Sunday, January 31, 2010

3D faces and races: the Falcon model in review, plus NARC's Joe Ramos!

Character creation ... faces and races ... thanks yet again, DAZ! Say -- what?! I got the stamp of approval from Mel Keegan on another of the NARC characters ... meet Joe Ramos, Blue Raven 6! The last of the Blue Ravens you met was Gil Cronin, and since we debuted him on the blog here I've dearly wanted to model his partner and best bud, "Indian" Joe.

In the books, there isn't a hell of a lot of description of Joe Ramos, but if you know the texts well enough you know a bunch of things: like all of the NARC riot troops, he's one of the big boys. Very big. He's half Mexican, half Native American, from the Arizona-California "corner country." (Do you remember, in Aphelion, he and Gil took off for that part of the country on furlough, when the carrier got to Earth?) He wears his hair long, in a thick braid. He's a crack member of the elite team from the carrier NARC-Athena. And he's a hell of a nice guy.

Okay ... that gave me a great place to start, and after loads of nips and tucks and tweaks, you see the results of face and body morph manipulation right here!

Now, I did have a head start. DAZ is premiering a new skin texture map right now -- a last, a Native American add-on for Michael 4 that doesn't look like a rubber mask! The name of the "character" is Falcon, and it's quite a versatile model; you need the Michael 4 base and the Morphs++ to make it work ... the instructions also say you need the M4 Elite Body Morphs, but you don't really. You'll get a "dead load" on the body shape icon -- a "can't find" error message that tells you DAZ Studio 3 is hunting high and low for an Elite Body Shape geometry file that ain't there, but don't sweat it. Load up your Morphs++ and design the bod yourself.

So, this is where you start -- with Falcon:

...and on the face of it (pun intended), you ought to he almost there. But in reality there's some problems that need a workaround. The first thing is that the facial geometry isn't quite "there" as you load him up; also, like the Remendado character, no hairdo is included (to keep the price down, obviously. Hairstyles are very difficult to model, and therefore cost more, and you expect them to cost more).

The main problem is that when you load up the default Falcon head, the features look just a little bit more like a caricature than a character:

Is it me, or are the eyes and mouth too large to be fully realistic? Also when you say "Native American" you need to qualify what you mean. There are as many Native American types of faces as there are European ones! But if my reading (from years and years ago) is right, the only Native US'ns who don't have a slightly Asian look are the Navajo. This has something to do with the migration routes back around the time of last Ice Age.

Now, Falcon's face, "raw," right out of the box, has no Asian characteristic at all, which -- if you follow this logic -- probably makes him Navajo, and that's more than fair enough. But if you're trying to model someone from the Six Nations area (Graham Green), or someone from even further north (Eric Schweig), or a full blood Sioux (Henry Kingi), or a full-blood Cherokee (Wes Studi), you're on your own. (Google those actors ... see what I mean. I'm a fan of them all, so I know a little bit about this just from sitting in a theater watching Last of the Mohicans, if nothing else.)

Joe Ramos isn't absolutely described as half Apache, but the geography of where he comes from is absolutely set in concrete, and all you have to do is grab your copy of 500 Nations, and you can pinpoint exactly who his people ought to be.

So ... after loading up Michael 4, the next thing you do is load the Falcon skin map; then the Falcon default head ... and then you get to work with your Morphs++ head controls, and make the basic character over into what you need. All credit to the designer of Falcon: you're off to a flying start and it's not hard to turn the basic model into your reality.

I added the Midnight Prince hair, set to ebony. Now, Joe is supposed to wear his hair in a braid, and if I turned him around right now, you'd see he's wearing it in a ponytail. And it's going to stay that way till I buy a hairdo that fits the character! Midnight Prince is a fantastic hairstyle, so versatile. Then, the jeans from the Stylin' set; the tank from the M4 Basic Wear, and the boots, dogtags and watch from the M4 Aircrew. Mess about with the colors of all ... add a background from the SF Construction Set, three distant lights with shadows set to Deep Shadow Map... pose the model and render away!

And I'm close enough to Joe Ramos here -- NARC Blue Raven 7 -- for Mel to send me the "wonderful!" message, and to be asking when we're going to see Joe and Gil together! I would love to say, "Tomorrow, give me a chance, damnit!" But tomorrow is my day off. I'm going to sit in the shade and read a good book ... I'll have the chance to upload a couple of beauty shots, but not complex stuff -- and, trust me, getting Cronin and Ramos in the same shot, and wrangling the lights, will be c-o-m-p-l-e-x.

