Thesis Project: Robot Textures

 This week I dealt with a few technical issues, so the amount of work that I actually got to do was sort of minimal.  I decided to finally download and install the student version of Maya 2012 for Mac, seeing that it is a 64-bit application.  The thing that has been killing me lately is that Mental Ray for Maya 2010, which is what I have been running previously, runs out of memory on me halfway through preview renders.  Doing a batch render every single time I want to test out rendering the robot wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

However, I found my own set of problems when trying to upgrade to Maya 2012.  For some reason that I couldn't ever really understand, the nodes in the Hypergraph and Hypershade had no labels on them.  I later found out that the text only appeared when you zoomed to an optimal level, but otherwise disappeared.  This sort of renders Maya inoperable for the most part, so I had to do some searching on the web to see if anyone else had this problem.  I found someone posted something about changing fonts in Maya 2011 for Mac to make it more legible, and that involved editing some of the core files of Maya.  However, they had created a script that automated the process, but it was only for 2011.  I downloaded it and did some editing to the script so that it would modify 2012.  When I ran it, it seemed to solve my no-name problem just fine!  Sometimes I know just enough to get myself into trouble.

After doing the upgrade to Autodesk's 2012 applications, I started doing the texture painting for the robot in Mudbox.  Mudbox is Autodesk's answer to ZBrush and it allows you to do sculpting as well as painting directly onto a mesh to create texture maps.  I mainly have been using it for texturing, as ZBrush has features that I like better for sculpting.  The one thing about Mudbox that makes it so versatile in texture painting is the fact that you have layers, just like in Photoshop, and can stack textures on top of one another.  Then you can export your whole scene back into Maya with all of the shaders automatically created for you.  It's pretty snappy, although there are still a few bugs to be worked out.

With the robot, the look I am going for is metal that isn't corroded, but isn't impervious to having material buildup on it.  These renderings are straight from Mudbox, so they don't give the best impression of what the shaders will really be doing, but they can give you an idea of the grime I painted on. 

The way I plan on going about with this will require some fancy shader programming, which hopefully will work for me.  I calculated that I will have at least 53 different shaders for my scene, some of which are very similar, but use different texture maps.  This will require creating a master shader and linking the individual shaders to this master shader.  I've done a few tests, and it's looking promising.  However, I hope I don't screw up my scene by doing this.  If it works, it will make tweaking the textures all that easier to do.  If it doesn't, then I've got a lot of work on my hands.

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