Monday, 20 December 2010


In the final shot, the Masai man is standing by a fire.  In order to create the fire, I created a small sphere which I moved to the area of the fire.
I then applied Fire Dynamics to the sphere, by going to the Dynamics tray and clicking this button.
When I moved the key frames, the sphere emitted particles, which when rendered, would form the fire.
In the Channel Box, I adjusted the Fire Scale to make it slightly bigger and more visible.
When I rendered the shot, the fire was now visible beside the Masai tribesman.

Trying to resolve a sun issue

The presence of the sun is a fundamental part of the first and final shot of the piece.  However, when it came to applying this to an image plane that I assigned to the camera.  I had several issues when I tried rendering it.
There was a lack of both clouds and sun, producing a clean red texture.  I had a go at adjusting both the elevation and azimuth of the sun but this made no difference.  I also tried moving the 'place3dtexture' object that contained the sun but this also made no difference.
Eventually I decided that for these particular shots, the best thing would be to render the sky in a separate file and the scene in another file and then composite them together in AfterEffects.
When I exported it to a video, here was the outcome.  None of the animation has been put in quite yet.
From this, I have found that it is efficient to apply an image plane with an envSky texture to a daytime scene; but when it comes to more complex stuff involving clouds and sun, I will be better off rendering the scene and sky separately and compositing them together as it does not seem to work as well in a scene which already has models placed in it.  I will just need to make sure that both the scene and sky have the same number of frames and are timed against one another.

Possible new Masai texture

I have just come up with another idea for the Masai tribe that will complement the lighting/texturing scheme that I came up with for the weaponry.  I applied a Light Angle Two tone to the Masai that I textured with a dark brown/black colour scheme and I then added a directional light that I pointed at the Masai.
When I rotated the directional light and set keyframes, here was the outcome.
Essentially, it will be a choice between a completely silhouetted figure or a figure that consists of two shades which change ratio depending on the light.  This will be a decision that we will carry out as a team.

Balloon textured

Just catching up on some more blogging.  Here is a balloon model, courtesy of Alex, that I textured and will appear in the distance during the final shot of the piece.  This balloon just has a simple Solid Colour toon shade.

Texturing of weaponry

I have just been given some models of spears and shields that the Masai will hold.  I was initially going to apply a black solid colour to the weapons; but it was suggested to me (I can't remember who by) that I experiment with different levels of shade.

Instead of a Solid Colour shader, I applied a toon shader called a Light Angle Two Tone.  This meant that the level of colour that was present in the scene would be dependent on how much light is in the scene.
I went for a mixture of brown and black.  As this could only work with lighting in the scene, I applied a Directional light.

To test this, I key framed the directional light at frame 25 and I then rotated the light in the opposite direction.

At first the light was rotating in a vertical movement, which did not look like a sunset movement, so I simply added an inbetween keyframe at frame 13 to make the directional light rotate in a more horizontal movement, creating the illusion of a sun setting.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Applying the sky to the final scenes

I am now in the process of applying the sky to the final sets.  I shall demonstrate how I do this inside the camera, using a shot that we have completed.

This following shot is a pan shot along a lake which stops at by a wildebeest drinking water.  This set was decorated by Perri using the models that had been developed by us as a team and the camera has been set up by Alex.
As texture artist, it was up to me to apply the sky to this scene.  How I did this was by going in to the attribute editor of the camera and under Environment, I created an image plane.
In the attributes editor for the image plane, I noticed that the default for the Depth was 100.  This was too close to the foreground and it would mean that when I rendered my scene the sky would actually block out most or all of the environment.  I set it to 1000 which put the image plane further in the background.
Under the Image Plane Attributes, I assigned the image plane to a new texture, called envSky.
In the attributes for the envSky, I configured the colouring and brightness for the texture, namely the sky and sun.  I also adjusted the Elevation and Azimuth to put more sun in the scene.
I configured the sky to have a blue texture.
As for the clouds, I knew this involved applying a "Cloud" texture under the Cloud Attributes under the envSky attributes and then increasing the Density but this was not working and I could not understand why.

Anyway, when I rendered the scene through the camera that I applied the envSky1 texture to, this was the outcome.
Obviously the timing of the camera and the scale of the lake may need some work but the sky creates a sense of space in the shot.  As for the scene itself, my UV mapping gives the shot a sense of depth compared to if it had been entirely cel shaded.  The cel shading of the wildebeest also makes it stand out against the more varied texturing within this scene.  In fact if you look at The Lion King, they use a similar method; the animals are made up of quite vivid, clean colours, whereas the scenery varies greatly in the different levels of texture.

