Oct 1, 2011

Concept to Completion: Finessing Your Work Flow

Making 3D computer artwork is one of the more challenging things that an artist can do.  With the saturation of 3D artwork in film, games, advertising, etc., and with content such as 'Avatar', 'Gears of War', and 'Tangled' leading the path in terms of visual fidelity, the unwritten 'standard' for what 'good' 3D art is continues to rise at an extremely fast pace, and as an artist trying to break into the commercial art world it can at times be somewhat overwhelming.  How can I take something like an idea or concept and make it into a workable 3D character, prop, or environment that matches if not exceeds the level of quality certain studios seem to churn out regularly?  What software should I use?  What hardware should I own?  Where should I go to school?  What should be in my portfolio?  At times the questions can go on and on, often without clear-cut answers.  Not only this, but 3D programs tend to sway towards the complex, and while they offer a near unlimited level of control once you understand them, getting to that point can be daunting when you don't know where to start.  Tutorials, either found on the internet, books, or training dvds often focus on one small aspect of what you have to do in the process, often with very little perspective of 'the big picture'.

As such, I figured that it would be handy for both myself and other artists to discuss what my pipeline is in creating 3D artwork.  Every project you do will offer new challenges, and this particular pipeline is always evolving and changing, yet I find that the more I focus on 'the big picture', the easier it is for me to look past the details of 'what buttons do I press?' and other more trivial matters.

This particular pipeline is how I go from a simple sketch to a highly detailed yet low-poly and animation-friendly character or object, fully textured with 'normal', 'diffuse' and other types of texture maps, and ready to be used in a 'game' setting, yet this workflow can also be modified to encompass 'film'-like animation.  Each individual section will be illustrated with my own personal work, and will have links to various tutorials that I have found to be helpful.  Software I have used for this project include 3DS Max, Blender, ZBrush, Photoshop, and After Effects, though none of these are 'written in stone' and can easily be swapped out with other software that I'll note.  This pipeline is a work-in-progress, and any feedback that you may have to improve it is much appreciated.

Table of Contents

-Written Proposal

-Google Images
-Textures/Material Reference

-Photoshop Sketch
-Model Sheets

Base Mesh
-Modelling 101
-Poly Flow

-Low Poly to Hi Poly
-ZBrush Basics

-Hi Poly to Low Poly Part 1

-UVs 101

-Hi Poly to Low Poly Part 2

-Photoshop 101

-FK vs IK
-Deformer Joints
-Auto Rigs



-Lighting 101

-Quantity vs. Quality
-Render Times

-After Effects 101

...and you're done!  Easy, right?

Also: Hardware Recommendations


Amber said...

Looks pretty awesome, I will continue to read about your workflow! Seems like a neat little project.

Frank Vanderwel said...

Thanks Amber :)