Friday 29 March 2013

Scientific illustration: Cell schematic

Generic human cell illustration. Click to embiggen.

I've recently been working on a piece that I thought might be of interest to readers of this blog as although it's not palaeontology, who can resist a bit of biology?

This is a 3D model created in entirely in Maxon's excellent Cinema4D of a cell that is gracing the front page of my day job website (, and is a schematic of a generic human cell showing the basic structures and organelles commonly present in many cells. This could be animated or labelled is needed.

Next on the personal learning curve is getting to grips with Maya, one of the real heavy-hitters in the world of 3D modelling with a learning curve to match. Exciting stuff!

I hope you like the illustration.

Monday 11 March 2013

Building a dinosaur: Starting to detail Triceratops

The next stage in the construction of our Triceratops model is one on the fun parts of creating 3D models: detailing. This is mainly carried out in zBrush and takes full advantage of the symmetry option which allows the artist to mirror brush stokes over the axis of choice. This means you can add detail without having to do it twice and as dinosaurs are symmetrical this is extremely useful. Of course, there will be subtle asymmetrical details that will need to be added but these can wait until we have the main details sculpted.

As with the rest of the modelling process, detailing is best approached by starting out with the larger details first and working in ever-increasing resolution as the finer details are added. There are decisions to be made at this stage too, deciding how much to actually model with geometry and how much to add using displacement maps and texturing. For the time being, I'm going to continue adding to the geometry as we're still dealing with larger details rather than the tiny stuff.

As you can see I've started to refine some areas that were difficult to model by pulling polygons and points, such as much of the skull detailing including the rostral and orbit areas, the epioccipitals and general refinements around the skull. I'm also adding wrinkles to the skin, especially in limb areas. I'm also attempting to keep the animal looking quite fleshy as I'm anxious too avoid an overly skinny look with bones poking through everywhere. Most of this work is done using standard zBrush brushes and alphas; the need for custom alphas will be when the finer detailing such as skin texture is being applied.

Many of the decisions on how the muscles look are based on our earlier reconstruction of the musculature of Triceratops, but at this stage it's worth considering how the integument of the animal affects the way the skin might fold and fall across the skin and muscles. Keep referring to any reference you have gathered and be mindful of the analogues you choose; elephant skin is probably very different to ceratopsian skin, so do the research. More on this in the next post.