I'll give Falcon 4.5 out of five stars ... let's call this a model review. To score five out of five, the default settings needed just a little bit of tweaking -- why? Simple. Novices, folks who are so new to DAZ that they only installed it yesterday, don't know where to find the morph controls, much less how to spend twenty minutes doing the adjustments. They plug-and-play, and if it doesn't "run right,"fresh out of the box, well, that's what you end up with. (This would have made it perfect: a set of "tribal" icons, which you could click to get an "automatic fit" for Apache, Navajo, Cherokee, Sioux, Inuit. Perhaps if Falcon ever comes up for a revamp, this will be added. Then, I'd give the model 5.5 out of 5!)

However, Falcon is a fantastic skin map ... the texture and detail are absolutely fabulous. The only thing I changed were the eyes, which are so dark brown, I couldn't get detail to render in them. I swapped them out for the brown eyes from the Jagger model, which are shades lighter and therefore easier to render. That, and add Midnight Prince for the hair.

So there you go ... 3D character creation ... and I'm wearing a large grin. Joe Ramos is quite an ethnic beauty, and he's a big boy. Bet he'd look great as the model in a nude "photo shoot" ... um, that gives me ideas. I said something about beauty shots tomorrow.

Join me then!

Jade, 1 February

Saturday, January 30, 2010

3D Manpower: guy-candy unlimited

Gay heroes ... Jarrat and Stone once more ... and a couple of male nudes: 3D art lends itself to perfectly to this kind of work. I bless the day when I looked over Mel Keegan's shoulder and glimpsed the interface for DAZ Studio 3 for the first time. That was back in August. It's coming up on six months now, that I've been doing this art, and ... sometimes it feels like I've been doing it for years, and other times it feels like it's been a few weeks. I have a couple of things left to get a handle on in the basic Studio 3, and then the only thing left at this level of the software is (gulp) animation.

Now, I'm not that all-fired desperate to get into the animation, but it's certainly worth remembering that the potential is there. However, I'd rather move up to the Advanced version of the studio. That's the one where you can do water, smoke and fire effects, and also most of the animation controls kick in, on that level...

The things I still need to learn to do like they're second nature in this level of DAZ are the Deformers and the faaaaar advanced render settings (like pixel filters, shading rates, bucket orders, the alchemy of ray tracing). After I get into that, there's only one thing I need to know, and I'm not sure you can do this in Studio 3 at this level. I'm pretty sure you need to move up to Advanced. What I want to know is how to make my own textures and apply them. I know that textures are imported as .pZ2 files, but ... what software makes these? What am I missing? Do I need to be using Carrarra for this?

The truth is, I haven't actually looked very far into this, but I'm about to, because there's not very much further to go in this level of DAZ Studio 3. The only thing left is animation, and I don't want to get into that just yet. The reason I don't want to is pretty good: you need more hardware power than I've got. I have a quad core (4x 2.3) with 6G of ram (2G hard, the other 4 as Ready Boost; and I know hard is better) and unlimited harddrive space (1.34T at the moment, expandable to infinity). But I need more hard ram and I could use four faster processors to handle animation.

Was looking at an OfficeWorks (same as OfficeMax) catalog the other day, and they had a faster system for $1080. Um ... next Christmas!

Eventually -- this is the kind of thing you can do on the desktop with this software:

...the only downside is that it takes a looooong time to learn how to do this, and a ton of money to put into the hardware and software. So, for the moment I'm going to stick with stills. It could be 2011 before I get into animation. It's something else, a dimension more. But after I get my head around the water, smoke and fire effects and everything else except the animation that you can do with the Advanced version ... wellllll...!!

Can you imagine a video like this one here, but featuring the characters you see on the blog rather than a girl (whom many of us would nickname Miss Spaghetti Limbs) --?? A NARC or Hellgate video maybe, or a fantasia on the theme of beautiful guys. Oooooh, yes.

Later. I hope!

Jade, 31 January

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gay Heroes -- in 3D: welcome to Hellgate

Gay heroes have never looked so good! 3D art suits this genre so well, and it's my great pleasure to introduce you to Neil Travers, one of the central characters in the incredible world of Hellgate. If you're not big on gay heroes, there's plenty more on this blog to inspire and delight. Browse around, you'll find every kind of guy, every kind of hero. And if it's the "how" aspect of this kind of artwork which gets your blood moving, check out the Tutorials section. But...