Now, when it comes to using a variety of cameras in a particular scene, it is important to keep the continuity in the brightness/colour of the sky as well as the elevation of the sun.  There are two ways I could go about this; I could apply a new envSky texture to the next camera and go through all the attributes again making sure they're equal to the previous shot.... or, the quicker solution of assigning and image plane to the camera and simply applying the same envSky texture as I did in the previous shot.

I shall demonstrate that in this shot, which takes place in exactly the same scene.
I create a new image plane for this camera in the attributes editor.  In the attributes for the image plane, I increase the depth to around 1000 as I did before.

I looked up the name of the sky texture and it was envSky1.  In the Textures field under the Image Plane Attributes, I inputted this name.
I now have two cameras assigned to exactly the same sky texture and here is the rendered outcome.
I think that this could be useful for if we wanted to key frame the sunrise/sunset but we wanted the cameras to change during this animation, but I will need to do some testing to make sure that is possible.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Adding more textures to the set decoration

In this post, I shall talk you through the texturing of the set that Perri decorated.  She had added in some new terrain, so it was up to me to go in to the scene and amend some of the UV maps.

When I opened the scene, I discovered that a lot of the geometry had not been smoothened and there were some new trees/rocks which had not been previously handed to me for texturing.  This meant that I needed to go in and texture a whole load of new models, when I could have just textured once before hand and given them to the set decorator to duplicate.

I imported several of my textures, and then went around the scene and applied them to various rocks and trees.  I largely used Spherical Mapping to texture the rocks on the flat surface as they were more three dimensional.  As for the rocks along the edge of the shore, I used planar mapping as these would only be visible from one angle.
Although it wasn't really my job, but seen as I know a few tricks in Maya, I smoothened some of the terrain in the scene and extruded some of the faces to tidy it up and make it all fit together.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tree texturing

When it came to texturing the trees, I was faced with an interesting decision.  I was initially going to texture the tree using UV Mapping, as I had done for the rest of the scenery.  I tried texturing the tree using a UV map based on the camera.  I then created a PSD Network, which I pasted a tree texture on to.
I scaled the UV Map and rotated to make it fit the tree and this is the outcome.
It produces a very dry and rough effect, although it does not look very much like a typical tree texture.  I decided to look at the wood texturing that is built into Maya.  I assigned a Lambert to this tree, which I then applied a "wood" texture to it. 

On the group blog, I posted up the rendered images of both the textured trees and then asked the group which one they preferred.

The feedback I got was that the "wood" textured tree was better as it reflected African art better.  I was also told to make the texture a lighter shade of brown to reflect real African trees as well.

In Maya, I adjusted the wood texture, particularly the Filler Colour, Vein Colour and Vein Spread in order to get rid of the graininess that the texture seems to come with.
The final outcome was this tree which complements the clean cel shaded scheme that we came up with early on in the project, but is still informed by the real life Serengeti.
From doing this, I have learnt not to commit to single texture schemes in a project.  I have learnt that it is better off to decide on several forms of texture for a project, as each one has a different advantages and can work together to produce a quality piece of work.

UV Mapping of the mountains

For the UV Mapping of the mountains, I applied Spherical Mapping, which I then exported to a PSD Network.  The main focus with the texturing of the mountains, was to retain the distinctive looks that mountains and hilly terrain of the Serengeti had; which is largely green but becomes darker and browner towards the top.

I looked for images of mountainous terrain in the African wilderness and I came across this image.
I copied the Mountain terrain over to a PSD network and moved it so there was a balance between the light and dark areas.
In Maya, this texturing initially looked very attractive on the mountain.
However, when I rendered this mountain, the outcome was not satisfactory.
The geometry was bumpy and rigid.  I tried softening the geometry but that made it worse.  We soon decided that this was a modelling fault as opposed to a texturing fault so I requested the Environmental Modeller, Alex to model this new one, which I UV mapped using the same method as before.
This was the rendered outcome.
Incredibly smooth and slender in contrast to the previous rendered model and could perhaps be made more bumpy through a few extrusions of faces or edges; but it certainly works better than the previous attempt and there has been more effort put in to shaping the model, which allows my texturing to stand out better.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

UV Mapping of rock

I started off the UV mapping by producing some textures for the rocks.  I began by getting an image of a rock off the internet and then cropping it so I just got this basic texture
In Maya, I applied Spherical Mapping, seen as the rock was roughly a round shape.  I then created a PSD network in the UV Texture editor and opened this in Photoshop.  I then copied the rock texture that I had obtained from the internet and pasted this into the PSD Network in tiles.  I reversed some of the tiles to make it look more like a continuous pattern.
When I had finished producing this texture in Photoshop, I went back into Maya and clicked the Update PSD Network button in the UV Texture editor and it applied these changes to the UV Map.
I then scaled it so the texture would fit around the whole rock.  Here is how the rock now looks.
I also made a brown one using this texture.
I applied the texture to another rock model using the exact same method and here is the outcome.
These textures have a very different feel to the cell shaded look that we set out to achieve, but we feel that this may give a more open and less saturated feeling to our project.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Creating sky in Maya

I have just come across a tutorial on producing a feasible sky in Maya.  This tutorial can be found here and involves producing a sky by applying an Environmental texture called envSky to a camera.  This will mean that no further modelling will be needed to produce a sky and I will be able to apply these effects once the set decoration and camera set-up is complete.  Furthermore, the advantage this has over something like mental ray is that you can apply this effect with or without a floor.

