Every now and then someone asks me “So… what do you do for work then?” My reply of “I do photorealistic skin textures for the 3D art industry” is usually met with glassy stares in much the same way as “I stock shelves at Tesco” isn’t.
I can understand it. 5 years ago I had no grasp of it either. I’d sit and watch, say… Shrek, and go “It’s computer generated, y’know” and that was that. Now I sit and watch it and go “Wow! The ambient occlusion on that is amazing… I wonder what the render time was?” Yes, I am a geek, it’s official.
In my defense, I love my job. Not just because it’s convenient for my lifestyle, but because I sell a fantasy. I create something out of nothing and it goes out into the world, a little piece of me. It sounds peace-loving hippy crap. And it is, at least for me. But let me start at the beginning…
Every 3D model starts somewhere. Usually it’s a cube or a sphere sitting in a modelling program, waiting to be pushed, pulled and moulded into shape. It’s similar to sculpting, but without the constantly having to dig crap out from underneath your fingernails.Every time you cut the “primitive” shape up you create a new set of polygons, or sides. So you cut and pull, cut and pull until you get what you want. Played video games..? They usually run at 2000-4000 polys per human character. Much larger than that and the average pc will choke and die.
I work with human models that have approximately 40,000 polys. They can afford to be so graphic-intensive because they’re used mostly for 2D art. I take the bare model and design the skin around it ( see handy screenshot ). The top left shows the 3D model as it is in poly. Bottom left is a body shot, and obviously on the right is the skin I’ve designed ( minus eyelashes and the fine tuning ). I hasten to add, I didn’t model the human. Design a good human figure and you rake in the $$$. It doesn’t appeal to me, I’m not in it for the cash, I love the creative aspect. My modelling skills are practically non-existent and don’t extend much further than basic props, but I hope one day to be good enough to model organics.
Every model, once it has been sculpted into shape, has to be then unwrapped and opened out so the texturer can do their job. To illustrate this I’ve used a skull that someone modelled and which was then distributed as a freebie.
The skull on the left is the finished model. On the right is the finished texture in it’s unwrapped form. This is actually a pretty simple model, so the texture didn’t take much longer than a day or so. Ask any texturer and they’ll tell you… it’s the seams ( or the edges of the model where it’s been cut to unwrap ) that are a bugger.
Another small example of a freebie Hubby and I did is the Fright Mask. We did this for halloween. I think a lot of people downloaded it for it’s novelty value but I can’t remember anyone actually using it 😉 I loved doing this one. Model-wise it’s as simple as you can get, but creatively it was a lot of fun 🙂