“Jezz” is a character rig for an upcoming animated short of mine.
As the culmination of all my education and practice thus far, the final mesh is extremely clean & refined. Despite being for animation, a game Dev workflow was employed for the actual modeling and design.
I used hard surface modeling for each part of the model, so the final meshes are much lower res than a typical animation rig. Every cut serves to shape the final look or to allow for nice smooth deformations.
Each part of the character is fully UV unwrapped & laid out for baking individual textures & PBR assets.
The final model mostly consists of basic Maya shaders. The glasses took some tweaking to get a realistic transparency. One of the few textures being used are in the watch for both the interior design, & to get some holes on the underside using Alphas instead of topology.
The face is of course one of the key designs that needs to be right for a character to be appealing. This took a great deal of experimentation & constant tweaking. These days I’d be more inclined to simply sculpt the face & retopologize it afterward, but at the time hard surface was my sole way of working.
The hair was in theory much simpler, big and crazy looking was my goal. Implementation of this design was a bit more complex in practice. Often in modern productions hair is simulated or sculpted, but I created this look by making a simple curl and constantly duplicating & twisting it until I got an interesting final look.
The main body rig is fully custom, as well as entirely weight painted by myself. It’s fairly standard for a human rig, nothing to extreme going on. A bit more detail in the shoulder controls and fingers. Ball roll for the feet. Custom controls for hair strands.
The real polish & extra care went into the facial rig. It was my second time ever doing one and I wanted to make it a bit more complex & useful. Eye controls, including custom pupils, a full set of phonemes, cheek, eyebrows, lips all get their own blend shapes and custom controls.
A lot of mapping behind the scenes to make sure all the different controls map to the correct blend shapes when the correct motion or transformation is applied.
I then did some vis dev work to try and set up a proof of concept render for what my short should look like. I’ll probably make some changes by the time I begin animating but I do like the claymation-esque aesthetic that comes from the basic shaders & lighting choices.
I threw the final model into Mixamo and picked some good Motion capture scenes to render.
I eventually decided to port the character into Blender. The facial rig is still a work in progress but mixamo allowed for a much quicker transition for the body rig. I used this new rig and some animations to create a short teaser for the short. Sound design and editing being done in after effects.
Tony here was my second ever character rig, and the first I created outside of an academic context. He is a character designed by a friend of mine and I had wanted to make something like this for a long time.
The final design is stylized, with a fairly low poly mesh. It uses basic shaders for all the textures, with only the eye requiring UV unwrapping. There are things that I would change nowadays, but I’m very happy with the results given my limited experience at the time.
There was lots of reference images that had been acquired over the years, which in some ways was nice, but in other ways it made certain aspects like the head a bit inconsistent and requiring more experimentation. Eventually, my friend and I decided that the turnaround was the closest to the original design intention, & I focused on matching that design.
From there I modified my previous custom rig to fit these new proportions. Carefully weight painting & checking the deformations & looking for any errors.
By this point, I was back in college & taking a second Maya class. So I decided to be efficient and use my new model to make my first ever full facial rig. Some examples were given but ultimately It was my choice what blend shapes were made and what I wanted from it.
A very much appreciated lesson was on how to map blend shapes to controller motions using the node editor.
This allowed for a very intuitive custom rig design for all the phonemes and facial controls.
The end results make for a very enjoyable posing & animation experience
“Mira” was the first character model & rig I ever created, and served as the final project for my introduction to Maya class.
I knew from the start that I wanted to go cartoonish style instead of a more grounded or realistic approach. This style has always appealed to me more in animated films and it seemed like a reasonable goal for a first attempt.
I took some of my many character doodles and made a full turnaround. In the end this mostly served as a style reference and wasn’t as useful as I had hoped for the actual modeling.
My initial plan was to use Ncloth simulations for the clothing, so i modeled the underlying limbs & torso first. I followed tutorials to get the base shapes and then continually experimented and tweaked them until I was happy with the shape.
I intended to do the face next, but quickly realized different features like eye size & teeth shape would effect different proportions in the face, so I modeled those first.
The head was where a large amount of total project time went. I had never attempted anything humanoid in 3D before, & even with the stylized aesthetic, it is very easy to enter the uncanny valley. Ultimately constant tweaking & iteration led to the final result. The eyebrows added a bit of humanity as well.
The crocs took equally long. With how organic & flowing the shapes are it would have been more suited to NURBS than hard surface modeling. I am very happy with the end results thought. They look how I imagined & deform well in animation.
The original plan for simulating the clothing with nCloth didn’t end up panning out. Too much trouble for mediocre results. Just properly weight painting the mesh ended up looking great when deforming.
The differences between iterations on the sweater are less pronounced, but a lot of tweaking during this phase was on overall proportions for all clothing.
