Posts Tagged ‘3D Modeling’

Maya Updates – A Student Perspective on New Tools

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Recently, while taking a break from working on a model, I decided to look through Maya 2015’s new features to see if there was anything awesome and worth trying. I found that there were some pretty cool changes that made Maya much more intriguing than before. First, Autodesk has enhanced the user interface to make it much more intuitive. They have added support for multi-touch viewport navigation on Wacom and Apple track pads. The Walk Tool was added which allows you to control Maya’s perspective camera. This tool allows video game controls so the user can easily move and scale objects on two axes at once. In addition, they have added new deformer options, (to alter and animate object shapes), as well as geodesic voxel binding for use with rigging along with several other improvements. The most noteworthy of all changes is the way Mental Ray benefits from interactive production rendering. Through the use of progressive mode, the process of lighting and shading shots has greatly sped up. Mental Ray now displays preview ray-traced reflections, which gives an overall better visual when designing materials. Thanks Autodesk, for continued awesome updates to one of the best 3D modeling suites!

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student
Cogswell College

Feature Spotlight: Modeling Toolkit

Friday, November 7th, 2014
Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Before Autodesk’s 2014 version of Maya, trying to find the mesh editing tools you needed within Maya was a bother. You had to go through a cluttered UI (user interface) just to find that one tool that always seemed important enough to have its own tab. You were also limited to having one component tool active at a time: face selection, vertex selection or edge selection. Often times I’ve wondered why Maya couldn’t have cleaner functionality like its counterpart, 3DSMax. After all, both programs are made by Autodesk and 3DSMax is far less technical and more forgiving.

Suddenly, from what seemed like out of nowhere, Autodesk introduced the Modeling Toolkit with their 2014 release of Maya. It is a 3D modelers dream! All of the most commonly used tools are now set up right in front of you, in one click of a button. Gone are the days of rummaging through the 3D modeling program, just to find one primary tool.

Need to have all component tools active at once? No problem, just click multi-component.

Need to work on two sides of a model at once? It’s as simple as selecting a center edge, and clicking symmetry.

Thank you Maya for making this modeler’s life easier!

Peter Gazallo

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

Thoughts from Inside the Star Thief Studio Project Class

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Star Thief Studio Logo - Animated Short Film Project

For two semesters, I was part of Star Thief Studio (formerly Studio E) – a project-based class that creates an animated short in an on-campus environment that mirrors an industry studio production pipeline. When I first started out, I had a very general idea of what I’d be doing, but in truth I was heading into the project pretty much blind, and hoping that I’d be able to perform on the same level as the other artists. During the first week, we were separated into different groups: pre-visualization (pre-vis), production, and post-production. The pre-vis group had duties including concept art, color keys, layout, and animation blocking— mostly preliminary planning and design. Members of the production group started on animation, character modeling and painting backgrounds. The post-production group was tasked with polishing, texturing, lighting, and general effects that would make the project visually appealing.

As a general painter and designer, I helped out in several different areas. My first group did design and layout, followed by texturing and painting.  I moved onto several other areas as well, helping out wherever needed, as phases of the production cycle started and ended.

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Our studio’s pipeline used a structure where we tackled one shot at a time. First the storyboards were completed and handed off to a layout artist, who created a 3D scene in Autodesk Maya, based off of the storyboard. In addition, rough color keys were created to determine an artistic direction for the background elements. Preliminary animations were blocked out, based on initial layouts, and later replaced by polished animations with the finalized characters and completed backgrounds. The process concluded with a combination of polishing, re-assembling, and finalizing texturing and lighting. Because of our unique process, each group within the studio was constantly involved.

My day-to-day process started with talking with the team to find out what was needed and then picking up tasks to help complete a scene. Often, I took 3D models that our artists created, imported them into Mudbox or Photoshop and painted them.  I would then re-import everything back into Maya. The models were then placed into a scene to create the background.

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

By the end of my time at Star Thief Studio, I had experienced modeling, rigging, and background animation in addition to the painting that I was already doing. Working within the studio has shown me that you get a broader experience when working on a large-scale project.  I found myself juggling tasks I didn’t expect, and it was an interesting experience. It pushed me to grow my skills in certain areas which have helped me to become a more roundly-developed artist.

Whether or not I will actively use the skills I’ve gained on this project once I start my career, I do not know.  But, as a once very traditionally-based artist, I’ve definitely become more technically nerdy. What I do know is that by doing a little bit of everything, I understand more about the roles that comprise a studio.  This will help me in the future to understand the needs of everyone within a studio and allow the pipeline to run more smoothly.

I hope that everyone will enjoy our film when it is released, and perhaps will have an opportunity to understand and appreciate the multi-layered process of creating an animated short. This team has truly created something extraordinary.