If gay heroes put the kick into your life, you're on the right page, and -- welcome to Hellgate! I guess I should say a few words about what Hellgate is, before I go on a ramble about how I'm systematically creating the characters for this universe. First: it's not a movie. Well, not yet! It could easily be ... and there are those of us who would stand in line to buy tickets! But at this time Hellgate is still a series of books: 4 out now, 2 more to go to finish out one of the wildest rides in science fiction -- and they'll be out by the end of 2010...

The teaser for the series is this: In a place where time and space collide, the future of mankind will be decided.

And that, my friends, is the tip of an iceberg the size of the planet Neptune! I was hooked, with these books, from the first part of the first volume, and I can even tell you why. Imagine, if you can, a series of REAL books with plot up to the eyeballs, mainstream SF that could have come from Greg Bear or Kim Stanley Robinson, or one of the best in the business ... and then make the heroes gay. It's like Greg Bear wrote a space opera twice the length of Lord of the Rings, and the heroes are gay. Which is a cause for a grin as wide as Sydney Harbor.

(If this sounds like your idea of a way to spend some delightful rainy afternoons, you probably want to click here: that link will take you the the Hellgate Page on MK's website, and you can catch up in no time. In fact, if you prefer ebooks over paper, you can be reading in half an hour.)

A loooong time ago, when Mel Keegan first signed with DreamCraft, the idea we had in mind was to publish the books to CD-Rom. They were to present the whole text with masses of art and animations. That idea sounded exciting to some people, but not to a wide enough audience to make the amount of work involved attractive...

However, The World of Hellgate has stayed in my mind ever since. I've always thought, how fantastic it would be to use this idea as a promo. Till recently, though, artwork has meant the usual: painting. And anyone who's done it knows how long it takes! Imagine having to do about 50 - 100 paintings, minimum, for one promotion.

Then, along came 3D art and everything changed. Suddenly I can design the characters and stage the artwork in about 1% of the time. In other words, I can do 100 3D paintings in the same time it would have taken me to do one. And suddenly The Word of Hellgate doesn't look so scary.

Step one: get the characters created.

And that's not as easy as you might think, because there's DOZENS of them, and they're all totally different, and every one needs to be approached as a separate project and then combined later. It takes about a week to get a design that Mel Keegan will say "wonderful" to. (Not a full 40 hours, y'understand, but tinkering on and off and sending images on emails and getting feedback.)

Last week we got the "wonderful" stamp on Richard Vaurien:

..and today, meet Neil Travers. And Neil was not easy to design ... if you know the books, you'll know that he shares a very very similar description to Stoney, in the NARC books, for which I'm also designing the characters (same reason too).

Compare Stoney and Travers:
On paper, boy-oh, do they sound similar! But you don't want the same character showing up in two major projects at the same time. That could get majorly confusing. So the challenge was to create another face, another guy, who'd answer to the same physical description, but be a different man. And I'm really happy with the result. So's Mel.

Next challenge is Curtis Marin, who's Neil's partner in every way. That's going to be a big job. I think I'll start with something like the Greg Farris character I did for the cover of Ice, Wind and Fire, and work from there ... and here's the hard part. Curtis has curly hair. Ouch! There's not a lot of curly haired styles available in the DAZ catalog, and the shortage will make this, um, interesting.

However it works out ... it's fun!

Jade, 30 January

Thursday, January 28, 2010

3D Thrills: male nude beauty, new characters and computer fixes

Beauty shots today ... male nude, 3D art, exquisite beauty ... and then something new (below). I'm working on a set of wallpapers, screensavers are art prints, for a friend, featuring some of the characters I've created along the way. And this one here is one of the most gorgeous. He's usually depicted as a vampire, but not this time!

The last time you saw this model he was the Vampire Amadeus, and according to that story he's about 3000 years old. But in these renders he's "just" an actor ... maybe taking time off between shots in the movie to skinny dip down by the lakeside. Now, that's beautiful! And here's something new:

For a few weeks now I've been working on the Hellgate characters as well as the NARC characters, and we finally get Mel Keegan's stamp of "wonderful" on both Richard Vaurien (on the right) and Neil Travers. If you know the books, you'll know Neil Travers is a 32 year old Master Sergeant from Bravo Company aboard the super-carrier Intrepid, which has pushed its luck in the Rabelais Drift -- known to spacers as Hellgate. In fact, the carrier was almost totally destroyed, and between them Neil Travers and Curtis Marin figured a way to get her out of there, to a place where Richard Vaurien's incredible salvage vessel Wastrel, could pull her out...

