Modeling & Animating a Rhino Revolver

Modeling & Animating a Rhino Revolver

Henrique Lopes and Micah Reigstad shared the production of animated Rhino Revolver 60 DS they've recently collaborated on. Henrique created the model while Micah was responsible for rigging and animation.

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Introduction

Henrique:

My name is Henrique Lopes, I'm 32. I grew up playing a lot of video games and was always curious about how those things were made. When I found out some 3D forums where people were sharing their work I was amazed and kept questioning myself how those people learned to make such things.

Then I joined a forum called dimensao3 which was a Portuguese art community and mainly followed Pedro Amorim and Helder Pinto who already at that time produced some amazing art.

I procrastinated a lot by playing World of Warcraft instead of giving it my best to try and learn 3D which was a waste of time. However, when I saw those guys mentioned above leaving the country to work at AAA Studios, I said to myself that I've got to stop and do whatever it takes to get the same chance one day.

I started working day and night on learning and building up my portfolio until I had something decent to show, and suddenly I found a job thanks to Scott Homer and Alan Van Ryzin (they are my all-time favorites) who both saw something in my works.

Since then, I've been doing hard surface art for several different titles such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Ark Survival Evolved, Call of Duty, Rage 2, Prey, Spider-Man and others.

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If You Want to Create a Good Model 

First of all, if the design of the model isn't that great, it will be hard to make it look awesome.

If the design is good, it also doesn´t mean that it will look good by the end of production. A good result is a combination of multiple things: design, lighting, and interesting details will have to work together in order to make up a great piece.

If you are making a realistic weapon, you MUST gather as many references as you can, so that you can make it as accurate as possible.

When I start working on a new project I always look for whatever reference that might help with modeling and texturing. This way, I don't spend too much time deciding on stuff later on.

Modeling the Base

This is where I think most time should be spent.

Getting a good blockout is essential to making nice animated models. It's smart to start simple and make every part work together as they are intended.

As soon as the functionality is set, I start to detail the mesh a bit more so it becomes more like a mid poly model. This way you can still make quick changes to the design while already having a model that is very close to the high poly. All you need at this phase is basically add tiny details like holes/screws/floaters and make them edge smooth.

Until the high poly, everything is done using 3ds Max.

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Details

During the detailing phase, I usually use either sub-d modeling (when the shapes are simple) or booleans for more complex shapes. This boolean workflow saves so much time, it's crazy.

I spend some time creating all the booleans in Max with enough geometry for them to be dynameshed and polished in ZBrush

Here is how my HP models most of the time look like:

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As you can see, it's a complete mess wireframe-wise, but what really matters is whether it bakes well to the low poly.

Here you can check the workflow.

Decals

For decals/text, I usually have two approaches depending on whether the gun is going to be used in a game or not.

If it's for still rendering or personal work, I just use max resolution on textures and paint in all details.

In case the gun is to be added into a game, textures will get lower resolution. In order to counter this, you can add small geometry planes where you want your decals to be, and make an extra texture set just for those decals. Even if they get down to 512px they will still be very readable. These planes will be added with a transparent material where u can paint just the decals and everything else will be invisible. It almost looks like we were applying a sticker to the gun.

Here is an example:

Texturing

I usually go from reference photos and just try to recreate the material from scratch. This way I don't rely too much on the material libraries and forget how things are done.

There are some useful Substance Material packs for guns created by Stefan Engdahl which help a lot in establishing the base materials. Once I decide on the base materials, I start adding unique details based on how the gun was used such as scratches on parts that usually have friction between them or fingerprints and scuffed details where hands or fingers are usually placed.

Study the Mechanism

With the help of World of Guns: Gun Disassembly that has a huge library of 3D models (although, they seem a bit outdated texture-wise), it becomes incredibly easy to get to know the guns inside out, as you can assemble and disassemble guns there as well as look at the reload animations and such. This helps a lot when modeling the guns, and you end up with a fully functional weapon instead of one that just looks good but isn't ready for animation. I recommend checking it out.

Gun Animation

Micah:

Hi, my name is Micah Reigstad. For a brief summary, I was seeking for a gorgeous revolver I could animate for a long time, and fortunately, Henrique Lopes directly messaged me. He asked whether I was interested in collaboration animating his upcoming Rhino 60DS revolver. Once I peeked at some of the early screenshots, I knew it had potential. With that being said, not only has the revolver and animation reel gained much attention, but 80 Level also asked to share some of the production details!

