Saturday, July 23, 2011

Maya - Skinning

To bind the skin to the bones (joints) select skeleton, shift select geometry - Skin - Bind Skin - Smooth Bind.

Paint Weights (Animation menu - Skin - Edit Smooth Skin - Paint Skin Weights Tool).
Under Influences (by Hierarchy) you can select the joints you want to paint the weights. Carefull with that tool, because it tends to mess the model (if you sometimes undo).
When holding "B" you can scale your brush.
Paint Weights:
Paint Operation - Replace, Add, Scale, Smooth
Value is important it changes the brush from Black (0) to White (1).

Mirror Skin Weights - if your model is symetrical and you worked on one side of it, you can mirror the skin weights to the other symetrical side - XY, YZ or XZ. Leave at Closest point on surface.
Important - when miroring the skin weights - remember to bring back the model to its default (if you have set any kind of keys or animation - revert to pose 0 - or key 1, to apply the mirror).

IF YOU CHANGE your geometry WHILE your geo is skinned - its very possible your skin weights to get skrewed!!! so:
Export Skin Weight Maps.
You can export the painted weights into a map and then import it back onto the model. (that can be done for safekeeping) :)
Select the geo mesh, (Animation) Skin> Edit Smooth Skin> Export Skin Weight Maps Options.
In the options you can choose export Value (Alpha or Luminance*)
Map size for example 1024px. Image format - i choose Tiff because it doesnt lose quality and supports alphas (for example JPG doesnt).
Tip* - when you click Export button it will ask you to save your file, name it and it will write as many maps as joints you have. I think ALpha or Luminance is the same if you choose TIFF format, because when you open the file you can see the painted weights on the layer and an alpha chanel with your UVS. It will also make a new folder for all the tiff files, but the main file you can re-import is (whatevename).weightMap.
Prune Small Weights - takes away any weight thats below the number put in "Prune below". Good for getting rid of minor influences.
**TIP - if you have Game UVs (mirrored on top of each other) - export skin weights might be NOT the best solution. Instead use the command copy skin weights (you must have OLD skin weights model saved on a separate file, import that maya file select first model with GOOD skin weights, shift select the second model you want to paste the weights over and hit command - Copy skin weights (under (Animation) Skin> Edit Smooth Skin.)

Reset Weights to Default - just reset and start from scratch.

Skinning with Clothing
How to skin a model with separate cloths.
1 method: You can create cloth (Maya Cloth, nCloth), so when the model is set as a collision, once the model is moved the clothes will respond to that movement.

2 method: You have to bind cloths to their appropriate joints. Do not bind clothing to the entire mesh, just select the respective joints to bind them. So first bind the character (mesh) to the skeleton (the whole skeleton) then select the base mesh (the one with weights painted) and select cloths, then copy skin weights. It takes the weights from the base mesh and adds them to the clothing mesh.


-Once you bind/skin the mesh to your skeleton - you can no longer scale the mesh (as you can see the scale tool is disabled).
-if you need to UNBINED the mesh from your skeleton
   1. select the mesh then go into (Animation) Skin>Detach Skin
   OR 2. select your mesh and EDIT - Delete by Type - History - so there no longer a conencion between both.

Select the mesh (you want to add an influence/joint to be bind) - select the desired joint (Animation) SKin > Edit Smooth Skin > Add Influence.

- MOVE JOINT While Skin is binded
Select the Joint you want to move, go (Animation) Skin - Edit Smooth Skin - Move Skinned Joints Tool (and move your joint)

Exclude Joints from binded skin:
Select the mesh (geometry) - SHIFT select a joint, go to (Animation) Skin - Edit Smooth Skin - Remove Influence.

Manipulate the IK Pole Vector
Select the IK rotate plane handle, click the "Show Manipulator Tool" on ( T key). The IK handle's pole vector, twist disc, and rotation disc are displayed.

