Friday, October 12, 2018

Days Gone 19: Poser Tip – Cloth Room Settings

I'm doing some experimentation with a dynamic version of the hero's chest harness, and in doing so I came across these useful settings for the Poser Cloth Room:

I found this online at a discussion group. You can find it here:

My first attempt at using a dynamic harness.
Not bad, but it looks too thin to be leather.
Definitely needs some more work.

For those of you unfamiliar with this feature, Poser has the ability to simulate dynamic cloth. That is, it creates an animation wherein the cloth folds and flows across the body in an attempt to create realistic folds and flow with the body. It's a neat feature (and there is now a plug-in for Daz Studio that does the same thing), but it's very tricky to get it looking just right.

NEXT TIME: More about the dynamic harness experiments

Friday, October 5, 2018

Days Gone 18 - Panel Set-up, part 1 (Fitting the Frame)

Now that I've got my first render complete, it's time to see how it fits into the panel shape I have already defined in Manga Studio (Clip Studio Paint). As you can see, the slight oversize render makes it fit darned near perfectly in the frame.

Render pasted into the frame in Manga Studio 5 EX
(aka Clip Studio Paint Pro).

I'm more or less happy with the size and shape, but his neck looks a little weird at this angle and I think I need to make him either bigger or smaller. Or, I might start small and then progressively make him bigger in each of the four panels.

I'm going to have to play around with this a bit more to decide what I want it to do in terms of composition and emotional progression.

Next Up: More about panels

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Days Gone 18 - Fight or Flight

I'm getting deeper into the page, particularly these four panels, and here I hit a problem that is one I frequently encounter with 3D-based artwork: one of the wardrobe pieces doesn't fit the way I want it to fit. In this case, it's the Epoch top (the leather chest harness he is wearing), and in this panel you can clearly see down at the bottom that the strap is folding over.

Red background and blue frame added in
Photoshop to make it easier to see the
render's dimensions.

Now, I don't care if this might be technically accurate in the way that leather straps hang (I don't think it is, but they do flow and fold based on the way your body is moving – and no, I will not tell you how I know that). In this case, it just looks weird.

As I've said, this is a comic book not a movie. I am not striving toward 100% realism. So, I'm faced with a problem that I call Fight or Flight.

Do I spend time in Poser fighting with it (I've already spent about half an hour with the built-in morphs and controls to get it as good as it looks now) with a magnet/deformer? I could easily set one up and try to twist it (I could also try some of the simpler adjustment tools).  Or do I just give up (flight) and fix it in Photoshop afterwards?

Now, if this were his hair or some part of his britches or armor, I probably would spend the time to fix it in Poser. But, honestly? This is a simple strap across his belly/lower chest. I can do a quick edit and resolve the problem.

A few quick lines are all it takes to fix this problem.
That makes it not worth the effort to fix the geometry in Poser.
(Potential edit shown in blue line)

So, rather than get hung up on something that could take me a full day to fix, it's time to move on and worry about lights and his position in the frame. 

Next Time: Panel Set-up, part 2 (Making it fit the frame)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Days Gone 17 - Panel Set-up, part 1 (Poser Render Settings)

As shown in the last post, I need to match my render size to the printed size. Since I'm working at 800 dpi, this means even slim panels have a lot of pixels. If you're familiar with my Noir Style Tutorial you will remember that having a lot of pixels is a very good thing because it gives Poser and Manga Studio (Clip Studio Paint) the pixels they need to show the detail that I want to work with.

So, in Manga Studio I used some rulers to measure the panels. Across two pages, I have four panels with the identical size. In this case, the dimensions are very close to:
  • Horizontal: 2.65 in (2110 pixels)
  • Vertical: 5.27 in (4220 pixels)
So I'm going to:
  1. Open the Poser file for pages 2-3.
  2. Use the hierarchy editor to hide all the items I don't want (in this case, everything but the hero).
  3. Set up a new camera (focused on the hero).
  4. Set the render dimensions to roughly match the numbers above.
When I say "roughly," I mean that I'm going to make the panel a little bigger so I have some extra "bleed" room to move the figure around a little bit. I also might bring back the ceiling of the cave, if I feel it adds to the image more than an abstract sketched background.

