Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the 'daagaba' project :)

Recently I got an assignment at SAITM to model a 'daagaba' in 3D and do a 24 hour timelapse on it. This seemed quite simple on the face of it and I was pretty sure I could do this inside Maya (my preferred software for 3D). The model of course went without a hitch and I finished it in one day.

 All of this is just simple poly modeling since I knew I was going to go for medium to far away shots and a high level of detail was not needed. Just basic objects so the viewer can see a silhouette or catch the specular reflection off it. Specially the 'kotha' (The tapered part on the top of the daagaba) and the 'mal asana'( the 4 structures around the daagaba). Typically these parts are heavily decorated in real life and modeling every tiny detail would have been a pain in the butt. -___-.

Then I turned into texturing. I admit I'm not really good at texturing, and I ran into some problems here. I started on the rock, Did a Spherical mapping and tweaked the UVs a teeeny bit. then I went into Ps and started putting in bits of photos and painting over them. All went well and I came back to Maya, applied it.Didn't show any seams and while it didn't look great, it did look ok. Then I again went to Ps for the bump. Made it grayscale, adjusted the curves, levels a bit and finally applied it in Maya. Rendered it, aaaaand the results were CRAP!. the bump map clearly wasn't working at all. Changing the bump depth didn't do any good. Went back and forth betwen Ps and maya trying to find a better map and nothing looked 'real' enough for me. Again, I wasn't looking for a photo-realistic finish but it did have to look OK.
I was really frustrated at this point. The 1st object I started texturing and I'm screwed ! I was starting to think I might have to go to Zbrush for the rock when I saw a Vue advert on CGSociety. I suddenly realized I had a solution to cover my texturing problem plus do a kick ass environment for my scene. :)
Since I have Vue Xstream and I thought I could do it inside Maya itself. I loaded the Vue plugin and and started to create a terrain. Immediately Maya crashed. Still I wasn't put off and I reloaded the scene and started it again. again Maya crashed. Did this a couple of times. Each time Maya crashed. I was fast beginning to lose interest at this point.
However, to step around this, I decided to import my scene to Vue and work in standalone mode, I could also texture them inside Vue. Had some small problems with the import. Some inverted normals and hidden objects, After a couple of iterations, I finally got everything inside Vue correctly. A very important thing to note here is the practice of a proper naming convention.
Specially if you have a several hundred objects like in this scene. Its a bit hard to know which object is the small flower petal on the tower when you have a list like "pPlane1, pPlane2.... up till pPlane364. :)
Anyway, initially I was going for a temple on the rock by the sea (Maya Fluids), but when I went to Vue I knew I could make a panoramic landscape full of vegetation and stuff.
A procedural terrain, water plane plus a beautiful animated atmosphere took care of the environment. I had to sculpt the terrain a bit to create the lake.  A new addition in Vue is the 3D sculpt tool. I didn't have time to experiment but  I think now it will be possible to create arches and overhangs with Vue terrains!(lol, I'm still a Vue noob. and there may have been ways to do it earlier also).The  vegetation is a tweaked eco-system material. And of course the camera animation is nothing to write home about, a simple 3 key frame animation. Things were going along pretty smooth until this point. 

Then I started to setup the render. First I started using the presets. Final seemed very acceptable to me. Going to Broadcast simply enabled the motion blur. However the render times were still high. So I decided to try and customize it. after taking down the sub ray settings and the Advanced effects Quality down I ended up with trees that looked worse than Paint-fx trees. :P So I slowly dialed them up bit by bit and in the end shaved off about 1-7 seconds in certain frames. Btw, Advanced effects means a lot of Indirect illumination and photon(GI/ Caustics) options.
Finally I started a batch render. Even though the animation was originally 30secs,before anything else I wanted a rough look on how this would actually look like in motion. (Also it was about 2-3 p.m in the morning and I was pretty bushed up.) <> So I set it up for a 240 frame render and went to sleep. 

The following morning when I woke up it was at the 216th frame. I had taken about 8+hrs. I just quit the render there and slapped the seQ to Ae and the result was, this.

Straight away I could see a number of issues. The water scale is all wrong and after about the 3-4 second when the sun goes up in the sky the sky turns all white. This was obviously not what I was looking for. And  I did not notice this even when I was doing sample renders earlier; simply because I had just stuck around the 2 extremes of the animation, thus missing out these parts. Also, the ground can clearly be seen around the 5-6second mark, and is obviously bare. So anyway now I have to go back and adjust all these things and add stuff again. And I think I want to put a kind of wobble into the entry camera animation to make it feel a bit more "realistic". Plus I want to get upclose to the daagaba sooner so I can show the detail in the daagaba. Specially around the upper parts.

Anyways, this has been a fantastic project for me(not because of the result, but because I got very up and close with Vue). This is actually the first time I have used Vue in a real project.to this level and I'm really pleased with what I've learnt.

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