Creating characters is one of the biggest thrills in DAZ Studio 3. This is what I love the most -- this, and creating beauty shots of the most gorgeous males imaginable. So far I've managed to get Mel Keegan's stamp of approval on Jarrat and Stone, plus Gil Cronin and the Companions, Lee and Jesse Lawrence, and the ill-fated Riki Mitchell from the NARC books; and I've got Travers and Vaurien, plus Barb Jazynsky and Tonio Teniko from the Hellgate books. And very soon we'll be working on renders for video clips and artwork for MK's webpages. These are fantastic books, among my all-time favorites. Illustrating them like this is a total joy.

ALL the figures you see on my blog here start their lives as Michael 4, and almost all of the faces are designed by me. The only face I've used that I haven't designed personally is the model you saw yesterday and the day before, which is the Remendado model, and frankly, he's too cool to mess with! Someone talented modeled Sean Bean, and I'm not going to change a thing!

In the render above, also, I was trying out my computer for power. I asked Dave (from DreamCraft) to see if he could squeeze any more horsepower out of it, and he did. Hardware is Dave's thing -- I'm all about software and design. Thank you, Dave! The PC is running a lot faster and will handle a lot more before it falls over its feet.

You might not believe it, but the render above is loaded with 15 models, 5 textures, two skin maps, massive work in the Surfaces tab, 8 lights and 2 deep shadow maps ... and it rendered in about a minute! I'm delighted!

And here's something cool: see the vest Richard is wearing -- the taller, older hunk on the right. That's the same vest from the M4 Cowboy set of props! You turn OFF the textures, and then set the colors and all other values for something new. An Old West costume model turns into an SF costume.

It's fun like you wouldn't believe. I could do this all day if I didn't have to work too.

Jade, 29 January

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creating characters: the classic Western meets DAZ 3D!

Back in the Old West today ... 3D style! And I couldn't resist playing "mix and match" with the 3D models I picked up in the sale a few days ago. The Remendado skin map is a fantastic add-on to Michael 4 -- then, add the Mon Chevalier hair ... it really sets off the older face. I'm one of those souls who actually (gosh! wow! golly!) likes guys with a few years on their shoulders. One of the things I like best is looking at a face and figuring out what events have made him into the guy he is...

Now, if you compare today's version of the character with yesterday, there's HUGE differences. Okay, sure, he's wearing the rose tattoos, and sure, I made him blond today. But check out the physique, people. There you go: Morphs++ in action. I tweaked the "muscle builder" slider, then the "definition" slider. Then, "smooth" just a big because too many sinews were showing; and then I opened up specifically the arms and shoulders and pumped the triceps and biceps...

The poor man has quite a workout. He didn't seem to mind. I also couldn't decide between the above two renders, so I'm uploading both -- you decide! And while you're there, check out the six-pack abs! That's the Old Tucson saloon in the background ... just a pic off the web that was heavily worked on before being used here.

Then, having cleaned up the town like any roaming, lordless samurai, all he wants now is a square meal ... and a crack at the best looking unattached young beauty in town ... and if the twinkle in that eye is anything to go by, I don't think gender's going to matter much!

Back tomorrow with something more lucid ... not too much prose today. Half the group here has come down with a stomach virus, and we're actually trying not to heave most of the time. No idea where we picked it up, but it's hit three out of four of us here ... the good news is, you can't can't it over the Internet. Not that kind of virus!

Jade, 28 January

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Buccaneer: the Remendado 3D model in review

Buccaneers come in all kinds (including 3D!) and today's renders feature several takes on the theme. In fact, this is actually a model review. A friend tipped me off the other day (thanks, Linda!) that DAZ 3D was having a sale, and I managed to get something I've wanted for ages, for 50% off. Today's renders feature the model almost right out of the box (not quite). This is not one of my faces, but I've admired this character since I first started browsing the 3D catalog. Someone modeled Sean Bean ... and boy, did they get it right!

So this post is a deliberate review of the model, and it's a 4.5 out of 5 stars review. This is a great set of textures, and this face is so expressive -- a lot more so than many of the other characters. The model is Remendado, and it only has a couple of drawbacks -- worth a mention, but only after I've extolled his virtues and given a firm recommendation.

In the two shots above, he's easily portrayed as the classic buccaneer. One of Jack Sparrow's mates, by the looks of him. He's got a few years on him (which is something I like a lot in a guy), and the bead mat is perfect. You can get in for a super-closeup on this skin texture, and it's top-notch. Ultra realistic.

