Inktober: Week 2

Continuing on, feeling a little better about posting art that I’m not very happy with. Motivated by glimpses of improvement. Frustrated that I still have so far to go before getting to where I want to be. C’est la vie…

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“Screech” Was happy at how quickly and easily I was able to reconstruct the shapes. Linework looked good before I messed everything up trying to add depth
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Depth studies – Using simple details to create a foreground, middle ground, and background
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“Run” Practicing depth by creating a hostile crowd at the boiling point. Poses are readable but weak. Clear that a better understanding of the human figure is something to address in future studies. It was too ambitious but knew I could hone the scope later a few ways. 

One of those decisions to keep “Run” manageable was to color everyone in a flat wash to separate figures. However, friends who spoke to me about this drawing ALL perceived this as a statement on race, seeing a black man in front of an angry white crowd. I wanted to keep the situation vague but I never intended that specifically.

Those who know me well know I’m not scared to make such a statement. In essence, I failed at representing the theme since this is all about deliberate practice. Yet it’s fascinating how a seemingly unrelated design decision to manage scope defined the apparent theme of the piece. Good reminder that images are powerful and every choice needs to be weighed thoroughly.

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“Teeming” Wanted to do something a little more fun to boost morale. Practiced earlier lessons and tried to point maggots as arrows to lead the eye. Realized later that this piece would never look as gross as I wanted without adding slimy highlights. 
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Hand studies – Figure if I get better at hands first, it’ll give me an edge in other anatomy practice. This drove me nuts but I’m determined to suck less at drawing them. 

Decided that I’ll draw the line (heh) concerning anatomy studies at the face. Faces are really damn hard and it seems too far away from my specialty to be worthy in a translated-knowledge-to-effort ratio. Have to stay mindful of what I’m really trying to do here. In the future, of course, but I won’t be working faces this Inktober.

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Inktober: Week 1

Inktober is an annual event about using ink to create art every day of October, started in 2009 by Jake Parker. There are some official rules now but generally it’s about committing to your choices without the aid of “undo” and improving as an artist.

I like drawing but regrettably haven’t put much real practice in so this year I’d like to participate. My focus is making more efficient design decisions and communicating ideas better with improved 2d skills. Keeping the scope of each drawing achievable and trying to aim for drawings/studies that’ll improve various fundamentals.

Week 1-

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“Poison” Getting my bearings, trying a few new tricks like shading dark surfaces with an xacto knife. That didn’t work well, messed up a lot of perspective and butchered the knurling
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“Underwater” Reduced the scope and focused on shading, distortion, and clean lines. Actually quite happy with this one but I forgot the underwater part of the fishing line
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“Long” Wanted to create a design and practice foreshortening. Was happy at how I established a nice composition early. Improved perspective but weak shading and poof
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“Sword” Focus on shading and texturing while trying to accurately convey a spin on the theme
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“Shy” Practicing subtlety in shading and communicating the theme. Felt good about preventing a disaster by taping down the paper still-life model 

Jigabachi Retopo Complete

I’ve not abandoned my GITS helicopter model. Not in the slightest. Between work, the constant job-hunt that is freelance, a three year old, and a moving process that’s just been finished thankfully, I’ve had to chip away at this. A few hours every week has been arduous but consistent. Not much to show off at any rate.

However retopo is finished. Now begins unwrap and baking. Which sounds like another drag but I’ll take UVs over retopo any day.

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I’ll do periodic bake tests as I go to get a handle on the ideal way to break up the maps. Should be more to share that way too.

War of the Chosen Launch

It’s launch day for XCOM 2: War of the Chosen and I couldn’t be more proud of the XCOM team at Firaxis! Among glowing reviews/scores, it’s a joy to have been a part of such a talented group to create something that many fans are already calling ‘special’. My contribution was seven vehicles that help to set the tone in the derelict Abandoned Cities.

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The art dump will be coordinated for sharing in the near future!

 

Lost and Abandoned Reveal

This week Garth DeAngelis and Jake Solomon livestreamed Lost and Abandoned, a reveal of a narrative mission that is part of the XCOM2: War of the Chosen expansion. I modeled and textured a few vehicles that appear in the lost cities which made this event all the more special for me.

 

Besides having worked w Firaxis before, I’m also a longtime XCOM fan. Excited to try out new tactics and the bonding system!

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Compact, Police car, and Ambulance

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Flatbed truck and a poster from the new Photobooth feature
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tfw a pod of 8 enemies spawns in your work
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no contributions of mine, but [37:37] shows a cool overwatch scene w foggy flashlights

X2 Expansion Announcement!

I’ve had the pleasure to work on another project with Firaxis, the War of the Chosen expansion. An entry to the franchise designed to mix up gameplay strategies once again! I was honored to create a few vehicles for it. Can’t say enough about how kind and talented that team is, and I believe fans will appreciate the upgrades to XCOM 2.

 

Irucan: MegaMan V

I wanted to try an enemy that’s softer with lots of curvature. And attitude. curvature and attitude.

I really enjoy making these little toons and working with these classic designs that I grew up with is a uniquely rewarding process. I use to dump countless nights into MegaMan dreaming of being able to work on games. And now here I am, farting around recreating baddies in my free time. Life is good.

