And some of the newer stuff.

With dyntopo and skinmod, I have more or less lost the fun of carefully modelling a character the classic way. Whether it was box modelling or poly-by poly. Because this method is soo much faster:

skinmod proportions>sculpt on top of that>retopo. There is a workflow I’m thinking about regarding rigging characters like this. I was thinking about keeping a copy of the main basemesh, fatten it out and use it as a mesh for the mesh deform modifier which would deform the retopoed mesh. The retopoed mesh can then use a multires modifier along with a shrinkwrap (which you could apply) to get some details from the dyntopo sculpture. These are just some ideas… I have no idea if a multires mesh would actually be more suitable than a dyntopoed one in this case, since the animation would NOT come from the retopoed mesh…

I don’t like multires characters to deform based on the lowest level of subdivisions, because the higher levels of subdivisions might not be weighted as you would expect, at least, in earlier versions of blender. Here’s an example: my MTI newfella character was rigged without subdivisions. Then I added a multires modifier and started sculpting to give him more details (muscles). But then when I wanted to animate him, the details didn’t deform as I expected. Around the elbows for instance, the lower part of the upper arm, and the upper part of the lower arm got a fair amount of influence. This meant the forearm would more or less collapse. I would have liked it if this would have stayed confined to just around the elbow. The mesh without subdivisions deformed just fine, but then again it didn’t have any vertices in the area that was affected.

But then again, that was a few versions ago, and upon opening that example file again in blender 2.66a, the multires didn’t deform badly, it looked okay.

Enough crap. Images:

character-doodle01WIP01

I wanted a new default humanoid skinmod. This is the result.

And the rest after the “Read more” bit.

Continue reading

What’s been happening lately?

Right now I’m in Phuket. I’m sitting in a room I’m renting for a month while trying to find a job here. It’s been a whirlwind of driving round different companies with a friend who lives here, but right now I’m taking it easy. Last post I mentioned that my laptop got stolen, on the nightbus from Medan to Bandah Aceh to be precise… Don’t get any doom ideas about Indonesia being a terrible place, far from it. Most people I mention (or mentionED, since I’m no longer there) are rather ashamed that it happened in their country.

It still sucks off course and I lost a LOT of work, photos etc, but at least I have some screenshots of the 3D stuff on facebook. Whenever I’m in a new place and I’m working on something and I show people they go oooh, aaah and wow. For the people who are a bit into 3D, my work is not so special, but still, I like it and I’ll keep doing it. Just not with the same enthusiasm as a few years ago. There’s just too much else to do out there 🙂

I wanted to update my blog with some “new” images. The ones I’ll post here are mostly from wok that has been stolen, so I don’t have the files anymore. Maybe next post I’ll update it with NEW things of which I DO have the files.

Get ready for a lot of images:

Continue reading

Thoughts about releasing my rigs

More than a year ago I started working on a new rig, which would be my new “default rig” for blender. In the meantime I have finished another smaller rig or two. The last one being MTI_stickmanV4. I have not released that one yet, and there is a reason for that.

I only started the remake of stickman because I was asked to and would be paid for it. We came to an agreement, but my client did not hold his end of the agreement. Fortunately, I did not send him the final result. He just has an old alpha version which still had a number of bugs, which from a usability point of view make it useless.

But it does mean I started rethinking how I will release my rigs. This is not the first time something like this happened, and I’m getting fed up with it. I keep working on my rigs, but I’m seriously considering not sharing them anymore, or start a small web-store where you can just buy a license for it instead.

So right now I only have blender 2.4X series rigs available for download, and I don’t think I will release my 2.6X rigs. Not for free anyway. I know there’s a bunch of you out there who have been waiting for some time for me to finish another rig. Sorry, but I will not be releasing them for free anymore. I hope you will understand.

I also have an actual update. I finished the facial system, nice and flexible. I made a version of newfella with 5-finger hands (the normal one has mittens), just so I would have one character that has all the features I consider to be “default”.

Facial rig in place, and a version with different arms.

MTI_stickmanV4

Hey everyone.

It’s been a looooooooooong time… How have you been? Still traveling the world, currently doing a dive master course, but I had some time to work on something new… well…. old AND new. I’m redoing MTI_stickman. The reason for that is that he is still very popular and gets downloaded a lot, but well honestly, he’s the only character that still makes me some money every now and then, and someone asked me to do a 2.5 version.