Maya - Rigging

I had to recently rig a couple of my characters. Here are some useful remarks on the Rigging subject.
First I will mention several of the helpful tutorials from various publishers. If you are new to Maya Rigging, I can recommend:
1. - Character Rigging
link - Maya 8.5 Character Rigging
This is a great tutorial, very easy to follow from start to finish, especially for newbies.

2. Digital Tutors - they have various DVD (and they always update them for the new up-to-date software). I find DT great for newbies, they have lots of projects from start to finish, but overall if you are more advanced - the final overview of their stuff would be more desired.
a) Character Setup
b) Character Rigging
c) Character Binding and Skinning
Some links - Character Rigging for Production in Maya 2011 , Introduction to Character Rigging in Maya

Digital Tutors Search engine is quite good, since they always updated, its great to find a tutorial by choosing the software, subject and type. Tons of tutorials will show up :)
3. Gnomon - The skinned Character Rig
link: The Skinned Character Rig, The Puppet Rig

1. when you have a skeleton for your character and want to move a joint (without moving the hierarchy) simply PRESS the INSERT button on your keyboard and move the joint.

2. JOINT Orient. Sometimes when placed - joints are not rotated the way we want. To adjust the joint orientation, select the joint and >> PRESS F8 (to get into Component mode), then on the top shelf a question MARK will show up - Press it.

This enters the mode where you can twist/rotate the joint itself. When done, press again F8 to get out of component mode.

3. Set values to ZERO.
When placing the joints, its important to work in Orthographic Views, so the joints can be placed on a GRID.
Before you add controls, binding or anything.. its good to have your Joints reset - Freeze Transformation. NOTE that TRANSLATE values for joint won't freeze.
To change the SIZE of joints go DISPLAY >> ANIMATION>> JOINT SIZE
or when a joint is selected go to - channel box ->> radius (change the value).

Maya - Zbrush Workflow (Goz)

Maya - Zbrush Workflow can easily happen with the plugin (in Zbrush 4 and up it is integrated) - called GOz. Even it gives you a great comfort of NOT importing/exporting .obj ..still there are some tricks and mistakes you can avoid if you know how.

When for the first time installed Zbrush finds your programs (Preferences> Goz) - you can see /click the paths to different programs (Cinema 4D, 3D Max, Maya, Modo). When its connected to Maya - it makes a separate shelf (mel) in Maya called GoZbrush - with only button there (GoZ). I have encountered a problem, one time that button disappeared for some reason - and I had to DELETE the shelf and re-install the path to Maya again.

In Maya you must select your low poly model and click Goz button, it will directly import it in Zbrush (if the program is not active it will open it for you).
Be careful as Zbrush does not like Nsided faces - that are NOT quads or triangles. It will give you a warning.
a) Zbrush can automatically convert those Nsided faces for you
b) You can check your model before exporting with Goz to Zbrush:
Select your model, go to faces mode. Click Select (on top menu) >> Select using Constrains..
Constrain: All and Next
Properties - Order - NSIDED (it will show all faces that need to be corrected).

Another thing to AVOID by all means. When you work on your model in Zbrush and lets say you have hidden part of your model with "drag while holding CTRL SHIFT".. IF at this moment you click Goz to export your model to Maya... there is a very big possibility for your model to be gone/ skrewed forever. So make saves often and make NEW files (like keeping good archive of the steps while modeling).

RESETTING the scene in Zbrush when importing models - (so to avoid  for Zbrush to try to re-topologize or "update" your old model).
If you are working on a model and at some point would like to import another one, >>>exit "edit" mode, press CTRL +N (for new scene), SELECT ZSPHERE (in th "Tool" menu) - that completely resets the scene.

Having a couple of layers while working on your model is not a problem for exporting. The problem is if you have ACTIVE layer (on recording mode), so make sure you don't have a layer that is currently recording, and then export your model.

