Workdump: Summer and Fall 2015

Although I was highly productive the past several months, I ended up neglecting to publish any updates. So here is a condensed version:

June – August:

I spent my summer months producing my comic “From Greatness to Dust and Back Again” and uploading it to tapastic. My process was to produce at least 2 pages a week, from storyboard to final illustration. I feel like I had decent success with this project, but it is currently on hold as I finish my last semester at Columbus College of Art & Design.

September -> Now

I have 18 credit hours this final semester, and it’s really busy.

Despite the workload, I’m enrolled in a few different cool class projects.

The Body House: Oculus Rift Project The project my team is working on in the Real-Time rendering for Oculus Rift class. It’s a rather grotesque concept for virtual reality, but it should be really interesting to experience. My responsibility in the team is directing 3D texturing/material production, scripting, and 3D asset integration into Unreal Engine 4.

(A screenshot of my 3D work featured in our project.)

CCAD: General Motors Drone Concept Design This is a really unique opportunity I was able to get involved in. We are designing drone concepts to accompany a GM vehicle brand. While GM isn’t planning on actually building the drone, they want to see our design process and skills for internship opportunities. We get to present our concepts at the GM design center in Detroit at the end of the year.

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(A small selection of concepts I drew up for my team’s drone design)

Independent Animation: Sachtberg

Under instruction of my professor, have taken the Sachtberg storyboard from last semester, and I’m developing it towards an animated short.

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(a character model sheet for one of the characters in the animation)

Experimental Animation

Recently, I completed a particularly strange paper cutout animation

Personal Work

Yes, my schedule is loaded with school and work, but I’ve been able to find a couple hours a week to push my 3D character model as far as I can. I treat this model as a testbed for learning new 3D techniques and workflows, so that’s why you see her so often.

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I learned how to use Substance Painter to create all the textures for this model, with the goal of making it ready for real-time applications (such as Unreal Engine 4). She’s not complete, as I still have to texture the hair and add “fur cards”, or planes with transparent fur fluffs to give the illusion she’s covered in fur without destroying the computer’s framerate. I should publish a full review of my process on this character once I’ve completed the texturing and make adjustments to the rig.

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Unity Collision Box Macro Extension

Since my tablet is barely inoperable and I’m on winter break now, I can’t work on my comic at the moment. A new tablet should be one of my Christmas presents. So until then, I decided to play around with unity some more.

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After being used to Unreal Engine 4’s collision geometry procedures, coming back to unity led to frustration. In Unity, to make collision geometry for a complex room, I had to drag in new game objects for each “piece” of the room, line it up, remove the rendering component, and add a box collider component. That becomes very time consuming for large levels with multiple room pieces.

I had the idea to program my own editor extension that imitates UE4’s collision object generator. I model the room following the same process I would for a UE4 asset, making collision boxes as part of the model with a standard prefix “UBX_”. Then my script will recursively flip through all the sub-objects in the model’s hierarchy and if the prefix matches “UBX_”, it will remove the rendering component and add a box collider.

Editor Extension Script C# (Unity 4+):

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Sachtberg in Unreal Engine 4

Recently, my brother purchased a UE4 subscription and has allowed me to use it. I love it. Not to put Unity down, but I believe UE4 has many more useful features from the get-go, and is significantly cheaper than Unity. The only downside is that you need to know C++, but that isn’t too much of a problem.  It has been announced that Unreal’s developer Epic games are planning to help fund Blender’s FBX export features. Better export tools will streamline the blender to UE4 workflow, making it much more friendly for artists who can’t afford Maya or Max.

Because of the benefits, I’ve decided to switch Sachtberg from Unity to UE4. Only a few days, and I’ve already made substantial progress in blocking out a level.

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Everything modeled in Blender, and textures made with Photoshop and dDo.

Programming Stuff

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Playing around with procedural generation and isometric tilesets. It works, but it looks like something straight out of the late 90’s. I don’t know how I feel about that.

What it does: I created a basic tile preset, which is only a quad. Then I run a map generator script that will fill an array of tiles by instancing the preset. Then random materials are assigned to each tile (I am working on making this more “believable” instead of pure random. Probably perlin noise or something). The edges of the map are just objects appended after the map is done. Then rocks are put in random places. Unity seems to take quite a minute to build a 64×64 map, which is unusual, as my older projects could pump out 128×128 maps in less than a second when I programmed in just XNA.

Programming: “Graphmaster”

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I got intense with c# programming today. I wrote a winforms application that can take an array of numbers and render a pretty graph. I used no premade stuff. The graph renderer is where 90% of my time was dedicated. It was much more of a challenge than it should have been to make the nice gradient based on the height of the point.

Why is this useful? I can doctor it up and make a presentable application capable of loading number arrays (like from files, or input manually, or generated algorithmically) so visualizing these number sets is easier. A graph tool isn’t spectacular, but it can be nifty for debugging. The screenshot above is actually a graph of a temperature/season function, which I wouldn’t have been able to fine tune easily without seeing the function visually.

I’m sure plenty of graphing applications are available commercially but it’s always a benefit when you can write your own solution to a simple problem instead of shelling out your hard-earned money.