The Axe Effect

The other day I went through the process of modelling an axe with our CG modelling team. The model was based on existing references assembled by the research team. I did have a few initial questions on how the axe head connected to the handle. Was it fastened to a wedge-shaped end, or was it inserted into an opening like a thread through a needle? It turned out to the be the latter.

The modelling process was recorded and the session is posted below.

Another aspect of this week is to develop a simple workflow that will give us the ability to produce assets of similar quality. Consistent scale will be vital, so we’re not guessing how big or small objects are in the game engine (especially if we’re dealing with hundreds of objects). I created a proxy character that is approximately 5’8″ that we’ll import into Maya before modelling begins to make sure every object is sized accordingly.

At the moment, the order of events from beginning to end will go like this:

  1. Model high resolution model to get approval from the community (detailed in Mudbox or Zbrush).
  2. Retopologize the model to create the highest resolution mesh to be used as an in game asset, an LOD (level of detail) of 1. This is then UV mapped and sent to Substance Painter for texturing.
  3. In substance use the created shaders to maintain a consistent look across all assets. There will be a shader for every type of material (rock, wood, rope, etc.). The hue of the texture will need to shift in game to differentiate between indoors and outdoors.
  4. In Maya set up the initial shader and create the lower levels of details.
  5. Send to Unreal (I’m still looking into the best approach for this). I’m hoping the “Send to Unreal” button works the way it’s supposed to.
The final Zbrush model that was sent for approval.
I made sure that each subtool had it’s own poly group.
I used the polygroup information to create an ID mask that would let me easily texture the various materials of the axe.

The wrapping is baked into the handle to reduce the overall amount of detail. Using the colour masks in Substance help that element maintain structure. Otherwise, it seems to disappear with the painterly effect.

Final image from Substance Painter.

I also tried out the LOD (level of detail) set up in Maya. I had to make sure the transition from the denser models visible closer to the viewer would be seamless as it moved further away into the distance. It turns out it was reasonably seamless, thanks to the textures bridging the transition. I also discovered (thankfully) that the poly reduce retains all the UV information. This will let us generate the LODs relatively painlessly, literally in seconds. For more information on LOD’s in Maya check out this link: Edit LOD threshold values | Maya 2016 | Autodesk Knowledge Network .

The levels of detail go from approximately 4000 polys down to 250 polys.

Published by Kris Howald

I was immersed into the world of virtual archeology for my Masters Research Project at Ryerson University.  The focus of this project was the digital reconstruction of the el-Hibeh temple in Egypt.  After four months I believe I was able to demonstrate the potential this medium has to offer as a way of bridging the past and present. I'm currently visualizing the past, present, and future of a pre-contact indigenous community.

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