CGSociety :: Technology Focus
24 February 2012
Offload Studios has been creating statues and real life 3D models for the digital arts community for four years. Bill Henderson, Creative Director, manages a talented team who work with clients on an individual basis to produce some of the worlds finest 3D printed sculptures. These projects range from game characters, to fine art sculptures to architectural models.
Offload uses the Z-Corporation printers because, as Henderson says, “they are the only printers that deliver both shape and color. Some 3D Printers deliver a finer surface resolution, but are unable to provide color, and are not as cost effective."
The substrate media is similar to Plaster of Paris, which gives the models a warmth and genuine feel, which many artists appreciate. “One of our clients in LA received their sculpture and they have been on the phone about it four times to say they were still staring at it, in love with it,” says Henderson.
- Digital Model Preparation
Pricing is determined by use of materials and time spent on the Tactual in Pre and Post Production. "We don't just put your file through a quote generator, we orbit and assess each model individually." Says Dan Hutchings, Digital Asset Manager.
First, you'll want to contact Dan at Offload Studios to receive a personalized Tactual Tech Review (TTR). They'll provide you with a private and secure FTP for file transfers, willingly sign NDA agreements, and carefully go over all the necessary points in model preparation. Including but not limited to; Structural support, center of gravity, thickness, hollowing, floating geometry, inverse normals, non-manifold surfaces, custom finishing options, UV maps and texture alignment. As demonstrated on their website, Offload Studios can deliver on special requests. Do you have an idea for a unique project? They will find a solution for you.
When ready, your prepared model files are sent to the printer for Tactualization. For larger models, this process can take up to 20 hours.
“It’s a layering process, that essentially sprays colored water onto plaster, which then sets and gives you both shape and surface color,” explains Henderson. “The technology itself is just fantastic, and dead simple. It’s really just a BubbleJet printer that prints on layers of powder instead of paper."
"Then our artists take them through the finishing stages,” explains Michelle Giesbrecht, Production Manager . “Each model has its own unique finishing requirements such as custom painted finishes, assembly and presentation.”
- Finishing Options
There are a number of ways to have the model finished, Hand Painted Patinas, Ambient Occlusion Bakes, or Full Color Prints from your texture or polypaint. You can see a range of available options on the Offload Studios website. The full color option takes advantage of your textures, applying them to the model as intended, rather than a hand painted interpretation.
- Jelmer Boskma
Jelmer Boskma is a freelance senior visual effects artist working in the television and film industry. Fascinated by creatures for the longest time, Netherlands-born Boskma is always creating something or researching into new or reconstructed monsters.
“This example of my work using the Offload service is called Senator Tumblestone. The model was initially made for a double presentation at CGCon in Montreal in April 2010, where I spoke about design and modeling in Maya and ZBrush. I kept the model fairly loose and sculptural, since I always had the intent to have this sculpture prototyped.”
"Offload is a studio that understands the wishes and ideas artists have. They think like artists and know how to communicate with them. While working with Offload, I was impressed with the personal attention and dedication they invested into my little project. From our initial conversations all the way through to the final product, I felt I was truly getting my money`s worth," said Jelmer.
"The output itself is wonderfully close to how I was hoping it to come out. A classic looking model, where the artistry is visible in the final output. The team at Offload realised that I didn`t want this to come across as a toy or action figure and provided me with samples of a variety of suitable finishes. The final output was a classic marble color where the `Ambient Occlusion` is baked in. All the crevases of the statuette were printed in a darker color, making the model read beautifully under any given lighting condition."
- Akin Bilgic
Akin Bilgic is a modeler VFX artist who tries his skills at lighting and compositing as a particularly successful freelance artist living in San Francisco.
Like many artists he lists Jurassic Park and the Myst game as professional inspirations. “The Sky Fisherman (shown left) was a project inspired by a concept drawing and story by 'Stoph'.
The two boys; Eli and Ardent ride the skies on the back of their turtle; Artoise, hunting a menacing species of flying squid that terrorizes their shores. The base-mesh modeling was done in 3ds max, and sculpting was done in ZBrush.”
In Maya 2008 or above, you can push verts or faces along their normals to inflate any straps or bits that are too thin to print. In 3ds Max, any Editable Poly object can have its components movement constrained to their Normals. The same effect can be achieved using the Push modifier. The Inflate Tool in ZBrush does this too. Additionally, you can use the Inflate Slider under the Deformation menu within your tool palette. The sliders work well in combination with masks.
From the Offload Studios "Model Prep Guide"
Offload Studios provides many post finishing options in addition to the digital asset's surface texture, including bronzing, pewters and a variety of surface treatments.
To preview the final look of the model, view using Flat Shaded materials with Diffuse (Color) map only. There is no practical limit to the number of maps assigned. You may also assign more than one Color map to a single mesh (maximum one per mesh Face). Bump, Normal and Alpha maps need to be converted to actual geometry. Spec, AO, and other added FX maps need to be baked to Diffuse. To output your textures, UV coordinates are required.
Source files are the Offload preference. The ability to toggle a sub-division enables the Offload Studios staff to prepare files much more easily. A non-collapsed stack 3ds Max file, a history intact Maya file, or a subtool (all steps intact) ZBrush file is preferred. They accept and output surface textures in any format, Specular, Light, Bump and Normal are accepted.
Object thickness is a concern, dependent on the detail's location and shape. A strap tight to the body is not a problem compared to one curling out, exposed and prone to breakage. Sometimes thickening the area of connection is all that is required. For instance, loops and chains should be exaggerated. Weight bearing and thin parts need to be addressed as well. These and other notes are addressed in your personalized 'Offload Studios TTR.'
CGSociety and Autodesk are staging the 'Armed and Dangerous' Mudbox Challenge. This is a Mudbox challenge, so you must use Mudbox to sculpt and detail your character's mesh, and use Mudbox's painting features to texture your character. If you don't have Mudbox, you can download a special FREE trial that will not expire until the end of the event! To activate the special FREE trial, use the serial numbers identified on the Challenge page. Offload Studios Inc. is a major sponsor, one of the First Prize awards being your character Tactualized at Offload Studios.