Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Minor Project: Sponge 001-015 Preview (No Labels)

Today I worked more on a sponge texture...I recorded all of the channels that I was messing around with. Unfortunately, I forgot to take that file with all of the numbers with me. I will recover them tomorrow and once I put these images together and create their labels I'll make a proper post about this describing what I did, which ones I like/dislike and why, along with any other relevant comments. For now, here are the images that I've rendered out today...I still wanted to post something in the meantime to show my progress.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Minor Project: Initial Sponge Test

I decided I wanted to begin working on a sponge texture. So far, I did not create this using Substance Designer, but with some images so I could create diffuse, specular, height, and normal maps with Crazybump. It's nowhere near what I want to get it to, but it's a start...I may see if I can import these images to Substance Designer in hopes that I can improve it there. I also tested out animating the displacement height for this texture as well to see what it would look like.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Minor Project: Displacement Map Animation & Animated Label Test

After this experiment, I wanted to see how animated displacement maps would look. I quickly set up this scene using the tiles from a previous experiment (for some odd reason they rendered wrong) as well as a spot light with some atmosphere so the light rays were visible. I attached a noise node into the displacement of the sphere and animated different values. I wasn't really sure what results I would have until it rendered, but I think they look really interesting and I want to experiment with it more.

I also took the labels I began making and I tried to apply it to this test. Since the values were animated, I added a slider control to the numbers and changed the expression slightly so there were more decimal values visible when the numbers were animated. These numbers are not the real values that I used in Maya - when I decided to add this I didn't have access to Arnold so I couldn't check what the real numbers were.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Minor Project: Initial Label Designs #1

To further evoke a sense of 'hospitalisation' or some sort of institution, I was encouraged to explore ways of labelling my texturing experiments that will later on help me design my Art Of document. After some conversations, it became clear that it would be a good idea to explore the font and layout of medical prescriptions, pill packets/drug information tables, and nutritional information. It's odd because before I started actually looking at references, I didn't realise how similar medication labels and nutrition labels were which I think is interesting considering what my project is about.

I also researched a little online about which fonts are best for nutrition information and medication/drug information. Both of them recommend clear, easy to read fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Franklin Gothic, and Verdana. I also found on this website that recommends using APHont as it is apparently easier to see for those who have weaker vision (I saw several other websites mention this font as well). I explored these fonts in the tests below, which were inspired by 'Drug Facts' (specifically the 'Active ingredients' section). I think out of all these fonts I prefer Helvetica, Arial, and APHont but I think I want to explore a few other fonts too. Some fonts were wider so for this test, some of the 'Bump Value' sections were shortened to 'Bump Val'...I'd change this in the final version but for this test I wanted everything to be the same dimensions. The render time in this is also made up for now.

I think this will be really interesting when paired with my texture tests. I need to figure out what backdrop/ground I want when rendering these images as well so I can keep it consistent throughout all the textures. I also plan to explore a few other layouts for these labels...for example, maybe including some bullet points or having it be more similar to a food label instead.

Minor Project: Ice 001-006 & Ceramics Glaze Test Influence

In these tests, I've actually applied my ice maps to the aiStandardSurface shader in Arnold rather than different shaders in Mental Ray. It was suggested to me to begin recording these texturing experiments in a more formal, organised manner...similar to glaze tests for ceramics. I like the idea of this because, despite saving all of the files anyway, it'll ensure I can recreate the materials as I'll have the settings all documented as well as exhibit the work that I've done that may not be seen otherwise.

The format below is just one way I may record my textures, I will most likely change the font. In Maya I used a Skydome Light and a Directional Light, a polygon plane with an aiStandardSurface shader (slightly reflective so I can see how any lights, reflections, and refractions look), and a polygon sphere which is what I am using to experiment on. I kept the camera locked in the same position and all the render settings the same. Perhaps I'll add this to the swatch description somewhere too so I know what samples and other settings I used, for now I'll have a separate image describing the settings I had (I realize that some of these values may be wrong/too high/irrelevant...this is just what I had at the time of rendering due to previous experiments).

