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   The Comet CG Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)   

Before you send me E-mail, please read below and see if your question has already been answered. This document has a lot of information. I have tried to organize it into Alphabetical sections, for things like Education, MAX Animation Help, Tutorial Help, etc...

In general a really good place to ask Generic MAX questions is http://support.discreet.com/ That site is an official Discreet MAX forum site, and there are a ton of people there who read it and help answer basic MAX questions.

If you are looking for artwork feedback, then for modeling there are places like the Spiraloid Forums or Cg-Talk links off my links page. There is also the CG-Char Web Forums which are great if you have a Character Animation you want critiqued. I do have my own forums for all of this stuff, but you will generally get better, faster, more answers/responses by posting at a larger site as mentioned.

With all that said...here is the FAQ.

   Animation and Rigging Questions   

How come I can't see rotation curves? I can use the keyManager Script and cometSmooth but there are no rotation curves!
By default MAX 4 and earlier uses "TCB" or Quaternion based rotation controllers by default. You need to change the rotation controller on all your objects you are animating to be an "Euler_XYZ" controller instead, which gives you bezier curves for X, Y and Z.

Note too when you change the controller, you can also click the "Set Default" button which will let you keep Euler as a new default, so that all newly created objects will use Euler instead of TCB. See information in the Manuals on how to change controllers etc... (it can be done via the motion panel, or trackview).

Generally speaking, Euler_XYZ is far better for character animation than TCB.

The controllers I use so that I get 3 separate curves for X Y and Z are: Position_XYZ, Euler_XYZ and Scale_XYZ.

My does rigging/animation/wiring/IK stop working after frame 100?
Most controllers in MAX have a "Range" that they work on. By default they work for whatever the current time range is in MAX, when the controller is created. Since MAX tends to default to frame 0-100, unless you change the range before rigging, the controllers will only work during that range.

You can either find the controller range in Trackview, and drag out the range slider to work on a longer timeline, or download a free script from many of the MAX script websites, that will help you automatically readjust all controllers to work.

I am using Euler_XYZ, but I want to use Local rotation curves in trackview?
Well Euler and all rotations are based on the "parent-space" or parent object. You -can- assign the old "LocalEuler" controller via maxscript...but it is nearly the same as usually changing the current Euler_XYZ rotation order to "ZYX" order in the motion panel. And in fact Local Euler never really worked right.

The best general solution is to Make a dummy or helper object, and use the "Align" tool to align the helper to the bone/object you want to have zeroed. Then put the helper into the same hierarchy where the real bone/object is. Then parent the bone object to that helper. Effectively you are "inserting" the helper in the middle of the hierarchy between the bones parent and the bone itself. The catch is the helper is first aligned to the same values as that child bone.

What this does is now cause the child bone to appear to be zero. This is because everything is in parent space if you remember. Therefore if you rotate now, it will in -trackview- appear to be from 0, and even if it was in some odd angle in world space, rotating on one axis should now only show one axis affected in trackview.

How should I attach eyelashes to my eyelid model?
In general the easiest way is with the attachment controller, which allows you to tack one object onto the surface of another. Note you may have to use the "attachment2" controller which fixes bugs when used with morpher I think. This should be found downloadble from Discreet at their http://support.discreet.com/ site.

You may also wish to see my cartoony eye rigging tutorial on my site under my 3D Help Page. If you use Maya and not MAX, try the free "Rivet" script on the net which does the same thing.

How can I rig irregular cartoony eyes?
See my cartoony eye rigging tutorial on my site under my 3D Help Page.

Can you recommend a good tutorial Pose-To-Pose techniques?
I have a tutorial on the basics of animation, as well as an overview of how I do pose-to-pose type work on my 3D Help Page.

For a more step-by-step directions that work on any package, check out Keith Lango's excellent animation tutorial on his site at http://www.keithlango.com/.

For MAX you can use scripts like keyManager on my site to easily change tangents for keys from stepped, to linear, to smooth etc... You should also make sure that the rotation controllers for the objects are set to Euler_XYZ and not TCB, so that you actually get fcurves and tangents to work with.

I tried animating, but have so many keys I get lost?
Try reading Keith Lango's Pose-To-Pose tutorial on his site at http://www.keithlango.com/.

Pretty much you make sure you set a key on the parts you want ALL at the same frame. So if you rough it out and you decide you have poses on frames 1, 15 and 20, all the parts for the -body- that you might key in that case would be keyed, all at the same time. You can use Linear or Step keys too to help with the timing and blocking idea too as discussed on his site.

