Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rhesus Monkeys at the NIH

I've been working on a project at NIH for about half a year now. The short version is that I am creating a digital Rhesus Macaque monkey to show to infants to aid in cognitive responses to facial expressions. With that intro I'm now going to just mirror a post I am making on my science blog (there is no real science, but it's all science related. I'm just an artist, not a scientist). Quickly though, I want to note that this amount of time is due to me redoing the entire project about halfway through, that and spending way too much time trying to figure out fur in maya.

The project is finally starting to really come together on my end. Rebuilding the model was a very good move, I'm much happier with the model now and I'm having more success with how it moves. I decided to attack fur one more time since I have a new improved model. The hope was that the fur would magically look better on a better model that had a better texture underneath. This turned out to not be true, however in my new attempt I learned a few new things, the most important of which was that UV size determines the density of the fur. This was the reason I was getting awful looking patches of fur around the shoulders. So I redid the UV map which was kind of a pain because it also forced me to bring the new map into Zbrush so I could export new normal maps and texture maps.



So, with those fixes the fur started to look better. I'm still facing the issue of a weird hairline around the face. I am considering adding one more fur description just to define the hairline and make that work a bit better but for now I've moved on to blendshapes and rigging to test how the fur looks and moves when I animate the model. I have yet to rig but my blendshapes are finished. Another problem that I faced was with fur jittering but I found out this can be fixed by simply creating a texture reference object. This freezes the placement of the fur so it all is more or less baked onto the model and doesn't float all over when the model moves.

So here is a clip of my first few blendshapes, I've added a few to the rig but they aren't seen here. This is still a preliminary render. Not the final:

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