Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Head of a Merchant

Check it: Head of a Merchant is an exercise I did last night to test out Sculptris.
Sculptris is a free, independently-made digital sculpting app that started making waves this past summer. Naturally, it was promptly bought out by Pixologic (of ZBrush fame). Schucks, competition quelled in the Sculpting App realm ... for now. (But look out for still-indy darkhorse 3d-Coat!)

Both 3d-Coat and Sculptris offer something industry leaders ZBrush and Mudbox do not: dynamic tessellation. DT (I may as well make it an acronym now, lord knows it's coming) is the automated refinement of the surface based on localized detail. In other words, all you do is sculpt; the software subdivides the surface on the fly as necessary to support the added detail. What this means to you, the artist, is: no more back-and-forth to Maya to extrude appendages; it all takes place in the sculpting package. The polygons multiply rather than stretch.

The upside of the Pixologic acquisition: we can probably expect dynamic tessellation in the next release of industry-leader ZBrush. Which means always-the-copycat Mudbox is sure to follow suit. Their work is cut out for them, though: both use a quad-based subdivision algorithm, which may prove tricky when trying to emulate the relative ease with which Sculptris tessellates on the fly (Sculptris works on basic triangles, the building blocks of all CG).

But I digress. My thoughts on Sculptris: fun! Until it crashes. Yes, it crashes a lot (hey, it's a Beta program built by one guy, give him a break), but it restores the last session, so I never ended up losing anything (other than the time spent rebooting). Some of the brushes are better than their ZBrush counterparts! (Undoubtedly another reason for the hasty acquisition.) It only outputs to OBJ; no normal-map conversion, so it is not ready for prime-time as a production pipeline tool (except for previs). But as a toy, what a toy! I've never had so much instant fun with a sculpting app before; almost no learning curve! Very intuitive. If you're looking for a great app to practice sculpting, head on over to Pixologic and download the still-free (for how long?) beta version of Sculptris.

Here's a few more shots of the semi-stylized Merchant. By the way, I've come to realize the meaning of "stylized" - a term that's often bandied about by Art Directors. It's a balance between the way things look and the way they
should look. Certain features are exaggerated as a way of conveying a deeper meaning or subtext. Similar to caricature, but "stylization" is a broader term that conveys information about the artist as much as it does about the subject.

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