Studio 3 Development Blog 5 – A New Start

Welcome back,

I am aware that it has been quite some time, and for that I am sorry.

Today is to be an update on where I am at and what I have been doing these past days and where I am currently at in regards to studio 3.

I’ve been finding it difficult to find my stride, my rhythm this trimester. I’m not 100% sure why, I still spend ample time working on my projects, just feel like that time is not as productive as it should be and that things are taking longer and not turning out as good as I would like them to. It has been quite difficult to attain the bar I set for myself.

A potential cause for this problem that I have identified is that I perhaps burnt myself out through studio 2 where I worked ceaselessly to try to do the best I could and then we only had a 2 week turn-around between then and now.

To help avoid that compiling further I must make sure to have a healthy balance between all aspects of my life.

While this has affected my work for a little while now, it seems that for whatever reason I have been unable to snap out of it. Not too long ago I resolved to fix the issue. From my experience, all it takes it to get the ball rolling and you will find that it picks up and maintains momentum quite quickly.

So today is the start of that. With the help of regular ‘To-Do’ lists where ticking off items gives a real sense of accomplishment and a visual way to mark the distance you have travelled, I plan to get the ball rolling quite quickly. A little incentive (treating myself to something nice, if I achieve a particularly lofty goal in a short enough time, 14 days from today to be precise) and small enough steps mapped out so it’s not like facing off against a particularly daunting task all in one go and a great deal of self-discipline and I should be back on track in no time.

That being said I would like to take a look at what I have achieved so far.

First lets have a look at the current previs for the world-builders project.


This is a screenshot from within unreal engine 4 of the bridge to ‘the white city’ as interpreted by my team from the descriptions within the novel “Darksiders: the abomination vault”.

The shot I plan on creating is roughly what is seen above. There have been a few issues that have arisen during the project that I will elaborate further on in the post mortem blog to follow the completion of the project.

As it stands however there is still a city to construct behind the walls and some nice atmospheric effects to help give a sense of the environment we are trying to create.

Next we shall briefly talk about a model I am making as part of my specialisation project. The goal is to create a really nice set of models I can use to experiment with lighting and presentation of my work. The inspiration for the set is the anime series “hellsing”.

Quite a few of my class-mates have been creating models of guns from either video games or real life and trying to replicate them in 3D, with varying degrees of success (some are astoundingly good). While previously I have focused on organic models I am trying to focus on hard surface and it has been suggested to me that I also model a gun. I am not super keen on doing something that so many others are doing but I am also aware of the potential learning that I can achieve from such an endeavour and so I have put my own spin on the task.

I am stepping away from taking something real or 3D and replicating it. My goal is to create Alucard’s pistols – Jackal and Casull, purely from compiling reference images from the anime itself and trying to recreate them as a PBR 3D model, something that is believable and realistically detailed rather than its 2D, animated counterparts.

There are a host of technical difficulties that I have encountered in creating Casull (the first of the pair) which I shall go over in more detail in a more dedicated blog post.

Additionally to these I have jumped on board with a stuido 1 games team as part of my cross-discipline work for the semester. They are creating a board game and require me to create 2 ship models that they are to 3D print as character pieces for the game.

So that is a run down of where I am currently at with studio 3.

Thank you for listening to it all and sorry it has been so long since the last instalment, I promise the next will be much more prompt.

As always,

Till next time,

James Day – 1002467

Studio 3 Development Blog 4

Welcome back,

Today I would like to have a bit of a look at where I am at as an artist, where I would like to be and how I plan on getting there. I am hoping that taking a detailed look at the specifics of my situation will help me to really focus on what I need to improve.

I am going to dive right in. Firstly I want to take a look at what sort of work I want to be producing in 5 years time.

Here are a few links to the sort of work I would like to be able to produce:

I would like to focus on character assets as I find them the most interesting, that is not to say human or even humanoid, but just interesting characters. Could be a robot, a dragon, scorpion, alien or demon. Anything that I can sink my teeth into and really flesh out the details and the intricacies of the character.