I am animating, but my feet or pose is sliding even tho I set keys on the start and end of where I want my pose to "hold"?
Make sure the interpolation for all of your keys is set to linear in the range you are trying to hold. Or use something like cometSmooth from my "keyManager" script to auto set those tangents to be linear inbetween. Otherwise if you are using smooth, the computer may put weird interpolation inbetween.

Make sure also that you are keying ALL of the parts/controls that you want to maintain at both the start and end of the hold range.

Can you help me with Character Studio, Biped or Physique?
I do not use any of those tools, so no. Your best bet is the regular manuals that come with the program, and support.discreet.com for posting questions.

How do I Rig and Arm with IK?
Pretty much the same as the leg tutorial in MAX 4. If you understand the basics of IK from that, you should be able to do an arm. Pretty much you create a default bone structure with a slight bend to it (so the IK knows which way to bend), and apply a HI-IK constraint on it from the shoulder to the wrist.

You may also want to investigate my "charRigger" script on my 3D Help page, which lets you automatically create an entire character rig, all from placing ptHelpers.

It seems the morph angle deformer only considers one angle direction which defeats the points to use it in lots of cases. Is there any way to make it consider more than one rotation axis?
No this is imho a very serious limitation of the morph deformer...it pretty much is only useful for things like hinge joints at an elbow or knee. It mixes the other 2 angles and doesn't even use twisting as an angle. It's pretty much a waste. (Except for knee's or elbows)

There is one other way tho...which is do it by hand using the Reactor Controller. You can set a morpher up by making it have a Reactor Controller on the morpher channel and driving the morph by hand from the rotation x y or z as you want, assuming u are using Euler XYZ rotations... The catch is that in many cases rotations may be in world space or be changing angles/axis...so you can't always count on it.

Worst case you make the targets and set up hand animated controls for the animator to use to fix by hand.

How can I key all my objects as well as custom attributes at once in MAX 4?
Try my free "attrKey" script on my 3D Help page. This script lets you both key Position, Rotation and Scale as well as Custom Attributes on all objects, and also Save/Load or Copy/Paste poses/keys at different times.

I am trying to animate an object using a Link Constraint, but every time I add it my object flies off into space.
The link constraint is a great way to get objects parented to different objects at different times, so that an object can be picked up, or put down. However you have to make sure you apply the link controller first, before animating. Otherwise the object may fly off into space once you have already begun animating.

I've animated a walk cycle, but want it to repeat from where it left off, how can I do that?
Well you can try the "Merge Animation Tool". If that doesn't do what you want, chance are you will either have to manually continue animating each step until the end, which yield more variation anyhow, or else copy/paste feet, then offset the locations for each step...which is still really animating by hand.

Typically I block out the horizontal hip movement for an entire walk in top view, then add a bounce, and then tweak it and add each foot position/key by hand for every step of the entire walk.

Can I use the keyManager script with keys in the timeline?
Yes. The keyManager script works on both Trackview, as well as selected keys in the timeline.

Just select the keys in the trackbar and use the "Affect OBJECT Keys". That will affect all selected keys for all the selected objects. If you do the first one, all, even if the trackview is closed, or tracks not selected, selected-KEYS will be adjusted. You have to be careful, because even if there is a "selected key" outside of the current time range, it will be adjusted.

The last mode, TV Keys is the most precise one, in that you have to have TV open, and highlight the track/controller and the keys to affect. The first one is more dangerous in that keys you may not even know are selected can still be affected.

Normally I use the regular OBJ key affect and use the trackbar as mentioned. Note tho, if you do forget to unhighlight a key, like you select on frame 20, then set the range to 50-100, if that key is still technically "selected" it will still be affected.

How do I do facial animation? How can I get my eyes to deform when the face does?
First off I have an overview on facial rigging/animation on my website under 3dHelp. After that, for more step by step how to key, animate, etc...check out Keith Lango's website at http://www.keithlango.com/" for his excellent guide on doing facial lipsync.

Beyond that, for rigging, if I have a cartoony eye setup as in my cartoony eye tutorial off of my 3dHelp page, then I use wiring to drive multiple morphpers. That is, typically you will have morpher on your head/face. In addition if my eyes are in an FFD lattice (the spacewarp, not the modifier), then I will not only create face morph targets, but also duplicate the FFD's and create FFD targets. Each object will have morpher. The face has morpher. The Left Eye FFD has morpher, and the Right Eye FFD has morpher. Then I just add the morph targets for each. In the end I will wire the face one, or make a separate control object with Custom Attributes, and just "wire" the spinner from one to the other.

So the main smile custom attribute is wired into the face morpher smile, the L-Eye FFD smile morpher target and the R-Eye FFD smile morpher target. That way I can animate just one value, and everything is animated together properly.