 On the swatches themselves, I included the main channels I used and I only wrote down what values I changed/what type of image I plugged in. I hope to figure out a similar layout I could use for the animation tests as well. I will most likely re-render these as well once I have a better idea of what setup I want...I also want to add the render times of each image since some of them took a lot longer to render than others.

I really like how this turned out using Arnold rather than Mental Ray and I prefer Ice 004 and Ice 006 the most. I felt I was able to get better results a lot easier in Arnold than Mental Ray in this case, despite struggling with it in the past so I hope that is a good sign. I may continue to experiment with this substance, and I think I want to try creating a height map to see if that will enhance it any further or produce interesting Displacement Map glitches (like in this test). I also plan to try and progress onto developing some other substances in Substance Designer such as a sponge. I also hope on experimenting with animating Displacement Maps and I have to see how that would work using just shaders (ex. the aiStandard Surface) and how that would change or distort a texture file like the ones I have been using for this ice material.

Ice 004
Ice 006

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Minor Project: Experimenting with Emission & Adjusting Shaders (Mila Material)

After some feedback on my ice material, I started looking at some ways I could brighten it up or give it some sort of 'inner glow' feel. I'm not sure if these results are too stylised, but I wanted to experiment with it anyway. For this test I used the Mila Material in Mental Ray, so I'm unsure if this will be useful overall other than just experimenting with what look may be worth exploring since the Mila Material isn't in Arnold.

I mostly wanted to experiment with emission which is an option in the Mila Material layering system. First I just added the diffuse and normal map, I then experimented with the emission by plugging in my diffuse image into the colour option and adjusting the weight and intensity. After that I also used my roughness file to plug into a glossy reflection layer. I think these results are interesting, although not necessarily realistic...but having a slight light emitting from the materials may not be a bad thing.

Diffuse Only

Diffuse & Normal Map

Default Emission Settings (Weight - 1, Intensity - 10)

Adjusted Emission (Weight - 0.7, Intensity - 3)

Glossy Reflection

Minor Project: Projecting Onto Multiple Objects #1

For this test I wanted to try projecting onto a number of objects rather than one solid one such as the domes I have been experimenting with. There were several films that I thought were interesting that used the technique of projecting onto multiple separate objects so I wanted to try it out in Maya.

All I did for this test was create a number of cylinders, flattened them slightly, and arranged them so they were relatively scattered but still close enough that they created a near solid form depending on the camera angle. I then mixed a few different aiStandardSurface presets (plastic, metal, glass) and set up a spot light with a gobo filter. I also decided to add in aiAtmosphereVolume but unfortunately because of the way I rendered it (no background/sky dome and I rendered them out as TIFF files) the rays of light didn't show up in the animation...but it can be seen in the still image.

I do quite like how this test turned out, and I wonder what it would look like if I created tons of these bars. Perhaps it would be interesting to try that out and perhaps experiment with the material on it. I think it would be interesting to apply the tile texture to it, but it may also be interesting to create a dome with the tiles like in this test, and fill it with the bars and try out different materials such as glass.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Minor Project: Projection Reflection/Refraction Test #1

One of the experiments on my list was to test out how a projection may behave when projected through several layers of geometry or through several 'screens' or 'walls'. To do this, I created a wave using a polygon plane extruded on a cure I created in the side view. I then mixed together a combination of different presents on the aiStandardSurface material including clear water, deep water, glass, and frosted glass. I then added a gobo filter with my footage onto the spot light and adjusted the rays in the render settings to try and ensure the light would pass through all of the layers.

It was difficult to see the results at first, and I tried my best to render out something that was interesting (apologies if the quality seems low, since this is just a test I didn't want it to take too long to render and I also time stretched the footage so it would go slower). I think this has potential, but at the moment I found it somewhat difficult to control. But I do think the use of transparent or semi-transparent objects or reflections may be interesting in combination with some of the previous tests I have done. I think this sort of thing needs further experimentation and research before I decide if it's something useful or not.

Minor Project: Substance Designer - Attempting to Create Ice #2

I've decided to return to Substance Designer to see if I could figure out how to create the diffuse for the ice substance I began creating by following a written tutorial. I tried looking over the instructions on how to do this again, but only understood pieces of it (I think part of it was meant to be explained with screenshots but they were missing) so I decided to try it out largely on my own.

