cmiVFX releases another great video hit with the launch of its Softimage ICE and ZBrush retopology workflow instructional solution. In digital animation, physical human animation can take you pretty far, but you won't achieve the final emotional "punch" without turning to the face for expression and emotion. So much is tied up in the face, and through its multiple levels of control through dozens of muscles and underlying bones, it is important to be able to make a solid structural head that is easy to animate. Using proven techniques of edge loops and solid understanding of human anatomy, we will take you through some of the more fundamental principles behind creating an effective head model and animation rig. In this video, we will be using Zbrush to retopologize a pre-existing sculpted head model. Feel free to use your own, however. These are basic principles you should be able to apply to your own humans, creatures and even animals. These retopologizing techniques can also be used in many different programs, like 3d Coat, Topogun, and even within Autodesk Softimage, Maya or 3ds Max, with the right plugins. Once we have established the basic head form, with correct edge flow, we will use the tools in Softimage to set up an effective rig. We will use bone systems, constraints, shape animation (similar to blend shapes in Maya or morphs in 3ds Max.) Then, we will leverage the powerful ICE system to build a flexible, extensible high-level control system that will blend and interpolate many of the shapes and bone movements with a few sets of controls.
As in any endeavor, it is always best to plan ahead. Using Zbrush, we will show you how you can use the polypaint feature, with layers, to draw correct edge flow topology on the high resolution mesh. This mesh will be the "template" on which we will build the final topologized mesh. We will use a simple paint method and create polygonal structures that will fold and crease with the underlying muscle and fat layers.
Although the retopology demonstration is done in Zbrush, it can be easily accomplished in other packages. We will be using the specialized form of Zspheres to create a nice topological mesh, and be able to project the underlying detail of the high resolution sculpt onto the new mesh. You will be able to easily see how much better and easier it is to animate the new lower resolution mesh and still be able to keep the high resolution detail from the original sculpt using this method.
We can begin the process of creating the animation in Zbrush, by using the powerful set of tools to move vertices and polygons into some of the basic shapes. Again, using the layer system, we can easily build a library of facial shapes that can be easily exported into Softimage.
We will use the powerful bone system and simple constraints to rig up the eyelids and jaw. Showing how to blend constraints between control objects, we set up ourselves for finalizing the rig controls in ICE.
Many people think of ICE as a deformation and particle system control. Although it excels in that area of VFX, it is a powerful system that can be used to control many areas of your scene. Without even delving into the complex and powerful ICE Kinematics, we will be setting up simple data flow networks that will allow you to rig multiple areas of the face in many different ways. This is not strictly a "how to" or "step by step" tutorial, but rather an exploration of the possibilities and options you can use as an artist who needs full control over his rig. Chapter 5 will focus on rigging controls to the bone objects, while Chapter 6 will focus on rigging to the Shape Animations.
Born in Sitka, Alaska, Chris started his career as a painter and sculptor. He has been working as an illustrator, graphic designer, and most recently as an art director in Chicago, Illinois. He has been teaching game design and animation for over 15 years. His students now work as animators and professional game designers at Blue Sky Studios, Digital Domain, Aardman/Sony, Microsoft, and as freelance independent artists. Many of his students are now college teachers themselves. He started in the early days with Strata StudioPro, then 3ds Max version 1.0, Maya 2.0, Softimage 3.8, Houdini, before finally settling on Softimage XSI, beginning with version 4.0 Foundation. Chris still sculpts and paints and teaches part time at Tribeca/Flashpoint Academy in Chicago.
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Born in Sitka, Alaska, Chris started his career as a painter and sculptor. He has been working as an illustrator, graphic designer, and most recently as an college instructor in Chicago, Illinois. He has been teaching game design and animation for over 20 years. His students now work as animators and professional game designers at Blue Sky Studios, Digital Domain, Aardman/Sony, Microsoft, and as freelance independent artists. Many of his students are now college teachers themselves. He started in the early days with Strata StudioPro, then 3ds Max version 1.0, Maya 2.0, and Softimage 3.8. He currently uses Maya, 3ds Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D, Clarisse and Fusion. Chris still sculpts and paints and is the Academic Chair at Tribeca Flashpoint College in Chicago.