How do you setup your mouth? Do you use bones? What about teeth?
I typically just use straight morph targets. I'll make a seamless face that includes the tongue, gums and teeth all in one exact mesh. Then I'll just duplicate it and make targets. You have to be careful not to deform the teeth in odd ways.

Another thing you can do is to keep things separate and just use Edit Poly|Attach function at the end to attach the teeth, gums etc all together. Just make sure you attach everything for the base and each target in the same order. ie: Attach teeth first, then gums etc... all exactly in the same order...so that point order doesn't change.

Alternatively you could setup a separate morpher on each one, and wire them together as I mentioned in the question above.

If you like to use bones, most people will use just 1 bone for the jaw bone, and then still use morph targets for the rest of the stuff. You just setup morpher below and then skin above in the stack and do your bone weighting.

Do I have to use a separate head for facial animation? Or do I use a seamless body and head mesh? And do my targets have to include everything?
It's up to you. For morphing tho, the targets MUST include the exact point count and point order as the base mesh. So that means if you have a seamless head/body mesh, then your targets MUST also be the exact same seamless body mesh...even if you are only changing points on the face. Though there is a way around this also as described below.

Anyhow you can delete morpher targets later, and it should store only the changed point information, so the data kept isn't too large, even if you include full body/head seamless targets.

On the other hand, if you have a way to hide a seam, such as if the character is wearing a shirt, and you can make the head+neck object be a separate object from the body, then by all means, it makes sense to keep the head as separate.

I typically keep my entire body as separate as I can even arms/legs etc...if I can. Obviously though in some cases you need or want a seamless body.

If you MUST have a seamless body but really only want head targets, what you can do is take your base head, create morph target copies and add morpher onto the base head. At this point you just have the head and morpher working. Then add an Edit Mesh modifier above morpher on the base head. Then click the Edit Mesh "Attach" button and attach the body and then weld the vertices etc...using Edit Mesh. Now you have only one object. Then add Skin above the Edit mesh like normal, and then meshsmooth or whatever above that. You're effectively leaving the "Edit Mesh-Attach-And-Weld" in the stack above morpher and below skin, so that morpher and below you literally just have the head, and skin and above, it's a complete seamless mesh.

I am having problems weighting/Skinning my elbow and character?
Pretty much after I apply skin, I don't even use envelopes for most stuff. Instead I hand weight every vertex using the Abs. Value entry. That way I know exactly how each vertex is weighted. My models are usually low poly and meshsmoothed ABOVE skin this isn't as bad as it sounds. Anyhow I pretty much go in and weight things like 100% or 50/50 or 25/75 etc...based on where the points are and test it, tweak, test, tweak etc...until it works right.

But skinning is one of those things that is difficult and just plain old takes time and effort. Don't forget to check out the MAX script sites linked off my pages too for tools that other people have written. Some of these save time by allowing you to mirror weights over, or save and reload weights, etc...

How am I supposed to use your charRigger rig? Do I animate the placement? If so the feet slide!
Generally the placement is not animated. It is just a quick way to get the entire character put into the proper place in the scene. If you have more than one shot in your file, then you might use the placement animated with stepped keys, so that it pops to the right place for the start of each shot.

Beyond that for a walk etc, you would animate the hips, and then animate the feet to match. Same with the arms.

How do I use the Local/World attribute on the charRigger arm? Everytime I change it the hand moves to where it used to be!
That is correct. The point is that "world" is literally stuck in space...or parented to another object. So that the hands can remained locked in space. If it was parented to something like hips, then it wouldn't ever really be "locked down". The point is it allows you to say lock the hands to a table or wall etc...

So effectively the hand will move a bit when chaning Local/World the two. When you are animating, first set the value how to want it to act for that frame, either locked or free, and then pose the hand. For example if a hand was about to push against a wall, and then lift back off say on frame 0 it is free, 10-20 locked to the wall and then 30 free again. You would first do a free pose on frame 0 with local mode. Then go to frame 10, set World via 100 and then pose the hand on the wall. Set an exact same key on frame 20. Then on frame 30, put local/world back to 0 and pose the hand away from the wall as desired.

You might also want to use the align tool to align some of the hidden dummy objects for the hand...that will allow you to snap the local dummy to the world, or vice versa, so that the local/world value causes it not to slide when changing the values.

Can I have less fingers, spines, neck bones in charRigger?
Yes...you have to delete from the outside in. For example delete neckHelper2 before neckHelper1. Or delete the 5th finger before deleing the 4th. Also if deleting finger digits, remove from the outside in, you can delete the tipDigit before deleting the 3rd most outer etc... Same with spines, delete spine dummy 3 before 2 and so on... Then run charRigger.

