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ART 314 - Environments

Page history last edited by williamCromar 4 years, 3 months ago

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Figure 1 | Daniel Martinez Lara and Kike Oliva, 3D model of Escher's Relativity, 2000




After completing this project you will be able to

  • identify and use the visual element of kinematics and the visual principles of light, color, texture and quality in your work.
  • understand and use metaphors to cinema in your process and in the program user interface.
  • stay organized in the structuring of a multi-scene project.
  • work with basic audio and video software user interfaces.
  • generate the basic preparatory documents for animation—concept art, storyboards, shot design and production timeline—and use a blog as a virtual production folder.
  • work with advanced material modeling to generate and document a shoot-ready environment and related objects for a final animation.






   Toward a Philosophy of Modeling 


The following are relevant to the topics discussed in this project (NOTE: the following titles marked with * are complete in text but are awaiting illustrations. For those with strikethrough text, use the link in parentheses):







Those who have already taken ART 315 New Media Studio have already covered the material discussed in Chapter 16 and the Appendix and may simply use it for review if needed.




lynda Maya Tutorials







Do the Maya 2016 Essential Training tutorial chapters, downloading the Exercise Files located in a tab near the top of the title. Here is the specific list of tutorials to follow (around 1.75 hours this time!):




  • 3  Organizing Maya Scenes

    • Understanding the Hypergraph
    • Hiding and showing objects
    • Creating layers
    • Working with selection masks 
  • 10  Creating Materials 
    • All titles 
  • 11  Applying Textures
    • All titles 
  • For our work in this title, quick links to the most relevant cheat sheets:



Audio and Visual


If you don't know Premier, you'll need to pick up tutorial exercises before your final output. If you do know it, you may skip these tutorials or cherry-pick on topics you might need to refresh.



Premier Newbies Only: ART 315 - AV1 Exercises »



If you feel this is too much software to digest all at once, do the Maya tutorials, create your model, and then come back here to do the video and sound exercises.


Project 3 | Possible World


By drawing a slightly different image in front of each eye, the image can be made three-dimensional. By changing the image seventy-two times a second, it can be made to move. By drawing the moving three-dimensional image at a resolution of 2K pixels on a side, it can be as sharp as the eye can perceive, and by pumping stereo digital sound through the little earphones, the moving 3-D picture can have a perfectly realistic soundtrack.


So Hiro's not actually here at all. He's in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse ...  — Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash[1]


The goal of this project is to produce a one minute narrative in which an entity interacts with an environment in a meaningful way.


As defined by the hierarchy and types of modeling in parallelUniverses, an Environment involves greater conceptual complexity than the Element model you made in the last project, although that does not necessarily correlate to greater complexity in modeling geometry. Rather, it brings the modeler deeper into Composition and Material modeling. An Entity carries one into the fullest conceptual territory for modeling, adding Kinematics through techniques of timeline manipulation, time-based deformations and rigging—the "skeleton" and "muscles"—of the entity (this author avoids the term character as a conceptually limiting framework: a character can be an entity, an entity is not necessarily a character).


Like an actor and a movie set, there is a strong linkage between environment and entity, which is why the rest of the semester is devoted to the creation of this final project.


However, the skills developed in either environment or entity are discrete and complex. Thus, for the purposes of fair evaluation, the project Possible World is divided into two parts:


  • Project 3.1 | Environment
  • Project 3.2 | Entity


The objects and criteria for Project 3.1 is described below, and 3.2 is saved for the next title. With that said, we still need to develop an overall framework for the unified work as a whole. We will do that by creating several documents found in most animation projects: concept art, storyboards, dope sheets and/or shot designs, and a production chart. To keep them organized, we'll post them to the blog as a virtual production folder.



Possible Worlds Production Folder » 



Project 3.1 | Environment


PART ONE of Possible World focuses on the creation of an immersive environment such as a work of architecture, installation art or virtual world.


A generation ago, when an artist or designer approached environment modeling, it was seen as a surrogate for reality—a representation. Today, with the advent of Second Life and the experiences of virtual reality, environment modeling can be conceived, not as representation, but as invention—an actual destination, not unlike the Metaverse described in Snow Crash. These polarities can manifest themselves in the creation of a new environment, a reaction to an existing environment, or how environments reciprocally change each other through juxtaposition. This project will engage you in one of these possible worlds.



