Skirts with Skeletons (and modeling Te’len)

So it’s that time again when I pull up a few random images of how I actually build things rather than just the finished and post-processed result. This time around, I thought I’d give a little more thorough lookthrough of Te’len Nila, in particular how her model has been laid out in question of segmentation and skeletal structure, with some level of focus on the skirt.

While there are handy cloth modifiers to use, I generally don’t use them – they require a great deal of CPU-intensive calculations, aren’t nearly as controllable as skeletons and while they crease and fold in fairly natural-looking ways.. they also have a habit of doing things like clipping or sliding off, which is less convenient. Ultimately, I long since elected that the time and effort required was out of hand for the result and went on to just using models themselves.

This brings us to Te’len, then, who has a skirt that doesn’t really line up with leg bones at all. So, I had to find another solution, where the simplest one I found simply being more bones!

Te’len has a multi-segmented (and multiple materials) model where she essentially has modelled clothes on top of a modelled body, where it is necessary or convenient for shadows and shape. Her legs aren’t actually attached to her body, but the gap is hidden under the skirt so we don’t notice except for extreme camera angles that I’m not intent on using anyhow. The above image is also a good example of how much of her overall look actually is in Blizzard’s textures and not in the model.

This particular pose is a prime example of how the skirt works – we can get a few guesses already just looking how it bends, twists and deforms, but taking a look at the skeletal structure for it..

..we see how the skirt is controlled by a series of odd plates that I can twist and rotate around to change the shape, rather than following the leg bones which only move the legs themselves. While a limited and hardly ideal solution, it’s simple and manageable enough for most cases so long as people don’t expect extensive creases or look it over in great detail. In this particular case we also see the added “bones” in the ears to make them a little more flexible and not just stand straight out and never move in the least.

Last off, hands, which is one of the major problem zones – and in this angle alot of the flaws in the modelling itself are somewhat visible. That said, the hands and the bones in them aren’t perfect – there’s still issues with deformity, especially with the thumb. I’m still learning how exactly to place the bones inside a hand to make it work properly. Which brings me on to..

..this, how I made the bones in Areen’s hand. They’re alot different, since I have another finger bone inside the hand itself rather than just the fingers. I haven’t spent enough time with Areen’s model yet to decide whether it’s an improvement or not, but time will tell. If it is, we can probably expect our night elven cast to end up with that kind of hand structure eventually too. If not, Areen might end up with hand bones more like theirs. It’s a learning experience, in the end.


9 Responses to “Skirts with Skeletons (and modeling Te’len)”

  1. 1 Moltrazahn
    February 17, 2009 at 16:33

    Great report, should i ever go away from the drawing pad and do this, maby id get inspired… HOWEVER thill that unlikely day comes, Ill say this much… Damm your good.

    Now i do give you alot of credit normally, hey im a fan and i love what you do *shrugs* but what inspires to the credit is also that you put work into this entire concept. One needs only go back to page one to see your improvements, and they aint few. With the detail and concentration your putting into this, i cant wait to see how BtT will look say 1 year from now. You might find a “form” or “design” that fits you just fine and stick with that, or you may keep doing small moderations here and there. Whatever it is or will be, im quite sure ill be no less impressed.

  2. 2 Arafor
    February 17, 2009 at 19:13

    I’ll have to agree with Moltrazahn. Dan, you’re good xD

    Kinda makes me want to learn Even though I have too many things to focus at as it is :3

  3. 3 Nhani
    February 17, 2009 at 22:28

    I’m definitely curious of how Beyond the Tree might evolve – both graphically and stylistically – over time, though I think there’s a case of diminishing returns to models at large; not only in that adding 200 polygons is much more of an increase on a 200 polygon model than a 2000 one (so to speak), but also because the more nitpicky the details I change, the less apparent they’ll be.

    Ultimately, I think most of the changes generally tend to come out of the fact that I don’t like things that don’t work – while I certainly have moments of putting together things that are very quick and dirty, as a problem solver my first thought when I run into a problem the first thought on my mind should be “How could I fix this?”. Making a whole bone structure to handle Te’len’s skirt for example didn’t start by thinking how I could make it prettier – it started by thinking how I could make it work since the prior method was to me quite obviously broken. Now when it works I can do so much more with it, and as a welcome side effect I can use poses and shots more creativily.

    All that said, one thing I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t even gotten started yet is having blank, “generic” characters I could dress up as pretty much anyone to make handling nonposeables (like Delgren, Feero, etcetera) a whole lot easier.

  4. February 18, 2009 at 18:43

    huh it was hardly noticiable you made the uper part thing into a model itself i thought on making one that way too(BEFORE SEEING WHAT YOU DID,i was thinking today.)And is it hard to set all the bones or your making them colide with the mesh(Physice”I KNOW I WROTE IT WRONG I”)

  5. 5 Nhani
    February 18, 2009 at 18:58

    It’s far from the first time I have a mesh with multiple layers (or multiple segments, even) – the very first incarnation of Hani’s model back when it was just Misadventures and quite awhile before Beyond the Tree got started was built like that with all the clothing and armour as additional segments on top of the regular model. I stopped doing that much though because of clipping issues and the additional load of more elements that had to attach to the biped.

    Ultimately I have more computer power now, so multiple segments is less of a bother. I still try to use them sparingly however because anytime you have multiple layers, you have an added risk of clipping which can be very visible and look very broken.

    As for setting bones – I found that you can pretty much just add however you want to the biped by attaching additional objects to the biped before you initialize the physique modifier on it – the plate “bones” in Te’len’s skirt or ears for example are just regular boxes placed in a pattern and attached together in a chain. If you initialize the physique modifier after you’ve done that, the physique modifier will treat the attached objects like any other bone the biped already has.

    You’ll have to adjust and pose the whole series of added bones manually, of course – again like any bone, but it’s a more predictable manner of dealing with them than any other I’ve tried so far.

  6. February 20, 2009 at 20:51

    That is a pretty ingenious way of making the skirt do exactly what you want it to. I do have to ask why you didn’t make the skirt into a cloth body, though, as it seems that would be easier to just let it drape and fall naturally than having to pose the skeleton of it.

  7. 7 Nhani
    February 20, 2009 at 21:12

    Well appart from the aforementioned CPU-intensive calculations, the clipping issues, the issues with cloth sliding off or behaving unexpectedly or in undesired ways..

    Cloth simulation is actually a whole lot of bother. It needs time to come to a rest, and it generally needs to be eased into a pose – preferably in a way that pose would naturally be entered – rather than just striking the pose right off and being done with it. Nevermind that sometimes you don’t want it to just drape and fall – sometimes you want it to move, to catch imaginary wind or flap with running or move in a certain way to promote certain visuals. (Just look at the running pose up there and see what I mean)

    With cloth simulation, doing that is a huge puzzle of wind simulation, animating model motion, and a whole lot of computation just to see what the result is. Like this, I get the result now and can adjust it however I please rather than trying to cheat at the virtual laws of physics to make it do what I want.

    Cloth simulation might be a whole lot easier compared to manually replicating every crease and fold, it’s really complicated and bothersome next to a very simple rig like this.

  8. February 20, 2009 at 22:22

    Coolness. I wouldn’t have thought of giving it a skeleton, so I would have still been pounding my head against all the simulations…

  9. 9 Nhani
    February 20, 2009 at 22:50

    To be fair, I spent a few weeks pounding my head against those very cloth simulations after I’d first learned to properly export, convert and rig models. After the n‘th time of clipping issues, undesired behaviour or simply peices of cloth sliding off the character.. I just gave up on it and decided that it’d be easier to just rig apparel rather than have it simulated.

    I’ve done the odd test with cloaks and capes and soforth from time to time, but overall I’ve found that unless you really need folds and creases to form, it’s simply quickier and easier to just do it all with rigs or morphs (or both).

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