So coming soon: an old character with a shiny new rig. Same features as before, but more features to go along it, smoother bending in the joints, some more options like control the bendyness of the character without having to use all the tiny little cubes. You can still use these by the way. I came to call those the “freestretch system”. Some things have been simplified, and you have a nice rig menu where you can find everything.

Here are some images and a youtube video:

Looks about the same, handles a lot better.

Here are the work-in-progress colours.

Just starting to take shape.

And he needs a new logo.

Little fella reboot: MTI_littlefella

A week or two ago I suddenly had someone asking questions about little_fella. It had been a LONG time since I’ve had questions about him, and the rig is so outdated it was tricky for me to give good advice, because I changed a few things about the way I rig nowadays. So I decided to redo him, for good old blender 2.49b. Reason I’m not going for 2.5 is that I am still working on my MTI_biped rig, which is by far superior to this one. Still it is a good and solid rig. And it was useful for testing a new idea I had for the facial rig. For MTI_biped it might need some tweaking, but still, it works nicely :D.

Again, just like MTI_biped/blockman, if you like my stickman character rig, you will love this MTI_littlefella rig. It handles like stickman and it has hands, feet and a facial rig. You can think of it as a MTI_biped_very_light. It also comes with a manual which is useful if you are new to blender.

The license is a bit different this time. It’s the same as stickman, character and rig free for your own non-commercial projects, for commercial stuff please contact me.

Download him at the download page here.

MTI_littlefella, fresh rig for good old blender 2.49b.

The old version, made on blender 2.44/2.45.

And the new version. Made in blender 2.49b.

I also did a few other doodles in between, you can see them after the “Read the rest of this entry” link.

Continue reading

MTI_Blockman

New character, to test my new rig. It is simple, yet versatile. A bit like stickman, only for blender 2.56, and more features. There are still some bugs that I have to sort out, but there are some bugs in the latest blender version that prevent me from fixing it. The good news is it’s known in blender’s bug tracker, the bad news is no one has time to fix it yet. Not really that important, I have other stuff I have to focus on again. I’ll continue on this as soon as the current armature/roll bugs for edit/pose mode are fixed.

It’s current features are:

– sidebar UI.
– sliders are context sensitive, and only appear when relevant bones (such as limbs) are selected
– FK/IK switches
– Hinges
– Knee and elbow slides
– Stretch
– Bendy/straight limbs and spine.
– Bone layers.
– A LOT of control, with little controls. I try to stuff as much control in every single bone as possible.
– a separate set of bone layers for easier editing and refitting the rig to a new character.

So, images and a video (more after “Read the rest of this entry”):

Kick it!

Continue reading

Final TEFL certificate

Last weekend I went to the Hague, to attend a workshop for the only TEFL module I didn’t have yet, the 20 Hour Classroom TEFL Course AKA weekend TEFL.
There were approximately 17 people attending, minus the teacher. It was a fun and creative experience.

The people all had very different backgrounds, and different reasons to go abroad. For a number of them, this was the fact that they had a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife in another country. This is, let’s just be honest, one of the main reasons for people to travel. It’s never about where you go, or just about the culture, it’s always about the people you meet that make something worthwhile doing or not. Another reason is that you genuinely want to experience other cultures and their way of life. Maybe because you are bored back home, or because you really want to get as much as you want out of life. But then again, what is it that defines culture? It all comes down to people again. When I was in Sri Lanka I met some of the friendliest people I know, and I also met some of the most vile people I’d rather not know. I also met a lot of cool people in Bulgaria, which is a reason I want to go back there, to meet more of them :).

So, let’s get back to the actual course, what exactly was it about?
Basically, we had to learn, or show we had the awareness of the basic concepts of language teaching.
We had to show an understanding of basic English grammar. This is something non-native speakers actually excel at. Native speakers have a lot more trouble with their own grammar. We had one assignment that had us match up cards that held sentences with cards that held grammatical structures. We solved it very quickly. Our teacher told us that native speakers really struggle with this. They asked: “Do we really need to learn this?” And our native speaking teacher told them: “Yes you do, because dutch people (non-native speakers) can do this in a heartbeat.” English may be our second language, but there is something about the way in which we are taught, that makes us remember these things better. If you have your native language, you tend to take all these rules and structures for granted. They come easily to you. But if it isn’t, you have to put in more effort to learn it, and it sticks in your mind better.