At the same time I began working on the hair. I decided to make my first venture into Maya’s sculpting tools. They are fairly basic, and I had no digital sculpting experience, but I was able to make a shape that I felt matched the quirky shape of my drawing. The diagonal patterns add some interesting depth & perspective effects when viewing it.
With all the mesh finished I moved onto my first every character rig. We had barely begun diving into bones & weight painting at this point in the class, so the majority simply came together by combining different tutorials together to create something useful.
We were informed on the importance of a clean bone hierarchy, so I took it to heart and kept everything logically named & well kept. A last lesson was given on Drivers and I used this newfound knowledge to create some maya inputs for the fingers to curl, without needing to manipulate handles.
I decided to go with IK legs and FK for the arms & hands. Weight painting wasn’t too bad in the end, with the mesh still being fairly low poly. The body & limbs all deform very well & move in a natural way.
The final experiment was switching the shaders & textures from basic lamberts to full on Maya Toon Shaders. I did feel it added a great deal to the final product & made it seem more cartoony, but i could tell that for actual production it would take a lot more tweaking. I’ve learned a lot since this project & may revisit it again or do an updated version.
My first venture into the wonderful world of XGen Simulations. This project was mostly to get familiar with the interface and experiment with some of the built-in hairstyles.
The first demo developed fairly quickly. A field of grass that looked like it was waving in the wind.
Upon closer inspection and comparison with a character model of mine, I found that this was far too small of a setting for what I had planned and to truly make for an interesting demo.
Unfortunately, scaling the plane up resulted in very sparse grass, meaning a new solution was needed. I found that duplicating the plane and creating a grid out of them allowed for scale and density in the simulation.
I then used soft-selection on the vertices of the planes to sculpt the terrain from flat into something more lively, while still keeping them all connected seamlessly.
The topology for the characters is equally simple as the ground, as the majority of detail is found in the hair simulation & grooming.
The initial look of the scene was a bit stilted, but after some settings adjustments and lots of grooming, it came to life.
This is one of my first major projects in Blender. I have done plenty of character models before but wanted to do something more aesthetic-focused, such as a figurine, rather than a rig.
The main goal was to make it physical via 3D printing, so I started out with simple meshes and the overall shapes.
I would then take these basic shapes and hard-surface model some detail into them, still trying to retain the form.
I moved onto the tail next, using an extruded bezier curve to allow manipulating non-destructively later on.
It was now time for the head, where I wanted a chibi-like proportion and equally simple shape language. So I formed it using only basic primitives, only really deforming them slightly.
I worked on the facial features a bit and got the arm proportions figured out. These aren’t actually used in the final model but they were useful for where to model other parts of the character.
Using the same curve technique from the tail, I began modeling hair strands and the rim of the hoodie.
I continued messing with hair strands and used the torso mesh to create the main body of the hoodie.
I then made some sleeves by sculpting the main part of the hoodie to the correct size and shape.
And the final part of the model was the hands. Another use of the curve technique for the fingers, and a simple form for the palm.
This is the final character model used for all digital usage of the character, but to turn it into a figurine some more work was needed.
I combined the entire model into a singular mesh, did some light sculpting to clean up the union intersections.
I threw the model into Cura to begin the slicing process.
Set up all the scaffolding/support and began the very long print.
I’m very happy with the output thus far, it’s not perfect but with a few more iterations I think it will be comparable to the model completely and ready to begin sanding & painting to the final look.
One of my earliest Maya projects. This was my introduction to modeling with NURBS and basic texturing & lighting setups.
The vases, pots, vines, ornamental furniture pieces, and Audrey 2 herself were made with NURBs.With the rest of the props and environmental pieces being modeled with hard surface tools.
The camera angle was decided early into the project, which allowed me to focus on just what would be rendered.
Although the lighting was fairly straightforward, it required a lot of tweaking to get the right atmosphere and focus for the shot, while not obscuring the environment and props too much.
A Short breakdown of the different stages of modeling & texturing.
This short scene was one of my first character animation attempts. It offered an intro to animation workflows and some nice prop & environment practice.
Everything was modeled based on the camera view, making efficient use of time and rendering resources.
The main star of the show is a simple box rig that was provided.
The Eyes are rigged properly, but the majority of animation came through the use of lattices.
This allowed for smooth deformations easily but made for a bit of a messy timeline. Rigs are definitely preferable for actual productions.
The finale of the scene involves a large plume of flames coming from the stovetop. Originally I was unsure how I was going to accomplish this, considering modeling flames or using 2D VFX overlays.
Ultimately I decided to use this as an opportunity to learn Fire simulation in Maya. They are quite complex & require a lot of computation time. But I am overall glad I took the time, even if the other visual styles may have been more dynamic or fitting.
