Emerging technologies essay- Research and planning

Over the past few weeks, I have been spending my Wednesdays pulling together the planning for my emerging tech essay, and I decided that it’s about time I wrote a post about it. I plan to write about the uncanny valley in my essay, and talk about how this has effected game animation in the past, and speculate on how it will effect game visuals and animation in the future, so most of my research is based around motion capture from the games I plan to talk about, and photogrammetry along with how it works.

Until Dawn: Behind the scenes bonus content – https://youtu.be/UR-IgPhsHls

I plan to talk about the uncanny valley in Until Dawn as part of my essay, because the facial animation in that is really weird, so I took to YouTube to watch the behind the scenes bonus content that shows how that works. They marked the faces and made the models with the same topology as the actors who played the characters to try and keep it accurate. For the facial animation, they marked where the muscles are on the actors’ faces and used a small camera attached to a helmet that is positioned directly in front of their face so that it would accurately work out the muscle movement, and this recorded the voice lines at the same time. And then for the body animation, they filmed the footage separately with different systems, using reflective bead suits with an infra red camera that is connected to the bone hierarchies in the character models.

Siggraph 2017: Photogrammetry workflow talk – https://youtu.be/Ny9ZXt_2v2Y

Even though I already checked out what photogrammetry is through a general google search, I figured I’d check around on YouTube to see if there was any GDC like talks on it. There was a good one on Star Wars battlefront, however I managed to find this good Siggraph 2017 one that talks through the workflow of making a 3D environment. This talk has given me a better general understanding of what photogrammetry is and the sheer amount of work involved with this technique. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of high quality, well lit photos are needed to be able to digitally re-create something in the form of a 3D model. Objects in digitally re-created environments are sometimes scanned individually, as is the case with the acorn in this talk, whereas sometimes the photographers painstakingly separate a square of ground, and take photos working their way around the edges inwards to the middle in a spiral pattern so that no footprints obscure the photos and change the way the ground looks. They also have to make sure the lighting is right, which sometimes required artificial lighting (for example, big fill lights like the ones used when taking photos of models) to be brought in, in order to soften shadows and make it easier for the software to recognise edges and where vertices should be.

Extra Credits: The Uncanny Valley – https://youtu.be/9K1Kd9mZL8g

Extra Credits is one of my all time favourite YouTube channels, and this video was my gateway introduction to their channel years ago when I first discovered them. This video describes how Dr Masahiro Mori first encountered the Uncanny Valley while making and presenting robots, and it also talks about about possible solutions to overcoming the uncanny valley. The video suggests either developing our technologies further to achieve better photo-realism within games (which can link to photogrammetry for my essay), or making things stylised, because stylised things are anthropomorphised versions of things that aren’t supposed to look exactly human, such as Super Mario games. It’s a couple of years old, but the content is still useful because it talks about photorealism and gives good insight into how the field was looking 5 years ago.

 

Update: I recently did more research to support my essay, however since it has been 2 weeks since I first posted this, I decided to make a new post for it, which you can see here!

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Creative and Technical model: Low poly model start, and learning about retopology

In today’s lesson, Matt taught us about retopology and showed us some more modelling techniques. Retopology can be used to recreate a surface with optimal geometry to even out polygons, and lower the overall polygon counter. It is also useful for making the polygons on a face deform better when animating. He also taught us how to use curves to make shapes to extrude along.

I then got on with making the base model for the animated short project. Unfortunately I didn’t make use of any new techniques yet, but I hope to make good use of those later on when I make hair for the character model. So far I only have a very chunky blocky model, which I will work through the week to make better.

Currently it doesn’t look great, however my next steps are to smooth the model out with edge loops, and make the body look less like a lego character, and more rounded. Ideally I will get this finished before next week so that I can distribute it to ebby, and then we can get to work on making the characters.

Storyboarding: Week 4 – Game storyboarding

Today we learned about game storyboarding. Game storyboards are hard to compare to film storyboards, because it’s much harder to plan for a game in that so many variables that can change, for example camera angles and player interaction. Film storyboards are set pieces, camera angles and perspectives are stuck to and set, but in games, sometimes the character can move around in cutscenes, and this makes it harder to plan out the interaction between characters and how this is framed, given that often in games the player moves away from talking NPCs. Another contrast between the two is that it gets to a point with game storyboarding where the storyboards are so hard to plan that any art made for it becomes concept art because the interaction is unpredictable.

Tony set us off on the task of making a storyboard for a level from a game, and to storyboard the main parts of that level. My mind immediately went to the mail delivery mini game from Kingdom Hearts 2. We were told to then plan out the main story elements and parts of that level, so my planning for that is below.

General rules – Get munny for beach adventure. Skateboard and deliver letters to get payed. Deliver speedily to get more munny

Characters – Roxas, Hayner, Pence, Olette, seagulls, male npc, female npc

Environment – Twilight town, a small village bathed in early sunset. Tall, closely packed houses, with narrow alleys.

Goals – Get munny to go to the beach

How the level progresses – Roxas notices a “help needed” board and decides to be a delivery boy. He then skateboards through the the town and delivers the mail to earn munny and go to the beach.

So far, I have only made a few main panels for the storyboard that I’m making for this mini game…

Skateboard storyboard.png

Currently it doesn’t look great, however hopefully later this week I will either make another post or put an update on this post with the completed storyboard.

