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Making of 'Mules Gold'

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Date Added: 22nd June 2009
Software used:

As mentioned earlier, the characters were modelled and rigged to look good in any pose so they could be animated. See Fig.07 for the topology of the characters in a test pose. Once we were happy with the characters we got them into a scene and started creating a world for them. What better place to have them in than a saloon...?

Fig. 07

Part 2 - Enviornment, Lighting and Rendering: By Lee Sullivan

Reference: (Fig.08)

Before we even modelled a poker chip, the first thing we did was research every type of film, book, website and photograph that featured a western saloon of any kind. After gathering hundreds of images we came up with a prop list of the things we needed to model, as well as a layout and an overall structure for the saloon itself. As we intend to use the space as the primary location for our short film we wanted to make sure the saloon was what we required for the entire story to help minimise re-work at a later date.

Fig. 08

Polygon Modelling: (Fig.09)

The saloon was modelled in Maya using simple polygon modelling techniques. To minimise render times we strived to keep the poly count as low as possible whilst retaining a high level of fidelity in anything that was going to be seen up close by the camera or that one of the characters would be interacting with, either in the teaser poster or at some point during the short.

Fig. 09

Art Direction - Texturing & Shading: (Fig.10)

Before we created one texture map it was vital that we agreed on the look and feel of the saloon we were creating. While doing so much research we realised that there were many different types of establishment aimed at just as many levels of cliental. The difference between the one in say Unforgiven and Tombstone may at first glance seem relatively small, but on closer inspection details like the wall coverings, furnishings, and the type of wood the floor is made of, all contribute to the visual style, atmosphere and feel of a place.

In our saloon we wanted things to look worn, weathered and dirty. The place wasn't in the biggest of towns, wasn't very glamorous and featured only the most basic amenities. There should be dirt on the floor, the walls should be stained with cigarette smoke and everything should look worn and well used.

All of the texturing work was created in Photoshop and authored in black and white using a combination of reference base textures from various sources and photographs we took ourselves. We used Maya shaders, mostly a combination of blinns and lamberts to achieve the right mix of materials, as well as a couple of the new Mental Ray Mia materials to simulate glass and metal. In addition to the base textures we also used a small amount of bump and specular maps in places to help achieve our visual style.

Fig. 10

Poker Table Texture - The Process: (Fig.11)

Here are the various stages we followed in the creation of any texture - in this case the main poker table. The first step was the laying out of the UVs and creating the base textures, which in this case were felt and wood. By overlaying the UVs again we were able to work into the texture creating scuffmarks and scratches on the wood, as well as adding spillages and stains to areas directly under the player's drinks and cards. All of this extra detail was created on layers in Photoshop using a variety of blend modes such as hard light and overlay.

Fig. 11

Lighting the Environment: (Fig.12 - 13)

Early on we made the decision to light the project in Maya using Metal Ray with Final Gather. To keep render times low we wanted to avoid using global illumination, and because the lighting style was going to be fairly high contrast, and also in black and white, it just wasn't a good fit. Because the render times were still fairly high the work in progress lighting was done with final gather switched off and with a series of ambient lights with a low intensity in its place.
Because we wanted to maintain a high contrast level we started with a directional light and only added more illumination where it was required. As you can see from the images the lighting rig consisted of:

  • One directional light coming through the window casting the main shadows
  • An area light in each window frame to increase the over brightening
  • An area light stretching out from the window onto the floor, giving added bounce light
  • A low intensity point light with a linear fall off to increase illumination near each window
  • A fill light with in front of the poker table to help pick it out slightly from the background

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

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