Oooh, I’m so happy. After months of beating my head against a wall, I can finally create a wardrobe for Amanda’s Syzygy characters!
I slogged my way through all those 3DS Max tutorials, meshed and re-meshed and adjusted bone assignments until I was scaling vertex weights in my sleep, and finally. . .voila! A Tom character dressed the way Amanda has described him.
The shirt is a little short on detail for tight shots. But I won’t stress too much over that right now, since I don’t know that I’ll actually film any close-ups of Tom in this outfit anyway. A simple retexturing with a better image and a bump map would do wonders for this shirt. But the graphics card in my laptop doesn’t render bump mapping, so until I can afford more sophisticated equipment, I probably won’t sweat the small stuff as long as the overall texture looks good on screen.
A “bump map” is a monochrome version of the primary texture image. 3D software reads it topographically—as highs and lows on a plane rather than dark and light on a spectrum. This gives the software information it uses when lighting the object in a scene, and the result is a much more detailed, realistic rendering.
Here is a typical texture file:
As you can see, it’s simply a jpeg image of boards like one might see on the side of a barn. I prefer to use actual photographs, but software doesn’t know the difference between a snapshot and a pencil sketch. It only reads the file type and digital information.
This is what the above jpeg image looks like once it has been applied as a texture:
There the jpeg image is, on the walls of that 3D building. A process called “UV mapping” has instructed the software how to place it.
The result looks fine, but programs like 3DS Max offer waaaay more capacity for detail, such as bump mapping. That’s the part my laptop can’t do. But I can show you pictures (rendered by a more powerful computer) of the difference good bump mapping can make.
Below is the monochrome bump map of the planks you just saw:
When this bump map is added to the information 3DS Max (and ultimately iClone) uses to render a scene, the result this:
The change is subtle, but look closely. All those little knotholes in the wood now look like bas relief.
On a final note, one experience I had during this process was an encounter with established content creators in the Reallusion forum. I tend to shy away from forums in general, and after the disheartening lack of response in a Mod The Sims thread last year, I was more wary then ever about asking for help. But I sucked it up and posted a question anyway. To my surprise, within a matter of hours, not one but two seasoned creators offered suggestions about the problem I was having. Hats off to “Animagic” and “Sen” for talking the new girl through a technology crisis without making her feel stupid. 🙂