Click to expand image.
Open the Hierarchy Editor under the Window Menu (gold highlight).
Click on the eyeball icon for each item to make it invisible.
In the screenshot above, I'm about halfway finished hiding the items I don't want for the next panel. This makes the scene load faster and there is less strain on the memory, so everything responds faster. Also, since the item is hidden, I can't accidentally click on it. 

Keep in mind you will need to click on each piece and part. In this picture, you can see that I've successfully hidden the dragon but the cool back ridge scales are still visible. As I finished this, I have decided to keep only the hero, the rock he is sitting on, the ceiling visible. And as I get into working this scene, I may move those items around or hide them again. I won't know until I get deeper into it.

Camera Lock
The first step I'm going to describe is optional: you may not need to do this.

With the Hierarchy Editor open, and the "Cameras" checkbox ticked, I select the Main Camera, then I go to Objects > Lock and turn off the checkmark next to the word Lock. 

I always lock my main camera, so if you didn't do that in a previous step,
you can skip these instructions/advice.

In the past, I have lost work because I accidentally moved my camera between renders. Since this process is built around layering images, it is essential that the camera not move between renders. These days, once I have my camera where I want it, I always lock it. This simple step has saved me a lot of time and heartache.

Camera Settings
Now that I can manipulate the camera, I rotate it and frame my figure from an almost completely straight-on angle. Once I have the hero more or less framed in the window, it's time to set the render dimensions. The can be accessed under Render > Render Dimensions (or by pressing SHFT+CTRL+Y). That will open this window:

Enter the new dimensions. Make sure the "Render to Exact Resolution" option is selected.
Make sure the "Constrain aspect ratio" is NOT selected.

Note the settings above, including the two items that need to be checked/unchecked. After completing this, your active window dimensions will change shape. As always with Poser, the area behind the gray bands to the sides will not render. They are there so you can see what's out of camera, and they help you determine where unexpected shadows might be coming from.

I highlighted the active camera area in the image below.

With the render dimensions set, I now have
a tall, narrow camera view that is the same shape and size
as my final panel dimensions.

This is a tall, narrow space, and since I really to focus on his face (and possibly upper arm – I'm toying with the idea of adding some hand motions to the next four panels as a means of enhancing his emotions – we'll see how it goes). Even before I get into the finer details of posing him, I'm pretty sure his leg is too high from this angle, and it covers up too much of his chest and prevents me from using a lower camera angle. After I get the camera distance set (how close I am to the figure, and which focal length I plan to use for the camera) I will probably need to adjust both his arm and knee on his right side.

A few small adjustments to the camera position helped, but not enough. I also adjusted the focal length to 90mm. This is a variation of a standard portrait setting (typically, portraits are shot at 70mm or 100mm) that is designed to help flatten the nose a little and not widen the face (if you'd like to see a great example of how the lens settings can change the shape of a human head, check this out).

This is almost right, but his forearm and bracer are huge. There are also
problems with the line thicknesses. This means I have different values
for different body parts in the Materials Room.

Time for more adjustments. The forearm and bracer are HUGE, and those thick outlines (which helped in the long shot of the previous page) look outrageous here. So, I went to the Materials Room and set his shoulders and the bracer to a smaller value (Geometric_Edge = 0.003). Then I scaled down the bracer by 3% and tweaked a few other scale settings.

Click to see the scale adjustments I made for the bracer.
Also note the thinner outlines on his shoulders.

This is looking better. The arm isn't so exaggerated, the lines are tighter against his body. I do see the need to tweak his chest harness to his side, and possibly the angle of his neck. But all in all, this is getting close enough for me to do a test render and see if it fits in the comic panel the way I want it to.

Next Time: Mock-ups and using the Sketch Render as a proofing tool

Friday, September 28, 2018

Days Gone 16 - Panel Set-up, part 1 (using the Ruler Tool)

Recap: The script is written, I've sketched out the thumbnails and set up the "roughs" of the pages in Manga Studio 5 EX (also known as Clip Studio Paint – they are basically the same software). The roughs have the panels shaped and sized the way I want them and the lettering is roughly where I think it will go based on the thumbnails.

So, now it's time to go back to Poser and render the images that will serve as the basis of my artwork.

Now, the two previous "panels" I worked on were full-page illustrations (page 1 is a single page showing the mountain, pages 2-3 is a two-page spread showing the opening scene inside the cave). This made it very easy to work on them because I didn't have to worry much about frame borders or anything like that. And, because they were the first pages, whatever I did would look fine because it's the first thing you're going to see.

But, moving forward I have to worry about keeping my inking line thicknesses consistent. I can't have a character with really thick outlines on panel one and then thin outlines in panel two, then back to thick for panel three. It needs to be roughly consistent between panel to panel to panel (and throughout the story, really).

Even though they are called "roughs," these pages are 100%
size and resolution with all the frames drawn out and where I want
them. Text, balloons and that background shading is for placement
purposes and will be tweaked prior to publication.

Measuring the Panels
This brings me back to why I created the page "roughs" in Manga Studio (aka Clip Studio Paint). I need to know the approximate panel size so I can set up a matching camera in Poser Pro 11. But there's sort of a problem... I did this so long ago I don't recall what the panel sizes are, and if there's a way to click on a panel and see its dimensions, I haven't yet figured out how to do it. I could just print it out and use a physical ruler, but I'm a little concerned that the printer might shrink or grow the page a little to fit on the paper (even though I told it not to – and in the end, it turns out it did print correctly, but I didn't know that until I made the in-software measurements to confirm it).

So, I needed to use the Ruler Tool in Manga Studio.

Here are the steps I used to measure the panel and get the measurements I need to set up the render window and cameras in Poser:

I edited the rulers and provided the emphasis
to make this easier to read online.
Using the Ruler tool:

  1. Select the Ruler icon from the tools, then select the type of ruler you want (I chose the Linear ruler).
  2. Select the page, then select the frame (or whatever) you want to measure.
  3. Create a new layer (not shown in screenshot)
  4. Click and drag the ruler from where you want to start and stop. Release the button.
  5. A ruler will appear on the new layer (if you need to change the units (pixels or inches), you can do so on the tool details – see pic below).
  6. A ruler will appear and you can then zoom in and read the ruler.

Before you start drawing the ruler, select the desired units.

In my case, I wanted both pixels and inches, so I made two rulers for each direction: horizontal and vertical. Note, these rulers are very small and very light, so in the screenshot above, I edited them to make them easier to read. They are actually a very light turquoise/cyan.

In this case, the dimensions are approximately:

  • Horizontal: 2.65 in (2110 pixels)
  • Vertical: 5.27 in (4220 pixels)
I don't need these to be precise. I just need a good estimate (I'll explain why next time). Now that I have those numbers, I can go into Poser and use them to create the cameras for the next scene.

NEXT UP: Panel Set-up, part 2 (render dimensions)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Days Gone - Project Contents

Now that my work schedule has finally settled into something more of a routine, I'm finding time to actually get back to work on this "short" comic project that was supposed to be done about a year ago (as I write this). As I got back to work, I took a glance through my old blog posts (some of which may serve as supplemental material when I get around to publishing this as a comic), and I realized that I should finally collect the individual posts into a single list.

For this, I think I'm actually going to sort the articles by topic, rather than just include a numeric/chronological list. I'll try to keep this updated, but you can always click on the "Days Gone" link under the Topics (keywords) list to the right. And, by the way, if you want to read a chronological listing of the articles, you can use the topic heading listed above.

Days Gone Posts

Project Workflow & Creating a Comic
These are primarily about organizing the project. Ideas and observations about character design and about actually making the comic. This includes everything from sketching thumbnails to buying the 3D elements used in the scenes (wardrobe and sets) and using the software to put it all together.

Technical (Software Use: Poser, Manga Studio / Clip Studio Paint)
Day-to-day use of the software is discussed above. These posts are detailed, technical issues or problems focusing directly on the use of the software itself, as well as links to resources and tutorials that may not be directly flagged as "days gone" in the keywords, but were discovered as part of my process.

Art Samples / Works In Progress
Art and character design, as well as illustrations used in other projects (and some work that I did before "officially" starting the Days Gone project).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Noir and then 1: Moon Wolf

Before getting back to my work on Days Gone, I did a "quickie" illustration to flex my artistic muscles a little; it's been a while since I've had time to work on my comics project, so I decided to whip up a little illustration just for the exercise.

As with my b&w workflow, this is rendered in Poser Pro 11 and cleaned/finished in Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint (aka Manga Studio 5 EX). The figure is Predatron's really cool Lorez Masked Hero, which has a really nice, old-school build that is perfect for this type or art.

Moon Wolf © 2018 Mike Mitchell
Just a quickie illustration to get back into the swing of things
before diving into the next two pages of Days Gone.