I also like that the physique is normal, not "gym-pumped. I can believe this character as a real human being. You also notice the rose tattoos and the barbed wire around the left bicep. This is a major advantage of the skin map. You can also load the skin map without the tattoos.

The Remendado texture has a lightly hairy chest, very natural. Michael 4's own high-rez skin map is a lot more hairy; Jagger is either depilated or one of those rare natural hairless dudes. (Either way, the Jagger skin map looks fantastic on the Vampire Amadeus, and Jarrat...)

Now, put a cowboy hat and a pair of sunglasses on him, and he turns into a bit of a villain. Makes me think of one of the villains out of Aquamarine -- that Mel Keegan novel set in a "drowned future" in the Pacific islands, after the planet got hit by a comet. You know the one. Remendado can be used in a number of different settings, and you believe him totally, but he can turn into a villain really easily. Which is probably a good thing. If he were an actor, you'd applaud: he's still a pirate, but it just looks like he belongs in the future.

Take off the cowboy hat but keep the shades ... I'd buy this as a Wall Street buccaneer: slick operator, smooth as ice, dangerously sophisticated. He's a pirate, of the share trader variety.

And lastly, if you lose the costumes altogether, the physique is ultra natural, and the rose tattoos also look great across the shoulders and right where his lumbago will hit him when he throws his back out like any other normal human being. This shot looks like you surprised Johnny Depp who'd been sunbathing au naturel between shots lined up for Pirates of the Caribbean 4...!

Marvellous model, perfect add-on to Michael 4. Also has a clean-shaven face mat, as part of the kit, and several sets of eyeballs in various colors.

There's only a couple of downsides -- I'd have given the character ten-out-of-ten, except for these. The Remendado download does not have a hairdo. He arrives on the DAZ desktop bald -- and this is fair enough, because it's an inexpensive model even at full price. A hairdo would have added about $10 or $14 to the price ... but a hairdo would have been sooooo nice to have, even if it made the model more expensive. To fix this, I fitted the Mon Chevalier hair and set it to red-brown, long and windblown.

Several eyeball options are included, but the guy who was scanned for the skin map had some serius broken veins in his eyeballs, and I'm not too fond of this. I replaced Remendado's eyeballs with Jagger's eyeballs, which are just as realistic and look nicer because they don't have the broken veins.

The Remendado skin map doesn't have a genital map, so you're on your own here. The high-rez map for Michael 4 is too tanned, and so is the Jagger map. But the Albane skin map is pale enough to look very realistic against the rest of this fair skin type. Just means our pirate doesn't skinny dip too often!

Lastly, the promo shots for Remendado in the DAZ catalog depict the character with a signature headband type of bandanna, and I was quite surprised that this is not included. I'd have dearly loved than headband, or bandanna, or whatever it is. Shall have to track it down separately.

The only reason I'm not giving 5 stars out of 5 is because of the omissions. Rest assured, the content of the Remendado model is first rate. It installs cleanly, and it's exactly where you expect to find it, when you want to add it to Michael 4. Great value -- and if you can get it on sale, even better!

Expect to see this skin map many times in renders to come -- it's a beauty!

Jade, 27 January

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yaoi romance: the vampire meets the gypsy

Yaoi ... the vampire and the gypsy ... and no way could I decide between these renders, so I leave it up to you! Also, this might not look like it, but this is absolutely the most complex render I've done to date at least in terms of computer power...

This one slowed the system waaaay down. It's loaded with models, and the more models you load in, the slower it gets. I'm not far short of maxed out with these shots. What I need is a bog jump drive, something like 12 or 16 Gigs, to expand the ram. And it's not s if this system isn't powerful ... it is! (Quad core, 4x 3.25, with 6G of Ram and 1.3T of harddrive space. And these renders give it a heck of a workout...

Count the models involved in these shots! Here's the tally:

Michael 4, face designed by me;
Midnight Prince Hair set to white;
Jagger skin map - no tattoos;
Pants from the Wood God set, redesigned as white gossamer silk;
Michael 4 (again), face designed by me;
Mario's Hair set to dark brown
Jeans from the Stylin' set;
Jagger skin map - tattoos on;
Gothika mirror, sized, shaped and aligned to fit;
Background wall and floor with textures applied;
Three distant lights;
One spotlight;
Six point lights;
Deep shadow maps on all distant lights and spotlight.

