Friday, 1 April 2016

Guild pin ups and more technical babble than anyone deserves

There's lots of art below, so if you scroll down and ignore all the text, because really, the mad rambles of a hyperactive, inspiration-drugged woman aren't very interesting, you can just see the pretty pictures. You should, there's cleavages!

How many times, do I wonder, will I write 'oh, I had a bit of a less-frantic-time in Blender but now it's back to full throttle? A week ago someone linked me a 3D tutorial from some Warcraft artist - and a porn artist, at that; watching five hours of a tutorial with the ongoing gif of a lady blood elf making some guy very happy with her mouth in the upper corner was a bit of an overkill, I felt; moreover, the tutorial itself, while giving invaluable information, was demonstrated on some demon, committing creative acts on a scarcely clad chica whom, I suspect, wasn't very pleased with the whole idea.

All this to say, if I ever want a model of a perfectly prehensile cock including sliders for testies weight and foreskin, I can.

That said - it was five hours of streaming, and the crowd was so intelligent and articulate I might end up deducing things about people whose tastes are what was there. The artist himself was really nice, all eye level and very good at explaining, and this concludes the porn ref part of this post, and now starts the 3D technicality porn, which interests me much more.

So, until one week ago, I had to rig my own models. 'Rigging' is placing the skeleton inside them and telling the model which part of the body reacts to which bone. Making those is a pain in the arse, and I'm so new to this my rigs were so shitty the models' ass would concave if they lifted their legs too far, and I could only dream of facial expressions (I stole mine directly from the game, but that meant I was limited to what the Blizzard animators had made). My dream was to be able to use the original Warcraft rigs, but Blender can't import those very well.

Enter last week and that tutorial. The guy was using Cinema4D, which I never got along with and isn't a freeware, but it can import the Warcraft rigs just fine. And then, I'm really not sure how I got to that - I imported the rig to C4D, then exported it again et voila! It opens in Blender! Took a few hours of digging the web for tutorials on how to handle the fact the model was gigantic and all the bones were pointing the same direction, but wham, it worked.

Cue bliss. Utter, insane and limitless bliss. I did nothing this week; I ate very little, slept very little, showered at half my usual rate and generally lived on smoke, tea and CRAZY INSPIRATION. It's like... having used a broomstick to paint for months, and suddenly someone gives you a normal brush.

So I went on a flurry of GIVE ME ANYTHING TO MODEL and the guild said 'pin ups' and I said 'oh oh' because it's not as if five hours of that thing weren't enough, but then I thought, well, I can do it more silly than pinup-y, and went with it.

The first isn't a pinup, really; she's just such an amazingly lively and inspiring character, and a little chubby to boot, so I had to just make her. She's even got an excuse for that cleavage - she's on stage. And her expression; the liberty to make my own was amazing until I realized I know shit about expressions and got a mirror and my old book, and cracking that challenge was great fun on its own.

Really, I think the best fun of this whole Blender thing is the constant problem-solving.

Anyway, Rowboat on stage. I managed to make her a little plumper than the regular model, gave her a bright lipstic and makeup (in Blender, not in Phoptoshop!) and even nail polish, which you can't see, but it's totally there since she constantly describes it in-game. I tried to make mesh curls instead of particle curls and got this not-so-great result, so that's something to work on.

Then we had Ollie but he just turned out sleazy, so I'm skipping to the next one, the dirtiest of them all - so much so I'll likely remake him. I give you Ed:

The challenge here was his curly hair (spoiler: I failed), and realizing having a guy in leathers sit on a giant goat skeleton absolutely called for a riding crop, which Warcraft game files don't have. I had to google it (thank the gods for adult content filters) and model one with my close to nothing modeling abilities. Learnt tons during making this though, the most important of which is don't use naked skin on a model that doesn't actually have toes. Had to photoshop them without my cintiq and so they look like a lump of cheese trying to dress up as a packet of sausages.

The came Bee. Bee is a really shy, grumpy character, and for her I went to look at original pin ups; after the fit of feminist rage, I picked up the most common expression, but chose to express the 'pinup' aspect of it with a cleavage rather than accidentally flying skirts and revealed garter belts, because I'm trying to keep this feeling like Warcraft. I'm rapidly failing, as you'll see later.

So here's Bee vandalizing priceless titan relics with fangirl graffiti.

The awesome lighting, mind, is not really my doing. It's a paid-for addon by BlenderGuru - I think I wrote that before - and it squished my trademark five-hours-spent-on-lighting into 30 minutes tops, with far better results. I'm also picking up a lot simply from looking at it, which means in some images now I make the lighting myself, rather than let ProLighting Studio do it, and it's a great improvement. 

The next one was Nix, which meant something more, 'cause she's played by a person I love. She's also the character I know best, and can appreciate all the fine details in her well-thought personality and all that, so really, demeaning her into an athletic sex doll was kind of hard, but I managed. 

