CGI coffee


Revelations of a computer graphics apprentice

Making of Super Sonico School Swimsuit 3D Figure Set. Part 1: A New Project

super-sonico-3d-figure-set-teaser

In the upcoming blog post series I will share my experience of creating a CG rendition of the Super Sonico School Swimsuit anime figure (with an OC bathroom set) which I was preoccupied with in October.

super-sonico-3d-figure-set-mosaic-002

Back-story

In 2014 when I was working on a prototype of my first mobile game Run and Rock-it Kristie I initially decided to make the game 2.5D, which would mean assets would need to be produced as 3D geometry and not sprites.

In fact, here's the early rendered prototype:

In the video you can see the first iteration of 2D character development, but even before that I was going to have Kristie as a 3D CG character and decided to sculpt her myself.

I was young and naive back then and decided to recklessly dive deep into that amazing piece of software everyone was talking about. I'm of course talking about ZBrush.

So I tried Zbrush... and simply could not adapt to its navigation style. I was struggling for hours and finally installed a trial of a Maya-style navigation plugin called ZSwitcher. I was then actually able to get to sculpting. But due to the fact that the plugin changed many default hotkeys, it was very confusing to try and follow ZBrush docs and training videos. So in the end in terrible frustration I gave up and switched the game to use 2D sprites.

run-and-rock-it-kristie-2d

I then returned to Softimage|XSI and its old-school sub-d modeling workflows, thinking that sculpting simply wasn't for me.

hot-dog-stands

Present day

As I am slowly but surely working on my first animated CG film, I will at some point need to produce a bunch of realistic 3D assets for set dressing as well as develop the characters themselves.

As the animation-rich previz is in the process of making, I have to establish the sets, including placements of assets and overall presentation. I could simply place boxes and spheres around, but it's not fun and absolutely doesn't help to see what the movie would actually look like even if it's just a previz. So I've been creating assets in XSI with classic sub-d modeling workflow, when I remembered that there was another way.

The sculpting way.

Hence I had to get sculpting another chance, but this time – making an educated choice of the tool which would suit me the most.

Therefore I needed two things:

  1. Something interesting to sculpt.
  2. Some software to sculpt in.

Figures

Mass-produced quality figures (or "statues") never seized to amaze me. Not just because most of them are small pieces of art, but also of the sheer production quality of such mass-manufactured products.

sakaki-kaoru-dragon-figureGranblue Fantasy - Cagliostro by Sakaki Workshops

Even though I never cared for anime it never stopped me from admiring the enormous figure market and the variety of figures available.

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a talented engineer. We mostly discussed 3D printing and that's when a question popped up: "how are figures produced"? I mean it's obvious that mass-production of PVC products is done with Plastic Injection Molding, but what about the prototypes? Are they still being created with classic sculpting techniques or did 3D finally come into the mix?

anime-sculpture-prototype Rin Tohsaka Archer Costume ver Fate/stay night Figure (prototype)

That's when I started digging up through the web to find the answer.

Culture Japan

While sifting though the Internets I stumbled upon a TV show called Culture Japan. It is a Japanese TV show developed by Danny Choo – a British-born pop culture blogger currently working in Japan. The first pilot episode of Culture Japan was broadcast on Animax Asia and in it Danny Choo visited the offices of the Good Smile Company – one of the Japanese manufacturers of hobby products such as scale action figures.

You can watch the episode on Youtube. The GSC-segment begins at 33:22:

So that's how it's done!

Welcome to the future, where an artist creates digital prototype sculptures with a force-feedback haptic device called Touch X, then sends them to an in-house 3D printer. What a great idea!

touchx-hand-device-3d-systems-geomagic

"You should totally sculpt this!"

Since I was already going to look for an amateur-friendly sculpting app, naturally, being a control freak, I decided to create a project out of it.

Some time ago out of curiosity I ordered an anime figure from the Super Sonico series by Nitroplus, a Japanese visual novel developer. Super Sonico character was originally created by Tsuji Santa and first appeared as a mascot for a Nitroplus-sponsored music festival in 2006.

The figure turned out to be a bootleg, but it was one of a decent quality (save for the missing signature Sonico metal headphones frame), so I didn't care to order the original version.

super-sonico-bootleg-on-the-table

When the figure arrived I showed it to a friend and he suggested I should sculpt it as a practice project.