And the computer takes its time. Each render takes over a minute, and to get the lights right I did something like a dozen. I had this one light that was coming up red, or pink, on the Gypsy's forearm no matter what I did with it. Turned out to be a blue foreground light I'd forgotten about that was interacting with a couple of other and turning pink on the model! It took me about ten minutes to find it, and then the solution was simple: delete the bloody thing!

I really love the renders. The texture of the denim ... the tiny gold light on the gossamer silk, and the way it's reflected in the mirror ... the transparency of the silk (!) and the way the light follows the contours. Soooo lovely.

Yaoi romance ... (Once upon a time) in the deeps of a dark forest was an ancient hall where there lived an immortal vampire who went by the name of Amadeus. And one stormy night a gypsy wagon followed the lights of the hall through the trees, and a young man knocked, looking for shelter for himself and his horses, with minutes to spare before the storm broke...

I actually like Yaoi romance a lot. Youthful gay guys, sensitive romance, what's not to like? But at this moment the Australian government is getting set to crack down on it. They believe that all Yaoi concerns young men who're underage. And if stories, scenes, art, whatever, depict lads even two days short of their 18th birthdays in romantic encounters, well, that's (get this) illegal. In their eyes, every single person who finds the best and most beautiful of Yaoi art to be a thing of beauty is a sex offender.

This is so far wrong, I have to say something to speak out against this stupidity. And for the benefit of the Australian government I want to make this statement: all the models portrayed on this site are an absolute minimum of 20 years old. Not eighteen. Not nineteen. They're twenty, damnit. And I can tell you that for sure because they, one and all, spring from my imagination, or are inspired by the characters in Mel Keegan's books. I know how old my characters are, and ... well let' see. Captain Kevin Jarrat: 31. Captain Robert J. "Stoney" Stone, 32. Master Sergeant James Cargill "Gil" Cronin, 35. Janos Zaparasti, 28. Captain Richard Vaurien, 45. Barbara "Barb" Jazinsky, 34. That info comes direct from Mel Keegan. Any questions, ask Mel!

There: it's said. There are no kids on this site. NONE. Yaoi means "youthful," not necessarily underage. I don't doubt that there are plenty of Yaoi comics and movies out there that might involve younger guys, but not here. In these renders, The Vampire Amadeus is something like 3000 years old, and the gypsy is 26.

The Aussie government is trying to force into operation Internet filtering (censorship) that will make huge swathes of the Internet vanish from Aussies' PC screens, because it has no idea what Yaoi means, or can mean. In their book, if there's a chance that YouTube (for example) might contain Yaoi videos that might involve someone underage -- all of YouTube has to be removed from Australians' reach.

Does this sound sane to you?

A number of Aussie ISPs are having a protest for the next three days. They're running their servers at the speed the Internet will be reduced to, for Aussies, if the filters go into operation. It's slooooooow enough to be a huge problem even with broadband. On a daialup? No joy at all.

Off the soapbox, Jade!

So ... Yaoi romance, cross cultural and across the centuries. Enjoy!

Jade, 26 January (Australia Day)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Western Heroes ... the 3D way

And now for something completely different: Western heroes ... cowboys. In 3D. Yes. You know, I grew up in the golden age of the TV westerns. Everything from Maverick to Lancer to Alias Smith & Jones, by way of Cheyenne, Laredo and The High Chapperal, not to mention The Virginian and Bronco Lane! And I know I lost a lot of you on paragraph one! Bonanza wasn't the only western. I just wish they'd whack more of them onto DVD. I know they've done Maverick in the States, but you can't get it in Aus. (You can't get Highlander either, not even Season 1. Rats.)

The young cutie you see above is just the basic Michael 4 dressed in the Cowboy costume with the Tex textures added, and a couple of quickie backdrops imported. I have to say that the M4 Cowboy set is damned hard work. Seriously. This is not a model set I'd recommend until you get some experience under your belt, for several reasons. Getting the "fits" is not easy, and you need to know about morphs and how to actually get hold of a sleeve and turn it off ... and then you need to know the DAZ Studio 3 folder hierarchy inside out, or you might never find the Tex textures at all. They're in the wrong place. I went hunting to find them, and then wrote down the path so I stand half a chance of finding them again!

(If you've installed them and can't find them, try looking here:

Studio 3 > People > Michael 4 > Clothing > HMG Tex

... and that is NOT where they're supposed to install, going by the Read Me page.)

Anyway ... after one heck of a hunt, I found the textures. Next challenge: getting the hat to fit over a hairstyle. This also is not a task for someone who'd new to DAZ. You can do it, but it involves both stretching the hat and using the hair morphs to flatten out the style.