SYMMETRY (when pressing the X key you turn symmetry On and OFF)
There can be many problems with symmetry when working Maya-Zbrush. Always make sure the models you export from Maya (or Goz to Zbrush) are in the absolute center of the grid (for X if you want to work with X symmetry, and so on).
TIP1. If you have your model with different parts which is symmetrical in Maya, if when you use Goz to Zbrsuh the symmetry is OFF, TRY to Goz first the very symmetrical part of the mdoel, then import the rest.
Also in Maya - CUT the half of your symmertical body (faces, select the half and delete) - go to Vertex mode, select all verticles along the  try to snap the centered verticles along the Y grid Axes, hold X (for snap to grid), make sure in the Move tool options (in Tool settings, when you double click move tool it opens) - make sure "Retain component spacing" is OFF. Then go to Object model ,select the cut half - Mesh -> Mirror geometry (option box) choose between +X or -X (depending on which part you have deleted) and have "merge with the original" and " Merge vertices" ON.
Another good things to check:
 - Delete history in maya
 - Freeze transformation and Reset Transformation after that puts the pivot point in the absolute zero of the grid.
 - check UVs if you have any uv out of the square box area.
TIP3. another problem to research is if your mesh is WAY to big (gigantic) that can cause issues in zbrush.

Maya - Camera Settings

1. MOVING CAMERA - if you move the camera and want to undo! Press BRACKET ( [ ] ) keys - to undo/redo that.

2. To open camera settings (if you are in Perspective, or any other type of view) - Open the Attribute Editor, then click - VIEW> Select camera. The settings will open for that particular camera. ( other of the ways to select a camera is to open Outliner (Window>Outliner) and click the camera).

3. Camera Atributes near CLIP PLANE - 0.100 - closest, FAR Clip Plane - FURTHEREST camera view! How close or further camera can go with seeing your model.

4. Environment (in camera settings) - you can change the BACKGROUND of the rendered image, as well use/create an image plane.

5. Display Options: all about the Film Gate, Gate Maks, Resolution Gate.
in Overscan - you can change the size of Resolution Gate (you see in the view). Default is 1.300, but making it 2.500 for example would show more "fit" resolution in the screen, especially if you have bigger IMAGE SIZE values in your render settings.

6. Camera and Angle of View
One of the most important settings for the camera is Angle of View (which is connected directly with Focal Lenght).
Smaller value of Angle of View (lets say 30) - make model look more orthographic, bigger value (lets say 100) - look more 3D and distorted.

To render AO.
Create a NEW Render layer.
Assign geometry to that layer.
Create a Surface shader.
Double click Out Color choose Mental Ray Render Nodes - Textures) - mib_ambient_occlusion.
Settings can differ for different scenes but here are some you can tweak.
Rays 528 (the more the better, but adds to render time)
Bright - White color - to whiten the whites - use 2 in V.
Black color - to darken the darks use "-1" in V.
Spread - 2 (spreads the shadow effect)
Max Distance - 40 (or 20 for lighter effect).


First combine all geometry that has ONE UV MAP.
Make sure you have Mental Ray loaded in Maya.

Select geometry >> right click on it >> chose Baking >>Assign New bake set (mental ray) >> Texture bake Set
It appears in OUTLINER (if its not selected, select it). in the Attribute Editor choose:
Light and Color
X resolution 1024 or 2048
Y resolution 1024 or 2048
Number of Samples 4


Now from the Rendering module, "Lighting/Shading" menu select the "Batch Bake (mental ray)" option.
Choose Objects to Bake - Selected
Bake to Texture
Bake Optimatization - Single Object / or Multiple (if your GEO is NOT combined)
Bake Shadows ON
Use  bake set override
Color Mode - Only Light / or Occlusion
Occlusion Rays 150
1024 or 2048
number of samples 4
Fill texture seams 3.000

Convert and Close
The MAPS appear in your project folder / renderData/mentalray /LightMap

Thursday, July 21, 2011

3D Schools, Workshops and Training

Wow, this would be a big topic to cover for webinar, forum-based class, workshop, school, training or course.

