Marauder and Demonitus

I teach animation as a separate discipline at the intro level; we have an intro modeling (MART 261 3D Modeling and Design) and an intro animation (MART 262 Basic Computer Animation) class. In the latter class, I give my students the rigs needed (bouncing ball, ball with legs, desklamp and biped) to complete their assignments. I also keep a rotation of bipedal rigs to which I add different characters. Some are evident from the Sizzle Reel, but a look at some of the highlight reels on my JU Student Animation page shows that I use other rigs as well. Producing these rigs is a fun exercise that I use in my MART 364 Character Design and Animation class. I currently have two rigs under development: Marauder and Demonitus; and both of them have some interesting characteristics that make them different from what has gone before.

Marauder

Marauder is notable because in creating him, I was interested in finding a replacement for the now defunct Adobe Fuse character creation program. I covered how I used Fuse to Accelerate the Character Creation Pipeline in my first Pluralsight/Digital Tutors class. With its demise, I needed a replacement, so I tried several and settled on DAZ Studio with a couple of morph target plug-ins. Even as I exported and did extensive modeling on the Marie character from the Pluralsight course, so to did I add hair and clothing to this character as well as did some sculpting and painting in ZBrush.

I rigged him using my ek_characterToolkit MEL script. I have bound his mesh to the skeleton and he works pretty well, although I have not debugged all the corrective blendshapes in the body. The clothing is Wrap deformed to the body. And I have found the addition of motion captured action to be of great benefit in painting weights. Normally, I would do a weighting "dance" that has the character move his/her body parts so as to make the weight painter better able to see what painting weights will cause in the figure. But with mocap, I can assign actions that make the character go through a wide range of motions. Here is a simple run:


It is understated, but it will work for weight painting. The DAZ to ZBrush to Maya workflow is capable of allowing the animator to create models quickly, but the animator must take care to edit what comes out of DAZ, otherwise the models seem to look very generic. Still, this is a heavy character and will be a worthy addition to my list of characters my students can use.

Demonitus


I created this character rather quickly in ZBrush using Tsvetomir Georgiev's ZBuilder 4 plug-in for ZBrush. Basically, the author has created a base mesh with many variations that let the user change/edit body parts from a wide array of creature types. It was easy to blend this and that shapes and then export the lowest polygon mesh to Maya where I rigged it using ek_characterToolkit.


I bound the character using the voxel method, and have done little to no weight painting on the character. I assigned a more expressive mocap file which I spliced from two existing mocap files using Maya's Motion Editor. This is what I got:


There is no question that using ZBuilder can speed up the creature creation process. The low polygon model exports from ZBrush with color, normal and displacement maps and feeds into Maya just fine.

But it has several drawbacks. First and foremost, it is expensive. At $250.00 per license, the cost is clearly prohibitive. That said, however, the author has put a LOT of work into this and has included quite a bit of content.

Second, all the funky bits like horns, claws, wings and tails come from morphs of the base mesh. As such, the polygons stretch unacceptably in the lower rez meshes. I rebuilt the horns on Demonitus because the resolution at which we will animate made the horns look like, well, low poly projections out of the head.

The other drawback is that it is slow especially at higher resolutions. The plug-in defaults to level 6 in ZBrush which slowed down my old MacBook Pro quite a bit. I could and did lower the resolution and model/manipulate the mesh quite well. That will work, but if you want the full experience, you will want to run this on a fast machine.

I suspect that rather than going straight from ZBrush/ZBuilder to Maya and animate, the character creation process will involve ZBrush/ZBuilder to Dynamesh and/or adding geometry to the mesh, Decimating and exporting to Maya, retopologizing and UV mapping in Maya, exporting to ZBrush, subdividing and projecting the mesh and finally exporting the new low rez mesh with color, normal and displacement from ZBrush as a final step.

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