- Shift + D
- Subdivide model
- Page Up
- Level up model subdivision
- Page Down
- Level down model subdivision
- Ctrl+Left Click & Drag
- Inverse tool (ex. addition becomes subtraction)
- Shift + Left Click & Drag
- Ctrl + Z
- Undo last action
- Shift + Z
- Redo last action
- Ctrl + S
- Ctrl + C
- Ctrl + V
- B+Left Click & Drag
- Brush size (diameter)
- M+Left Click & Drag
- Brush strength (amplitude)
- Hotbox (context based quick tool selection and functions menu)
- 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
- Select corresponding tool visible in bottom panel
- I + Left Click
- Shift + M
- Freeze all
- Shift + U
- Unfreeze all
- Shift + I
- Invert freeze
Class 01 Lab
Creative Model Lab
For the very first lab assignment you will create a simple sculpt in Mudbox. It may be whatever you like. The goal is to explore and become familiar with Mudbox’s interface and tools.
You will be graded on the following:
- Lab Requirements
Techniques and processes covered in the instructional material is followed and implemented.
- Creativity & Craftsmanship
Excellent design choices, novel & appealing, and solid clean caliber work.
- Assignment Video Tutorials
- You may watch the tutorial videos below to help you complete your assignment.
Assignment Video Tutorials
Wait! Before you go!
Did you remember to?
- Read through this webpage
- Submit Class 01: Creative Model Lab on Blackboard