Wednesday, 9 April 2014

My Spare Time (Not All That Spare)

First off, apologies for the fact I seem to have forgotten that I usually blog on Tuesdays.  It doesn't much  help that I actually thought today was also Tuesday and I'm now slightly concerned to find it's Wednesday.

I'm not sure I actually remember Tuesday.  This is the downside to working from home: all the days seem to blur together.

Victoria 4, based on the singer Nana Mizuki
I've been writing (and traumatising my teachers with my stories) since I was a child, but the other pastime I have is a little more recent... relatively speaking.  For at least seven years now I've had an interest in 3D artwork.

That makes it sound like some sort of therapy introduction, doesn't it?  Arguably it can become quite addictive; you can certainly lose a lot of time in it without meaning to.  I'm not a talented 3D modeller—what little I can do revolves around clothing and I'm appalling at making it follow the figure afterwards—so a lot of what I end up using is made by other artists and is sold via online stores such as Daz3D and Renderosity.  That doesn't mean, however, I have to be constrained by those.

You can also buy things called texture packs, which can be either a pre-made set of textures for a specific item, or a set of flat photographs that you can apply to any model you wish.  Some come with settings that turn them into seamless tiles—meaning the image can be repeated into infinity, theoretically, if your model was large enough—and others are literally just photos that you can use to make your own textures.  You can even take photographs of your own and use those.

'Ring' for the JSF Onepiece
If you're a fashion-minded person, you can create your own textures in Photoshop too and then apply them to outfits.  It requires different skills to straight-up rendering, but is a different way to personalise outfits and scenes.  (It also takes me ages and I struggle with inspiration, so I only do it infrequently.)

'Ring', to the left, is one texture I made for an outfit called the Japanese Style Fashion Onepiece and released free for other people with the same outfit to use.  The bodice section is made from a photo of my own leather trousers; a subtle pattern in the red came from a notebook, and the design was done painstakingly in Photoshop—arguably more difficult than the slow but straightforward process of making the texture itself.

Dokkalfa Milos London (and his arse)
3D is in essence like digital photography, only instead of hiring the model, telling them what to wear, lighting them and photographing (I'm over-simplifying the process, I know), I have instead to make the model male or female, put skin on them while trying to ensure it looks semi-realistic or at least suits the scene, dress them, manually pose them and their outfit, find (or design, if I use a Pixar-style program like Garibaldi—something I used for David's stubble on the Three Graces cover) suitable hair, ensure that all the textures work well, light the scene and render it.  For something a lot of people deride as "easy", it's a lot of hard work.

To me, at least, the end results are worth it.  I don't have to trawl around the internet hunting for a photograph that resembles my character and then worry about acquiring the rights to it if I want to use it in an image.  Instead I make the figure resemble my character, and I can then render at any resolution.  This is particularly handy for characters like my dokkalfa Milos, who would require more effort in Photoshop with a photograph than I ever have to put into a render, especially now I've got his settings how I want them.

It's time-consuming to do, requires practice (like most things!) and may one day kill my laptop, but it's a remarkably enjoyable way to kill time.  Even if I have grossly over-simplified it here!

If this sounds interesting, you can find information for beginners on Smith Micro's Beginner's Poser Tutorials or HubPages' Daz Studio Tutorial.  Daz Studio is a free program you can pick up here; Poser Debut is $49.99 from Content Paradise and the more fully-equipped Poser 10 is $129.99.

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