Making of posters
Man, I had some fun making these posters! The bottleneck that’s been keeping me from really diving into the editing of the movie was all the work that needed to be put into the robot (modeling, texturing, rigging). Adding controls to the animation rig is all that’s left to do before I take the big dive into editing and integrating the robot into the footage. I was making renders to test how my textures looked, but with a little extra work I quickly turned them in to cool posters that can hopefully generate a little excitement. It’s certainly boosted my moral and confidence in the project from seeing tangible evidence of the work I’ve been doing on the robot.
Some technical details on the robot: I decided the geometry was too heavy on polygons – close to 200,000 triangles – so I created a simpler mesh over the torso and head to which I baked in small details like seems and holes with normal maps. This helped bring the polygon count down to less than 60,000. In the long run, this will drastically reduce the amount of time to render. As for textures, I’ve considered handling the texture creation in a 3d painting application such as Mudbox but decided to go with a purely photoshop workflow. I’ve learned from colleagues at work that this is the quickest and easiest way to deal with textures. Yes, there are some inherent flaws with seams but I don’t care for perfection, nor do I have the time for it.
UV mapping tedium and quick texture work
UV mapping can be relaxing and fun… for a while. But when it takes all day and then some, that’s when the tedium kicks in and you think to yourself, “Oh God, l just want to get this over with please can I be done with this now!!” Thankfully, everything afterwards was a breeze. I simply laid down a base color, some layers of photographic details to give teeth and variation to the surface, a custom camo pattern I whipped up, and tons of dirt and grime textures from random photos I’ve been taking. There was only very little hand painted work for touch ups and polish. I made 2 versions of Metal Bum’s texture – one from its time at war and the other when it returns home and ends up on the streets. The snow camouflage pattern was inspired by my recent ski trip. I took some beautiful HD footage of the vistas with my phone and decided I could use as a backdrop for the opening battlefield scene of the film. While I was initially leaning toward a desert setting there was no real reason I needed to stick with that.
Film doesn’t have the polygon and texture limitations of videogames. With that theory in mind, I imagined how sweet it’d be to match the CG fidelity achieved in Real Steel in Metal Bum. I quickly realized that even if somehow I had the technical knowhow, my 3 year old iMac wasn’t gonna be able to handle it. Case in point, I started out with 2 sheets of 2048 texture pages and Maya halted to a near stop, chugging hard as I struggled to even navigate in the viewport. Now mind you, 2048 is way smaller than the size of textures typically used in film – could go up to 8k I think. Well, I gotta work with what I’ve got right? I downrezzed the textures to 1024’s and quit working directly with psd files, instead using a custom photoshop action to output jpegs (a pro tip I picked up at work) and Maya returned to life. It’s funny that in the end I’ve adopted a workflow closer to one appropriate for videogames. Truth is, when the going gets tough VFX houses take all manner of shortcuts like these to get the job done.
Creating assets with both quality AND speed
These props were created with a very quick turnaround. I spent only a few of hours on each of the 3 components of work required: modeling, uv mapping, and texturing. This was possible because I forwent the idea of creating high resolution 3D work, and instead adopted the low poly route. Neither the rifle nor the helmet were ever going to be seen in closeup shot so that’s fine. If it’s something I can get away with, I’d happily save myself the extra work any day.
Announcements of things to come
Do I really want to do this? Okay, here I go. You can look forward to a 30 second preview of Metal Bum by the end this April and the the film will be finished by July 12 (can’t confidently say I’ll release it to the public right away as I want to explore my options for a festival run). Mark you calendars and God help me.