To those of you who haven't already discovered these lovely nuggets, Z 3.5 has some secrets awaiting when it comes to the use of Decimation Master, Print Exporter, and appending subtools. At the root of the problem is a bug that is running throughout that will randomly change the scale factor and XYZ offsets of seemingly random subtools. The subtools will appear to all be in scale to each other, but upon export, the nasty truth is uncovered. If you were to then import these models into another piece of software, you'll discover that some parts have changed scale and relative XYZ position. You may experience this problem after using Decimation Master on a part (main culprit) or you may find this happening after appending subtools from another ZTL. There is no knowledge of how to definitively fix this bug. Here's what you can do:
-On you Tool menu, select each subtool and check the Scale and XYZ Offset values under "Export". If the scale is not 0 or 1, and the XYZ offsets are not 0, you should reset them before you export your parts.
-You may perform what was mentioned above, only to find out that some parts read correctly in "Export", but are still off. I have found that in my ZTLs that have this problem, even though some read correctly but aren't, they are still off by the same values as the ones that do show the discrepancy in your "Export" values. You need to find out what the scaling factor should be in order to get it to the right size. In my case, the parts that were off and the values showed this were:
X Offset: .170627
Y Offset: -.293222
Z Offset: -.196549
The parts where this was the case, I reset the values and everything was fine. However, I needed to find a scaling factor to accomodate for the parts that were *still* off, but read correctly. To find the Scale factor, you divide the target value by reality. In this case, I divided 1 by 118.5709 and got .008438256014999. Z only carries out to the 6th decimal point, but that is plenty efficient to get it to export at the correct size. Other software packages carry the values out further, so truncate to your specific need. So you apply that .0084xxxx value to the Scale under the Export menu, so that now the part will export correctly. Now you have to worry about the relative XYZ position being off. To remedy this, just invert the values of the offsets listed above (even though they currently read 0) and the part will return to its correct position upon export. The weird thing in all of this is that you should see NO changes in scale or positioning of your part on screen.
Some people have no problems like this, but a fair number do, and there's no known fix for it at the moment. I'll continue to update this post as more information is discovered or unique situations encountered. Until then, CHECK THOSE VALUES!!!
This is the latest piece from Sideshow Collectibles via Idol Workshop. It was sculpted by the magnanimous David Giraud!
Just one example of much more love to come!!
It's a great feeling to be able to share your knowledge with others, and to teach them things that will help them with their art and careers. However, in this day and age and in this economy, being the blond haired fellah in this video is a more frequent occurrence. Does that mean we'll stop sharing the knowledge? No. Does that mean we have ample supply of Kung-Fu grip and kneecapping action? Hellz yes.
The Lazy Mouse bug in Z has brought productivity to a crawl over the past week and a half, and just when all hope was lost, a partial workaround was found. It's pretty darned annoying to do, but much less annoying than Z crashing every 2.25 minutes. For every 3 strokes of any particular brush that you have Lazy Mouse applied to, hold shift and smooth an empty area with low values set on smooth.....do 3 more strokes (no more), rinse, repeat. So far this has enabled work to continue in a slightly more expedited manner. This tip was passed along by Greg Callahan, whose sculpts you will be seeing very soon......WELL worth the wait.
As mentioned in the previous post, we don't always do projects in their entirety. The easiest and often times most efficient use of digital is in the realm of hard surface modeling. It's infinitely faster and cheaper to do it this way. PLUS, you then have a model that you can print at any scale you want, without loss of fidelity. Such is the case with this piece. The helmet for this unfortunate clone trooper was done digitally. We were able to match some problem areas of detail with reference provided by the licensor in order to get it approved. It doesn't take modeling an entire project to bring a sense of pride about having been involved in a sculpt...this is definitely one such piece. Small muppet dudes murdering humans is always funny.
