After client work, this evening I dove into tutorials.
The first one I found at Digital Tutors: Creating a Game-Ready Sci-Fi Environment in Maya (2.5 hours) so I can make progress on VFM02 — my blocker on that project now is my limit on modeling ability for the environment art. I’m currently good enough just to get the basic graybox in. But of course, I always go for projects a bit beyond my experience, so I intentionally hit blockers as opportunities to push myself. It’s time to finally get beyond this– once I do, so many possibilities will open up.
This tutorial was very helpful, because I could finally see the full pipeline of doing environment art in an optimized way (streamlined models, high-poly baked into low-poly, etc…). Maya is so convoluted from a UI standpoint, and watching this guy work was at times overwhelming for how odd the process seemed. However, as with any software, the more you do this, the more second-nature it gets. I just have to push through and do this stuff, over and over, before I can even get good. I have Mudbox as well, so I’m also trying to dive in and learn that.
I bought a Gnomon tutorial for this in 2012 (Environment Modeling for Games), and will revisit it now that I have more time next. That just stops at modeling, however. I wanted to see the full path from modeling to texture and normal maps and Mudbox painting to final assets, so the Digital Tutors tutorial above is better for that. I figured I might as well look closely at game environment art tutorials to kill two birds with one stone: might as well make my default practice optimal modeling and materials so my work can be usable both for video and for game engines. And the more efficient I make my film CG environments, the better. As we’re into the eighth console gen, the gap on this stuff is probably closing anyway.
My goal right now is to learn hard-surface high-detail yet efficient modeling in Maya and virtual detail painting in Mudbox so I can get good and fast at doing environments. This will be critical for a virtual filmmaking pipeline. For VFM02, I’ve pulled some Sci-Fi Interiors Research for general inspiration, reference, and quality targets (quite a challenge ahead).
I’ve had Maya since 2011 and Mudbox since 2013, but have used them off-and-on. In that time, I’ve been primarily earning my living still doing UI for games, so it’s not something I work in every day. I usually just haven’t had the time or haven’t made the time. Since life has gotten a lot more stable since I went global freelance (I’m not moving every year for a studio gig), it’s a lot easier to focus and ramp up on these kinds of goals now, if only I make them a priority.
My daily timesheets I keep for myself have new routines set for expanding my skills with online training like this, working on existing internal projects, doing existing external client work, finding new business, and spending time with the girlfriend, all in a single day. Focused intense drive was always there, but it’s not enough: you have to turn that into a machine. This book has great advice for how to start doing that: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It still involves a lot of caffeine.
Next, I’m going to run through this other Digital Tutor tutorial: Rendering Low Resolution Environments in Maya (3hrs).
If you know of any tutorials that really rock for Maya and detailed environment art, let me know via @XanderDavisLive. Happy Friday!
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