  • Afterword

 

I have to thank 80 Level once again for asking me to contribute to this article. I always love sharing an assortment of tips to get more animators started and encourage them to keep going. I have received an overwhelming amount of compliments via social media + direct messaging recently, and I am deeply grateful for the support! That being said, my dedication to animation is always on fire. Praise is just a cherry on top of the cake for me.

Plus, great animations are hardly possible without fantastic models by their side, and I have to thank Henrique for the opportunity once again! 

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  • Workflow

 

My vision for animating objects always starts with reference and planning. Once an idea tickles my fancy, I open a 3D package and puppeteer an initial pose. The initial pose is the most important step for an animated set in games because this is where additional animations branch out from. Once the initial pose is ready, I lay out keyframes for my object controllers just to flesh out a rough look and to get a feel for the flow. 

From there, I open the Graph Editor/Curve Editor and begin to add a coat of polish to diminish choppy movements and attempt to add lovely personality to them. If there is enough time, additional polishing efforts are made to give it a crisp look including extra jiggles and wiggles.

Fortunately, Henrique featured a laser sight/flashlight combo in his model so I had extra fun setting it up for rendering in Marmoset Toolbag. The flashlight and laser sight generally use the same technique. To make this effect work in Marmoset, Exponential Fog is used to gain a base layer for the light to simulate light beams or such. Keep the fog very subtle as you still need to see the render at its finest.

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The brightness value of the laser sight is not as ridiculous as it might seem. If it were any lower it would not appear during the render since it has a very low fog value. One thing to note is that these light beams were parented under the root of the import itself, automatically following the tip of the revolver. Once I was satisfied with the light beams, I moved onto the lighting and rendering. This is where it gets very interesting because all that hard work receives a reward.

  • Rigging

 

While Henrique was polishing up the materials for the Rhino 60DS, he sent a proxy mesh so that I could start rigging it right away. Rigging is a tricky, but rewarding process, especially when it exports properly into a game engine. Once joints/bones are correctly placed near their respective geometries, getting the parts to animate is highly enjoyable if you have enough patience and dedication.

Several game engines require skinning joints/bones onto the geometry to keep them separated and organized. It does depend on the 3D package you use, but various riggers find parenting geometry under joints/bones rather messy. Game engines are rather fussy when it comes to positions and orientations, but for a simple baked export to Marmoset, hierarchical parenting geometries under joints is perfectly fine for use in showcase reels. 

As of late, I have been using Autodesk Maya for rigging and animating as it features a robust set of needed tools that several other 3D packages cannot compete with at the moment. Fortunately, Henrique separated the model parts nicely, which is nearly half the work done. Depending on the pivot points of the pieces, I often just snap joints/bones to the spots that need rotation or movement. Last but not least, I used NURBS Curves for the joint controllers as they are user-friendly. 

  • Afterword

 

I have to thank 80 Level once again for asking me to contribute to this article. I always love sharing an assortment of tips to get more animators started and encourage them to keep going. I have received an overwhelming amount of compliments via social media + direct messaging recently, and I am deeply grateful for the support! That being said, my dedication to animation is always on fire. Praise is just a cherry on top of the cake for me.

Plus, great animations are hardly possible without fantastic models by their side, and I have to thank Henrique for the opportunity once again! 

Presentation

Henrique:

This project was actually not easy rendering-wise because the gun is made mostly of planar faces which are not very interesting. I spent a bit of time studying lighting for the project trying to learn new techniques, but basically, it all came down to less is more.

I encourage anyone who is looking into lighting and rendering to go and get materials from my friend Alex Senechal. He's got great lighting tutorials which helped me a lot during the production.

To keep it simple and sweet, I suggest doing the following:

  • load your models
  • dim the skylight to make it your fill light
  • add a key light to the shot you are making
  • add a rim light to make the model pop from the background
  • then add smaller lights to either enhance little details that you want to highlight or to brighten dark areas.

Make your models readable!

Afterword

When I came across Micah's animation, I loved it. He really brought this gun to life. I think short animations are a great addition which shows that your models can really work well in a game environment. 

Henrique Lopes, 3D Artist & Micah Reigstad, Animator

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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