ONLINE SCHOOLS AND TRAINING (why online, for many people, especially after the college age is much more comfortable taking an online class, workshop.. being able to study at own pace. There are many companies/schools out there offering paid training, as some of them are really excellent. Either you want to polish your skills, or start from beginning, here I will include my ongoing research for the such):


ANIMATION MENTOR: - is by far one of the best on the industry, as i hear many and very positive feedbacks. It's about 21K for about 1 year and half (18 months program), and as far as I know its "online, though I think they have a campus in LA.
They concentrate ONLY on animation, so no other training would be covered as modeling and texturing - NONE.

Beginner modeling:

The NY based company 3DTi -
I personally tried it and was very satisfied. Its a WEBINAR, which means, you have specific time you have to log to a website and have LIVE session (for about 4 hours with 30 min break) with instructor and classmates. The Basic program for beginners - you have to choose either MAX or MAYA (well, i chose Maya) and it covers the architectural visualization - first step, having a project done for 4 weeks - from start to finish.. and its about $1000. Do not expect miracles, it all depends on how much effort you put in it, as well as talent, but they do have a student gallery online you can check.
Their intermediate program is 3 months long and about 3.5K - covers a car modeling, VFX and animation (1 month for each).

DIGITAL TUTORS (changed its name to PLURALSIGHT):
They used to have a lot of DVD training, but I think right now is subscription-based, and as far as I know - NO mentor based training, learn at your own pace.


GNOMON school of Visual effects -
I have to tell that I am amazed of that school, located in LA, I hear many great feedbacks. You don't get a diploma from them, even though they have 1, 2 and 3 year programs. Starting from about $20K to $80K. Yes, quite expensive.. but can't beat knowledge!
They also offer ONLINE classes, separately, depending on your desire and need. A class is about $1700 per topic and its 8 weeks long forum-based training. This means - you have your mentor upload the videos, which you have to follow and then ask your question in the forums.

The Gnomon WORKSHOP - - is a different site (close to Digital Tutors) that offers various DVD's and self-directing trainings.

I see more and more artists creating their own little but helpful tutorials on various of subjects using the gumroad platform - each price vary most from $5, $15, $20 and up. Since gumroad doesn't have a gallery or list to choose those tutorials from, here is a nice forum thread in polycount with bunch of names:

SKILLSHARE - A website community for online learning and sharing skills
(monthly subscription $9.95 OR buy a class for $20).


Some of THE BEST workshops out there are from CGSOCIETY.
They have various workshops, unfortunately you have to be either subscribed to their mailing list, or check the website often, because their schedule is UNPREDICTABLE :)
Well, they do have some world-known instructors and trust me... for their prices - those workshops are PRECIOUS!
I took a couple with them and I am quite satisfied. For about $599 (you get 10% OFF if you are a CGSociety member, which is about $50 per year) - they have 8 week forum based class.

ZBRUSHWORKSHOPS (Visualarium, UArtsy) - MASTERCLASSES - Ryan Kingslien - probably THE MOST famous Zbrush Teacher/ Mentor/ Instructor out there. I have heard ALOT of recommendations for his classes, especially for ANATOMY.
ZbrushWorkshops (aka Visualarium, UArtsy) is becoming more of a online digital school with one of the best instructors in CG Industry, definitely worth checking it out. A class is about 10 weeks and about $1000. Weekly or bi-weekly webinar live critiques with the instructor.
Kris Costa, Ryan Kingslien, Steve Lord, Cesar Zambelli

Probably one of THE BEST ANATOMY classes outhere. About $500 per 8 weeks. Highly recommended for learning Anatomy.

Also check out this great site:
Workshop, classes and products (like Male and Female figures of anatomy study).

Mostly ON-site in California, classes go filled up fastly - about $1200-1500 per ONE week (intensive class). Also a lot of sculpting in clay classes, they do have some digital ones (ZBrush).

Philippe Faraut - SCULPTING - books, Dvds, wroskhop based in NY state. - worshop, classes and seminars -

NEW MASTERS ACADEMY - pretty new website - early registration is $19 per month (2013).
TONS of great classes, courses and workshops!! Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Composition, Anatomy, 3D Content.. Subscription based - $19 per month for video lessons, $29 per month for video lessons + 3D content. 7 days free trial.

