Monday, 28 May 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Pre-Deadline Update 2

After covering a huge amount of time in my last post, this features more recent progress, focusing mostly on animation tests, shader experiments and pre-vis and renders.

Sadly with a lack of resources and time, I haven't been able to take any fully rendered shots, so I've prepared rendered stills, passes and playblasts as an insight into what my finished piece would have infact resembled.

I began test after hearing how faulty the Toon Shader can beon animated objects, and without having used it before,  starting with a somthing simple like a cube proved to be a good insight. Using the same scene lighting as my animation to keep consistence.

After this, I pushed the technique further using Ebony as a the object, changing the size and colour. In motion it's seems to work, however when paused, the outlines are slightly misplaced.

Moving on whilst playing experimenting with animating my components and the toon shader, I moved towards focusing on separate objects working together. This is an example of what would be expected in my renders

On another tangent, here are pass through of my actual scene, to give a better idea of how I would have carried out camera angles in conjunction to giving my work a 3D essence. This would be the main camera, passing through slowly as component animation would build together and fall into place.

This particular section above, would be cut at intervals into the main camera to keep the animation fresh. Although I do have another playblast of my animation, this will be featured on my CD. Finally, here are the last remaining making of images I need to upload, focusing on visualising what would otherwise be lacking from my playblasts

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A Fantasia Of Art Nouveau - Pre-Deadline Update

It's been a long while since I've made any sort of progress posts on my project, and there is a huge gap of progress to mark from the end of my Pre-Production, right through to the end of Production, so hopefully these next few posts will lay it down and get you up to speed as to where I am before my final submission of my university life!


After understanding the style by trying out different many different variations of environment, silhouettes, tones components typical of Art Nouveau, I decided to take a more Architectural influence Building on the blocks I explored in my development, I combined different attributes from select pieces I felt were more successful in capturing the 'Cold/Midnight' hues and feelings of melancholy and loneliness that are evoked in Chopin's 'Nocturne Opus 9, No. 1'

After finally choosing the direction I wanted to take my design in, I quickly began to pick apart the composition influences, exploring what I felt worked and combined them into a quick digital paint to visualise  my piece. I decided to go with No.4 from Silhouette Composition 2, as I felt it was the most subtle in terms of sexual allure, as well a slotting into her environment perfectly.

After creating a mixture of the two compositions, I took the rough paint and began shaping my final design by blocking colour and vector shapes. 

After blocking in basic silhouettes and colour, I began breaking up the piece with more gradients, textures strokes, and detailed components, whilst sticking close to my previous choices & influences. Adding the environment and adjusting its levels/tone, I played with palette to try and make the piece flow together.

Finally painterly textures and canvas overlays are what really tied the piece together to achieve a natural feel.

Keeping in mind how these 'flat' design will translate into the 3D world, I made sure not to make the mistake of flattening all of my layers as part of cleaning my file, but to keep each separate component on a separate layer (which also made easier for applying complex stroke details) in order to blow apart the the components spatially. I simply applied a transform distortion to each side in order to give the impression that they were in a side position. 

This helped a great deal in order to help me visualise the image in a 3D space, instantly giving it life, to an otherwise flat art style, at the same time allowing me to play around with what components worked in terms of position.

Building on my final design from my initial mock paint, I went ahead and added the final components, the typical 'flowing dress' as well as a prominent tree silhouette and some cherry blossoms, as homage to Mucha's 'Dance', which evidently will be a great animation component.

I again built upon my new version of the piece adding the new components and transforming it into a 3D perspective, which will act as a map for my final layout for my models in my animation.

Throughout my designs, I've not really paid much attention to the woman in the focus of my piece, so I set aside some time to explore how she might look. I named her 'Ebony' for some closure, a fitting name for a dark set piece. Relaying back to my research I took most influence from Mucha, Amano & Clarke, focusing of the Mucha's softness combined with heavy stroke, Amano's use of pale tones, and Clarke's stark use of mark making in order to fit Ebony into this world.

Taking an initial sketch that started on paper I quickly moved it into Photoshop finesse the style through colour and texture.

Moving on from my basic version of her, I wanted to explore in more detail her character, and add more of each artists influence into her look. I wanted a particular look that wasn't too provocative, yet not completely void of emotion.

This also allowed me to explore what kind of head accessory she might be wearing to accentuate her Toulouse hair, making her more of the decorative and natural. I made sure to paint her very softly in contrast the the strong lines that suggest depth and silhouettes, overlaying small hatching into shaded area's, as well as overall keeping to a very pale/cool colour palette, finally adding a canvas texture, as well as some components from my design to keep consistency and explore how she works in regards to her surroundings as a design.

The final component to take into consideration was in fact the gown. I wanted to have a translucent material that would allow some form to show through, keeping a sexual undertone, but to also follow along a 'heavenly & of the earth' aesthetic, using silhouette I put together for my previous compositions and adding an overall stroke to the piece.


Moving on from my Pre-Production, I began translating my components into Maya. Throughout this stage I wanted to keep a consistence in my model which still had elements of a flat world, however had a 'plaque' feel about them. Some of the objects in my scene had an organic flow in their shape, so a mixture of hard/soft surface modelling was key. Thankfully after doing many character projects this helped quite a bit. 

Adding thin edge loops was key in order to keep a crisp, smooth curve to accentuate the organic feel to an otherwise flat extrusion. In order to make more of the complex components, I made use of the 'Create Poly Tool' to draw out the area, and join the connecting verts together, as well as extruding cubes across CV Curves in order to accurately create the gate borders.

After seeking some advice whilst creating some complex shapes, I discovered that it's possible to import closed curved/vector shapes form Illustrator to Maya. Employing the same technique as what I used when creating brushes for Alchemy, I imported my shape from Photoshop, and converted it into a vector, then into maya. The downside however, is like with the create polygon tool, if you plan to smooth the piece of geometry, you'll need to link the vertices together with Split Polygon Tool.

With the last pieces of the puzzle coming together, I moved onto texturing my components. Now my original image has quite a lot of block colour, and no real amount of shading. Therefore wouldn't necessarily need much lighting if any. 

Here I was phased with the question, apart from the animation what difference would there be between the image and models. Whilst figuring this issue out I moved onto painting the textures, sticking very closely to my original concept.

With this done, I began to challenge the previous question with some material tests. This is an early version of the Gate Border. I applied a Metallic Paint Material to test how I would translate the flat block colours into materials in Maya.

Although very effective, the shading on the material wouldn't apply to all of my components. As I attempted to apply real world shaders to my work, it became more apparent that they just weren't what I was looking for, especially in terms of mia materials. Whilst trying to find the correct shaders that translated my image accurately, lighting became an issue as pieces like the gate, needed shading and specular to show it's material, whereas the textured components needed to remain flat. 

Using Blinn's on every other component that wasn't metal became the solution. Furthermore, by plugging in an Ambient Occlusion into the Ambient part of every shader (including the metal shader to help balance the world) the materials became self-lighting, however quite flat.To help with some of the textured components I plugged the file into a Surface Shader so it wouldnt receive any light. 

Hypershade network

Adding a soft, dim directional and adjusting each Blinn's specular and reflectivity, I was able to add a subtle amount of 3D to my components, without bleaching much of the color, and moving away from the block style. 

After sorting out the textures, I began working on the tiny parts like the cherry blossoms, preparing for the animation.

Next on the agenda, I'll be working on animation and texture tests, along with rendering, which will be updated into my next post.