Displacement Map of Mudbox Sculpt Test

I was looking into this today as a possible way of adding detail to our monster. If the render time doesn’t get to high I was thinking that this method might work well in conjunction with adding some painted detail. The first image is the base, low resolution mesh that I made in Maya and the second is what I sculpted in Mudbox as a test.

I then exported the displacement map from this sculpt back into Maya.  At first I forgot to create a subdivision in the MentalRay approximation editor which renders a hard edged result.

Turning on the subdivisions creates a smoother render. More subdivisions are needed for more accurate detail (I found 5 was good) and I was afraid this would increase render time but they all took about 50 to 53 seconds.

Using the mia_material_x with a bumpy texture like this creates some nice speculars. Something like this might look good inside the slimy surfaces of the monster’s mouth:D

Digital Tutors – Pipeline Integration With Mudbox and Maya

These are the notes from a tutorial I did in order to to test out whether we could use this method for adding detail to our monster characters in Maya. The idea is to make a low poly mesh in Maya and then generate a normal/displacement map from the sculpted detail in Mudbox which can be brought back to Maya for rendering.

My notes:

02. Importing and Exporting Geometry
Exporting as an .obj file exports the geometry and UV map etc. .fbx contains more detail. The grid size in Maya and Mudbox don’t match. In Maya, freeze the transformations before exporting. When exporting from Mudbox, check window>preferences and check the settings e.g. fbx blendshape. Then select the object and >export.
03 Importing and exporting texture file
You can export your paint layer by right clicking and exporting maps. If you want to export your paint layers separately, make sure that ‘flatten layers on export’ is turned off in the preferences. Paint the desired layers. Then select the object and export as an fbx. This will automatically set up a layered shader of the different paint layers.
04 Transferring normal and displacement maps.
Go to >maps>texture maps> new operation. A normal map is like a bump map that allows you to work with a low resolution model but makes it appear highly detailed. The target model is the level 0 low resolution in mudbox and the source model is the highest level sculpt. Change the method to subdivision instead of raycasting (as we are working with the same mesh that detail has been added to). Choose ‘tangent based’ for geometry that is going to be deformed. A normal map is only the illusion of detail where as a displacement creates geometry. For exporting displacements – export as a 32bit exr. Plug the file into the displacement of the material. In order for the displacement to work the geometry needs to subdivide at render time. Go into rendering editors>mental ray> approximation editors. Under subdivision hit ‘create’ a new approximation. In the attribute editor > set subdivisions to 03 (for example)
05 Using the’ send to’ features in maya and mudbox.
06 Creating base meshes in maya.
Meshes with topology problems such as non-manifold topology will not be able to subdivide in Mudbox. Try and create an even quad layout.
07 Working with UVs.
You can create UVs in Mudbox from the menu which will break each face up into shapeless coordinates. You can export UVs as an .obj file and select the object in Mudbox and import UVs. You can tile the UVs in Maya/Mudbox also so as to dedicate more resolution to each area. Paint layers are based on the UV layout but sculpt layers are not. You can however transfer paint layers from bad UVs onto good UVs for example.
08 Modifying and updating topology.
Sometimes as we sculpt, the flow of topology on the original mesh may not match up with our sculpted result. Reroute the topology to match the detail.
09 Adding New Pieces of Geometry
Send your geometry from mudbox over to maya as a guide for adding new geometry around it.
10 Importing Joints and Weighting
A rig set up in Maya can be imported along with the model. The rig is accessed in Mudbox through the ‘pose tools’ tray along the bottom. A model can be exported as an .fbx – make sure the ‘import rig’ option is ticked in the preferences for .fbx.

Monster Paste Concept


Seeing as we haven’t settled on a monster design yet I painted a random silhouette in this morning that turned into this – it makes me think of a cross between Plankton from SpongeBob and Aku from Samurai Jack. I took some inspiration from One More Beer! for the lighting in this – like the window behind the head and the light from above the monster. Also I’ve been wondering how difficult it would be to create frothy toothpaste in Maya?

These are some of the process drawings:

I’m not sure if it would be better to include some of the monster in frame outside the mirror also but we can always play around.

Concepts Work in Progress

I didn’t get a lot done over the weekend on account of the flu but these are some of my progress drawings. I’ve just been trying to figure out the composition so far. I was thinking of either a central composition like in One More Beer! or putting the character to one side and still use lots of monster-toiletries/bottles to lead into the mirror. I’ve also been trying to see what this could look like if it was rendered like a Brian Miller illustration.

Facial Expression Inspiration from Adventure Time

I watched Adventure Time (2010-) for the first time recently. The expressions are really fun! I was wondering how translatable something like these would be to our monster’s facial rig? It might be fun if the monster’s face contorted into all sorts of expressions between jump cuts. I’m not sure how well this would work alongside the action of brushing teeth also though.


Image from:


Brian Miller Style Inspiration

I found the work of Brian Miller over the weekend. I really love how graphic his illustrations are and how he uses a grainy texture through his colour.

I know this style isn’t the most original in the world but it would remove us a little more from the Monsters, Inc. (2001) look.

These are some images from his “Umbrella Factory” and “Popshot Magazine” collections on Behance.


Mirrors in Movies

I was looking up movie scenes with mirrors over the weekend for composition inspiration and found these:

Mirrors (2008)

Occulus (2014)

I also found this article: “The Greatest Mirror Moments in Movie History” from the Telegraph. 


These are screenshot from some of the movies mentioned in the article:

The background from Taxi Driver (1976) might be useful for inspiration also. The centered composition works well for the horror tension, like in Occulus (2014), but I also like the composition where the character is framed to the side and reflected in the mirror.

Inspiration: Pedro Conti, One More Beer!

This is a video that Katie showed us and it’s probably one of my favourites at the moment for inspiration. I like how the framing is simple through the entire shot – the character takes up most of central frame and is framed by the empty tankards to the side –  but the colour, light and character animation look really appealing and support the story.

I also found this interview with Pedro Conti that talks a little about the process of making One More Beer!



ImagineFx: All Creatures Great and Small

ImagineFx (Christmas 2014) All Creatures Great and Small

This article from ImagineFx has some very useful insights into designing creatures.

Ken Barthelmey talks about the importance of a mixture of realism and imagination in order to make the creature design believable yet not boring.

Terryl Whitlach describes a similar approach where “real nature…is the anchor of the imagination”. She says:

“An idea in the abstract is fine, but even then the human brain is wired ‘to put a face on it’, as George Lucas would say: some sort of physicality that our senses can interpret and allow us to interact with it.”

Allen Williams has some useful tips on texturing. He suggests using the natural textures of the medium or create new ones from scratch. He says: “It’s important to understand that texture is surface pattern on a smaller scale. Look for textures and patterns that create a pleasing visual rhythm.”

Aaron Blaise also gives some useful advice for texturing. He encourages people to experiment and use textures that might not be the norm for a particular surface e.g. rock and trunk textures on skin.

Bobby Chiu uses non intuitive mixtures in his work to create interesting designs e.g. he has combined the anatomy of large bulky animals such as elephants with the proportions, lighting and pose associated with a smaller animal. He also talks about the importance of including story elements that the audience can easily decipher.