   Education Questions   

How do I get into the industry?
You might want to read my "About Me & How I got Started In 3D" page. The How I Got started info is below my personal info. Also be sure to check out Angie Jones's page at http://www.spicycricket.com/. She has a bunch of good info on what different jobs are in the industry and how to break in under her tips section. You should probably also read the CG-Char FAQ. Go to the FAQ section, it has a lot of good info on what to do to make a good demo reel. Also, check out my new Links Page.

In general the key is persistence. Don't expect going to school for 4 years is going to make you anywhere near good enough to get a job. Unless you work your butt off and teach yourself as well during that time, it probably won't. Expect to have to keep working and working and improving.

Mostly all you need is a really good demo reel on VHS tape and resume and cover letter to mail out to the places you want to work. Some places now accept DVD, but check first. Many still require VHS. If you don't follow each places explicit submission guidelines (and each is slightly different) expect to simply have your reel dropped in the trash. Places have far too many submissions to waste time with someone who can't follow directions listed on their website.

What does it take, and what is your advice for new artists trying to get into the business?
Well it's hard. There's a lot of people in the industry, a lot of people who have experience, maybe even film experience out of work and then trying to get back in. So you have to be as good as that level of competition. And most places don't take interns or such anymore. You're expected to show the skill level on your demo reel, of the work that they want you to do when hired. Obviously that level varies from place to place. It's still relatively easy to get into some game houses, though they'll want you to be an avid video game player as well. Video and then Film houses generally get progressively harder as they want higher quality usually. Though the video game industry is changing, and many places demand a level of work that is on par with film houses, just in a different style.

The main thing to do is read all you can and mostly spend as much time as you can practicing what you want to do. Build up a basic set of skills and understanding in each area from story to concept to boarding to layout to modeling and texturing, rigging, animation, lighting and fx and rendering. I mean basic...you don't have to be great, but you ought to know and be able to do a little of each. THEN after that, you'll probably have a feel for what area you want to focus on in that. Spend most of your time working on 1 or 2 areas. Most places want specialists. Now that may change over time and it does vary place to place. For example our modelers also texture. Some places tho, modelers only model and they have separate texture artists. Generally though the more you know and can do, the more valuable you are, but some places only have you do one thing. An animator at Pixar will only animate. All they want to see is animation on your reel if that is what you are applying for. They don't care if you can model or rig etc... Other places may be different.

If you have a C.S. background you may or may not want to focus on a more "Technical Director" type role, which might be more rigging or setup or progamming based. Like writing 3D tools or plugins or things like that. Writing hair or fx scripts or programs etc... In general it's easier to get into the job as a tech guy than an artist if you really are good at programming etc, since less people want that. It's also generally easier to get in as something other than an animator, since many many people want to be an animator.

But in the end do what you want. After 94 or so the industry was really booming. By 96 you could still practically walk into a studio with almost no experience and make tons of money. That's changed. At that time I was pure tech almost. I had C/C++, Perl, Unix etc skills. I also had done some decent modeling and texturing etc...but not by todays standards. I had several job offers from major studios to be a Tech Director/T.D.. which means doing some art work but mostly scripting or helping to do tech stuff. Exactly at that time I decided I wanted to be an animator so I turned down all those offers. I had to work several MORE years to get there but I eventually got in. Now it seems I'm heading back towards rigging and scripting since that's what I decided I really truly like.

But either way, your skills and VHS tape demo reel will HAVE to be really good. If you want a job as a modeler at a video game company...work on low poly models and textures. Make them as good as the best games out now. If you want to do models for a movie, make your models as good as the movie models. And be realistic when critiquing your work...are you REALLY that good? Is the work on your reel the level that would be done at the place you wan to be at? That's what it takes.

How do you get around the obvious Hardware limitations (Just started using 3D Studio Max because Maya's computer requirements (and cost) were far beyond my reach)?
This is not really a limitation. Places expect that. They don't expect a student out of school to have EXACTLY the same skill level as someone with experience, though it is desired. And it is still pretty close. While it's good to know the program the studio wants to use, it's generally ok not to. If you know any of the major packages, then as long as you show good skills, you'll get in. Places are less concerned about you being able to push a specific button than whether or not you have the art/tech skills to do the job. You'll learn most packages are pretty similar. It's not always true, but overall skills are more important than software experience.

Max and Maya are VERY close. You ought to be able to pull off a reel that is as good as what you'd do in Maya in Max. Especially for modeling, texturing, lighting, I'd say Max is ahead. For rigging and setup they both offer very similar things, same for scripting. Though Maya is arguably better for setup and animation workflow. But when you get right down to it, animation is pretty much being able to pose and set a keyframe. And tweak fcurves. There's not much more to it. Almost any package will do that. There are guys at Pixar who were hired based on work done at home with Hash:Animation Master for $300. It's the skills/demo reel not the package. Many of us got started with programs before things like Meshsmooth/SubD's or I.K. even existed. We had to learn workarounds and techniques and skills to get around that. Toy Story was animated with out any IK at all! Chances are any program you have now will be way more powerful than what was out there 10 years ago. So you ought to be able to do something that much better, even if it is not the top top packages.

