Construction of the sword was a lengthy process. I started with a box as the base shape, thin enough for the blade, separated it into segments with loops. A loop of poly’s was extruded to form the guard, the short segment behind which became the hilt that was modified into a more comfortable wider shape. More splitting of the polygons down the length of the blade allowed me to weld vertices on the underside of the blade to form the cutting edge. With more loops towards the base of the blade, I used soft selection to modify the edge into a serrated edge. I used a bend modifier on the length of the blade to give it the katana curve and vertex welding to form the point at the end of the blade.
In addition to the katana I also made a sheath for it. It also started as a box, I inset one end and extruded the inset negatively to allow space for the blade to slide in. The same bend modifier was used on the length of the sheath to allow for seamless integration of the two models together. With a little more modification I came to a shape that I was happy with.
Between the two models I have a poly count of around 2000 triangles, falling well within the performance capabilities of the PS4 for which the model is intend. Below is a still image for of my two models.
After the modelling was complete I set out to create my UVW maps… It was here that I encountered some dramas, how do you efficiently use the space within your UV’s when so many of your components are long enough that you cant get a good resolution on them and so much of the space is left wasted? When inscribed text is on the blade do you have the same words on both side but mirrored or so the read left to right? To overcome these obstacles I separated the blade from serrate to end in two roughly even sections and laid them on top of each other. The serrate and inscription was a little trickier, but as the serrate was part of the edge which uses different layers of texture I could separate it from that part of the UV’s. The inscription on the other hand I modified the positioning and orientation of the UV’s so that the inscription read left to right, no sense having meaningful words inscribed on a to-be iconic blade if you cant read them.
With the textures complete and integrated with the material for the models came the next dilemma, how to animate materials so the displayed texture changed with time to allow the sword’s wireframe to be displayed. By creating a composite material and using the intended texture as the first channel plugin I could animate the opacity so it became invisible for a period and by doing a similar procedure with 2 other material plugins (one of which was the wire frame) I was able to animate the showreel to show both the intended texture and the underlying topology.
Unfortunately when creating my model I did not start with a high poly model from which I could create a normal map for a better hilt for the weapon, thus I feel that the hilt though textured in a way to give depth to the binding still feels flat, something I intend not to make the same mistake in again.
To support the showing off of the models I created, I made planes for floor and backdrop, both textured and the backdrop was framed and had a normal map applied for additional detail when interacting with the lights. Which brings me to the next problem I encountered, the shadows cast by the lights. When using the mental ray renderer (which was required for the way in which I showed the wire frame with a composite material) my shadows when rendered were jagged and ill suited for the shape of my models. A suggestion from my tutor lead me to use the raytraced shadows instead of a standard shadow map which worked wonders for the shadows cast but when put on an angle shadows cast would be rendered as transparent on the model and black on the surface. It solved one problem and sprouted another. Finally I decided to change my lighting source from an directional area light to a spotlight and fidgeted with settings until my model cast a soft shadow that did not interfere with the rendering of textures.
I rendered my production from the perspective of a camera I placed in the scene and animated to show off the slowly spinning sword and sheath (which at the end of the animation are animated to sheath the sword showing that the sheath is in fact made to fit the blade).
The rendering process was arduous, at roughly 50 seconds per frame, the 680 frame production took several hours to render out to .PNG image files, totalling around 5GB of pictures which were then imported to Adobe Premier as an image sequence to form the meat of the production. Additionally a text title was added to show that it was my work and to give credit to Apocalyptica for the use of a portion of their song “Grace” in the background of the showreel. With a few transitions the animation was ready to be converted to a video file.
With that said and done the practical part was complete except for the hours I spent fooling around with my model in Unreal Engine 4, but I will talk about that in another post.
James Day – 1002467