The above list is also a good indicator the the quality of work I would like to produce. Other good examples of the level I would like to get to would be to that of Hai Phan. An amazing artist that produces work that I find inspiring.

When I really take a good look at where my work is at. I think I have grasp of the technical skills when it comes to 3D modelling, materials and shaders, 3D sculpting. The areas I would like to work on the way I set up my models for texturing and animation. The overall polish of my work needs to be improved. I feel like it is around 60% of where I want to be, I can achieve the shape but it lacks a certain something that really brings it to life. I need to work on my topology and my working knowledge of the technical side of what happens under the hood of 3D programs and how that impacts the way we use materials and shaders.

Further more from this I would like to work on the presentation of my work. This is that I would like to learn to put together a more effective showreel, this includes the lighting and posing of my models. Motion graphics and visual effects to help bring it to the next level.

If I had to narrow it down the key things I want to focus on are the appeal and polish of my models. Lighting and presentation. Motion graphics and VFX for the purposes of improving my showreel.

Some goals that I would like to hit by the end of the studio 3 experience are that I would like to produce a nice showreel (all the extras included) that exhibits at least one very polished and appealing model presented in an excellent way.

The key point I want to hit is creating a model that I can look at and say “That is awesome! There is nothing obvious that I need to change to make this look better!”

As always,

Thank you and till next time,

James Day – 1002467

Studio 3 Development Blog 3

Welcome back to another instalment of my Studio 3 blogs.

Today I want to talk about some of the research I have been doing and some of the difficulties I have encountered so far and how I plan on overcoming those.

So firstly I have started looking into how to light my scenes and other generally-accepted-to-be good practices for lighting. Before I get into what I have started to learn I want to talk a little bit about why I want to learn this.

At the end of my Studio 2 experience, what I have become aware of the lack of presentation skills and general appeal in my work. From what I have gathered, I have managed to gather quite a lot of technical skills through my studies but it lacks a certain something. So my goals this time around are to improve on these noted areas that are lacking in my skill set.

Simply put, I want to create a great showreel at the end of this unit. To do that I think that if I can present my models well, polished models that is, not just nice looking meshes but assets that are ready to be used. Additionally I want to learn a little about motion graphics for the introduction and transitions within my showreel.

Further on this, I have a tendency to dive straight into complex projects. Gives me a nice high bar to strive for, but it often makes me feel like I don’t achieve my goals as much as I would like. To improve on this I want to take up creating a lot of smaller objects to a great level of projects. The goal is a ‘Kit’ that I can pull pieces from to help create the more complex projects faster and more streamline.

Back to the lighting topic, I have learned that the most common form of lighting is what is called 3 point lighting. It features a key light (the primary light source), a fill light (one used so the shadows of the key light aren’t completely dark) and the back light/rim light (used to frame the silhouette and help the object pop from the background).

That is a quick run down of where I am currently at.

As always,

Till next time,

James Day – 1002467

Studio 3 Development Blog 2

Welcome back to another instalment of my studio 3 development series.

Today we are going to be completing a semiotic analysis of a single frame from a cut-scene from Blizzard’s Diablo 3. The purpose of the analysis is to delve into the way the shot has been constructed to convey the message that it does.

Semiotics is a huge field of study, pioneered by Ferdinand de Saussure, it is in essence the study of signs. Signs being anything that represents something else.

Film Deconstruction Scene

Above is a capture of a single frame from the aforementioned cut-scene. I find this particular scene to be fascinating from several points of view.

Firstly, it is similar to what I am trying to achieve within the World Builders project I am working on. In essence I am trying to get a shot of the gates of the White City from the Darksiders novel by Ari Marmell.

Second, its composition is great. Albeit from my limited experience with such things. You can see the use of contrast, framing, focus and the rule of thirds in play to make sure your attention is directed where it needs to be, on the gates of heaven.