So we don't always do big honkin' pieces like LSB's or Comiquettes or even dioramas. Sometimes we're just brought in to take care of a small aspect of a larger project that would otherwise take someone an inordinate amount of time to complete by traditional means, or in this case, the bust was finished and time was short. Digital sculpting isn't just about doing projects full monte. It's also a toolbox that we use in small ways behind the scenes to make life easier for folks and to improve the pipeline in general. In this case, we just sculpted the nameplate for this Hulk bust. Kudos to Eric Schall, it looks marvelous.
This is a reprint of the "Making of Sweet Mary Jane" that was originally posted over at ZBrushCentral.
NOTE: As this article was originally posted over a year ago, rapid prototyping technology has vastly improved. I now recommend using the EnvisionTec series of printers. I currently send 99% of all my printing needs the printers over at MORPHEUS PROTOTYPES. See the link to the right!
Making of Sweet Mary Jane
This is the basic process that I have used for awhile now, and the process that I implemented where I work, a major toy company that shall not be named
Let's start off with a couple of refresher images of the concept by Mark Brooks:
1st image is a comparision of my model and Marks artwork. There were some changes made to accommodate the shift into 3D so things would look correct. 2D requires some finessing that would otherwise look odd in 3D. Mark and I worked to accommodate for this transition.
2nd image is the concept for the Venom Voodoo doll.
So, I have built up a collection of base meshes over the years. Some are optimized and some aren't. Some were specifically for the purpose of print, and others towards the end of animation. I always try to have good topology, edge flow, and poly density whenever possible, it just aids in the sculpting process and generally makes life easier. However, when you're up against a time crunch, sometimes you have to do it dirty. This was somewhat the case with MJ. She came up at the last minute and I needed to get her done for SDCC, so I pulled out a few base meshes and modified/Frankesteined her together. Here's the base mesh both low and high. At this point I don't worry about any sharp detail or precise muscle structure, as she's going into a pose that's vastly different from her T pose.
If the pose isn't TOO different from the T pose, I'll get things more precise....but why worry about it if the detail is only going to be uber-deformed?
Here's the Venom doll base mesh and high res. This is also the final piece that got printed. Whenever I create these pieces, it's always a balancing act between time, detail, and printer. If I know what printer I'll be printing on, I'll keep this in mind when I'm trying to balance the three. Little areas that I would normally smooth out and clean a little more if this were going to be a pure ZBrush portfolio piece, I let them be, because I know what I'm going to get out of the printer. Those little areas will be smoothed over, anyway due to the printing process.
When doing these things, balance is always the key. While it does pain me to not go back and perfectly tweak everything out to my ultimate specs, I do realize that a finished product by the deadline is the goal...like it or not.
Now, on to the RP process...which is what I figure most of you are interested in
When printing a figure, it is ALWAYS best to think forward about how it's going to be cut. Some people choose to incorporate this into their base mesh, separating arms, heads, etc before beginning the sculpting process. I've chosen to do it differently. I like to sculpt the body as one mass as many traditional sculptors do, then cut at the end. It just flows a little better for me. I do; however, end up making subtools out of clothing, hair, and other various accoutrements. This is often times because of my modeling schedule. I need stand in parts for things like the hair, gun, and stool so that I can get a better overall feel for where I'm headed. The hair you see in the final image on page 1 is not the hair that you see above. That was merely a place holder as was the original version of the gun. My rule is "Anything I'm not completely sure of, make it a separate part". Here's the final modeled image again, so that we can segway into the cutting process:
At this point there are about 12-15 parts. Some that are separate will be merged with the body...and parts of the body will be cleaved off. Having been in the collectibles industry for the better part of this decade, you end up learning pretty quickly how things need to be separated. This is primarily learned from how things are done over in China for production. No matter how smart you THINK you are, those guys always come up with something better. Their changes aid in the painting and production process, and the better you can tool your own parts, the faster they're made and the quicker they hit the shelves at a cheaper price.
Now that MJ is finished for all intents and purposes, I export each piece as an OBJ. From there I run it through MeshLab....(its a FREE app that converts and cleans a multitude of geometry formats...GET IT!) to convert the files to STL, which is the universal standard for rapid prototyping.