The envSky texture also comes with settings for a Sun and Clouds, which can be animated using keyframes.  The colour of the sky is easier to texture as well, allowing for us to create a red effect.
The likelihood is that we will not assign a floor to the envSky and apply little Floor Altitude, as we will be modelling the terrain ourselves.

One thing which the tutorial failed to mention, was that in order to produce any clouds, I had to configure some of the settings in the cloud layer, namely the Contrast, Amplitude and Ratio.  The tutorial just stated that I needed configure the Density settings under the Cloud Attributes of the envSky texture.
I have also done an animation test so I can see the sunset in action.  It is very quick but it demonstrates how I can reduce/expand the number of clouds, along with change the colour of the sky through the course of the sunset/sunrise.
The texture of this sky is cloudier and conveys a more open space than a cel shaded sky.

New texturing methods

Yesterday, our group had an assessment for our Environments project.  Much of the feedback I got was that the cell shaded effect that I had applied to the models was flattening out the sense of perspective.  I was asked to look at de-saturing some of the background textures. i.e. the textures of the sky and mountains.  I can perhaps understand this, because we were trying to link our project to African art and if you study some of works of African art, there tends to be a flat sense of composition, characterised by the warm colour schemes and smooth texture.
But the in other pieces of African art, the artist succeeds in creating depth through using foggier shades of colour to put certain parts of the composition into the background and warmer, cleaner colours to bring elements to the foreground.  This artist, has also begun to experiment with shading and using that to create a wide sense of space.
In order to bring up my grade for the project, I will need to use a greater variety of textures and not just commit to the clean, bright style of cel shading.  I will need to consider other methods of texturing the scenery and I will also need to apply some UV Mapping, which I have yet to do in this project.  Most of the texturing I have done so far was produced before I became proficient in UV Mapping.  Over the past weekend, I have vastly developed my ability to UV map and I feel I can now use this to fulfil the needs of our project.

Applying a greater range of textures will also mean that we will be able to convey the Serengeti as the vast wilderness that it really is; rather than the flat, claustrophobic feeling our current texturing scheme produces.  I am also using Ocean Shader to texture the water in this project and I think using other methods of texturing would be more complementary to the ocean shaded lake.

Another thing which I must get on to soon, which I have neglected is the creation of the daytime sky.  This will be an important element in creating the sense of openness as the foggy blue colouring will add a sense of depth and space to the project.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Masai man textured and rigged in about 10 minutes :D

I have just textured and rigged Perri's model of a Masai tribesman.  The rigging was fairly quick and easy to do and I have become used to rigging a human model, along with applying various controllers.
I could repeat myself and explain every single procedure that I have already explained in many previous posts, but I won't.  I presume that this model will only appear in silhouette, so I have given him a simple black Solid Colour texture.
If it needs any more textures applied, I shall do that and put the changes up here!!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Crocodile is done

I have done the rigging and texturing for the crocodile.  For the crocodile, I did not put in a complete rig, as I did with all the other animals, but I put one through its chest and into its tail.
I then applied an IK handle to the crocodile's tail.  The reason I did not do a full rig is because this animal will be submerged in the lake and only the top half will be visible.

I also textured the crocodile using a Three Tone Shaded Brightness and here is the outcome.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Another key part of this project is the water.  I had already created an ocean shader with a steady flow, suitable for the African wilderness and applied it to a basic Polygon plane; but I needed to create an actual lake that would blend in with the surroundings.

Gary drew me this quick sketch to illustrate how the lake should be shaped.
For the lake, I decided to work with NURBS, as opposed to polygons, because I could quickly model a very organic and curved shape.  To do this, I went to the 'Curves' tab and selected the EP Curve tool, which allowed me to draw curves, simply by clicking.  I created the shape in the Top view.
I then went to the Surfaces tab and selected 'Planar' to create the flat NURBS surface.  I deleted the history of the surface and the original curve.

Next, I opened the Maya file which contained the polygon plane and ocean shader that I had completed a while back.
I opened Hypershade, selected the ocean shader and simply exported it to its own Maya file.

I reopened my NURBS surface and imported the ocean shader.  In Hypershade, I assigned the Ocean shader to the NURBS surface.
After a batch render, here is the outcome.