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

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