But remember the bar is that much higher now as well. We laugh at demo reels we get now that are better than reels we had when we got into the industry ten years ago. So pretty much practice practice practice and be persistent and don't give up.

What schools are good? Should I go to school or study myself?
This topic often brings up heated debate in the CG-Char List. Many people such as myself are self taught. I tend recommend teaching yourself, just because from what I have heard, for the most part, you will be teaching yourself anyhow. If you are motivated enough, you'd probably do just as well to buy a faster home machine and software, as long as you augment this with some outside drawing and painting, and acting classes, say at a local community college. This mixed with online resources should work. It might take longer than 4 years, but then again you can also get a regular bachelors degree during that time too.

Most students reels I have reviewed at work for people who have applied, get rejected. This is because the quality is simply not good enough, especially when there is a lot of competition and saturation in the industry now. What that means is, even after you graduate, you may still have to take time and continue to work on your reel at home, work on building your skills on your own time with your own system. If you have already been doing this, you already have the software and system. If you are coming out of a school, can't find a job, and don't have a home computer system, you are in trouble.

If you want to know what schools exist, I'd recommend taking a look at "Animation Magazine", there are usually many schools listed in it, and you can find it at most bookstores. So basically there are 2 divided camps on the subject. Some of the pros of school are, you may get to use software you can't afford, you get advice on traditional art principles, you may get placement/recruiting help, you will be around other people doing the same thing and can work together to improve.

Doug Kelly once gave me a great quote about students and teachers. He said a teachers job is to make sure the student has the opportunity and knowledge to learn. BUT, the students job is also to make sure they work really hard to learn as much as they can from the teacher. It works both ways.

Finally, check out my new Links Page which has links to other sites that have good resources for those looking for schools.

How important are traditional skills?
Generally speaking, traditional skills are a a good plus. Most places will want to see some form of life drawing, painting, etc... However, it REALLY comes down to your demo reel. If you are applying, and your reel is good, chances are, you already have some talent in art anyhow. By the same token, there are a number of people who have been hired, even at places like ILM and Pixar, who have NO computer experience, and simply have tradional 2D or stop motion animation backgrounds. Animation is animation. If you can do it in one form, the general thought is you can learn how to do it another way. Animation is a visual medium. As such, employers will want to see that you can communicate well that way. Thus, drawing talent is good. Not all places will care, and it depends on what you are doing. Obviously if you are applying for a texturing position, you better have good painting type skills. In either case, it is important to study traditional art principles, since they will help with computer art as well.

One important note: Only include traditional work with your reel/resume if it is REALLY GOOD. There is nothing worse you can do, than to have a really great 3D demo reel, but then ruin it by showing poor 2d skills. With both 3D and 2d, only show your best stuff!

Can you recommend some good books to read?
Check out my links page and visit the Cg-Char website, or places like the SpicyCricket or 10-Second Club. Almost all have pages with recommended good CG and animation books.

My top 3 animation books would probably be:
"The Animators Survival Kit" By Richard Williams
"Disneys Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson
"The Animator's Workbook" by Tony White

I got called into an interview, should I bring traditional work and a longer demo reel in with me?
First off, if this is for character animation, definitely, definitely, definitely READ the CG-Char FAQ document at www.cg-char.com. This has a ton of information on do's and don'ts for demo reels.

In general, if you have a good strong traditional portfolio, bring it in. IF your drawings are good. If they are not good, then don't bring them.

Do the same thing with any "extra" material on the reel. If you have more material that is really good or at the same level of quality as what you showed earlier, then bring it. If it is not as good, leave it off.

In general if you have something that is good and great, then it's worth showing. Just remember you are judged by the worst piece that you show.

Regardless of all of this, you should always bring extra copies of your resume and at least one extra copy of your demo reel with you on an interview. Many times places will have lost your tape even if they call you in.

   Modeling, Texturing and Lighting Questions   

How should I model clothing for my characters?
Same as any of the techniques in the tutorials. Mesh, splines, nurbs, it doesn't matter. You can either model custom clothes meshes from scratch around your character, which is how I did my anime character, or take the existing mesh and base the clothing off of that.

Typically I just start with a box, and just like modeling the character itself I model a solid piece of geometry for clothing. Then on the ends, like holes on sleeves, I extrude back in a bit to make it appear as if it is thin.