Representation Versus Invention » 




Creating the Environment

Read ALL before you begin:

  • Research. Each option will have its own unique research requirements, which will be discussed one-on-one with your instructor.
  • Conceptual development. A mix of hand-sketching, physical modelbuilding, and digital work will characterize this stage. Again, each option presents a unique developmental arc. Most projects will need orthogonal reference drawings to import. If comfortable with Illustrator or a CAD program, some reference drawings can be made digitally, but this can sometimes add too much to the workflow.
  • Modeling. In Maya, you will model the environment and its materials, textures, lighting and movement of a camera through space. Remember the different kinds of modeling (Volumes and Surfaces, Composition, Material, Light and POV) emphasized in this project. Generally, all projects should be thought of as virtual movie sets—it is easy to over-model. In animation, the depth of modeling is quite different than it is in photo-real still rendering: avoid micro-beveling unless the camera tracks quite close to an object's edge. Having said that, remember the new tools you have: a good bump or displacement map is worth a thousand polygons. Use your storyboard and shot designs to determine where the camera will point and model only that which enters the mise-en-scene. Depending on the complexity of your project, you may need to develop props in scenes and import them into a master scene.
  • Time-Savers (maybe). It sometimes makes little sense to develop a model from scratch if something is available for you to adapt. Beware: many models come with restrictions on permitted use, it is often easier to make exactly what you want instead of finding it, different "styles" of modeling can looked cobbled together, and you can often find incompatibilities in the complexity of model geometry (keep to smaller file sizes if in doubt). If you can avoid these pitfalls it makes sense to peruse these sites:
    • 3D Total has many free objects in .3ds and .mb formats.
    • TurboSquid, the largest library of models on the web, has free objects in .3ds, .obj and .mb formats.
    • Great Buildings... want the Eiffel Tower? Download it or hundreds of others in .3dmf format.
    • Trimble 3D Warehouse has many of the same (and more) building models that can be downloaded as an .skp (SketchUp) file. From SketchUp (a free download) you can export to .dae format and then bring it into Meshlab (see below) for conversion into Maya. 
    • 3DXtras has .3ds, .obj, and .mb files available.
    • Hongkiat has published a post with many of these sites and about 50+ others. 
    • Meshwork (with Quesa installed in System>Library>CFM Support[2]) for Mac will convert .3dmf files to .3ds, which can be taken to MeshLab...  
    • MeshLab is an open-source freeware that can convert many files—.3ds, .stl, and others not compatible with Maya—into a Maya-readable .obj file.
  • Asset development. As you work, you can create still images, screencaps, and playblasts that can be used to help document your process in the Presentation requirements.



Suggested Environments

You are free to create any kind of environment that meets the project requirements. If you have a hard time dreaming up one of your own, select or adapt one of the following.


Representative Worlds

Representation is useful in professional environments that require illustration or visual interpretations of data or information. If you desire a portfolio reflecting representation skills, choose Vermeer's Camera or Escher's Other Worlds:



Representative World: Vermeer's Camera » 




Representative World: Escher's Other Worlds » 



Invented Worlds

Invention is necessary in professions that require skills of design and conceptualization. If you'd like your portfolio to reflect this, choose the Cenotaph (as a work of architecture) or Displacements (as an installation art work):



Invented World: Cenotaph » 




Invented World: Displacements » 





Presentation requirements include the following:


  • Blog

    • Post the Production Folder portion of Project 3 Possible Worlds: concept art, storyboard, shot design and/or dope sheet, timeline. Include reflective writing that reinforces what your audience needs to know about your process and idea.
    • For 3.1 Environments, post still image renderings, viewport screencaptures, material map images, or playblasts that effectively communicate the nature of your environment, along with a reflective writing description.
  • Website

    • The website entry for this project should be considered a work in progress, but at the end of this stage should contain the following elements for evaluation purposes:
      • Research images, inspiration images, concept art. 
      • Text, diagrams, sketches (can be scanned) that illustrate your process.
      • Links to blog (and create a reciprocal link from the blog to website!).
    • How is this different than the blog? A blog is journalistic: a record of process. The website is more concerned with finished product, although it can contain a crossover of process-oriented work. 




Final evaluation of this project will be base directly on:

  • Blog and website postings
  • In-class critique


Credits and References





For information regarding the use of images on this wiki, see the Licensing Notes. 



Creative Commons License

New Media Wiki by williamCromar is licensed under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 US License. 



  1. Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. Random House. New York NY. 1992. pp. 23-24.
  2. This is the Library folder located at the root level (under System folder), not the Library in your Users folder. You will not be able to do this on a networked machine in the lab, but you can do it on a personal laptop.

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