The focus of this project was to begin learning particles and effects. The environment and themes are directly inspired by the early 2000’s Nick Show ‘Danny Phantom’.
It was interesting experimenting with different shaders to try and make Maya’s realistic textures and lighting look a bit more flat & 2D, while still allowing for interesting lighting effects later on.
The star of the show, the ghost, is actually a frozen Ncloth simulation of a basic sheet over a sphere.
The eery glow & outline were made by combining a basic toon shader with some emission settings, and a bit of alpha manipulation.
As with all effects projects, there were lots of experimentation & trial and error until something stuck.
These two background details used the particle system to constantly replicate and float some assets I designed. The smoke being a simple 2D plane with an alpha mask applied.
The portal effect was actually one of the first effects I developed. Originally intended for a witches cauldron, it uses the current time of the playback to modify and twist two different colors being generated on the plane.
I wish I had been able to find a use for this effect in the project.
This was one of my earlier projects, a simple physics simulation demo.
The mall environment is was chosen to give some context and atmosphere to the scene, while being simple to implement.
This was my first venture into modeling props that were a bit more complex than just modified cubes and cylinders. The detailed texures and shading helps bring these simple models to another level.
The choice of RC cars allowed me to experiment with new modeling techniques without being too concerned about the “realism” of the final results.
The actual physics of the scene was generated with Bullet, & was where the majority of development time was spent.
Constantly tweaking settings. Occasionally needing to redo the collider boxes on certain props to make them a bit more stable & react in a pleasing to look at way.
The karts moved throughout the scene simple by following some premade curves. Adjusting the finishing time and the length and or paths of the curves allowed for changes in speed and general variability between the three toys.
This lovely lumux was the final project from my game modeling class. I made him in a few days thanks to a very short-term deadline.
Concept art was provided, but all modeling & final design choices were mine alone.
The Final model is fairly lightweight, with the majority of finer details planned to be shown through texturing later on down the production line.
Still, there was room for detailed parts of the model, like the face, feet & hands.
Specially designed topology allows for fine and wide ranges of movement of the mesh while still keeping the poly count down.
Lots of experimentation is required to reach a nice compromise between efficient polygon usage & keeping true to the original design.
We start off with the basic mesh of a head, provided by default in Mudbox.
Sculpt the main shape of the head to be similar proportions to the reference.
Then matching key spots like the nose, jawline, & forehead to reference images.
The first major focus is given to the nose. Shaping the anatomy to reference & memory.
Then the lips, starting with a basic seam & then working in curls and fat.
Eyes are very key to seeming human. The forehead & nose are also blended in.
Ears are often covered by hair, but it is still useful to know the inner flow.
One of the core skills needed for game art is that of taking extremely high poly NURBS models or sculpts….
…and turning it into a low poly mesh ready for real-time rendering.
A typical retopology workflow usually starts with a base hard-surface model. Often Mid-to-Low Poly.
Which then gets shaped & detail added to it via multi-resolution digital sculpting. (Optionally texture painting can also happen in this step.)
The extremely high-resolution mesh is then added back into the modeling program and a much simpler mesh is “drawn” over it, usually by hand.
Then the software “bakes” the normal differences between the low-poly mesh and the sculpt, and the textures, into some texture maps that preserve all the detail.
The final project from a “current techniques in game art” class I took.
My inspiration was from the reform schools & institutions of old. Big & authoritative purely through appearance.
I looked around and began gathering images that would serve not just as reference, but also for the actually sculpting & texture painting of the building later on.
I created a very low poly mockup of the building. This would serve as the base model to sculpt and as the mesh that all the textures get baked into.
Using the earlier brick & roof textures inside Mudbox’s stencil feature I was able to sculpt the base detail of the building.
On a separate sculpting layer, I imprinted the window & door stencils I created all around the building. I made sure to alternate the view & edit some of the finer details so as not to be too repetitive.
With the sculpt finished I moved on to vertex painting. I used the same images this time as textures. Again I paid close attention to repetitive details and worked to differentiate things.
With all the Mudbox work finished I baked everything for the main building & the roof onto the earlier low poly version. A set consisting of a Normal map, a Texture, & an Ambient Occlusion Map.
Normally at this point, the model would be fully complete & you could throw it into your game engine of choice. But I decided to quickly throw together some basic terrain.
Real-time rendering is the future of the design & animation industries. Gaming has used this technique for decades, but the results of modern applications are competing in render quality with even the big guys like Arnold & V-Ray.
Global illumination is able to transform simple low poly environment models into intricate spaces. Built-in effects called “ambiance” add small imperfections and particles.
Optimizations with light baking & efficient use of PBR textures
allow for high-quality renders that still continue to run at 60 Frames Per Second +.
Not just for small interiors; but outdoors & terrain focused areas as well.