Once I exported the maps, I rendered it using the mia_material_x shader in Mental Ray (rather than Arnold due to which computer I have access to) and I think it looks alright for my initial attempt. However, the white scratches didn't show up as white as I was hoping/expecting but I can always return to Substance Designer and adjust this.

For my first attempt on my own I think I did okay, but I do not know if I'd be able to get the light to shift and refract like cracked ice would. I'm sure there would be a way to do this, but I'll need to figure it out. Perhaps in Arnold I'll be able to depending on the settings and maps I use such as height maps along with normal maps. I also like how the material looks on a flat plane rather than a sphere, but again this may look different in Arnold.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Minor Project: Voiceover Influences & Script Adjsutment

Over the last week I've been working to get some initial takes of my voiceover. Doing my own voice acting is something that I admit I've been terrified to try out - any sort of acting, even voice acting, is way beyond my comfort zone. However, since this project is so personal and it feels so important to me I am doing my best to work past that and make a decent voiceover. Once the sound booth at UCA was up and running after some technical issues, I spent a few hours over the course of two days to get as many initial take as I could. For the first clips I kept it relatively simple so I had a base and to ensure that I had the ability to do it and that it should indeed be me doing it in the first place. Over the next few weeks I'm going to work on adding more expressiveness to my voiceover...I hope as I practice and do it more I'll get better. I did find that the second day I recorded I did better and felt more comfortable so I hope that continues.

While I'm not including any of the voiceover clips in this post (maybe I'll include some once I have a final version), as I spoke the words I thing I had a better idea of what I wanted my poem and animation to be like. I decided to scrap the line "When I think of my family I feel dread" as I feel that this line in combination with the other lines, was unbalanced and leaned towards a more negative feeling towards my family. This is not what I wanted as I more so wanted to express a sort of 'guilty' or 'split' feeling in regards of my family.

I also spent some time looking at some spoken word/poetry readings in hope that it'll help me get more expressive in my recordings. Here are some I found powerful...Neil Hilborn has always been one of my favourite poets to listen to.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Minor Project: Interesting Displacement Map Results & Experimenting with Substances/Lighting

I wanted to work more with the shaders and lights in Arnold so I can become more accustomed to them since I feel like I still struggle with them at times. I decided to work with another substance file (in this case a snow substance) since I'm planning on reverse engineering some of the substances on this site in hopes I get used to Substance Designer a bit more (I'm trying to take things one step at a time so I'm focusing on Arnold for now rather than creating my own substances as well as learning more about Arnold). I may try using the maps I made for this test and see what I can do with it on the aiStandardSurface shader on its own then I'll attempt to create some colour maps for it too. There are also some Smart Materials available on Substance Share that I may try out too - although they are more orientated for Substance Painter and I'm not completely sure how to import those into Maya just yet.

I decide to start with the height/displacement map since in my last experiment I found things got a bit buggy when I worked on the base colour, roughness, and other channels first. Weirdly enough, I actually found the initial displacement really beautiful even though it was obviously not what I was looking to achieve. Since Dysmorphia, I feel I am better able to see the beauty in the weird, glitchy, broken parts of Maya. Perhaps this odd quirk is something I could/should explore more since I feel it's interesting. I also wonder if displacement maps could be a way I could do things such as morph a more organic shape into something such as a crystal (or at least something crystal-like).

Once I toned down the displacement, I applied the other parts of the substance to the aiStandardSurface shader. It took me a while of fiddling with the normal maps to get them to work relatively alright - they looked very strange initially (a similar problem I had on my previous test with the tiles). For some reason they tend to look very obvious and extreme...I'm unsure if it's because it's clashing with the displacement map or if the colour mode is wrong (although it gets greyed out to 'colour management off' automatically and I cannot change anything on it). Playing around with the exposure on the image seems to help me control what the normal map does.

I also didn't include the 'Metallic' portion of the substance as that gave me some weird results. I think I'd prefer to go with a more icy vs snowy appearance for this material, so I look forward to exploring it some more. I do feel I'm starting to understand Arnold a little bit more including the rendering process (choosing where to increase samples), the shaders, and lights. Again, I feel the broken displacement maps could be something interesting to explore as well although I'm unsure how that would effect the rest of the material if using image files.

