Saturday, 5 May 2007

Character Design - The birth of Sophie

My interpretation of a character personifying a rose is a woman who is very beautiful, tempermental and with a fiery temper; a thorny personality and someone who knows how to get what she wants. I was explicitly staying clear of the more traditional interpretation of an "English Rose", as it contrasts too much with the thorny nature of the character I wanted to portray.

I originally looked at actresses who posessed a certain elegance and glamour, cloaking a foul temperment (think of the 50s glamour queens and their demands and off-screen lives). Below are a few character designed that I drew while trying to come up with a more modern yet cartoony interpretation.

While I'd settled on a personality for my character, I hadn't yet settled on a physical representation. I was weighing the tradeoff between the benefits and costs of modeling my own versus purchasing a model or even fully-rigged character. Doing things myself is more educational and cheaper, but distracts from my primary goal of focusing on the animation (rather than modelling, rigging, etc), and could lead to more stress over the course of the project. The downside of purchased assets are the financial cost and the risk that they would not be fit for purpose (and not owning the IP for the project 100%).

In the end I found a model (unrigged, and in 3DS Max only) on TurboSquid, and I've called her "Sophie." I'll let my husband (who has acted as my technical director) explain how I got her from 3DS Max to Maya 6.5.

The 3DS Max (*.max) file downloaded from TurboSquid contained a number of mesh objects modelled at a relatively low detail and with TurboSmooth operators applied. I deleted the TurboSmooth modifiers from the modifier stack, grouped the objects we wanted to export and exported them from 3DS Max as an FBX object. We imported this into Maya 8.0 (the FBX import function works better there than in Maya 6.5), tidied some problems from the import process (like objects with negative scaling, odd polygon and vertex normals, etc), then saved her as a Maya ASCII (*.ma) file. We then hand-edited the file to change the version from 8.0 to 6.5 so it would load in Maya 6.5 (why Maya doesn't automatically save as the lowest file version that the saved objects require I have no idea), and the model was ready to use.

Well, almost ready to use; the model as it stood was in no way ready for skinning, as no consideration had been made for deformations that would be needed for animation. Particular problem areas were the groin (where the leg would need to bend) and the mouth, where edge loops around the mouth and nose are preferable to the modelled quads to support smooth deformations. The following pictures are before I worked to reflow the mesh:

And after:

You can see that as well as reflowing the mesh to be better prepared for skinning and animation, I altered a few stylistic things:

  • Covered the breasts.
  • Gave her a more modern hairstyle.
  • Removed the suspender belts.
  • Slimmed her hips.
  • Gave her more fashionable underwear.
  • Gave her lipstick.

The feather ramp texture did not survive the 3DS max to Maya transition (nor did the eye materials), so they also needed redoing.
Here we have the final before and after rendered images; from a voluptuous tart to a Vegas glamour girl.

No comments: