Creating Striking Graphics with Maya and Photoshop | 6 | WebReference

Creating Striking Graphics with Maya and Photoshop | 6

Creating Striking Graphics with Maya and Photoshop

Figure 1.20: The Honda Element—first attempt at woody-ization

Once again, the design is a big hit in the office. After a busy morning, the crew sends a JPEG image to the hotel marketing folks, before heading off for another boisterous lunch filled with frivolity and frozen concoctions. Upon their return, the crew is overjoyed to hear that the marketing department loves the Element Woodie illustration. But there's a wrinkle. The client has asked to see the marvelous vehicle from different angles and in a number of different color schemes.

Here's where the Photoshop-only approach comes to a grinding halt. Multiple angles means that the cut-and-paste Photoshop work will have to be completed for each angle—and new photographs will have to be shot for each of these angles as well. Even worse, while the marketing department loves the watercolor marker renderings, they're asking for a more photographic treatment for the final presentation to senior management. Our clients don't quite have the imagination necessary to envision the finished vehicle. They want to see exactly what an Element Woodie might look like, not something that looks like a drawing but an actual photographic rendering.

It's time to call in the heavy artillery.

When you're working with clients, time is often a limiting factor. So, rather than retake photos from all the different angles, the only way to do this project the right way is to create a chopped Honda Element Woodie in Maya. With some frantic Web searching and a handful of phone calls, I find Meshwerks, the only company in the entire world with an existing Honda Element model in Maya format. And even better, Meshwerks is willing to take on the digital customization work.

After a week's worth of work, Meshwerks produces an absolutely stunning photorealistic rendering of the vehicle, which has been dubbed the EleMENTAL Woodie. The first image, as shown in Figure 1.21, is breathtakingly real. When the image is sent over to the hotel marketing staff, they're ecstatic.

You'll learn how Meshwerks created the stunning EleMENTAL Woodie in Chapter 10.

Figure 1.21: The EleMENTAL Woodie—final rendering

The Truth in Three Dimensions

As designers, we're often faced with dilemmas. Many of these problems have roots in our current capabilities and limitations. Although the examples presented here may seem a little far out, they're not all that far out of line. How many times has a client come to you with unreasonable expectations? How many times have you had to compromise your designs because of the impossible?

Although the previous examples sprang completely from my imagination, the solutions to the problems were found by hooking up with the right people. I did not have the 3D chops to complete these projects on my own, but I was wise enough to seek the assistance of highly skilled Maya artists that could turn my crazy dreams into reality. You'll meet Marc- André Guindon, the Maya artist who created the Tiki terminal model, in Chapter 8. And Meshwerks is covered in depth in Chapter 10, where you'll learn exactly how they took my marker drawings as inspiration for creating the photo-realistic EleMENTAL Woodie.

The Learning Curve

I would be remiss if I did not state the significance of the Maya learning curve. For many artists, the leap to 3D can be one of the biggest learning challenges of their careers—that is, after the mastery of the basic concepts of the arts. True mastery of Maya does not come in days, or weeks, or even months. It is not something that can be successfully approached on a casual basis. It takes a big commitment of time and, at times, a considerable test of will. But the positive results are inescapable: when you are capable with Maya, anything is possible.

Getting your head around Maya can be a challenge. I know that for a fact, as I've struggled with learning the program on my own, without the benefit of a classroom setting. However, as the popularity of 3D continues to grow, the learning resources do as well, and there are many online communities and Listservs of passionate Maya users who are always willing to lend a hand. Browsing through a local bookstore also turns up a wealth of books to help you learn Maya.

To fully enable the learning process, you must discard the constraints of working in two dimensions while retaining the knowledge you have of working with bitmap images and vector artwork. You'll still need to know how to push pixels and tweak Bèzier curves, but you'll need to learn how that applies to the third dimension.

Working in 3D isn't like working on a flat piece of paper. Rather, it's like working on a stage. Think of yourself as being in the business of designing theater sets, and you'll set the stage for success.

My breakthrough came while I was in the midst of envisioning the Tiki terminals.

After creating pencil drawing after pencil drawing, I realized that I needed to create some clay models to fully work through the concept. That's when I bought the box of clay. I came home and immediately started whipping up Tiki designs, mostly horrid at first, but soon had my ideas gelling.

And this is what got me over the hump. Thinking in three dimensions isn't about having a computer for a brain. It's about looking at shape and form and the way that light bounces off surfaces. It's about creating something from nothing.

You can't expect to do well in 3D computer graphics if you do not grasp the basics of 3D design and modeling in the real world. I'm lucky in that I've always enjoyed working with clay, and yet it had been years since the last time I experimented in the medium (in a college 3D design class).

Other Options

If the demands of your craft leave little time for exploring Maya, you still have plenty of options. If ideas in your head need to be developed in 3D—but you lack the wherewithal to make it happen on your own—you can easily partner with a 3D artist. You'll see this in a number of cases in this book. A division of labor in a weighty design project that encompasses both 2D and 3D elements is a wise choice.

Two of the artists profiled in these pages—Michael Elins and Mirko Ilic—work in this manner. Both Michael and Mirko are producing high-end artwork that involves threedimensional elements and are working in Photoshop, yet neither touches the controls in Maya. Instead, they team up with highly skilled Maya artists to produce artwork that smashes the barriers of conventional design.

Looking Forward

Once you understand the basics, it's not hard to build a case for the inclusion of 3D elements in your design work because 3D opens new worlds in so many ways. To fully grasp 3D, however, you must first open your mind to the possibilities. And you must acknowledge that while the rewards are many, there is a learning curve. Rest assured, there is no book that promises to teach you Maya in 24 hours (nor should there ever be). You can't learn Maya in a day, a weekend, or even a week. What's great is that you can get rolling and produce some cool stuff with some basics and some help from others. Because of the incredible depth of creative possibilities, you'll have to decide for yourself what level of Maya you might want to master. But that is beyond the scope of this book.

The intent of the next two chapters is to get you familiar with the Maya interface as you gain the basics of working in 3D. Although the next two chapters are a little more hands-on if you choose, the rest of the book serves an inspirational purpose, examining the studios and artists that are changing the way art gets made. By meeting the artists and learning how they create their artwork, you'll gain insight into the creative process and be inspired to craft your own masterpieces with Maya and Photoshop.

Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: October 17, 2004