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Diving into the 3D World

My plan this term is to get as many of the 3D elements for my Masters Film built and modelled as possible!

What will be 3D and What will be 2D?

From the beginning, I have been planning to explore how both 2D and 3D are used together to create more exciting visuals. This is also a way for me to learn 3D as it is something I have never dived into before. To break down what will and won't be 3D amongst my scenes will be helpful in planning what needs to be learnt for where!

I am very aware of how vast the world of 3D is, therefore my plan has always been to find out exactly what I need to use to complete my film and try not to get too distracted by all the different ways of doing things.

What will be 3D?

  • The Character

    • For scenes where the camera is moving around the environment.

      • This will make the process more efficient as I will not have to animate things in heavy perspective by hand

    • For scenes with specific camera moves e.g. the dolly zoom

  • The Environment

    • Mostly for scenes that are entirely boxes, when there are more detailed backgrounds with fewer boxes that might be a 2D painted background.

    • There will be a scene of boxes falling that will need to be simulated in 3D

    • Most of the scenes that require heavy perspective with camera movement

    • Making uses of programmes within Maya such as MASH

What will be 2D?

  • The flashback scene will be entirely 2D to show a nostalgic feel

    • This will involve two 2D characters and a 2D background

  • Effects of dust particles (to be researched)

  • Some character animation

  • Large scale backgrounds may be painted

How will I make the combination work?

Once there are finished models to work with I will start creating render style tests. The aim is for the final rendering to have a painterly, 2D like finish.

This is a common style known as toon-shading. This hybrid 2D and 3D animation style was the subject of my Research Poster in my last term. From that, I studied the ways it is being utilised in recent media and how there may be a 'renaissance' of sorts when it comes to using 2D aesthetics in feature animations. I also looked at the reactions people have to each of the styles, as my Masters' film will be one full of sentiment this was an important aspect for me.


Arcane (2021-present) is a mostly 3D animated TV show, however their 2D VFXs, their Matte painted backgrounds and their painterly style, have greatly influenced my plans for my project.

The Character Model


I started by using knowledge from the last term to start constructing my character in Zbrush. I used modes that were displayed in Sean Yu's tutorials as well as some that I found through personal research. I found the tool 'Zsphares' particularly helpful to block out the shape of the character and experiment with the certain posture I am going for.( More on this in my Character Design blog.) Following a tutorial from Flipped Normals, I was able to start to see the character come together!

After this blocking out was done I then proceed to add in details. For some parts of the model, I created separate subtools to form the different aspects such as the hair, eyes, clothing and hands. I also made sure to change my character's pose to a T-pose to make it easier for the rigging stage.

Within this sculpting process, I learned a lot about the different kinds of tools and brushes available that can help with each stage. For example there are a series of particular brushes solely for working with fabrics, which was helpful when modeling the clothing for more character. I didn't want anything too complicated for the character's outfit but being able to at least give the model some fabric details such as folds and crinkles made it still look the natural way it needed to.



The next step I have now is to move the model into Maya to complete the Retopology. This involved constructing the low res quad mesh that will cover the model and allow for the animation to be smoother. To make the process of hand constructing all the quads over this model I started out by only filling in half the character and then mirroring the mesh onto the other half.

There were some problems to solve everywhere within this process, but what really helped me was finding references to base the Quad pattern on. The main place I had for finding these was Pinterest and I was able to collect a few clear examples of Retopology for hands, faces and converting high loop numbers into lower numbers.

I also found that the closer I got into the mesh I had to turn off the 'Live' option on the original decimated mesh from Zbrush, this is the setting that makes your quads stick to the model and hold its shape. By turning its off I was able to more freely retopolise the nooks and crannies of the character. This was particularly helpful in parts such as the ankle, tin between the figures and when creating a mouth bag.

The mouth bag involved forming an inside of the mouth so that if the character was ever to open their mouth there would be geometry to support that animation.


For rigging my character I wanted to give my full focus to the process to properly understand how to get a working rig and unfortunately, due to the length of time to complete the model and retopology I couldn't commit to the large scale tutorials needed for rigging before the deadline. This is also one of the sacrifices of directing the group project that I found I had to make to keep on top of that module. However, I believe next term will be a lot less taxing without having to direct another project and I intend to fully commit to rigging my character in full ready for animation and final production.

Other Issues with 3D

Another setback I have come up against is that my home PC is not capable of running any 3D programmes. I have tried to instal the student licensed Maya with no luck with things functioning normally. In the first term, I solved this by remote desktop working, however for this term the lag this created was far too much of a hindrance, particularly to Zbrush Sculpting. So I have been commuting in to work in the 3D Lab as much as possible. This has certainly set me back in relation to those who can access it at home, however, I have still managed a fair amount whilst learning the whole thing from scratch.

The Environment

The main goal with the environments this term is to see methods I could use to block out the scenes that will be in 3D. To start with I have been building a basic wall of boxes, using duplicate tools I have been able to make this process quite efficient. I have been adjusting the boxes to show a variety of shapes and sizes and positioning them so that they are precariously stacked as if at any moment they might come crumbling down.


Using this stack of boxes I then ventured into the basics of MASH. This was a very fun tool to use and I found it has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what I can do with my environments. By duplicating my stack of boxes in instances it allows me to create a large amount of detail within it slowing down the programme and rendering time.

Scenes from my animatic that will work with MASH

This particular scene will work well with the physics options:

MASH Images

Lighting Tests

I have also briefly experimented with lighting on these boxes. As the majority of my shots in my film will be almost monochromatic, the simple lighting options in Maya actually provided a very close interpretation of my animation lighting and hues.

I dimmed the Skydome light and added a directional light that I experimented with turning slightly purple to match my animatic style. I then played with the directional light in different angles.

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