My Zandoria YouTube Channel got accidentally deleted! So I will have to rebuild…All of the subscribers, statistics, etc. lost. I will have to recreate the playlists for the Siggraph Animation:Master tutorials, which may take me a few days. But I have re-uploaded the First Episode of TAR of Zandoria. Share it!
I have been working full-time on this and freelancing for the past year–Resigning my day job at the end of 2013. It has been scary, humbling, exhilarating, depressing, gratifying… all over the map emotionally.
While I was able to create the first short by myself, I also realized that it would have gone faster working with other artists, and it probably would have been even better…
I realized that I have a lot to learn when it comes to distribution, or pitching, or fund raising–or just getting people to watch it for FREE on YouTube! Yet I look at my poster of TAR on the wall, and I know that I can’t give up…I’ve wrestled with the idea of trying to do it as a graphic novel, or something easier for a solo artist to pull off, but I think that is just that familiar fear of failing….
True, I’ve proven that I can create an animation! It isn’t as polished as it could be, and I had to cut some corners, but, I did it. I have been in a kind of creative drift since uploading “Marked for Death“… I guess that I just thought that if I finished it, that people would see it and then somehow I would be successful/validated/loved? I dont know..It’s kind of crazy. The after-birthing of a huge project seems to take as long as the delivery!
Now I’m ready to continue, to take it up a notch, to bring my (our) dreams to life. I want to create an Open Studio where other aspiring artists an animators can join this project.
I believe that an open project like TAR of Zandoria is the hope and future for the Animation:Master community of artists and animators. It isn’t about just software.. an Open Studio creates the ecosystem for the artists to collaborate, for newbies to aspire to learn, for mentors to coach, for the software to gain subscriptions, There is something in it for YOU, whether you are a modeler, rigger, animator, programmer, or fan!
Since I have no funding up front, I have to figure out how to divide royalties among what are essentially co-creators of the final product. Whether YouTube royalties or DVD sales every participant has a stake in what we will create.
I have been a little torn between using somewhat realistic CG landscapes or digital paintings for this project. After doing a number of tests each way, I felt that a hybrid matte painted look was going to be better for the introduction of this character…
I started with a Digital Elevation Map (DEM) and exported a greyscale image from MicroDEM. The DEM files and software are available for free here.
Using the greyscale values, it is pretty simple to generate a terrain mesh. In this case, I used Zbrush to generate the geometry, but I exported it to Sculptris to work on the detail and textures. The reason I wanted to use Sculptris is that I could use the Reduction brush to simplify the geometry in the distance. The detailed rocks in the pass is where the main action of the scene is, so I figured that I could just drop the landscape in as a PROP and render everything in A:M…
Unfortunately, the maximum texture resolution in Sculptris was too pixelated when rendering up close. So I decided to render the landscape by itself to get the lighting, and retouch it in Photoshop to create matte paintings to use as background rotoscopes in A:M.
I added the dunes in the distance, and the sky, as layers underneath the rendering. Then I added extra detail of the rocks and scrub as an overlay layer.
I set the ground plane to Front Projection Target and Flat Shaded.
Now the only object in the shot is TAR. The dust particles are Sprites emitted with each step, and are drifting off to the right as though blown by the wind (actually there is a fan Force Emitter creating the wind).
I started rendering the shot (in HD, 1280 x 720), The first couple of frames took over 1-1/2 hours! With over 400 frames in just this shot, that was way too long…I knew that I was going to have to make some compromises…. I eliminated global illumination, ambient occlusion, and multipass–relighted the scene with Z-buffered shadows instead of ray-tracing. The new render time was only 2 minutes per frame!
I had an idea this evening to see whether I could combine Zbrush and Animation:Master by using the extract command in Zbrush to create equipment (in this case a helmet) and bring that geometry back into A:M as a PROP.
So I exported the Hyena as an .obj and imported it into Zbrush, painted a mask for the helmet and extracted the geometry. I then sculpted some detail–though not too much, because I wasn’t sure it would work…
Before exporting the helmet, I ran the Decimation command on it to reduce the polygon count, then exported an .obj file. In A:M I imported the helmet and assigned a rusty steel DarkTree material to it. I dragged and dropped it into an Action and it perfectly aligned with the Hyena model! All I had to do was add a translate to and orient like constraint to the head controller and I was done:
I’m not sure if I will use this technique on some of the gear, or if I would just model from scratch in A:M. I just wanted to try it and see what happened. A:M has a reputation for not playing well with polygon-based programs, but I think you just have to understand the limits and work around them. For landscapes or hard-surface objects that don’t need to deform, use the PROP feature and you shouldn’t have any problem.
I recently experimented with modeling a simple landscape object in Sculptris, and it also worked great in A:M
I’m still plugging away… Not as much progress as I would like on this project, and it feels like I am years away from where I would like to be.
I’ve finished the model and am into the rigging and CP weighting now. I was discussing the future of A:M with some fellows on the Hash forum–It doesn’t seem like there are as many projects going on as in the old days…. At times I feel like there are only a handful of artists and studios using this software, so I thought I should post an update.
[edit 2/12/13] I’ve been working on the textures and fur. Still some tweaking to do… Using the Muhair shader