Minor Project: aiAtmosphere Volume & Bar Shadows Test

After playing around with the tile substance, I decided to use the file to also experiment with aiAtmosphere Volume to make the light rays of my projections visible. I played around with different densities but I found that having it quite low at 0.030 worked well since it was enough to make the light rays visible but it didn't make things feel overly cloudy. I suspect this would depend on the scene and I hope to experiment with it more.

I also experimented with adding in some objects such as bars so they cast shadows across the projection. In this case, I created some simple cylinders and turned off their 'Primary Visibility' so their shadows would render but not the geometry itself. In this scene I used a point light to light up the scene a tiny bit so it wasn't only black and so the tiles could be seen...I also adjusted the light linking so the point light wouldn't affect the bars so the shadows only cast where the spot light lit up. I know I could use a filter on the spot light itself to block the light, but I wonder if doing it this way would produce more natural looking results than having an animated texture plugged into it. I might test that out either way just to see.

For the footage itself, I took a video my sister sent me of snowfall in Vermont. I had to stretch the time since the video clip was very short (hence why the projection may seem a bit jittery and odd). I also added in a basic glitch effect (I want to experiment with other effects to create a break/glitch as well) to reveal footage of a nurse preparing for an EKG test underneath. This also gave the the chance to repeat the snowfall footage since the glitch effect breaks up so much that it's hard to see what the video restarts. When I brought the video into the filter on my spot light, I tried to time it so the glitch would happen as it crossed across the bars. In this test there is no orb since I wanted to focus on the light rays and shadows of non-visible objects. I think it may be interesting to use shadows to reveal other objects that are invisible as well.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Minor Project: Using Substances in Maya/Arnold & Testing out Displacement Maps

Since I've begun experimenting with Substance Designer and Substance Painter I decided to try out importing substances into Maya2018/Arnold. I watched a few tutorials about it prior to attempting it myself so that helped...I still made a few errors but I think it came out alright in the end. I like using substances because you can have options such as the 'damage' channels that this tile substance has (although I turned them off in the end). For the 'Custom' workflow option on the substance, I like being able to pick and choose which parts of the substance you use. For example - I actually sound that I liked the specularity of this tile substance more when I didn't used the specular map since I applied a displacement and normal map to it.

It also took me a while to figure out the displacement map system for Arnold...although I haven't had much of an experience with it in Mental Ray excluding a few video tutorials from last year. I watched a few videos about the Displacement system in Arnold and came across a nice tip of using a setting in the Arnold render view to see better what the displacement is actually doing and if you have enough subdivisions to get the results you want. In the render settings under 'Render' there is a 'Debug Shading' menu. I found it useful to tick 'wireframe' so I could see if it needed more devisions or not.

I found a good online source for free to use substances on the Allegorithmic 'Substance Share' site. I hope that'll be helpful with creating a 'pre-vis' of some sort eventually as well as general experiments and perhaps some reverse engineering in Substance Designer so I can understand it better.

4 Iterations
5 Iterations

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Minor Project: Experimenting with The Environment - Materials/Textures #1

After some feedback I received on Monday I decided to experiment with different textures for the environment. The idea is that the 'non-space' and the materials/textures that are applied to it should also be of some significance to me even if the audience doesn't quite know what that significance is. For this particular test I tried some white bricks as it reminded me of the hospital and my old high school. There were several other brick/tile textures that I liked so I plan to experiment with those as well.

I also tried seeing how the space would be if it was brighter, but I found if I made it too bright of a white space - the projection would be very difficult to see. I'm not sure if in Arnold (as this was done in Mental Ray) I'd be able to better adjust this due to the range of settings on the light itself and the different light filters so I'll need to experiment with that. Overall, I really like how the environment looks in this test rather than the plain black space and I also liked playing with the rotation of the room/camera.

I used the animation that I made of the crystal for this particular projection, and I applied a glass shared onto the orb to see what it would look like. I do feel in this test that the orb disappears a little bit (which in some cases may be useful) but I wish I had added some additional lights to give the orb some highlights to pick it out more.