Sculptie things diary

July 25, 2007

Over the past few weeks I’ve been jumping around between projects, learning a lot about Maya along the way. (I took a break from Mayaing to finish the socks I wrote up in the previous post.) None of the projects are finished yet but I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to. Since this will be a long post with lots of Maya talk, I’m hiding it after the ‘more…’

After I finished my month-long sculpted flower project, I decided to tackle a jewelry design idea I had. My goal was to create both shapes and textures in Maya. Now, jewelry is often made of metal. And metal is, as Lee Lanier in Advanced Maya Texturing and Lighting says, “perhaps the most difficult surface to re-create.” Oh boy. Word of advice: if you’re learning about shaders, don’t start with metal.

The shapes were no problem to create. The only issue I have with them is JPEG compression artifacts in the uploaded sculpt maps that cause yucky bumps. Metal shaders and lighting, on the other hand, are really difficult. I must have done hundreds of tweaks and renders, and never got a result I could live with. Here’s a small sample (the pictures were taken in SL):

The leftmost unadorned long thingie has a texture I created in Photoshop a long time ago. It sucks but I did use it for a bunch of jewelry. The next 5 long thingies were baked with Maya software rendering.  The last was done using mental ray, with global illumination and final gather. At the time I had an unsolved problem with mental ray: I’d often get ‘photons not stored’ warnings and my renders would freeze up. Eventually I googled the problem and discovered that I could place a big sphere around all objects and lights to avoid it.

Here’s the extremely unfinished necklace I was making with the long thingies. The purplish stone texture is also Maya-baked.

I’ll be returning to the necklace, but after days and days of metal frustration, I needed a change. So I gave sculpted high heels a shot. After loads of experimentation, my best result was this (picture from SL again):

I was concentrating only on shapes so they’re untextured. They look like they’re made of clay, don’t they? Complete with wobbly wiggly bumpiness. That’s 3 prims – it was the least number that would retain a decent amount of detail. Some of the wiggliness can be fixed in Maya, some of it is again caused by JPEG compression artifacts.

So then my friend Reitsuki showed me a sculpted waterfall. I liked the water effect so I stole it…um I mean was inspired by it. It was the is the quickest, easiest thing I’ve done with sculpties to date. Here are before and after pictures of my stream in Seacliff:

The basic idea is, create a lumpy plane (plane sculpties are new and can only be created with a script for now), put a rotating water texture on it, duplicate it and shift it vertically and put a compatible rotating texture on the duplicate. The lumpiness is a great subtle effect, much nicer than flat water. Then string a bunch of these layered sculptie pairs together.  Big rocks inside rock-shaped rotating water prims help minimize seamage. And please make your water move fast enough to look realistic. I was guilty of slow water in the past but I’ve learned. Oh, I also created some curved lumpy planes to accommodate the landscape. While I was at it I re-landscaped and made some asymmetrical giant pebbles.

..Time passed…more metal frustration…some socks…then…

I’m now working on my first releasable sculptie shoes. The construction is done; I just have to make lots of colors. Three sculpted prims make up the basic sole and upper. The upper is torus sculpt types, the sole is the normal sculpt type. The crossed straps and calf laces are non-sculpted prims. The textures are baked in Maya with mental ray. They look almost metallic (oh the irony of unintended metal) but that’s because I’m not so good with shaders yet. Anyway I like the look. So here’s a preview of Criss Cross Ballet Flats:

They’ll be ready for release by next week.

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14 Responses to “Sculptie things diary”

  1. Alyse Says:

    I don’t have Maya and wouldn’t have the first clue how to create a sculpty anything, but thought this was a fascinating article. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Natasha Ascot Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the first person! I’m always eager to learn and to see what creating stuff is all about, we usually only see the end product, so this is a wonderful glimpse behind the scenes!

  3. Tanya Book Says:

    Wow this stuff looks gorgous.

  4. Ben Vanguard Says:

    Fally, i loved to read this post! 🙂
    This is really interesting.
    And please, don’t forget men’s stuff, hehe! 😀

  5. fcellardoor Says:

    I haven’t forgotten men’s stuff! As a Maya beginner, it’s been more comfortable for me to work with women’s items because I have a better feel for them.

    And thanks, everyone, for letting me know you liked this post!

  6. Tuli Says:

    There is no end to your talent. Seriously.
    Awesome, Fally!!!


  7. […] 3rd, 2007 I posted about these last week, thought I’d be finished pretty quickly, then got hung up on pale colors for way too long. […]

  8. caLLie cLine Says:

    yay fally wally, you’re the bomb baby!!!

  9. jacqueline trudeau Says:

    Fallingwater, have you seen this:

    http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/SLImageUpload

    It allows lossless texture load into SL. I’m not a sculpty sculptress 😉 so i can’t vouch for it firsthand, but I’ve heard it makes all the difference in the world for sculpty bitmaps.

  10. Funk Schnook Says:

    I only just discovered your blog after checking out your store. I never really looked closely at your work. It’s really beautiful!

    You have me thinking about looking at Maya now. Your sculptie meshes look really controlled and clean (btw use SLImageUpload as mentioned above. I used it on my shoes and it gets rid of the shitty lumps). The only problem with Maya is, it’s just a crazy amount of money to drop on software just to make sculpties :/

  11. fcellardoor Says:

    It’s weird how this thread is getting so many comments.

    Thanks for the tip, Jacqueline and Funk. The warning on that page discouraged me. FYI, lossless compression for small textures coded and should be in beta soon, according to Qarl Linden.

    Yes, Maya is expensive for sculpties! For me it’s a business expense that I’ve no doubt it will pay for itself.

  12. Funk Schnook Says:

    Yeah he’s already written the code to add a checkbox for textures less than or equal to 128×128, but if you want to get things done *now*, SLImageUpload works 🙂

    Since you are using Maya, you have an even better option here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Importprimscript

  13. Funk Schnook Says:

    Just in case anyone reads this, the latest release candidate client has the “lossless compression” checkbox. I just tested it and my sculpties appear identical to what I uploaded with slimagupload! 🙂

  14. fcellardoor Says:

    I read it! I tried the release candidate yesterday too. The boots I posted today were slightly smoother with lossless, except for one object which was much worse.

    I’ve been unable to use SLimageupload – I get an error. Bummer for me.


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