The style I'm using here is the Midnight Prince hairdo, set to golden blond, which gives Michael 4 a real "down home" look ... a nice lad, maybe 20 years old ... a peach ripe for plucking.

If you can wrestle your way around the hat, though, it's a very nice model; and the "duster" coat will also mix-and-match with other sets. Like, leathers and a katana, for the Highlander look. Also, "cowboy aviators" leap to mind. Add this hat to a character in jeans and leather jacket, and add a pair of sun glasses. Remember Tommy Lee Jones in Space Cowboys?

If you can FIND the damn' Tex textures, they do apply beautifully, though you don't see much till you put some lights on them and render them. To get this effect, I used a blue distant light turned down low to look like late twilight, and then a green point light low to his left and a cream point light off his left shoulder, to bring out the texture applied to the coat, and also bring his face up clearly.

A great thing about the hat is that you can tip to forward or back on his head; you can also change the size of it. Using it in combo with the Midnight Prince hair is a real challenge, though. It just doesn't want to fit over. You have hair showing through the hat. The Midnight Prince hair has loads of morphs and fits, but I haven't (yet) found a way to get around the problem by using the controls...

The answer is to use DAZ's own Deformers ... and that, guys, is a whole 'nother subject!

Jade, 25 January

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Creating characters in DAZ Studio 3

Yesterday I debuted a new 3D character created from scratch in DAZ Studio 3. At the time, I was just calling him "the gunfighter," because he sort of showed up like this, if you remember:

(Here's the link to see the whole series of renders). Then I had a surprise email from Mel Keegan who said words to the effect of, "Do you have any more of this guy, because I'm thinking Richard Vaurien." And as soon as MK said that ... kawoosh.

Do you know Richard Vaurien? He's the captain of the incredible salvage vessel Wastrel, from the Hellgate series, which is one of Mel's best-ever, and due to be finished this year (six books, total). Richard is not a kid. He was Neil Travers's mentor when Neil was a kid; he's about 45 now -- all growed up -- with a "mane of red hair" and brown eyes, and he towers over everybody else with the exception of the Resalq and the Pakrani...

(Trying to figure out what the heck is going on here? Check out the books! You're missing a great ride if you haven't gotten into these. Reader Alert: they are not for younger readers. Realistic violence, industrial strength political and military motivation, and a couple of gay relationships. Be warned! But also, if you're all growed up yourself, be aware that these books are out there!), in their century people live a lot longer. Richard is 45, dynamic, hard, highly intelligent, vastly sophisticated, multi-talented. So what does 45 look like in his neck of the universe?

Creating the character, obviously I started with Michael 4. That's where it ALL starts. Then, you zoom in on the face and get to work. Your usual DAZ Studio 3 face defaults to "young." It looks like a guy of about 25. Old enough to have a permanent beard shadow, young enough to not have a line in his face, and still have a round face. Boyish.

So the next thing is, how do you age a face but at the same time keep a very attractive face? The Morphs++ plugin does have an "old" routine. But it's a bit of a problem, because mostly what it does is broaden the whole face and pull it downwards. Even a little bit of aging in this routine makes a face start to look daggy ... the truth is different. The fact is, a few years on a man's shoulders look good. Guys get interesting when they have a few years on 'em.

But to get the effect you have to do it yourself by adjusting every damned thing in the parameters pane. You need to study human faces. Figure out how people age and why they look more handsome at 40 than they did at 20. Have a look at photos of older celebrities and compare them with photos of the same celeb yonks ago. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Viggo Mortensen. Pick your own!

Anyway, once you've got it figured out, then you start to play with the controls. Load the Morphs++ and get into the Parameters pane. Change the depth of the eyes, the nature of the eyelids, the way the cheeks fit over the skull bones, the way the jaw looks when the puppy flesh of the boy has gone away (but before the jowly appearance of the older guy has set in -- unless you want a guy who's a lot older).

I set it up so that you can tell his face is changed from the youth. Jaw, brow, eye sockets, cheeks, the lot. But the trick is to adjust these so that you wind up with "a face with some mileage" not just a decrepit face! This guy is not a kid. He's also drop-dead gorgeous.

And Mel is definitely right. I'm seeing Richard Vaurien. Which also makes me remember the Amazon female warrior I created a few weeks ago. Make the hair white blond and make the leathers pale gold, and you've got Vaurien's business partner and sometime bedmate, Barb Jazinsky! And I have got to find the time to do some renders of these two together!