If we approach this from the point of view of semiotics however we can see so much more in this image than is initially apparent.

We will start with the composition of the shot. If you apply the rule of thirds to the image above you can see that the 2 main points of interest lie almost on the intersections of the lines and thus are positioned well to gain your attention. Not only does this lend itself to a strong design but also, semiotically it signifies that the subjects of focus in the image are of significant importance.

In the foreground there is a figure in shadow, facing away from the camera. The figure is focused on the gates in the middle ground, this signifies that the figure has intent on the gates. The figure is also shadowed and dark, not only does this help to frame the gates from a composition point of view but it also gives the feeling of menace and impending threat. This is also aided by the black mist that rises from the figure.

The mist blends into the clouds which draw attention to the rays of light that break through to shine on the gates of heaven. While compositionally this is a great way to add contrast and dynamic lighting to the shot, semiotically this plays on our perceptions of good versus evil. As that is the subject matter of this shot, the light breaking through the darkness symbolises the tendancy for good to triumph over evil. It also helps to add additional focus on the gates.

The gates, standing in the middle ground of the composition are the primary focal point and aiding this is the fact that it is also the brightest and most saturated area of the image. The symmetrical design of the gates symbolises power and order (a nifty fact I picked up during a lesson on composition at uni) [also this design is a subtle hint at the notion that angles tended to be portrayed as an order loving, law abiding and generally powerful and organised faction].

The gates themselves are depicted as ivory and gold, or white and yellow. Yellow, in semiotics, connotes a powerful forces and is the colour of gold, a divine metal symbolising a heavenly body (“Inspector Insight » The Meaning of Yellow – the Colour of the Golden Sun”, 2016). 

The other colour present there in the heavenly city in abundance is white or ivory. Semiotally speaking it symbolises purity, holiness and spirituality (“Inspector Insight » The Meaning of White – the Beginning and the End of Colour”, 2016). 

The overall impression and story that the semiotics of this image portrays is that there is a pressing and immediate threat to the purity and sanctity of heaven. All factors and choices can be said to have been deliberate, from positioning of elements, framing, lighting and colours. They all make references to the nature of the subject matter and represent more than just a strong composition. They help to tell more of the story than the image can without the use of semiotics.

In conclusion, while there composition of the image is strong, the lighting and positioning of elements is dynamic and there is an overall felling of appeal to the piece, the semiotics used in the design of the colour palate and the representations of the focal elements help to really tell the story and set the mood for the scene.

Thank you for sticking around through all of that. I will provide the references used below. Its a fairly short list as it is a topic I have studied fairly thoroughly and could draw on knowledge I have gained from previous assignments and study.

As mentioned above the image is a still frame from Blizzard’s Diablo 3. It is taken from the cinematic at the beginning of act 4 of the campaign.

As always,

Thank you and till next time,

James Day – 1002467


Inspector Insight » The Meaning of White – the Beginning and the End of Colour. (2016) Retrieved 8 June 2016, from

Inspector Insight » The Meaning of Yellow – the Colour of the Golden Sun. (2016) Retrieved 8 June 2016, from


Studio 3 Development Blog 1

Hello all,

Welcome back to another studio development blog. This time we will be travelling through my adventures in studio 3.

Studio 2 went quite well so this time I really want to focus on honing my hard surface modelling skills, lighting and presentation and the overall polish of my work.

So the overview of what I am doing for the unit will be a group project (creating an environment and getting some nice shots of it), some more specialisation work and obviously some cross-discipline work (probably working on a games project).

My goal is to keep you well informed of my travels this time and to really try and keep the content interesting. I want you all to be as excited about this as I am. Some of it will be technical talk (which I will endeavour to keep as interesting as possible), some of it will be me reflecting on work I have done and yet more will be me researching new ways to do things and exploring how it impacts how I work. Hopefully those of you following along with me will learn something or will get something of use out of what I am doing here.