Update: I have finally finished the storyboard, check this post here

 

Animated short: Creative and Technical model planning

Today we discussed what we are going to make for our creative and technical model. Since we are making an animation, we decided it made more sense to make the characters as our creative and technical models so that they would be done sooner and available for the animation part quicker. We split the tasks of the models that needed making so that Ebonny is making most of the environment assets, and I am making the base character model. After the base character model is made, we are going to make both of the character models from that, so Ebonny is going to make Zach, and I will make Lilith. Here is a visual representation that I made to try and work out how to make it…

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The modelling pipeline consists of first doing the research, collecting reference images and/or concept art for the model, then working out design choices and concepts for the final sketches and annotating as necessary, then making the low poly model, then UV unwrapping so that the UVs are set, then making the high poly model, this point is a good time to work out naming conventions, then bake the model to get the normal map, then texturing, making sure to check that the model will work in the required destination, then exporting to the necessary engine.

My next steps for this model are to make the low poly base model so that I can then make the high poly one to distribute to Ebonny so that we can finish the characters as soon as possible.

 

Substance painter: Week 2

Today I continued making textures for this turtle in substance painter, and learned how to bake textures from high to low poly models within substance painter.

To bake textures in substance painter, you need to press the bake textures button, then chose the model that is going to be baked onto the low poly one, then make sure that the suffixes are the same as they are within the modelling software, then bake it. I made the mistake of forgetting to make the suffixes the same as they were in the Maya file (because substance painter is case sensitive) and my first few attempts at baking didn’t work properly, but after I asked for help and this was changed it worked out fine. I also learned about what ambient occlusion is, it is a texture map that can be used to add in shadows that rendering software usually misses with the available lighting, for example the dark shadows in the corner of walls, or a shadow between two ridges. I didn’t play around with ambient occlusion yet, but in the future it is likely to be something I’ll try out. I then learned that to export you have to chose which platform you want to export to (as long as it’s compatible with the model), and then it just exports! Armed with this knowledge, I exported my turtle to Sketchfab, here is the link below!

Overall, I am happy with how this model turned out. Because of the nature of the high poly model, it has a lot of skin texture to it, which makes the wool texture I chose look a little strange, but it sort of gives it a loved toy look so I’m okay with that. I took some time to try and add some depth to the wool texture, which doesn’t look drastically different, but it’s a subtle improvement, and gave him some eyes so that he doesn’t look terrifying anymore. I was hoping to try and give him Pixar eyes, but I couldn’t really get it to work, so I might go back to that and make it better at some point.

Substance painter is likely to come in super useful later on, if not for texturing then for texture baking. I never properly managed to bake textures in Maya, but substance painter makes it so much easier, so I’m very likely to use it for texture baking in the future, but overall I’m definitely going to use it for texturing too, because being able to visually see where you are painting makes it so much easier to texture.

Storyboarding: Week 2 – Perspective techniques

Today we learned more about storyboarding. Tony taught us the time saving technique of using 3D models to work out the perspective. Tony gave us another excerpt from some literature, and told that we needed to make an image for the first line of the text. We then downloaded some 3D models from Sketchup’s website and imported them into Sketchup, then moved them around to wherever we wanted, so that we could cheat at making shots. He also briefly covered the rule of thirds. Based on this, I made this shot.

Capture

I then took this into Photoshop and used it as reference to create my own art based on my interpretation of the text. I sketched and shaded the house, then used the woman as a placemarker for a bag of garlic. I shaded everything, then added a messy border for the aesthetic.

Storyboard onions.png

Overall, I am very happy with how this turned out! Considering that half of the things in this image weren’t even there to begin with, I feel it has turned out great!

Fantasy character: Mercy updated

Back in March, I designed a character named Mercy. At the time I loved her design, but I wasn’t confidant enough to post anything for her on my blog. Recently however, I decided to give her a redesign, because I need to evolve my art and make more unique stuff for my portfolio, and I felt like my old art for her just didn’t do her justice. So, meet Mercy.

Chill Mercy new transp.png

Mercy is a performing sorceress / fire eater who got scorched by her own flames during a performance, hence the burn marks on her body. Her anatomy needed fixing because on the old art it just looked proportionally wrong, however I feel like it looks much better here. I changed a tonne of things for her outfit and appearance, because her old design was heavily influenced by her entertainer background as a performing dancer, however I decided that she needed to look more like the sorceress she is, so I gave her robes with warm tones inspired by flames, and shorts and gloves with coal grey tones. I wanted to give her plenty of jewellery because I felt like it tied into the chaotic sorceress look. I stuck with my scribbly messy lines because this is a style I like a lot, and I used a similar background technique to Yumea’s redesign because I really like that Breath of the Wild concept look, except this time I tried to make Mercy’s background look like flames to add more of her personality. The burn marks are now vastly improved too, because I had accessibility to custom brushed, so I used this brush with a darker tone than her skin to make her burns look more like burns and less like purple blobs.

Overall, I am very happy with this character redesign. I am glad that I held off posting about this character previously because the old art was abysmal compared to this, however a part of me wished I had so that her evolution could have been seen the whole way. Never the less, she is on my blog now so she finally made it! Her design has come a super long way and I’m genuinely proud of how far my art has come in just half a year!