Jade, 24 January

Friday, January 22, 2010

The gunfighter: 3D art meets Hollywood, in style!

The essential science fiction hero ... which 3D seems to love. He's a gunfighter, but it's way in the future. I'm reminded of Firefly -- and even Star Wars! But the Chinese characters on the holster really make you think of Firefly...

"Hey, dude," he says to a passing freight handler, "I just got into town. I'm looking for a guy, name of Solo. Han Solo. You know him?"

"What's it to ya?" Says the cargo handler. "You looking to plug him? He, like, owes you money?" And so the story goes!
By this time I was having loads of fun with the Surfaces tab ... you wouldn't believe it, but that's the same model as the vee-neck sweater! Basically, drop out all the textures and colors ... set a new color and set the opacity way down, and a machine-knit sweater turns to silk -- which would be just the thing for Tattooine.

And when I got to the final render ... the gunfighter has asked the wrong question of the wrong person, and it's going to turn into a contest to see who's faster on the draw! ... I couldn't decide if I liked it better with or without the silk shirt. You decide!

Not too much text here today ... out of time, and biiiig headache to top it all off. So enjoy the pics, and join me again tomorrow, when (if my head has quit aching) I'll talk about how the character was created. If you don't recognize that face, don't think you're going nuts. It's new -- designed from the ground up, before this damn' headache got started!

Jade, 23 January

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fantasy ... 3D visions

The fantasy barbarian ... or is it a barbarian fantasy? DAZ Studio 3 makes this way too easy. It's tougher figuring out what to paint next than actually doing rhe paintings! For this one, I wanted to stay with the big hunky barbarian -- Conan who? -- from yesterday, but I also wanted to do something different. So Conan got a makeover: blond. And doesn't it suit him?

It was a lot of fun doing these pictures. Lose the bow and quiver from yesterday ... keep the rest of the costume (the strappy sandals from the Horizon Redux set, the kirtle from the Wood God set, and the Evangelique hair. Oh, and the forearm guard from the Horizon Redux set, and the background is still the Backgrounds Made Easy set -- which is a godsend. Worth five times its value, at least to like likes of me, doing this kind of work...

Then, change the kirtle to red, change the hair to pale straw gold, and reset the lights. The hardest part (and it's not exactly hard) is setting the hair to lie properly around the shoulders when the character moves. The hair has to sort of float around as he moves. remember, also, this is a style designed to fit Victoria, not Michael 4, so -- as I explained yesterday -- you can't "fit the hair to the model" at all. You have to fit the model to the hair!

Right now, I'd rather like to have this barbarian meet up with the Vampire Amadeus. Now, who would eat whom alive?! If I get the time later today, I'll set that up, see what happens. Now, do I take Amadeus out of the Itaian Renaissance and plunk him back into the Hyborean Age, or do I have the Barbarian (he needs a name) take a trip on the Tardis and blunder into the Italian Renaissance? Decisions, decisions!

My memory jogs at last (short term memory is always the first to go), and finally I remember yo put up the link to the "adults only" version of the Vampire Amadeus flaunting the whole lot, all the masculine charm a vampire can command. Here's my favorite from the original series of renders:

And here's the link to see the whole series of renders:

And if you want the whole picture ... Amadeus in the state the elder gods created him! ... then go ahead and click here -- and don't write me any whining letters if you have a heart attack because vampires don't wear jockey shorts!

Join me again tomorrow for the further adventures...

Jade, 22 January

Adventures in DAZ Studio 3 ...Project One!

Download the PDF -- print out if you want to. You'll be astonished at what we can cover in this beginning tutorial ... and watch out for Project Two!
In this first tutorial, let me show you a world of new skills:

Navigate the interface
Open and Save files
Load a model (Michael 4)
Load an accessory (the hairdo)
Pose the model several ways
Fine-tune model pose/expression
Change perspective, angle and zoom
Set numerous point lights
Finely adjust the lights
Clone point lights
Set the render size in dimensions and resolutionSpot render on the fly
Recolor, crop and resize a background image
Set the background image in place
Render the final image

That's a great suite of skills! In the next project, we’ll be looking at more ofeverything: more props, more lights, more poses, real backgrounds.We’ll put a costume on Michael 4; we’ll add a high-resolution skin map, and we’ll look at howto make him “anatomically correct.”

Download size: 8MB (sorry: the tutorial revolves around images, there's no way to compress this).

Just $5!
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