Friday, 22 February 2013

Back To Basics

So it's been a while since posted on here. I'll start with something I whacked out like a week or two ago that I never got round to putting up. It was supposed to be like some form of waypoint or objective mark like one might see in one of these modern day shooters. But I had a fair bit of trouble with it. I wanted it to be simple and clear to read but then I couldn't help feel that it was too simple. The original is the one of the left. As you can see I couldn't decide whether or not I'd gone too far so I tried one without the second set of rings. Put I thought it was far too simple. And the one in the middle is a toned done colour variant as I know I have a tendency to over use bloom. 

So I basically chalked this up to not having had a clear concept in my head. I'd done a bit of research but as I'd not concepted I'd not worked out the kinks, like how I can't get the balance between simple enough and overly complicated. But this got me thinking; maybe I'm jumping the gun too much? You can see it in my previous attempts, I'm thinking too much about utilising all these different techniques when I should take it back to basics and develop my fundamentals like timing, scale, aesthetic etc. 

That's why I've gone back to making smoke and steam. I would rather have a portfolio that demonstrated the everyday effects, like weather, fire, smoke, water and so on. Then I can take what I've learned from those and starting making the really awesome effects that are underpinned by core fundamentals. With that in mind I jumped into FumeFX to make some smoke sims and renders for flipbook textures.  

Now I really struggled with making smoke billow in fume, it always ends up looking really thin and never has the density of a thick pyroclastic cloud. I guess it'll just take me time and experience. 

However I ended up working too long on these and I got frustrated so I started making the particle systems in cascade using a single texture and distorting the UVs. I thoroughly enjoy working in this way. It speeds up my workflow immeasurably, the week and a half that I took to do the sims and get the renders (and their still not made into looping flipbook textures yet) compared to just quickly grabbing a frame from one of my renders and then that's it done. And I think the results are far better. Being able to distort the UVs gives a far more realistic interpretation of smoke and how it moves and diffuses. Unfortunately it is far more expensive and you really have to watch the spawn rate as not to kill the frame rate.

A few things that I'm not quite happy with in hindsight; I think the texture I used was wrong, I don't think it should have been so whispy at the base. I think if I used maybe a panning texture and stretched it it would have had a stronger silhouette and looked like it had more pressure.

I think that this one ended up being far too thick at the top and much too transparent at the base. I think that I need to go back and redo the alpha over life maybe and tweak so of the values.

I think that the biggest issue throughout my tests is that the textures aren't right. Looking at all these tests now it's got almost a stylised aesthetic when I was aiming for realism. I think I'll need to resim smoke billowing smoke and try and get quite a crisp edge, that way I should hopefully avoid the softer fall off that I've gotten.
So I guess it'll just be a case of more work and more experiments and build on the foundations before I jump into the crazy stuff.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Material Fail Times

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was working on an acid type material, well here it is in all it's glory.... yeah, not so much huh. Several things wrong with this but I've been working on it for like two weeks now and I really need to get on to something else otherwise I'll be stuck tweaking this for the next couple of years probably. 

So the things that I think are most wrong are the material not really looking how I had wanted (I'll elaborate on that in a minute) and the steam coming off of it. So everything then :( 

With the material I started out approaching it much like you would a water shader as I thought that would be an appropriate approach. The main problem with that is that with a water shader you much more rely on the reflection map and the normals and the diffuse is quite often a block colour. Which with the material I created just doesn't work, it looks more like some yellow coloured milk. It wasn't until I hit a mental block and played through DmC and saw how they did a similar style of shader. They had used not only a panning material in the diffuse but had a coloured reflection map so that the colour altered depending on the angle you viewed it from. They also had a panning material round the rim to give it a bit more of a visual impact. 

Then on to the steam. My main issue with it is that there's just too much of it. I think it's a little too overpowering and distracting. It makes it difficult to really see the material or even the bubbles on top. Which I would probably just leave to the bubbling normals in the material and maybe imply a quite violent liquid through the use of a splash flipbook or something. I also had trouble with the colour over life. I tried to make it yellowy at the base, as the smoke would have inherited a lot of the colour from the material, then fade it out; as I tried making it all yellow but it was far too strong as there were some many sprites. If I had far less sprites I think it would have worked much better. 

But onward and upward. No such thing as a complete failure, I know what not to do and how to improve it for the future but for now I'll get on a work some more in cascade for a change.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


So now that I've finished up with some of my uni work I've got more time to come back to this blog. This is something that I was working recently. I thought that this would be a good way to learn about how to learn to use event generators and spawning. It was a good learning exercise to just familiarise myself with these tools.  

But I just don't think that it was all that successful really. I mean, it conveys the general idea of fireworks but I think that there is a lot of improvement to be made. I'm currently working on making an acid pool effect. But this is definitely one that I will come back to and redo because I know that I can do it better. I'll need to work more on the materials to try and sell it better and maybe start looking into ribbons for the smoke.