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Another MegaMan Baddie

Freelance and family life keeps me busy these days, but I’ve made some time to try out new features in the Hard Mesh 2.07 beta, which the guys at Pux 3D were kind enough to pass along. Having fun working a new enemy! A few choice updates have made a huge difference in how I use the plugin and I’m excited about the possibilities.

Anywho, evil robot dolphin wip.

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Hard Mesh Review

Hard Mesh is a plugin for Maya that provides a suite of highly adjustable non-destructive boolean tools. I wanted to share my findings for the benefit of Maya-users who would be interested in such a thing.

For modelers with boolean-heavy workflows, Maya is a pain. The tools are rigid and destructive. You’re forced to create backup meshes and not much is editable besides a few basic parameters, though it’ll work well at a basic level and is positioned conveniently in a default hotbox. 3DS Max’s Boolean tools allow edits to operands, has a boolean explorer for easy navigation, the ability to remove operands, and uses algorithms that perform better than Maya’s. Yet  as for adjustments to the boolean operation themselves, Max does not offer much more than Maya.

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Hard Mesh UI

Enter Hard Mesh, which allows edits to operands and the ability to change their subdivision levels independently. It also gives control over the interpolation’s offset distance, it’s section spans, the weighting between operands, or the adjustment of it via custom ramp. It’s fast, intuitive,  and flexible.

Installation and setup is automated with a Maya ASCII file, and immediately you’re given the paths to important files. Documentation is online and succinct and my request for a trial key was answered promptly. Usability makes getting started painless.

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Stability is fairly solid, considering a few understandable things. Hard Mesh is heavily dependent on scene scale and it’s recommended to keep your scene less than a range of 100 centimeters. Even then, sliders are very sensitive. In my experience, this is where a majority of the crashing occurred. Treat them gingerly or hand-key incremental values and things go smooth. Getting careless with the offset slider will undoubtedly crash a scene. If you’re reading this, you’re a Maya user, so I shouldn’t need to emphasize saving often. It’s no different here. That said, crashes I’ve had were all attributed to user-error.

Anyone familiar with a boolean-heavy workflow will intuitively understand the rules for best results. Hard Mesh is no different. For those who are new or inexperienced, divisions are everything. Giving the algorithm enough values to perform calculations makes or breaks an operation (HM has special features concerning this that I’ll get into later). Nonmanifold geometry and holes make calculations unstable as well, as airtight geometry will always be more predictable. Alignment is another factor, but for the purposes of this review I won’t get into it. Please look over Ben Bolton’s Proboolean+Dynamesh Tutorial for other practical boolean tips.

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Seriously, Bolton’s breakdown is required reading

There’s a few key features in Hard Mesh I want to highlight. first and foremost is independent control of subdivision levels. All subdivisions are calculated pre-op, so the blending updates in real time. If there’s pinching or jagged curves, a click subdivides the input or output. There’s also global control so you can step the entire HM mesh up and down similar to ZBrush, something that’ll be handy for heavier scenes that need to compartmentalize resources.

Adjustable offset is another feature that simplifies the modeling normally required for turning a boolean operation into a clean hipoly model. The flexibility allows flowing curves for organic modeling or rigidity for hard surface all editable on-the-fly in the same operation. Expensive backtracking through post-boolean cleanup isn’t needed, nor intense management of operands. This means matching a variety of edge widths by material groups is possible (something the Proboolean+Dynamesh method lacks). With precise control of subdivision and offset, finalizing a hp model inside Hard Mesh is not only doable, it’s logical.

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With control over distance and spans, offsets are highly flexible

At any time, you can remove the last operand in the chain. Changing your approach to a modeling problem is hassle free. Also, this allows you to rewind from a completed model to base components that’ll make retopo simple. Keep divisions low, and you can walk through the Hard Mesh process again to setup lowpoly versions with minimal cleanup.

Ramp control is another awesome feature that can let you get creative with the blending. Create insets and bevels in a snap, and when used along with the panel operations, can simplify the arduous task that is paneling curved objects. Which are then all editable in real time as well. Getting creative with the alignment of operators and custom ramps offers possibilities I’ve only scratched the surface of.

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Wider Offset with Custom Ramp

As for cons, the obvious is that Hard Mesh is resource intensive. Between subdivisions and calculations, things begin to crawl pretty quick. You expect that, and it’s manageable, but it’s nonetheless a factor. It also puts out a ton of objects in the scene that’re all dependent on each other. So you can’t export a HM mesh and expect it to be editable on the other side. For these reasons, I’d keep scenes smaller and organized into logical sections. Then swapping the cleaned (HM “clean” removes all connections) hp meshes, if needed. I have no doubt that things would go wacky with 30 HM operations in a scene. It’s also pricey at $100, which I wouldn’t necessarily say is too expensive, but prevents an impulse buy.

To summarize, Hard Mesh is a useful toolset that’ll streamline tedious busywork and allow flexibility and a non-destructive element where there previously was none (in Maya). You really need a place in your regular pipeline to justify the purchase, however. But if it saves you in the paneling of a single project, my opinion is that you’ve got your money’s worth already. If you’re worried about stability or quality, don’t.

Hope this review has been helpful. I made this Mettaur as I played with the features, which you can see more of HERE.

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Special thank you to Jose Dieck for pointing out HM