Imaging and Data Visualisation Reflection

In my second semester of Animation we started our new modules one of which was Imaging and Data Visualisation. Imaging and Data Visualisation involved two tasks, this was to build a “Floating City” in Autodesk Maya and then present the data in a visual way which is done in teams and then the second task was to model our own head using Autodesk Maya. Both projects allowed me to learn a lot about modelling and Autodesk Maya, and I do really enjoy modelling in Maya so I was excited for each of these projects. I loved learning about Rome in the Floating City project and being able to take Rome and imagine what it would be like to have it as a floating city. I would have loved to be able to do more for the project though because I heard about it before joining the course and I loved seeing the now second year work for it.

The head model project was also something I was excited for, from the get go I was researching tutorials and looking at what way was best for me to do it. It was really interesting learning more about topology, even though I’m not sure if I got my topology right in my head model, it was still fun to do and the human face in general, I would love to create a character and rig the face, to actually bring your own character to life is something that I always find enjoyable and rewarding. I felt I learnt a lot with this module and I want to keep improving and becoming better modelling, as well as to of course keep learning from my mistakes with the help from very informative tutors. I hope to be able to find what area I excel in and what I really want to do in animation.

Overall Imaging and Data Visualisation was a very interesting module that I felt I have learnt a lot from, it was very challenging in parts. I also learned that time management is key and that you should never be controlled by the machine, let loose.

Once again thank you for such a great first year of animation.

Data Visualisation: Dynamics

Alec Parkin began a lecture on dynamics and simulation techniques, dynamics are an extremely powerful feature in any 3D application. Without them there would be no particle effects like smoke, fire, realistic fluid effects to explosions, or complex cloth simulations.

Fantasia did a lot of experimental hand draw dynamics. Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger had a massive part in this as he was an abstract animator, bringing a lot of shapes and lines in to the animation which Disney liked but wanted to make it more realistic, so a shape would be an actual object. When experimenting with particles they used paint bottles upside down in water to create a bubbling lava effect in Fantasia.

James Cameron’s The Abyss had the first ever fluid effect in their feature film. You can see in this video how they do this and how they add a 3D scanned face within the particle effects.

Prince of Egypt created large scale effects with a 2D created background while the effects are computer generated. The also had 2D characters as well as computer generated characters and they took pride in how people couldn’t tell what one was computer generated and what was one 2D. Our lecturer Conánn Fitzpatrick who worked on Prince of Egypt told us how he animated water splashes, clouds, as well as the burning bush, using both 2D and digital animation to create it. He also talked about how he created Spritical software that was then further used in many successful animated films, such as the Lion King.

This MPC film effects reel, which is a modern VFX studio, showing really high quality and realistic particle effects, including effects used in the Avengers movies.

Lorenzo Lavatelli is also a great Dynamic effects artist working with Fluid effects. He has working on the likes of Harry Potter. Here is his showreel;


Pixar had cloth, hair and other dynamics breakthrough in the likes of Monsters Ink and in Brave. This test video is a great example of this;

When simulating anything dynamic in Autodesk Maya set your playback speed to ‘play every frame’ This will force each frame to be calculated without skipping a frame to match playback speed.

Dynamic systems available in maya consist of; nparticles, ncloth, nhair, maya fluids, soft and rigid bodies, bullet, bitfrost, fur/Xgen.

Nparticles can be used for effects such as dust, smoke, fire, water and wind effects. It’s a pretty face and versatile took for a bread ranger of dynamic effects and can interact with other nsystems.

Head Model: Head Journey

I looked up many head model tutorials and found this one by James Taylor that i found worked for me best, I liked how he kept the head topology fairly low and it was easy for me to follow.

As I followed his tutorial it was going well until i got to the nose and that where it got confusing for me. There as a lot of extruding and deleting of faces to get rid of any ngons or triangles, without the tutorial I don’t think I would have done this successfully. When it came to doing the cheek I didn’t mind this part because I used my research to get the correct placing of my cheek bone and surrounding fat in my cheek area and as well as staring at my face in the mirror I had while modeling my face.

getting there

I eventually figured out how to so the nose properly, using the bridge and extrude tools then combining them to the side of the eye mesh. I then extruded the eye inward to create the eyeball and eyelid, then added creases to the mouth and eye area to define them when you hit the smooth view. I prefer to work in the non smoothed view as it is easier for me to see what is going on with the mesh, plus our tutors always told us not to rely on the smooth tool.