Which modeling method do you like? Which is better, NURBS, Splines, Patches or Mesh/Poly and Meshsmooth?
I personally use Editable Poly tools with Meshsmooth. I find it gives me the control I want, with the tools I like, and can give me nice organize looks. That being said, no one way is ever perfect, and definitely not for all people. Many people prefer patch or Splines with "Surface Modifier" modeling. The best suggestion is to play with all of them, try them out for what you are doing, and see what you like or works for you.

From a technical standpoint all methods can yield the same results, it's just a matter of how you get there, and how the tools work.

What kind of poly counts should I use for lowpoly/games modeling practice?
In general 600-1500 polys is pretty normal for most games. That is a big range, but is pretty realistic. Summoner generally had 500-1100 polys. It depends on the type of game, or the type of character and where it is used. Each year poly counts increase, it might be realistic for a big res character to include 2000-5000 polys now depending on the game and style of the game.

A background character or a game with a ton of characters may be more around 400-600 polys each. That's pretty normal. If you have a fighting game with just 2 characters on screen and some flats and simple background, it may be 2000+ polys. Typically tho game companies want to see demo reels with characters around the 500-1000 poly range. It'd probably be good to do a few in that range, like a 300-400 version, then a 500-600 version/different character and a 1100 version character. Or ASK before sending in a demo reel.

Summoner used 300-500 for very simple village people that were filler. The main characters and bosses had about 1100 when i was there, which included generally a somewhat hires face where a mouth was cut out for facial animation.

Cinematic Model Poly Count is of course higher, since it is all pre-rendered. For Freespace we had models that were quite high, it really taxed our system and MAX, and this was Max 1.2!!!! Our space pilots were about 20,000 polys for the body, and then another 20,000 for the head! Quite high. I'd say now most places would probably have 10,000 or so or maybe less, but use meshsmooth on top to smooth things out if needed. So in essence you get that detail, but the model itself is a medium res poly cage.

How do you texture map your heads? How did you texture the anime head?
For heads the usual method is to do a cylindrical map on the head. The "caps" should be on the top/bottom, so the cylinder map is effectively standing up like a cup. The seam for the mapping should be at the exact back of the head. After this you can use something like the free Peter Watje "UVW Unwrap UTILITY" (not the modifier, the util), or "Texporter" to save a bitmap out of the unwrapped polys. Then you can paint on top of that right in Photoshop.

Obviously if you have something like Deep Paint or Texture Weapons, it would probably make more sense to do painting that way. Don't forget too you can also unwrap using the UVW Unwrap Modifier, and arrange polys how you want, just like you do for games. Getting seamless textures tho then can be difficult, which is why the cylindrical map for the head works pretty well.

The anime head itself was mapped mostly with a solid color, and only had a little detail here and there, so it was pretty easy to map and paint. Most of the color feeling comes from using warm lights and cool lights. Lighting and texturing are hard to separate.

For photoreal texturing, you can go and paste parts of real photos in photoshop and distort them to match the polys you are painting on.

How can I easily weld vertices on my POLYGON or MESH models?
Try using the "Target Weld" function instead of just the regular weld. Remember if you are using Splines, then you cannot weld, but you can kind of cheat using "fuse".

How do you go about lighting a character or scene to look good?
Texturing and lighting go hand in hand, it's hard to do one without the other. I always start from a generic 3 point lighting scheme. At least for the character, and usually bkg too. This is the traditional video/photo idea of a "key" light, "bounce or fill" light and a "rim light".

If you imagine a triangle, each point is a light, pointing towards the center of the triangle. Tho usually the triangle is a little closer together for the key and bounce.

         /  \
        / c  \
       /      \

The "c" is the center of interest, usually a character, or center of background etc....

Each light I make is usually a "spot" or "directional" type light, all pointing at the center of interest. In addition the triangle is usually rotated several degrees...so it's not flat on the bottom as show. This puts the rim not exactly behind the center, but to one side or the other. Of course once that starts it, you manually move and adjust each light as needed.

Vertically my Key light is usually placed above the center and aims down on it. The Bounce is placed below or at center and aims up. The rim is usually flat at center or maybe a b it up depending.

Color wise I'll start with a warmer slightly, but still near yellow/white key light. My bounce is usually a cooler blue or blue white and half intensity. The rim is always pure hot white, maybe even with a raised intensity to really cause the rim to pop and show up. The key and rim usually cast shadows while the fill will not.

That's my basic lighting setup. From there I'll tweak and add/remove lights as needed. One thing you mention is flat planes...this almost never works well where the planes touch, such as at the back where the ground touches the bottom of the sky plane. To solve this I'll usually model the ground to at the back it literally curls up. This gives a softer look to the horizon line. But that's mostly for simple shots of a character literally on a flat ground.

There is one other CRITICAL thing about lighting as well, especially for sets. The above works pretty well for just getting light. But for real sets it's best to think about light sources. And to actually place lights -simulating- where they might actually be. For example if you are in an office, then stick lights coming from the ceiling or windows like they would be. Even better, literally model the light object and such and it will look even more real. If you have a fire, again you'd probably have a yellow-orange light coming from that. Probably a point light.

So essentially, your scene should already have an idea of lighting. Use that. I'd still use fill lights, since light reflects. You can simulate color bouncing around etc... But figure out your keys, and where lights might bounce from, and that's about it.

   Personal Questions   

Where did you go to school?
As mentioned above while I want to college, it was not for art. I went to Case Western Reserve University where I obtained my Bachelors in Computer Science. I took art/drawing/painting classes while I was there as extra liberal arts classes. But for 3D I am mostly self taught.

You might want to read my "About Me & How I got Started In 3D" page that gives more info about me and how I got into CG.

What influences me as a 3D artist? Does your faith play into it?
This is an interesting question, especially since things have changed for me over time. When I first saw CG...and when I was even younger, I was fascinated by animation. Stop-Mo, Cel, everything.

By the time I got into middle school I managed to snag a Super8 stop mo camera. At that time I loved Disney and WB stuff as well as some of the Will Vinton stop mo and such. I knew a little about Computer Graphics, and they were becoming more prevelant, especially for TV commercials.

Mostly I wanted to create pretty pictures. Things like the opening to "Amazing Stories", or the HBO logo even, Listerine commercials, Young Sherlock Holmes stained glass knight, etc...all that started me out. In many ways I was inspired by just CG in general. I loved computers, and loved to draw (or at least trying to draw).

As mentioned I loved cartoons, so as I progressed that is what I wanted to move towards. This is a lot of why I love Big Idea, it's one of the few places that does what I feel are really high quality CG cartoons all hand animated.

Certainly I also felt driven to help people etc...which is another part of what Big Idea is. I wasn't actually Christian when i started at Big Idea...and most of my conversion actually was do to my wife, then my girlfriend really introducing me to it, as her dad is a Pastor.

Artistically I've gone from more of a Salvadore Dali and Magritte type inspiration to more impressionist work like Monet. Not sure why but I love the colors.

Obviously Dinsey and especially Chuck Jones have inspired me a lot. What they both brough to the field is incredible. I also get inspired a lot by just other current artists, whether it's coworkers and their animations or models, like Keith Lango, or other artists and their still image work such as on raph.com.

I'm not sure how much religion has influenced me. Before I even started at Volition, I was doing a few oil and digital paintings. Interestingly most all of those had some religious tie in to them. So perhaps in a subconciouss way I was affected by that, but I think it ties more closely into my "fine art" works vs. my "entertainment art" works and shorts.

   Software Questions   

Can you give me a copy of MAX, or CS or other Software?
I do not pirate 3D software. Do not ask me for free 3D software. If you are trying to learn 3D and are a student, most vendors offer a student license at half price or less. This allows you to get the full functional software, with the exception that you cannot use it for freelance, and cannot upgrade it.

Another option, get cheaper software. This can actually be a good thing. Many people who have been doing 3D for a while, like myself, learned on old old old Amiga's and ray tracing programs. These pieces of software had NOWHERE near the bells and whistles of today packages. You might think this is a bad thing. But, consider this: It's a lot EASIER to learn something with less complexity. You might be better off with something a little less expensive but still good, you will also learn how to work around problems and technical limitations, something even pro's have to do during work. As a suggestion, Hash Animation Master at http://www.hash.com/ is pretty good for learning character animation and such in 3D, and is only a few hundred dollars. There are a LOT of online resources, and I have seen people do really nice work with it, and get hired at places like Pixar, Klasky Csupo and Big Idea. I've actually seen Dennis Murren from ILM standing out front of a Hash booth at Siggraph watching some of the guys stuff on the monitors there...

One other note for those who simply will pirate regardless. Do yourself a favor, and go to the bookstore, and spend the $50 or so on a good book. There are a lot of good books out there, especially for MAX. They basically are the manual re-written. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches.

What software do you recommend? How important is it to know a certain type of software?
First. read the answer to the above question. Second, whatever you can afford. Certainly you get what you pay for. There is a reason most larger studios use a particular brand of software. With the number of people trying to get jobs, and the fast "need to hire" deadlines, many places do indeed like to see skills in a particular piece of software. This is one of the PRO reasons for school, you will get experience in software that you might not otherwise be able to afford. By the same token however, in most cases, it comes down to your demo reel. If you show the skill set, you will get an interview, and hopefully hired. Most places use some form of proprietary software you will have to be trained on anyhow. HR people like to look to see if you know software, but most artists looking at tapes won't care. Many people get hired who have ONLY traditional skills in 2D or stopmo. Animation/Art talent is talent, regardless of the method you use.