We were given a few language classes in a foreign language that none of us knew (Swedish), so we could better understand what we should, and shouldn’t do. The first lesson focussed on having us pronounce words, and sentences. We could speak the sentence at the end of the lesson, but nobody had any clue about its meaning. Then, we had another lesson with a few of the same words, but put into context with a flash card or a drawing. That way, it was much easier to remember both the word and idea or structure behind it. We were presented with a lesson with a cuddly toy, to say simple things like “hello”, “good/well done” and goodbye” in swedish.

From the coursebook:
When we teach our non-native students new language, we do it this way:

  1. Meaning Teach or show the meaning through context or story.
  2. Pronunciation Teach or drill the pronunciation until our students can say it naturally.
  3. Form Teach or show the way it is written

It makes complete sense to teach a language structure in this way:

  1. What does it mean? (Meaning)
  2. What does it sound like? (Pronunciation)
  3. What does it look like? (Form)

It does make sense, doesn’t it?
We were shown how versatile the game “find someone who” is.
We had to create a few lesson plans, and teach them to the rest of the students. This part was a lot of fun. Put a little role play into it, present the grammar structure somewhere during the lesson, but don’t make that the main target of the lesson. Don’t focuss on the actual structure. The desired outcome is that students can communicate with the structure. There are countries where English is taught in such a way that students understand English grammar close to perfection, and they can write English flawlessly. But put them in a situation where they have to use their English knowledge to have a real conversation, and they get stuck. Because they don’t know how. This is the difference between knowing a structure, and knowing how to put it to use in a real life situation.

We were shown (also mentioned in the rest of the TEFL course, but it is important, so it never hurts to mention it again) that it is better to elicit the meaning of something from a student, than to just explain it. You can use concept questions to make sure that students understand what you are trying to teach them.

Something else about pronunciation: I read somewhere on the internet, that a lot of schools want their teachers to speak as close to native English as possible, to have no accent whatsoever. There are some important overlooked aspects to that:

  • I’m not so certain there is one universal version of English. Not only is there a difference between American and British English, but there are a lot of accents in english as well, and English people with one accent can have difficulty understanding English people with another accent, apparently. When the English queen Elizabeth 2nd had her coronation, it was going to be broadcast on television. For the first time in history, there was a need for a version of English that all people could understand. A standard English (I haven’t researched this enough to be certain, I heard it, and did a quick search on the internet, there are a number of wikipedia pages about this).
  • I read on the internet that if students get taught English in their own accent, it becomes a lot easier for them to understand the structure, and communicate with it. To me, this makes sense, I haven’t traveled that much, but I found in a few countries that if you twist your accent to the way the local population speaks english, it becomes a lot easier for them to understand you. Indian people for instance are very good at speaking english, but a lot of us western people don’t see this because of their accent. While their level of understanding of the language is quite high. As an example, our teacher mimicked a french girl who wanted to take english classes. We (the students) had to assess her level. We all placed her much lower than she was, from elementary to intermediate. But she was actually at the level of advanced. Our teacher told us that this is a mistake almost everyone makes. Because of her intonation and pronunciation, we misjudged her, but her usage of english structures was pretty much flawless.

Not to say that it is bad to teach English with a more native pronunciation, but students learn to communicate more easily if you teach them with their own accent. And having an accent doesn’t make you less skilled as an English speaker.

There is loads more, but that is what the course is for. Either way, it was a very fun and at the same time productive weekend.

On another note, (switching to 3D artist mode), I read on the blenderartists forum about people who were wondering when or if Zbrush Zspheres would make it into blender. I figured if you create an armature, and use bones in envelope display mode, you could at least emulate how this looks. You can’t use this to automatically create automatic (heh, funny) geometry to work with, not that I’m aware of anyway, but it does help to quickly come up with a nice proportioned character. You could even pose it if you set up the base skeleton in a clear way. It is not a lot of work to go from there and create a lowpoly cage to start sculpting, similar to Zbrush. You could give this mesh an armature modifier with automatic weighting, and you’re good to go in different poses as well.
It is only a small test, but maybe some people like this approach… And I can use the extra character to try my new rig. People build 3D character models in various ways, this is an approach (sculpt from a mesh with very simple topology) that I have not done before, so it’s a good thing to try out. I want my rig to work on a lot of different characters.

Quick prototyping of different characters

Building a simple character mesh cage based on the rig's envelopes

Long post, I’m out… 🙂
See you later/Довиждане

Michael/Майкъл