I gave her particle hair which looks like poop because it's far too uniform in colour and has little to zero reflectivity or translucence, so that's something to remember for the next time I do particle hair, which isn't very far away...

What I didn't expect is for it to end up having this nice composition - that is, it's actually a rather pretty piece, visually speaking, which only fueled me with more enthusiasm. Note the dates on the pictures? I'm spewing those one or two a day. Inspiration is a wonderfully harsh mistress, and I'm happy to live under her boot. If only my hygiene didn't put its own foot down once in a while.

So now we had Ashcakes, and I think this one turned out pretty and magical, despite the fact it has lacy thigh stockings; it was inspired by her emoting she'd painted her hooves bright gold:

I think I can't help the sweet-and-pretty fangirl tendencies, not even when I make joke pin ups. In this one I further practiced using two different materials on one object (which I've learnt with the makeup on Rowboat) and came up with another way to crunch my CPU in favour of avoiding photoshop retouching at the end. Most Warcraft model editing end up in photoshop where you add thin strands of hair to the solid plastic of the original model. This could be solved by making particle hair, but it chews your CPU and triples render times, and looks too detailed compared to the model, which makes it look really out of place. 

My solution was to not make full particle hair, but just add a strand here and there and comb it neatly to look like it's swinging around with the whole picturesque kitsch of the image, and I'm pleased with the result. The sparkles, though I had to add in photoshop. There's a limit.

The next one was Callie, and I got so pissed off at the mirror material I actually went to sleep some. Not happy with the result - the material isn't very good and the image doesn't really tell the story I'd meant for it to tell, but frankly, I spent so many hours on it I got fed up and fuck-it minded, and I refuse to touch it anymore.

Which brings us to my favourite, and not because it's my character but because of the punchline. I'm making pinups of the whole guild, yes? And my character is a nun. The alpha of all nuns, wimple included, obsessed with cabbages and morbid medicine, and everyone were expecting me to go with the sexy nun cliche; well, no.

I'm so proud of this one.

How do I even begin to describe the fun I had cracking the challenges of it? To begin with, I had to remodel her - take the original wow model and make it scrawny, flat and lacking any curves; then I had to make the wimple - marginal success there - and then dresses are a mess from hell for a noob because <insert technical reasons I'll spare you, including double sided faces, normals and fail if you try to remove doubles> - and then there was trying to get the statue's position right, and I bloody hope you recognize it, otherwise either I'm very bad at this or you don't know your classic Michelangelo - and after that came the statue material. And just to express why this took me a few hours, I made a few screenshots:

This is a normal material. Texture, shader (how light reacts on the object) and output, which is just the 'display this' button.

This is another basic material, but it has transparency. I'm putting those here just for build up, really; imagine me pulling noodles from node to node, from the image texture to the diffuse, to the mix, then to the output. Happy little Bell connecting nodes. Nice. Therapeutic.

So now... this is the material I used for the statue:

I did it hand in hand with a tutorial and it took me two hours at the end of which I thought my jello brain would ooze out of my ears, but people who know Blender claim it's actually very simple and all copy-paste and easy-peasy, and I'm happy to nod at them and direct them to seek carnal revenge from that ape with the rake in the corner.

Look at that material, though!

The last challenge was getting her expression right - did I mention I don't really know how to make expressions? You'd think that thirty years of drawing would teach me something - anyway, since here I have little handles on the face which I can tweak to try and get results, it's far more educational, in terms of achieving a result, than reading a book about expressions. For me, at least! So I went to the mirror, ignored the flapping flab and tried to crack what it was about the face I was making that made it tell the story I wanted. When that failed completely I went to blindly tweak the handles, and somehow got lucky with it after all. It's prolly Nix's fault.

But I'm really happy with the expression, and I'm really happy with 'this is my pin up for this character' concept, and if anyone wonders how come I'm here writing illegally long walls of text instead of Blendering, it's because I'm waiting for a render to finish and it will take some five hours. It's a good thing there's render times, really, or the house would be a filthy cave and I would be the smelly ape living it it. So lucky my husband has domestic blindness and no sense of smell.

As for what's rendering, it's my own wallowing in being a shameless fangirl, because I'd made an image of my own character totally at it with some guy, kitsch lighting and sparkly hair and melty expressions and whatnot. I did chicken out midway and put a big box with grass texture on it to hide their privates because I felt dirty just modeling that - funny how pencil sketching two people fucking doesn't bother me, but doing it in 3D does - but it's rendering now and it makes me happy, even though I'm quite sure I won't have the guts to post it anywhere, not even here. It's not the sex, it's the fangirl factor I can't bring myself to not give a bite about; but I should really let go of that.

I should also let go of waiting for this render to finish, because it's seven in the morning and I've been such a good girl with the sleep cycle lately it's a shame to zerg it. So I'll go to bed; and, likely, wake up in four hours all enthused to try new materials and crack new challenges. Oh, bliss. Bliss, bliss, bliss.

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