For now I am going to leave it there. I really just wanted to introduce the next phase of my journey to understanding 3D modelling.

Thank you for tuning in to another blog series and as always,

Till next time,

James Day – 1002467

*Some important links will probably go here in later posts*

Studio 2 Development Blog 18

Welcome back,

As we are coming to an end of the studio 2 development blog series, I feel like now is a good time to reflect on what it is that I am trying to accomplish through all of my research and experimentation within my specialisation project.

A quick recap on what I have been focusing on: bettering my skills at sculpting and bettering my skills and knowledge regarding materials and shaders. I chose to focus on these aspects of the 3D modelling pipeline as I would really like to be able to make amazing assets one day.

Firstly, sculpting, I love the idea of sculpting models, it’s an intuitive and artistic method of creating 3D assets that allows you to really help bring your model to life. Through all of my research and all of the time I spent in my specialisation project trying to learn new and improved ways of doing things, the most important thing that I learned was


This was something that pretty much encompassed what I needed to learn. It’s all well and good to just jump in and have a go and make something cool. That’s awesome. But if I really want to better myself and really want to become great at what I want to do, I need to learn as much as I can about the things that I want to make. I was watching a webinar with a bloke called Ryan Kingslien, he is an artist in the industry who also worked on the industry standard sculpting program, Z-Brush. Anyway, the big message I got from that particular webinar was “How can you create something if you don’t know what it is?”. This really struck a cord with me, I wanted to create all these awesome characters and all these awesome assets but I hadn’t spent the time to learn what goes into them. When I was sculpting or modelling away I was so focused on trying to get it to look the way I wanted to that it lost some of the believability that comes from creation grounded in knowledge. Sure, I could sculpt a pretty cool skull, but it took hours or even days. Not good enough, I needed to know how to build a model that would hold its own much faster and more accurately. My previous method was just to work on it until it looked the way I wanted to. A great way to do it if you have all the time in the world and don’t mind the hugely inefficient workflow. But that doesn’t really cut it in the industry. I needed to learn how to build the underlying structure of the model and then add in the unique details that will really lift the asset.

With this in mind I set out to learn some basics to help me do just that, and here are the results so far:

As you can see there are a few different models. The first set you can see up there is a fairly quick sculpt of a heart, mostly to just see how my skills have progressed over the unit. The second set is a musculature study I did. I started with a mudbox base mesh and sculpted in as much detail as I could regarding muscle groups and their directionality to try and get a better grasp of how the human body works and is constructed. The third is a sculpt I have created of a skull trying to build it from it’s fundamental shapes and components rather than just pushing the mesh around ’till I am happy with it. The last image there is of a Work In Progress model I am creating of a skull which I will talk about in a moment.

The reason I have included the WIP model in with all of those, much nicer looking, sculpts is because it shows what I am really trying to work towards with all of these exercises – A better knowledge of the subject matter. The WIP construction there doesn’t have good topology, proportion, form or really any real appeal however it is made up of all of the fundamental parts of a skull. This really was a way for me to try and push the information that I was trying to learn into my workflow. The model is comprised of many smaller models and is  missing still more but there is the maxilla, mandible, frontal bone, temporal bones, zygomatic bones, the occipital and more there. Kingslien pushed the idea of having the names for the things you are making, and it made a lot of sense. They don’t have to be the right ones, they are just a way for you to identify a component of the asset that you are adding in. In this case, the bones I have made have the correct names. There should be a little grove just in under the eyebrows, it’s called the supraorbital notch, it’s there for the supraorbital nerve and artery to sit in. One of the things I have learned in the process of creating this asset, and another detail that I can now put into my future creations to help bring them to life. Another thing that I now know so when I am creating something new and unique I can ground it with some reality that will give believability to my work even if it isn’t human.