I don't clean my meshes in MeshLab, as sometimes with parts that have overlapping surfaces, it can get confused and destroy your mesh. Some will tell you not to have hair, skin folds, etc overlapping each other, as this makes the software detect false inverted normals and can botch your mesh. I disagree with this whole heartedly. You can't make as realistic looking parts as possible without overlapping meshes, it won't always look right. The answer is another program whose boolean functions are unmatched.....Magics by Materialise. We'll get back to that in a few....
After having converted all of my OBJs into STLs, I take a retroactive step and go back into Maya. I sometimes even re-export my primary meshes at a lower level so Maya can handle them better. I then create my boolean objects which will slice her body into its respective parts. Taking all issues into consideration, I decided to separate her at the stocking tops, right below the bra, the hair mass (which will be divided into 3 parts for easy assembly...right down the center of the hair parting and the bangs), and each hand (logical cut points above the bracelets). In Maya, I select the edge loops closest to the cut points. These are the edge loops that run around the bottom lip of the bra, the stocking tops, the wrists, etc. I select the edge loops and extrude them inward, creating a flat plane. I then separate this flat plane and create an undercut so that the skin appears to go under the clothing, not just end at the cut. I then create a wedge (like a pyramid with the top cut off). This creates a nice key so that you know exactly where it's supposed to lock in place. I top it off with a boolean to accept a standard size steel pin (usually 1/8 to 1/4 inch). These are made to be very tight so that the piece holds together well. Here is a screencap to show you the boolean shapes I created then exported :
I then import these boolean objects along with the final STL meshes out of ZBrush into Magics. As I mentioned before, Magics is (at least in my experience) the best tooling software out there. Forget disappearing objects when you execute a boolean function (yeah, Maya...I'm talking about you!). Magics will handle dang near anything. Back to those overlapping folds of hair, fat, etc....Magics can unify your meshes in addition to unifying the overlapping areas, creating a clean mesh that has sharp folds, but no true overlapping surfaces. Here are two examples of the final booleaned parts of the upper and lower torso in addition to the legs:
After having finished all of the booleans and creating the final parts, I then send the parts to the RP machine. In this case, it's the InVision XT by 3DSystems. It has a 328 x 328 x 606 DPI (xyz) resolution. That's well below the advertised resolution for the Eden series by Objet; however, I've found that I get more accurate results out of the InVision. The resolution difference isn't as obvious as one would think. The other pro for the InVision is the support material...it's wax as opposed to the jelly-like support for the Eden. This means you can print more delicate parts more easily on the XT because you have a hands-off approach to getting the support material off. You have to remove the jelly support from the Eden parts via a water pick......which can mean broken pieces. Not to completely dis on the Eden...we have one, but I prefer the XT. To combat the resolution difference with the Eden, 3DSystems has just released the ProJet...which in my opinion now completely lays waste to the advantages of the Eden on nearly every front except for build tray size. Here are some images of the InVision XT and the ProJet:
I've worked with many types of RP machines...FDM, SLA, and Polyjets. I've found that the polyjets keep the most resolution, regardless of brand.
On to the results!
Because I didn't have the chance to snap off some pics of the pieces during or after print, you'll just have to settle for the assembled pieces post molding The white residue is an artifact of the mold release, and the pink is a little clay I added to a few areas I wasn't completely satisfied with at the time of print (again, and issue you face daily when on sharp deadlines, but easily remedied):
For now, I won't be able to show you the cast pieces because at this point, I don't have any Because of time constraints I had to send my first casting/tooling copy to the painter in order to make it for SDCC. Once I make another casting to make master molds, I'll post those. I can say that once the first castings right off the RP models come out, you have to do a little sanding to get the build lines off. You have to watch yourself because if you get too crazy you can begin to sand off the details. This becomes MUCH less of a problem if you're using the Projet, as the build lines are so faint that you could pretty much paint the first casting and the slight build lines would be filled by your base coats.