Very VERY generally speaking, Lightwave is used at many TV/Commercial houses, 3D Studio MAX enjoys a lot of popularity in the video game industry, and Maya/Softimage is used mostly in the film industry. There is of course overlap.

   Tutorials and Files Questions   

Can I send you sample images/attachments?
Please do NOT send me attachments or images of yours via E-mail with out asking first. It is better if you have a web page url, then you can just send me the link address.

Can I have a copy of the files, meshes, background images or other data from your tutorials, or copies of your characters?
If the files are not already included in the tutorial, no. I do NOT give out my work for free. And in many cases I have either lost the files you want anyhow due to HD crashes in the past (like my anime model is gone...sniff...) or am not willing to give out files. (i.e.: My wife does not want me giving out her head pictures).

I can't seem to weld the vertices in the spline head modeling tutorial of yours.
Re-Read the top of the tutorial. As mentioned, MAX no longer allows you to weld spline vertices. However, they will be treated as one if they are close enough together. Splines are nice for some stuff, but I personally prefer Polygon/Mesh modeling now. Check out the Polygon Head Tutorial on my site.

I can't get the object to "surface" right in the Spline Head Tutorial.
Make sure you have read the tutorials in the manual first. First off apply the "surface modifier" to the spline object. Second, you may have to raise the threshold value just a little (like 1 or 2 clicks) to get the surface to be solid properly. Third, don't forget that > 4 sided patches will not surface. Make sure all the points are 3D-snapped close enough to one another to make sure that they are considered as one and welded. Using the "fuse" command is an easy way to do this.

I can't seem to weld the torso part of my mesh to the other parts in your body modeling tutorial
Re-read the tutorial step 5. Use the "Edit Mesh: Attach" function to attach everything into one mesh before trying to weld.

I did your IK leg tutorial, but how do I get an arm?
The principles discussed there should be enough. Generally speaking you will have a position end-effector at the elbow. To be honest, your best bet is to get MAX 4.0 when it is out which has a much better IK implementation.

If you are using MAX 4.0, then DO NOT USE THAT TUTORIAL. Instead use the tutorial in the manual which shows how to setup a much much better IK system with the newest ik types.

I saw your hair tutorial, but how did you do the main mass of hair on your anime head?
It's pretty much just a sphere around the head...with some polys chopped off, and mapped with the same type of texture as in the hair tutorial, but with no transparency.

I followed your cartoony eye setup tutorial, but I can't get the eyes to rotate in the FFD
Make sure you are using the FFD -SPACEWARP- and NOT the Modifier version as mentioned in the tutorial.

Can you recommend some good links for tutorials and CG info and such?
Check out my new Links Page.

Can you make your tutorial in more detail or easier for beginners? Can you send me more detailed info from your tutorial?
No. The tutorials on my site assume that you have a basic working knowledge of the program you are using. The principles should still be usable. If you are having problems going through the tutorials, I'd suggest reading the manuals for the topic or area that you are having problems with. I'd also suggest working through the tutorials in the manual first.

For example, if you are having problems with facial or body modeling, go over the basic polygon modeling type stuff in the manual and manual's tutorials. Also I'd suggest studying/obtaining basic anatomy and other traditional art type books. 3D modeling is still art, and it is still tedious and difficult. You might be able to get the basic model/points created, but tweaking is a big part of the work. Expect to spend about 80% of your time just adjusting points to get things to look right. Also, having a good anatomy book etc, will teach you where the muscles/bones are and where definition needs to be, so you know where to add more detail/points and how to do it. Experiment and try things out. Don't expect to be the best artist in the world right away. Practice practice practice.

As a note, the basic "Bug Modeling" tutorial in the MAX 3.1 manuals should help with the body modeling stuff I have on my site. In addition, there is a new tutorial on box modeling that I myself actually wrote that should come with MAX 4.0. That has much more detail on the specifics of what to do for meshsmooth type tutorials.

Can I customize MAX to start with a different frame range or viewport setting?
You can save a file in the default MAX "scenes" folder and call it "maxstart.max". This file will automatically be loaded anytime you do a "Reset" or start max. That way viewports, time ranges and such can be setup however you want.

Can I customize the MAX startup screen?
Place a Windows BMP file format image called "splash.bmp" into the root \3DSMax directory.

Ok I still wanna E-mail ya!

Now of course you can still E-mail me via comet@comet-cartoons.com