So. What you see there is a liittle guy I have been working on a while. I am aware that it might not seem like much, but there's actually alot of work behind him, experimentation wise. When I started him, I had no idea what I wanted really. I only had vague ideas and images in my head, but nothing specific.

This made even modelling very hard. In the beginning I was planning on having layers of planes to form the body, and then texture each of these planes with a 'brush-stroke', but I realized that it would be too much work after a little while. Not only do you have to model more, you to texture more, skin more, rig more etc etc. Around this time, my focus also started drifting more towards developing a style that would save time when it had first been tested and "systematiced".

So instead, I went for a sort of 'puppet' method where his torso plus head is one object, theshoulder is a second, the arm is third, and the hands a fourth, plus all the different pieces of clothing and hair. I planned on rendering him in such a way that minimalized the look of it, so that it would actually look like one single mesh.

Remember what I said about saving time? This step I think, will be crucial in same saving time when skinning and animating. Shoulders are usually the hardest place to deform in a pleasing manner, cause it has sooo many degrees of movement. This is issuea is completely resolved by having the shoulder, torso and arm breaked into seperate objects. The mass of the model wont collapse, and I can have complete freedom without too much worry of edgeflows either. This also eliminates the possibility of having to use correction blend shapes in animation time.

After that, when I started shading, I had sort of forgot my intentions of saving time, and begae use of normal maps to create this crazy, experimental chiseled look. It was kinda neat, and I had some problems with the normal maps. And even if I didnt have those problems, the resultingstyle was simply too detailed. Anyhoo, around this time, I put the project on the shelf until Juny.

I realised then that I wanted somehting more low-tec. So i simply applied a lambert shader with ambient colour cranked to max, and a pianterly texture inside the diffusemap. This created a completely flat shader. With this theres the advantage that what I see is what I get when I work inside photoshop. (Also, you might wonder why I didnt just use surface shader, but that's because it seemingly can't generate alpha maps out that consider the transparency map.)

Also, with this technique I can add floating bits of 'pencil stroke' over where I need it. Take a look at the gap between the shoulderObj and the armObj, where I cover up the transition with a flat piece of colour. (I know it looks a bit rough, as its still not quite done, but it proves the concept at least)

Over this flat colour map I would then apply a shadow. I had already decided i wanted some sort of stylistic shader that would be fast to render, yet give me alot of control. I settled on applying a lambert, again with ambient colour cranked to max; i inserted a ramp into the colour map, which again was controlled by a surface illuminance.

What I like about this kind of shading is that you can easily adjust its softness and stylistic look with the ramp. Also, render times are delicious! Since the shader is a lambert, I can combine this with cast shadows! The cast shadows and the ramp shading blends beautifully.

Oh, and you see that bit with the shadow transparency over there? That's the result of a really frustrating problem I had. Cause when I applied to the shader to something with a transparency, and turned on the cast shadows with normal, default raytrace shadows, and this object with transparency cast shadow, you could see actual object in the shadow as a weaker cast shadow.

After a while I found a simple answer to it (which is always a bittersweet feeling haha), cause there's a mental ray node that's called mib_shadow_transparency. What it dose it that you can simply attach a transparency map directly to the shadow, and then attach that node to the SG shader'r shadow input. I really needed that, or I wouldnt have any cast shadows! Or ugly cast shadows atleast.

A third kind of pass I have is the form pass. This is applied ever so faintly over it all to give a bit more volume, but without having it
look to 3D-ish. It also makes it look a bit more vibrant, and not too dull.

Oh and another neat little thing is to make a fake, oval eye specular point, to give it some more of that 2d flare. Ive seen this kind of highlighting of the eyes alot in anime, and i think it looks neat.

Comping is pretty straight forward atm, with just colour tweaking.

So that's the monk Sharok. He's not done, there's a few things I wanna tinker away with (like the face and hair). But for now I've begun the rigging. Stay tuned for that!

(Oh and sorry for that some of the pictures cant be made bigger. blogger seems to be buggy)


Reel summer 2009. Its done in a hurry, no fancy vignettes or such, but it gets the job done. The tune is Phat Planet by Leftfield.

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