MACES: An Update on a Work-Work Work in Progress

For the past two weeks between the all important "Let's Plan the Future of Space Exploration for the World" projects, I have been working heavily on our model of the MACES.  Last week I was able to spend a few days sculpting out all of the fine details like folds, wrinkles, and stitches on the model.  The high resolution ZBrush model was about 90 million polygons in the end with 19 different sub-meshes.  It's probably the most detailed ZBrush model I have ever done.  I am curious to know if there are faster ways of getting to an end result, or if I really am on par with how other ZBrush artists work elsewhere in the industry.

Compare this shot to the previous post and you'll see all the details.

The little details like the zippers and stitches are what really sell it.

 One of the most important selling points of a model like this is to see bunching and pinching of the fabric along any seams where it is sewn.  It is a long and arduous process to get it like that, but in the end it pays off.

Right now all of the "wrinkle" data is coming from a single 8K normal map, but I am considering redoing the UVs to fit is into two 8K maps.

I still need to create a mask parts of the bump map.  The light grey areas shouldn't have a weave pattern in them.

All in all, I am pleased with the progress, although I learned a lot about ZBrush practices along the way.  This is the first time I have ever maxed out my computer's RAM using ZBrush, all 24GB of it.  I still have to add a lot of other details in the hard-surface parts like the helmet, but this is good progress.


New Demo Reel

I decided it was time to update my demo reel now that I've worked at NASA for almost three years. I've come a ways since graduation.

MACES: A Work-Work Work in Progress

Every once in a while I get the chance to work on something that doesn't fall under the "Sensitive but unclassified" criteria.  One of the things I have been working on between projects at work is a newer, more detailed 3D model of the Modified Advanced Crew Escapes Suit, or MACES. Our current one was cobbled together from older models and photographs for textures.  Overall, it doesn't look that impressive when you put it against some of our other models.

Last August we got to go take some reference photos of the MACES in the lab where it is being developed.  It was a very fun experience and I can't say that I didn't geek out a bit.  This suit is being designed as a launch and reentry suit for the new Orion vehicle.  NASA developed the ACES (Advanced Crew Escape Suit) after the Challenger incident and used it all the way through the end of the shuttle program.  This is the next generation with a few modifications.

I was provided a laser scan of the suit and some basic CAD geometry from one of the engineers at the lab.  From there, I have been modeling all of the tiny little details of the helmet and adjustment straps.  This is as far as I have been able to get in the meantime, but it's ready for ZBrush and textures in Photoshop:

This is the shape of the suit once it is fully inflated.  Modeling the most neutral pose for the suit will ensure realistic movement when I rig and animate it.

I still have to sculpt out all the small details and wrinkles of the torso.  Thankfully, the laser scan I was provided helped out with reference and scale quite a bit.

 I just wanted to point out some one of the cool details about these renderings: there is reflective 3M tape on the back of the helmet that slightly refracts the light as is bounces off of it, causing a slight rainbow pattern in the reflections.  I found out a way to replicate that here in the shader.

Another interesting note is that the environment image that I used to light the model is actually a panorama of the suit lab that we took the reference photos in.  That way I can match up colors and lighting to make sure it looks correct.

One of these days I will finish it all up, but there is a lot left to do.  For example, I've got human heads to put in so it looks real, as well as all the rigging that will go into it.  In the end, however, I hope to have a fantastic model and demo reel piece.