What I am trying to say, in a quite long winded, but hopefully interesting, way is that as I accumulate more knowledge of how things work (not just the human body, that’s just where I am starting – this is a principle that applies to everything we create) I am able to add more and more believable details that help to bring the asset to life. These subtle details that will help to take my work from where it is currently to where I want it to be. Furthering what I am currently learning, there are applications beyond creating better work, that is, learning the rules of an object and once you know the rules you can know which ones can be broken to enhance the feel of your object without making it a colossal failure.

It seems this has gone longer than I had intended it to when I started it. Thank you for sticking it out, I’ll cut it off here.

As always,

Thank you and ’till next time,

James Day – 1002467

Studio 2 Development Blog 17

Welcome, welcome.

Today I want to talk about an asset I have created as part of my specialization project and the workflow I have used to created and implement it. Additionally I would like to talk about a cross-discipline project I have worked on and created assets for a games project.

I’ll start with my work on a fully shaded 3D model for my specialization project.DemonDemon_CloseDemon_darkDemon_reverse

Above are shots of the model with a basic colour applied in 3DS Max, followed by several shots of the fully textured model from within UE4. Although in an earlier post in my development blog series I have talked about the workflow I have used to create this, this time around I would like to briefly recap on it and focus more on how effective I thought it was as a process.

This concept started as part of a larger idea but I sketched out basic concept images to try and nail down the look I was going for. When it came to creating the asset I used a circular workflow between sculpting in Mudbox and retopologising and editing the mesh in 3DS Max. I used this circular workflow to help provide an internal iterative creation process. By constantly creating new versions and editing them each time I was much more equipped to develop a strong asset. Usually the iterative design process would be carried out within the concepting stage of development, and had it have been, I would most likely be boasting a stronger character at present. This being said, although it was not in the early stages of production having an iterative creative process still helps to give the same strength of design to the asset. In future I would like to implement and iterative design process in both pre-production and production phases of the creative pipeline. I think utilizing the creativity of the production team to enhance the design of your work at as many stages as possible will be the key to achieving the best possible work that you can.

After creating the asset I baked out ambient occlusion and material ID maps. I used quite high poly models for the working mesh and so I didn’t feel it necessary to create pre-baked normal maps as I planned to add additional surface data at a later stage in production. Taking these pre-baked maps to Quixel suite I used mostly procedural generation of textures and surface detail for the model. I chose to utilize Quixel suite to generate the textures for this model as it is one of the most efficient, industry standard programs used for creating PBR textures and materials. From Quixel I exported albedo, metalness, roughness, emissive, normal and ambient occlusion maps.

I then took the model and the texture maps into UE4 where I created the shader for the model to help bring it to life more.


Above is a screenshot of said shader. It includes all of the textures but also has some basic manipulation of the textures and a time based wave function and multiplier attached to the emissive map giving the glow a cyclic fade between dim and bright expressions.

Overall I am very happy with the outcome of this project and the skills I have learnt over the duration of it’s creation. I think the processes I have used and the workflow I have employed have been quite successful. On that note I would like to spend more time in the pre-production phase and help to give a stronger foundation to the project. All in all though I am happy with the outcome.

Next I would like to talk a bit about the Anti-Gravity, puzzle game that I have developed assets for. Below are some screenshots of said assets:


The premise of the game is a si-fi set puzzle game that revolves around redirecting the flow of lasers to activate switches to progress. The primary interaction between the player and the environment is through these ‘light cubes’ that are used to redirect the lasers. As you can see there are 2 distinct versions of each cube. They have been designed with an easy to read distinction between being correctly and incorrectly placed. Naturally, the green variant of the cube is employed when the player succeeds in placing it correctly. As the style of the game is quite sleek and stylized but also because it is based around light I chose to represent the change between red and green as a change in emissive maps. Also I have created a vent that can be placed around the interior of the environment to help bring the scenario to life with the addition of extra small details that help it to feel cohesive and atmospheric.

Here is a look at some of the documentation and specifications we have had to work from:

Thank you for taking the time to enjoy this journey with me.

As always,

Till next time,

James Day – 1002467