Monday, 24 October 2011

Environment Project Finished

1 week designing, 2 weeks modelling, unwrapping, texturing, lighting, rendering and learning a new programme. All in all I found this to be the most interesting of all projects I have done at Uni. Given the freedom to create whatever environment you like inside of Maya. 

Here are the final renders. There are only 3 at the moment because each one took around 60 to 90 minutes to render due to the displacement maps and the final gather I had going in the scene. Although I would have liked to have done more, just little things like populating the table with a plate or newspaper, I am quite pleased with the result. I would also like to create different lighting which I might still do just for some practice, maybe even illuminate the street lamps I have hanging off the walls. Hope you like the work. 

2,000,000 Polys!?

PaintFX & Proxies

In my last post I think I mentioned having an update on creating some foliage. I intended on using this great ivy generator programme that has been created by a guy name Thomas Luft.This is a great little programme but it does have some complications which given the small amount of time I had, left me no choice but to scrap it from my scene :( Still if anyone wants to give it a test or even create some ivy in their own scene, here's the link ...

Creating an Italian scene without any plants and plant pots dotted around the place really wouldn't be an Italian scene now would it? To do this I used PaintFX, a very easy technique for creating all sorts of foliage and other things fast. I went a bit crazy, duplicated many plant pots and filled them with loads of flowers and plants only to find I now have almost 2,000,000 polys in my scene!
That's when I remembered watching a tutorial over the summer about the proxy function in Maya. 

Exporting an object into a MentalRay Proxy is essentially creating an instance, even better, it's something that doesn't really exist until you render it. This means you can quickly 'capture' an object with thousands of polygons and is represented in the viewport by a simple 6 sided cube, making your viewport speed a whole lot quicker. Here are some screen grabs to explain it a little better.

1. In this image you can see a tall plant that has a great deal of polys on show. To the left is a proxy of the same plant.

2.Here you can see a wireframe of the both, notice in the proxy you cannot see the plant. (The plant pot wasn't used as a proxy)

3.And finally here are both the plant and the proxy rendered and looking exactly the same.

This method took my polys in the viewport down from 2,000,000 to around 250,000. A massive improvement! This method can be used for a number of things, especially for types of plants, bushes or trees.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Less than 24 hours to go...

It's Sunday night, the deadline is creeping ever so closer. I still have a lot of work to do. This is where I am at at the moment. There are still some things that need tweaking and I still need to add the foliage in the scene which could take a while, I'm not sure yet. The Italian cafe sign seems to be too 'in your face' so I might tone that down a bit. The windows have been created with a Mia_Material with a thin glass pre-set that has been tweaked and it simply has a plane with some net curtains just behind it. After the foliage I need to play with the lighting, perhaps putting an outline of a building behind the camera so you see the shadow casting onto the ground. My next post should be an almost complete render :) 

Bump vs Normal vs Displacement

So I have been doing a lot of tests in Maya when it comes to texturing. I have come across a lot of problems with displacement maps and normal maps but in these quick renders I have managed to get them working and I just wanted to post my results. 

No Map - This is just a diffuse (colour) map only. You can see it is very flat and despite how accurate the tiles are, it doesn't give a realistic result.

Bump Map - This isn't the best test as I think the intensity of the bump is too extreme at the moment but you can still see what effect it has given. Bump maps are rendered pretty quick but as I am going for hyper-realism this isn't the best option to do. It also doesn't react to light so if I was to have harsh shadows from the sun, it would look noticeably fake.

Normal Map - So now we are getting a much better result. Normal maps take slightly longer than bump maps to render but not by too much. The result are much better and I would be happy to use this, however if I want to get some real shadows in those tiles I want to have the mesh displaced. When applying normal maps in Maya you must ensure you have 'Tangent Space Normals' selected and not 'Bump' or 'Object Space Normals'.

Displacement Map - After a few trial and errors I managed to get this displacement map working. The result is excellent. There are a few small black spots scattered around my map which is causing the random holes in the texture but that can be fixed in Photoshop. What I like about displacement maps in Maya is that you don't necessarily have to have loads of polys in your mesh if you apply a Displacement Approximation, but I will play around with that another time.

Better Displacement - My last test involved me tweaking the displacement map in Photoshop so I didn't get those horrible holes in the floor. I also increased the amount of polys in the plane to get a better result. This did increase the rendering time by a lot but it's worth it!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Quick update ...