nose and crease

I then moved on to creating the back of the head so i got a square, put up the decisions so that it would become round and I started adding and removing sub divisions so that it matched to my own forehead divisions so that I would get that even flow. The side of the head was a lot harder to match up as I had to tweak how the topology would flow in this area and sadly the tutorial didn’t go into much detail here so I tried my best to get the right look for it. It then came to the time to add the dreaded ear which i was not excited for at all. The tutorial also did not go into detail for the ear and because it was low poly I didn’t know what to do for it but I gave it my best shot. I extruded the faces and tried to get the right placement, it didnt help that my images didn’t line up here but luckily I had my trust mirror and done my research as I knew that the top of the ears line up with the eye and the bottom of the ear line up with the bottom of the nose. I followed the basic shape of my ear and extruded in and then in again to create the outline of my ear.

After getting the right ear shape I tried different ways on getting the inner ear done but it just wasn’t working, it looked weird and lumpy with very messy topology so I decided to leave it as it was and move on to do the rest and then hopefully come back to it with fresh eyes and a new idea.foreheadear

from here I mirrored it over but it did not look like me at all, It needed a lot of work especially the chin area, so I went back to the drawing board and got back up to speed to where was originally at.


After fixing some areas I also felt that there needs to be more definition in places to I added some edge looped where my cheek bone and bridge of my not is so that I could define it better and have more of my facial features. Referencing my post on my defining facial features that I had made. I then pulled at the vertex’s to define them more and to also add my button nose and the bumps that I have at the side of them.


When I smoothed it it let me see if my jaw needed more tweaking and it did, I felt that it wasn’t rounded enough and dipped in to much in the middle as you can see below. I also added a neck, looking back on the post I had made on drawing heads as it talked about neck fat, as well as facial anatomy and my Pinterest board to help me through this. This too a while to get right, I noticed that when I added the neck my chin didnt line up the curve to the neck and the fatty tissue in the neck brought it down too much and I needed to tweak it and bring the chin up a bit more, this also helping it to look like my chin more as I felt it looked too pointy.

I then continued the neck and brought it round to the back to create the back of the neck, making sure that it stayed fluid and matched it up with the ears okay. I then the neck so it would have the smooth curve down to where my shoulders would begin and made the mesh straighter for this as well.progress

I wanted to add more of a curvature to my lips to make it look more like me but that resulted in me created triangles, which is a big no no especially if its on the mouth which is a main source of expression in a human face, but I could not figure out a good way to fix these triangles without adding more loops or creating messy ngons, and making my topology messy. I definitely need to work on this more and figure out ways of fixing triangles in this area.hmmtriangles

When I mirrored it over and tweaked it to line up with my other side of my face, because my left eye was slightly higher, the left side of my nose was slightly bigger and the left side of my jaw was more square, but I also noticed that my face looked too slim compared to my pictures as well as compared to what I was seeing in the mirror, I also noticed that my cheeks needed to be pulled forward in the side view because my cheeks are a lot chubbier, so I definitely had more tweaking do to make it look more like me.

When I added the crease around the lips I found that it made it look weird and overlap in the corners, I tried different ways of creasing it so that the corners would not over lap and spaced out the side of my mouth topology to make it look better.toothin

After tweaking it and making it have more of my defined facial features I found that it looks more like me in the non smoothed version rather than the smooth version.  I added creases to some edges and vertex’s around the eyes, nose and mouth to make it look more like me in the smoothed version. You can see the edges and vertex’s that i have added creasing to in the unsmoothed head model below, they are the thicker lines. I also added a cupids bow by extruding inwards and adding a crease to the lower part of the cupids bow. I tried to make the nose look more like mine, as I have bumps at the side of my nose I tried to replicate this but its not that easy when its low poly but I think I did a good job with it head model

Here is my family of heads;thefam

Final head model spin;

Overall I am fairly happy with how it turned out, for my first head model I’m proud of myself that I could even remotely make it look like me, even if it looks like a manly version of me. I’m excited to learn more in this area though, I do love modelling and I definitely want to improve on this more. It would be fun to create a more realistic one of myself in the future and then compare to how I began and what I know in the future, and maybe add hair, or possibly even animate it.

Head Model: Nemo Filipovic

Nemo Filipovic illustrated a guide on how to draw heads, and goes into detail in a understandable way about form, skeletal features and facial features, as well as fat in the neck.

Filipovic, Nemo. “HEADS UP: Drawing The Head From A Low Angle.”. N.p., 2016. Web.