STAN WINSTON School of Character Design - Learn Monster Making from the masters of FX.
Webinars, unlimited videos for monthly subscription of $19.99 (4 tutorials), $29.99 (7 tutorials), $49.99 (Unlimited), $299.99 PER YEAR (Unlimited) OR Buy Separate DVD or mini tutorials. Free 3 day trial.

THE RYDAN WORKSHOP - For about $450 per 8 week class.

SCOOLISM - classes with Video feedback or Self-taught (for 100 days)
Creature Design with Anthony Jones, Digital Painting with Bobby Chiu, ZBrush with Michael Defeo

Phoenix Atelier -
The Heart of ZBrush - Damian Szeibert, Alex Oliver, FANTASTIC FANTASY - Adrian Smith, Sculpting Creatures - Aris Kolokontes, Digital Creatures - Andrew Baker, Creature Creation For Film - Bo Mosley, Character Pipeline for Games - Kurt Papstein, Creature Design - Cesar Dacol Jr
- About $800 per class, 8 weeks total, once a week live session with teacher.

CG MASTER ACADEMY - MASTER Classes around $700 per class.
2D Academy - 1) Foundation & Design Program, 2) Character Design Program, 3) Environment Design Program - 6 Terms EACH Program.
3D Academy - Character Arts Program - 4 Terms

CG Circuit - there are some interesting Video Tutorials some free, from $1, $4.99, $6.99 to $35.

CGZen - an amazing online platform to learn Zbrush, online classes with personal attention - in Bulgarian Language, sometimes translated in English.

Architectural Visualization:
I think i have a respect for the Russians. This guy is offering a crazy (expensive and awesome) class on the architectural topic. I , personally never tried it, but seeing what he has to offer.. i am tempted.


GNOMON school of Visual effects

Escape Studios -
Based in London, UK, with a branch in LA, Usa. It is quite famous school by the way. They offer Classroom courses and Online courses. Also offer Online Mentored Courses and Online Self-Directed Courses (as the last one is cheaper).

Vancouver Film School (VFS) -
A totally amazing (and veeery expensive) school, located in Vancouver, Canada. Their programs are only 1 year for about $50K Canadian Dollars.

The Game Character Academy (Judd Simantov & Rich Diamant)
The Character Art is priced at $14,400 (US Dollars) for the full 18 month course. (or $2,400 per semester), One Workshop at about $1200.

Full Sail University

Dave School - Orlando, Florida
PROGRAMS - Visual Effects Production  48 weeks - $33, 500 / Game Production 60 weeks - $ 33, 500.

The Art Department - TAD - Virtual Art School - full time, part time programs - online courses
Individual class - $1300, full time program - $36 000 for the full 36 month program.
Animation Classes, Four-Week Seminars, Part Time / Individual Classes, Illustration Academy.

JUST LINKS - no comments:


The Art Department


Zack Petroc Studios - Classes range from 7-10 weeks in length and $700-$850


Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art

Academy of Art University - School of Game Design:

CG Workshop:

CG Cookie (Blender) - subscription for tutorials for $18 per month.

Think Tank Training Centre - ONE YEAR PROGRAMS

CGMW - CG Master Workshop Online

3D Training Academy

Art Connection Academy - Animation Workshops, Illustration Academy. Seminar Classes for about $500.

Red Engine Studios:

Noah's Art Camp - 12 weeks of intensive art study with Noah Bradley

Personalized, Professional Critique & Tutoring for Concept Artists and Illustrators

David Simon Art Sculpture - Van Nuys, California

Great LIST of Topics about 3D SCHOOLS:


Welcome to my 3D Blog.
I made it with intention to keep my current progress on software programs Maya, Zbrush (and may be other in the area). Revealing some Tips and Tricks I learn on the way. I believe in sharing knowledge and all open sources - that makes us better and to evolve (without wars and conquering others). :)
I am a Photoshop User for about 10 years, but I am not going to concentrate on PS here, so if any has a question, shoot me a comment, or request and I will make a special PhotoShop post.
Hopefully I will write often :)