The Lost and Found Mentality

I had an experience recently where I came off of a project I didn’t like and tried to find my creative mojo in a project I wanted to do for a long time. I’ve always wanted to build a Lighthouse scene, as there is something not only majestic about the scenery in a lighthouse, but architecturally interesting too. As with all my projects, I had a bunch of new techniques I wanted to try out. I set out with pie eyed dreams of creating awesome from scratch, but what I got was a frustrating path of self-discovery and the motivation to write this article.

Here is the problem. I’m still an amateur in many regards, and as such I’m still in the mentality of “Try anything once”. This is a good and bad thing, as the open minded mentality keeps me in the current loop of art and pipeline techniques.  The big con is the good techniques I abandon to try new ones, not even aware that they where good techniques in the first place. Under casual situations this is fine, but I did this under a deadline which was bad idea # 1.

So in this lighthouse scene I decided on a few things. I wanted to use repeated texture space so I only had to make a few base textures, and I wanted to create all my textures from scratch in zbrush. On top of that, what would be the harm in trying out vertex painting? I herd that was all the rage in the Unreal engine these days.

In retrospect, I should have sat myself down and said “This ventures too much into unfamiliar territory, scale back.” But being the headstrong guy I am I saw absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above pipeline ideas and began drawing out plans for a month long project that used all these new ideas.

This was the result I got:

So what went wrong? Here are my top things I found.

Approaching new techniques as if the old ones never existed. This was a weird problem I had because I figured Zbrush would produce better results than photo textures. As a result, when i needed a throw away texture I’d try to make it in zbrush, even though photo sourcing would have been quicker.

Having no backup plan when things got bad. I very quickly fell behind my deadline, and still pressed forward with my original goals. Like an addict in denial, I figured I’d come up with a miracle solution at the 11th hour. That miracle never happened.

Forgetting the cardinal rules of modeling. This was a dumb rule to forget. For those who don’t know, you model general to specific, big pieces to small pieces. I got so enamored with my own personal goals, I did this step backwards. This left me with a very poorly constructed scene.

Building for results instead of proof of concept. This is perhaps the most important step of all.  I struggled to get vertex painting working correctly so when I did, I wrote it off as a success instead of building it into something that could make it professional like.

Taking all these lessons into account, I attempted to re-build my scene with all the techniques learned and came up with drastically different results.

So whats the moral of the story? Well, obviously I can’t build every scene twice to get the best results, so its a fact of awareness of the success of something as its happening. Someone who’s mentality is lost wont realize there lost until they see the results of their labors land them in a different ballpark of their envisioned idea. A found mentality will increase the awareness of the process in their workflow and the success or failures it is going to produce. Through better situational awareness such as this, I take one step closer to the professional I am seeking to be and abandon the short sighted judgments of an amateur.

Until next time,

-Sparky

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