HEADS UP: Drawing the Head from a low angle. by NemoNova

Head Model: Face Anatomy

When modeling the head it is extremely important to understand face anatomy and the structure of the muscles within the face. Researching facial anatomy was really interesting and I learnt a lot from it, what I found most interesting was how the muscles and bone structure within a face effects how the topology be on an individuals face.

Looking at those were a great insight, even to see the names of the different facial muscles was interesting and where they were in the face. I also looked at Skif 3D’s work and his topology of a skill which is also going to be very helpful. Now to try and apply my research to my head model.


Head Model: Pinterest Research Board

Alec Parkin gave a lecture expressing the importance of keeping a folder with good topology so that you are able to keep going back to it in the future when you have to do face modeling and when keeping a good topology in your models in general. I found that creating a pinterest board helped me greatly in researching about facial anatomy and topology for my 3D head model. Below you can see my findings;

Head Model: Sara Wilde

Sara Wilde, who is a concept artist and 3D generalist, working for Evodant Interactive, which is a Winnipeg based game company, created this great illustration on proper workflows in 3D Modeling. This was incredibly useful as it broke down why working with quads are important and also gives an example of topology, and the different polys and what they look like.

Head Model: Face Topology Plan

Step one to doing a good head model is by getting a good photo of myself in front and side profile and they HAVE to line up or you’re going to do a lot of guess work but luckily having a mirror in front of you will help in this situation, good think my desk is a vanity and have a missive mirror in front of it with flapping mirror parts at the side so I can also see the different angles in my face. Getting a good picture was kind of difficult, I feel like my head naturally tilted to the left but it felt natural to me when I was sitting there, maybe my posture is just bad?

However after many failed photos later and retakes, because it didn’t end up lining up in Autodesk Maya no matter how much I tilted of squished the picture, I got these ones down below which still kind of don’t line up because of my tilty head and not and exact side profile, but I decided to work with it with the help of my.

Alec Parkin said that he preferred that you do it low poly so that he is able to see the topology clearly. Taking this into consideration on how I wanted to do my head model I began my research. I looked a lot at character artist Tom Parker‘s work which is amazing, he gave some really good images of good topology as seen below, this was very helpful.

I then moved on to sketching out topology on my own face to help me along the way. I tried to keep it fairly low poly, I hope I have done this right.


I then looked at defining features on my own face that I should consider when creating my face model so that it looks more like me. You can see this in the below image;


I thought that sketching out my head would also be very useful as I would get a feel for how my face flow and it really shows me how much of a grumpy face I have due to my features hahah, moving on. This took me back to my GCSE and A-Level art days as I always chose projects that required me drawing faces which I quite enjoy.



Data Visualisation: Rendering

Today Alec Parking gave a lecture on RenderingRendering is the process of generating an image from a 2D or 3D model (or models in what collectively could be called a scene file) by means of computer programs. Also, the results of such a model can be called a rendering.

Rendering can take a long time if you have a lot of of things going on in the scene and if you have a deadline it is important that you plan out how long it will take so that you do not go over the deadline due to the amount of time it takes to render it. If you want to save time you can use a render farm, which is a group of networked computers devoted to rendering images, you can use this to speed up the process of rendering that you wouldn’t be able to do if you do not have powerful equipment. It does cost money however to get a render farm company to do this. If you do render all at once this is called a batch render and the longest of them.

You can also render it in different sections, like you can render the background separately from the characters to cut down rendering times. As well as cutting the animation into separate scenes and rendering them at the same time but on different machines.

Photo bashing is also another type of rendering, it used mainly for concept art, its also used for gaining a more realistic outcome. Its a good thing to look into for practice as it may come in useful.

There is also digital matte painting which is like a mixture of 2D and 3D, its used mainly in visual effects. A good example is Kobi Moldavski’s showreel, you can see that he usually has a main 3D image and then uses 2D images to put these in the background and making it look realistic to suit the scene.

Something that is really important is correctly setting up a linear workflow in Maya;

Basically a picture is made up of red blue and green pixels, sRGB being the standard. We want to keep the gamma linear so that we have as much information in the lights and the darks rather than it losing information rather than your image beginning noisy and off colour.In sRGB the white is twice as bright while in a linear colour spacing. It is important to know how colours work in different settings and files, EXR keeps the linear workflow while Tiff does not. This also applies to real life as you need to know that if you were to do a oil painting you need to know that oil paints do not dry, it oxidises.