SO....now that this long diatribe is at an end, I hope you've enjoyed seeing the process. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Even though all of this RP tech has been around for years, it's just now beginning to get a spotlight that might one day match those of film and video games. In any new frontier, there will be those who truly want to make their mark and turn out the best work possible. Most of these people are too busy keeping their noses to the grindstone to worry about their "public" face. In other words, they don't have the time to fake the funk on a nasty dunk. However, there are those Johnny-come-lately types who arrive on the scene, learn a few rules of this new game, and go on a publicity tour, touting their knowledge as if they invented it....all the while standing on the shoulders of unknown giants. There are also those who will try and use the lack of others' knowledge to sucker them into a ploy that will benefit themselves, and leave the hapless Joe holding the bag. I say all of this not to depress or dissuade anyone, but rather as a word of warning. BEWARE STRANGERS BEARING GIFTS.
Towards combating these folks, it was decided to temporarily take our noses from the grindstone from time to time to snuff out these carpetbaggers. They give the rest of us a bad name...so I reckon we can consider it "community service" ;P
-If a rapid prototyping studio offers to print your digital models, work out a contract BEFOREHAND. You should be compensated fairly for the company's use of your model. They sure as heck will be using it to benefit themselves. Don't fall for the line of "Wouldn't you just LOVE to see your creation in REAL LIFE?!?".
-WATCH OUT for people who say that they have the absolute BEST, SHINIEST, FASTEST, MOST AWESOMEIFIED printer on Earth. If they emphasize the quality of their printers beyond "We try to stay on top of the tech", red flags should start going up. NO printer is the best at *everything*. Tech is constantly changing. We have no qualms about keeping up with the current best in technologies, and we're not married to one type of printer...neither should you.
-Don't be afraid to test the knowledge of someone who solicits you. Even if you don't really understand the process, tell them to explain it to you in direct, layman's terms. While building a printer may be rocket science, using one is for spacemonkeys....no kidding. Some of us used to have jobs running them, we know. This is by no means an insult to RP service bureaus. Some of these guys REALLY know their stuff and are the best in the biz. At the same time, they will never blow sunshine up your rear by keeping you in the dark and protecting "trade secrets".
-BEWARE "Trade Secrets". That's the biggest load of b.s out there. "We use our *own* proprietary cleaning processes" is a statement that I see and hear very often. At the risk of sounding like we have a big head, these guys don't know who they're talking to. We'll tell you what their big "secret" is......sandpaper. Yes.......sandpaper. *(Other "secrets" include files, picks, sandblasters, dremel tools, buffing pads, primer to fill the build lines, or any other standard method employed by a traditional fabricator). For cleaning off of the support materials, "proprietary processes" include either a water pick, varying solutions of water/acid (i.e. Drano), or heated vegetable oil....for real. Some guys actually have some tips and tricks to MacGyver and mod their stock printers, just like motorheads tweak their engines when racing for pink slips. These guys are likely legit, as you have to know your crud in order to start fiddling with these marvels of modern tech....but if they seem "hinky"...trust your gut.
Our commitment is exclusively to Sideshow in regards to work; however, since nothing we do is "proprietary" in process, we're always more than happy to speak about it publicly, write about it, or otherwise share any nugget of knowledge that we have....that is unless you're of the "hinky" sort....we have radar for that.
This is the blogfolio site of Idol Workshop, purveyor of digital sculpting for Sideshow Collectibles, exclusively. Combining the experience and expertise of the best digital sculptors and rapid prototyping equipment in the industry, we are redefining this niche of the profession. We're always looking for good, reliable talent and new technologies.
Our relationship with Sideshow is one of synergy between the artistic eye and implementation of the tech involved in taking a digital sculpt from ZTL to reality. Our approach is unique and our goal is, ironically, to hide the fact that the end product was created through digital means. The adherence to the artwork is the ultimate goal, not building an altar to the digital toolbox.