Ok so it's getting along nicely. There doesn't seem to be much difference from my last post but I have done most of the unwrapping which, in Maya, was painful. So it's almost time to texture and make this thing look 'realistic'. I quickly made some small props to fill up the scene as well, just some plant pots (which you seem to find everywhere in your typical Italian street scene) I have also changed my design slightly from my turnaround by adding that balcony on top of the arch. I thought it would look a lot more interesting that way. Hopefully I can get this texturing done within a few days so I can play around with the lighting a bit better.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Modelling my environment

So I have reached a point where I can show some of the modelling I have created and discuss some of methods I have used. Over the summer I attempted some modelling/lighting/effects etc. so starting this project I at least had the very basic skills to help me. Modelling has gone slower than expected...but I think that's because I took a lot on, not realising how much time this stuff takes to make in Maya because I don't have the knowledge of say another programme such as 3ds Max. So lets do this...

The Bench
The bench was probably the easiest thing to model in my scene. It consisted of just simple boxes that were re-sized to make lengths of wood. The only really tricky part to this was creating the feet. I wanted to use as many different modelling techniques as possible so for this I wanted to use the curve tools and then extract a polygon face around the curve. However as this was my first stab at this process it didn't work so found a way around it. By creating a tube and changing the sides to 4, I could easily create the same effect as I was originally going for.

The WindowThis was definately one of my biggest challenges ad it invlovled a lot of attention to detail when it came to getting the window frame precise. I used lots of techniques such as the Extrude, Bridge, Merge Vertex Tool and most importantly the insert edge loop tool. The Shutters were quite easy. I simply rotated a thin box and duplicated with Ctrl+D and continued with Shift+D to duplicate it several times. I also learnt how to create groups within hierarchy's, making it very easy to select the necessary component.

The Door Arch
This was created for the front to do the building and will be one of the main features (including the door itself) I easily created a simple box, unwrapped it first quickly, duplicated it a few times and then altered the shapes very slightly. For objects like bricks with a lot of variation in the mesh can have numerous methods to create them. I could have used a displacement map or normal map and I could have also taken it into Zbrush or Mudbox to alter but I thought that would take too much time. I chose to play around with the Transform Component Tool which I found very effective. I don't think it gives you as much control as the Noise modifier in 3dsMax however.

The BicycleYou can't have a tradition Italian scene without the vintage bicycle leaning somewhere in the picture. I wanted to spend a little more time on modelling this prop as I just thought it was something a little more interesting than what I usually do. I also wanted to finally crack that method of using the curve tools. I started by using the Bezier Curve Tool but had some problems with that when it came to editing the curve so I ended up using the EP Curve Tool which helped a lot. Extruding a long the curves was sometimes tricky if the curve had a lot of angles but I'm happy with the result.

The Table for Two
To get some variety in my scene I wanted to experiment with different features within Max and incorporate it within my scene. This was a good opportunity to test out the nCloth feature. As you can see it's not a perfect result by a long way but after a few tests (and a few crashes from Maya) I got a fairly decent result. 

So this is where I'm at so far. It is still early stages and there is a lot more modelling to do, such things as doors, more windows, plant pots, stools, barrells etc. I hope you like what you see and i'll get some more recent shots of some texturing up soon!

Monday, 10 October 2011

3rd Year Maya Environment Project

So i'm now in my 3rd year and have been set my first project. Environments in Maya! Brilliant. Over the summer I have had some practice in using Maya and created a small environment just so I know the basics ready for this project.

I initially wanted to create a sort of boat house or maybe a country house by the side of a lake. I was very excited to create lots of water, trees and grass and all that type of stuff but when it came down to it I thought it would prove quite time consuming and I didn't think I could get amazing results (Mainly because of the trees, I didn't like the idea of using PaintFX as the results are not that great and creating loads of trees from scratch would have been too time consuming)

So this brings me to my final idea. I am going to create a smaller environment, based in Italy. It will be the classic cobbled streets with a small coffee shop or pizzeria and lots of little plants dotted around the place. The picture above is just a quick mock up I did in Maya just to help me get a mental image of what the final render could look like. I'll keep posting updates and hopefully...won't talk so much!