It seemed like quite a challenge for someone without any artistic training, but I liked the idea and accepted the challenge.

So having something to sculpt already picked, I went on to look for an amateur-friendly sculpting app, and will share the results of my search in the next post.

Stay tuned!

Textured Human Skeleton 3D Model (OBJ)

I would like to share a Human Skeleton 3D Model I textured and am currently using in my anatomy studies.

Textured Human Skeleton 3D Model

Download here (OBJ file format, textures optimized for the Metalness PBR workflow: albedo, glossiness, metalness, roughness).

Official Apology To Pixologic ZBrush

I'm sorry ZBrush. Sorry I doubted your UI. Sorry for thinking your navigation was unbearable. Sorry for everything, really.

I love you, ZBrush.

From now on you're family.

My first good-looking zbrush sculpt

Thank you, Pixologic. You got yourself a new customer and he couldn't be happier.

You never know until you try, right?

Remember how in this post I was looking for a sculptor?

pretty sculpted feet

Well, scratch that.

Turns out all I needed to unleash my inner sculptor was a suitable tool and gawd knows it wasn't ZBrush.

Which one was it, exactly? A-ha! Now that is a great idea for a post, isn't it? ;)

NVIDIA PhysX FleX now compatible with the majority of modern graphics cards

In case you missed the announcement, here's some truly great news:

"To better serve the game development community we now offer Direct3D 11/12 implementations of the Flex solver in addition to our existing CUDA solver. This allows Flex to run across vendors on all D3D11 class GPUs. Direct3D gives great performance across a wide range of devices and supports the full Flex feature set."

Yes! FleX is now not a CUDA-only physics library! NVIDIA devs have also utilized Async Compute to make it as efficient as possible with D3D.

Check out the GDC talk.

FleX D3D GDC talk

Hopefully we'll start seeing more FleX in the upcoming AAA-titles (or maybe even indie ones?.. Who knows!)

A quick note about distractions, conformity and motivation

I know

It's true, that it has been a while since my last blog post.

The thing is, it's a hot ICO season. Being a huge geek myself I simply had to jump the bandwagon. Can't share the details at the moment, but as soon as the craze passes I will absolutely rotate back to the film.

An ICO guy

Anyway... Back to the topic.

I'm also looking for a 3D sculptor. I'm not an artist and thus am seriously lacking in the character design department. If you're an aspiring modeler or a sculptor, drop me a line. Hopefully we'll end up working together on the short film. What I'm going after are stylized character designs like this one:

Sara by Ernesto Ruiz Velasco Sara by Ernesto Ruiz Velasco

Or this:

Girl by Shuhei Akaha

Girl by Shuhei Akaha expressions Girl by Shuhei Akaha

This particular CGI character look is currently prevalent in the world of western animation and as opposed to pursuing the cherished and elusive unique and highly original character and world design (c), I would much rather adopt a known style that works and spend more time polishing the actual story and animation.

Many of the real artists would scoff at the very idea of conformity when it comes to original work, but going 100% original is insanely difficult in the age when you can find anything and everything at deviantart or tumblr.

You can either spend years developing and implementing a pioneer style into your works or choose a particular look you deem appropriate for your project, produce assets within its boundaries, put stuff together and end up with a finished multimedia project. Like a game, for example. This way a project may not be 100% inventive, but it will have a higher chance to one day become a finished product, rather than a collection of ideas and sketches.

Keep calm and finish it

And then there's also another factor at work here...

Motivation.

I don't know about you, but the longer I work on a composite personal creative project, the more difficult it gets. An animated CGI film is one of those. It's incredibly easy to get distracted and waste a ton of time on a single aspect of a complex project, get through, then look back to realize that there was an easier and more straightforward way and afterwards look ahead to see that the amount of work left to be done hasn't really changed much. That's when the inevitable happens and I start questioning whether I need this particular project at all. A dangerous rumination with a chance to bring a full stop to the project at hand.

So I would rather walk a known path and end up at the destination, than fight my way through a trackless forest and either get lost or simply abandon the journey because of loss of motivation.

So this is the time when I pause, take a deep breath and remind myself: "Hey! It's a personal project, remember? It's supposed to be fun. Don't fuck it up."

A Gem Of A Thousand Carats

Play.

This.

Game.

NieR: Automata poster