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning Receives Praise from Visiting Students

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

On Thursday, April 10th; 20 students from Management Center Innsbruck (MCI), an Entrepreneurial School in Austria, came to visit Cogswell.  Most of the visiting students are studying Art & Entrepreneurship, and were fascinated with Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning classes and studios.

The MCI students were amazed with the work they were able to see, and that it was all “made from scratch”.  From character sketches & 3D models made from clay, to digitally rendered creations brought to life; the MCI students were completely in awe. They also got the opportunity to learn about the process that a piece of art will go through to become part of an animated film or game. Cogswell’s own Digital Audio Technology students then add music to the digital projects to create a completed work of art done entirely by students.

Cogswell’s Project-Based Learning classes are the foundation of the education provided here; they help to create strong, T-shaped individuals that are prepared for careers in a variety of industries.

Cogswell Hosts SVForum SIG – Sixense Demos MakeVR, 3D Modeling/Printing Solution

Monday, October 21st, 2013

When SVForum 3D Printing SIG – which fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership within the San Francisco/Silicon Valley ecosystem – needed a space to host it’s upcoming October 28 event, Cogswell was a perfect fit. The event features Sixense Entertainment and a demo of the company’s MakeVR solution for 3D modeling and printing. We’re pretty sure that all of our 3D modeling and engineering students will enjoy the presentation so make sure you reserve a space.

MakeVR uses Sixense’s STEM System™ for motion tracking and control to give consumers a natural, intuitive, and fun way to model and print in 3D. The STEM System provides precision tracking of a user’s every move. Coupled with the easy-to-use yet powerful MakeVR application, users can have fun creating and printing 3D models quickly and easily.

DATE: October 28, 2013

TIME: 6:30 to 9:00PM

PLACE: Cogswell College, 1175 Bordeaux Dr, Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Refreshments served

Radically fun, easy-to-use, and powerful, the MakeVR solution from Sixense is an entirely new take on modeling objects for 3D print and other uses. MakeVR’s two-handed interface paradigm is specifically designed for Sixense’s one-to-one motion tracking and control technology as embodied in the company’s STEM System™ wireless motion control platform, for which there was a massively successful Kickstarter campaign (almost $605K!). The solution allows people to create simple to very complex objects with natural hand motions.

To attend, register here and use coupon code ‘3DPrinting100’ for free admittance.

Check out the great 3-minute MakeVR overview video

“MakeVR marries the familiarity of joystick control with a pro-caliber CAD engine. The upshot is that regular-old, non-designer civilians can create relatively complex models.”TechHive.com

A Little Razzle Dazzle for Independence High School

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Cogswell College at Independence High SchoolOn Friday, November 16, 2012, a small contingent from Cogswell College visited the campus of Independence High School in San Jose to offer interactive presentations that highlighted our Audio Production and 3D Modeling majors.

Tony Dias, a faculty member in our Digital Audio Technology degree program and Matt Bard, a student in our Digital Art and Animation degree program, lead the demonstrations. Paula Cruz, Community Outreach Specialist for Cogswell, facilitated the event.

Throughout the day the group provided 7 demonstrations for more than 1,000 students. The audio side of the presentation featured the magic of sound synthesis and the flexibility it gives sound designers. Tony provided samples of digitally created sound and then let the students experiment. Matt demonstrated the power of Zbrush and Maya, software programs widely used in the digital arts industry to bring characters and environments to life through color and texture and to animate characters.

Tony, as an alumnus of Independence High, also offered advice to the students including:

  • Attend college or other professional training
  • Learn how to learn and develop good problem-solving skills
  • Be persistent and learn from failure
  • Network with both your peers and other groups
  • Plan your career and follow your passion

Thanks Tony and Matt for spreading the word about Cogswell’s amazing learning environment!

Longtime Cogswell Contributer Max Sims Moves On

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Max Sims, who joined Cogswell as an adjunct 3D Modeling instructor in 2000 and served most recently as Director of Corporate Relations, has moved on to attend graduate school and pursue design projects and speaking engagements. Max taught several classes and arranged many industry events over the years, most recently a campus visit from Rhythm and Hues Studios.

Max’s tall tales and terrible puns will also be missed.

-Michael Martin, Dean of the College

Industry Pro and Alum Devorah Petty Returns to Teach

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Petty_02

Cogswell is lucky to have many devoted alumni who come back occasionally to teach classes where they bring the latest best practices and share their particular artistry. Peter Mo and Mason Sheffield are just two recent alumni instructors.

This summer, Devorah Petty is teaching our Digital Arts and Animation Texturing class. Devorah is a freelance texture painter and look developer with nearly a decade of experience working for major visual effects, animation, and gaming clients.

After finishing a series of modeling and animation classes at Cogswell in the late 90s, Devorah began her career on the first Matrix film, joining the staff at Manex as a texture painter and working her way to lead texture painter, where she worked on the Matrix Sequels as well as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Mission Impossible II, Bless the Child and Minority Report. (more…)