|Making of Trapped|
Author: Massimo Righi
Software: Autodesk Maya
Author Website: http://www.massimorighi.com/
What I would like to do is to pick the animals and their characteristics that fascinate me the most.
During a recent travel, I'd taken a photo at the “Bird Park” of Kuala Lumpur. Immediately I was captured by the expression of this parrot….a strange mixture of drama, given from the animal in the cage, and of fun as demonstrated by the typical behavior of these animals.
I have always loved those birds and a little time ago, I had modeled a Macaw. I thought of giving it a pose in an attempt to recreate part of a photographed scene…
I have used Maya 8.0 for the modeling (polygonal) and Mental Ray for rendering. The lighting is given by an HDRI probe and two lights. Background and depth of field are rendered within Maya. There is no postwork, only an accentuation of the contrast in Photoshop was used to create the textures.
A few months ago after I had modeled the Macaw, I still didn't quite have the final scene in mind. My primary goal was to just practice and keep myself entertained. The modeling type is polygonal. I first modeled the Macaw (lowpoly) in a standard position, on its tripod.
Starting from a plane, I extruded the edges while trying to follow as much as possible to the reference images. I had begun from the head and then modeled the rest of the body. Initially, I recreated only half of the body in order to keep the mapping of the UV’s simpler.
From that moment to the composition of the scene, “Trapped” had consumed several months. After I had returned from my travels to south-east of Asia, I went over some of the photos I had taken and they turned out to be good motivation in helping me to resume the model of the parrot and to try to give it more peculiarity. To recreate a 3D scene from a photograph is always a big challenge -- but why not to give it a chance! grin
Therefore I decided to give it a try… I opened up the “old” model in Maya and divided the beak (before it was joined) and I modeled the inside of the mouth and tongue.
The layout of the UV’s is always boring and slow but needs to be done in the right way to achieve good texturing. I used a mixture of planar and cylindrical projections for that. Once I was finished with the UVs, I have duplicated the other half of the model, merged vertices and put it into a pose using a pair of joints in order to move the head and the leg. I have decided to choose a different camera angle from the one in the reference photo because the frontal angle seemed much too extreme and the colors of the head feathers would be remained much too hidden. I tried several angles-shot and focal lenses till I found what seemed to be the better choice.
I have deleted (Cut Face Tool) all the parts outside of the camera gate in order to make the scene lighter and then I recreated the portion of cage that I needed. I modeled (Maya Sculpt) the details after I had made the mesh denser, especially close to the beak and the eyes. Then I added some fur using Maya 3D Paint Tool on the head and close to the nostrils in order to render the parrot side more realistic.
The eye is modeled in two parts, one inner and one external which I used to render the circular glare and give it a bit of sense of depth.
I created the textures with Photoshop having partially used the original photographs, and from creating brushes and patterns together with the use of a Wacom tablet. The texture of the beak and the one of legs are nearly completely painted using thin brushes, in order to simulate the little strips. I used four UV Templates, one for the body (2k), one for the beak, the leg and tongue (2k), one for the eye (1k) and one for the cage (2k) From the texture of the color, I also created the maps for specular/bump/diffuse and reflectivity.
Finally with the Maya 3D Paint Tool, I have fixed some “unavoidable” seams and refined the textures. I used one shader for each map but the eye, for which I have used two. For the body I tried to create a slight glow effect to help simulate the feathers. For this, I have modified the “Glow Intensity” value in the attributes of the Blinn.
For the beak, I modified the “Reflection blur” value in order to soften the glares of the HDRI.
For the eye, I used a Phong shader for the textured part and a transparent Blinn for the external part, where I have applied one circular ramp for both maps of translucence and specularity.
Lighting and Rendering
I enabled “depth of field” on the Camera used in the scene. In order to establish the focal distance, I always use this method: I create a “Distance tool” and put one locator on the preferred point of focus (in this case it was the bottom part of the beak), subsequently I put the other locator exactly over the Camera which I have to use for the rendering. I make a "parent" between the locator and the camera, so that every time when I move the Camera, I will have consequent the exact value to insert in the 'Focus Distance” field.
The lighting system is provided from an HDRI probe and two lights. One (point light) behind the parrot up with enabled "Use raytrace shadows” and the modified values in order to obtain soft shadows. The other (area light) inside the mouth, so as to illuminate some parts that otherwise would have remained in shadow which we would have if we only had the use of other lights sources. Here, I positioned one of my photos as an “image plane” of the Camera, just to have a credible background behind the cage, even if it is blurred from the DOF.
The rendering settings are those that you see in the screengrab. Final Gather and sampling values are high enough to avoid the grain effect given by the DOF, but not exaggerated considering an output image of 4000x2250. Once the final image was obtained (approximately 4 hours with a Pentium Quad-core), I enhanced the contrast in Photoshop.
I hope this brief tutorial could be in some way useful and has satisfied some curiosity about my work methods. Many thanks for this opportunity of sharing and to everyone reading this article.