Briefing 13/04/16

Today was the first day with Josh. He broke down the brief so we could fully understand what we would be doing this term. We will be identifying a role to choose for a r & d project. For the rest of the lesson we were asked to research ideas for the role.
Briefing Notes from Josh for first lesson
Above is the initial mind map where I discuss all the areas I have considered delving into. I wanted to look at things I need improving on but also anything which I want to have a greater knowledge in for third year. I know I am interested in the above areas.
Initial Schedule! Looks really hectic because I was putting all three units to see my schedule… But I decided to create a Gantt chart below where you can see is much clearer.


I designed and made my own Gantt chart. As I wanted to make it clear but also personal by adding deadline notices and workshop days etc. Above you can see how drastically clearer this schedule is. Using this Gantt I will be able to utilise this time and hopefully if I follow it meet the requirements for this unit.



Workshop 1 – Rigging Biped 21/04/16

IK and FK

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Urban Dictionary definition.
The website above has a really nice simple explanation of the different Iks.
In maya there is 3 different types of IK you can choose.
SC – Single chain
Single chain can be chosen to create the motion of a characters limb. Using the single chain, means it will calculate any rotations in the joints applied in the IK Chain.
RP- Rotate plain
Rotate Plain can also be chosen to create the motion of a characters limb.
“The rotate plane solver is ideal for posing joint chains (such as arms and legs) that you want to stay in the same plane. For example, the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints of an arm driven by a rotate plane IK handle all stay within the same plane as the elbow rotates. The plane itself can be rotated from the shoulder joint by the pole vector.”
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Above you can see my print screen from using a single chain/rotate plain for the Ik in the leg.
Spline Handle 
Spline handle can be used differently to create motion for curvy shapes/twisty characters. For instance spines, tails or snakes.
When researching the differences between Parent and parent constraint I came across this blog :  I loved the analogy they used to distinguish the difference between parent and parent constraint which I shall explain below. 
A parent is similar to a real parent, child relationship in the fact when a parent has a child it will always be the child of that parent no matter the future. (The relationship being the important aspect). A parent can be a child of another parent. Selection is different for the both too.
Child + Parent + P
Parent Constraint
A parent constraint creates a connection between assets to follow position, rotation and translation.  The relationship of a parent constraint differs from a parent, imagine a parent constraint more like a parent figure such as a teacher or a boss. The child must follow the instructions, the relationship isn’t as important. Selection process differs from the parent by doing the following.
“Parent is selected first +  shift-selecting the child + command (Constrain >> Parent).”

To further explain with the analogy from the above’s blog page, when using the parent the child is placed directly into the parent’s object hierarchy. The relationship is clearer. However when you use the parent constraint the child remains as a separate object. Like a separate citizen or student following a teachers instructions.

Point Constraint 
A Point constraint is used so that you can constrain one objects positions to another.
Orient Constraint
Orient constraint can be used as a way to keep objects aligned. Meaning it makes it easier to make multiple objects and having them orient at the same time. Orient constraint also allows you to control the rotation of objects and used in the joints for the rigging process.

Pole Vector Constraint – The last constraint we looked at during this workshop was pole vector constraint. Using this constraint allows you to point IK to an object. Point Constraints are a really good way to control the direction of a joint chain.

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After finding my rig I deleted all it’s history to ensure that it is nice and clean and ready to roll with rigging.
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To begin we started with the leg!  We used the create joint in maya to put placement of the joints. The points I put it was the hip, knee, ankle, ball of the foot and the end of the toe.

Above you can see some diagrams and drawings of the leg. Sanjen emphasised how important it was to make sure the joint was in the right place. The left image above shows how the hip and the knee go round in a sort of curve. Anatomy is really useful in order to create rigs that actually work well.

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Editing the joints requires not just moving with the move tool but going into the attribute editor and changing the “joint orientation”. An instance of using this would be creating a more outward joint of the foot.
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As we were working Sanjen emphasised how naming the joints and elements as you go along helps later on in the process! For instance Sanjens suggestion was: hip_l_bn_jnt_01. Later when it came to binding the skin we were able to search all joints with *_bn_* and binding it. Saving alot of time. Organisation is the key to saving time!
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Setting Orient – During the joint placements, in was important to choose the orient joint in order for the joint to move in the correct way.
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Rigging the foot! You can see the IK handles before being named. But you can imagine without the naming system and you add many IKs how confusing it can be! So name, name, name!!
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So after all the Iks are in place and everything is working correctly (Which I checked at every point) It is time to put in the nurb curbs! So why is it important to put Nurb Curbs in! The main reason why we do this is because as a rigger you don’t want the animators to look into your IK systems incase they end up wrecking the pipeline. SO we create these nurb curbs which will be parented and the and animators can use these to animate.
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Above you can see once we have created these nurb curbs we went through the process of using parent constraint. So the nurbs were joined to the joints and moved in specific ways.
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Above you can see some of the customisation of the nurb curbs I did in order to be more appealing and easier to see for animators.
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At this stage the rig is not bound to the mesh. However you can see the influence of the system for the rig.
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Side view of the leg rig.


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The next stage was the arm, I had some difficulty with this at some points but I was able to work round it. We used the cluster tool to help aid join placement. The process was similar to the legs but we put a pole vector, orient constraint and parent constraint in order to finish the arm.
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Creating the spine. Again I began by customising the spine control. Always remember to freeze transform the nurbs in order to have a clean set for animating. One of the main roles for riggers is keeping the rig clean and clear as well as making it functional.
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Add more spine controls will impact the flexibility of the character. I only did two joints here but I wish I did more but I feel confidence in the process for next time.

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Demonstrating the spine abilities above. So rigging really determines the capabilities of movements. System of connections that twist or rotate, formed with hierarchy!

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Above you can see the rig completed from the first workshop, the part I found most difficult was the arm and hand, just because it was the most fiddly bit. But overall it was simpler than what I thought!


Workshop 2 – Rigging continuation 28/04/16

After doing the initial rigging class we had this continuation workshop. We were able to look a little more into some of the tools we could use when rigging and how to make the rig clearer and easier to interact with when animating.


The workshop looked at the following:

  • Customising Attributes
  • SDK – Set driven keys
  • Blend Shapes
  • Skinning – Painting Weights

Customising Attributes


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To begin with we learnt about adding an attribute. Here you can see the UI that comes up when we go to complete this task. To explain the box we have the option of giving it a name. Then it asks us whether we would like it keyable, displayable or hidden. Choosing Keyable will mean I can use the attribute to make keys on the timeline. The Date type we chose and discussed was Float. This basically means when changing attribute in the channel box the number can float pass decimal number. You are able to limit the number by putting a minimum and maximum numeric Attribute type. As a rigger this is a good way to prevent animators breaking the rig. You can get this box back up after closing by : edit>edit attributes.
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Here you can see how I created a new attribute for index curl. As the name suggests it will be used to curl the index finger. Another way of customising the attributes is by locking and hiding aspects of the attributes. So as a rigger I know the only elements I would like the animator to do is rotate. Therefore I hid everything other than the rotate properties. Locking this will prevent the animator from breaking the rig.
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If you go into your channel control UI you can retrieve these items back once locked.

SDK – Set Driven Key

Set driven key is very useful when rigging and can help speed up the animating process for animators. The attribute controls another attribute using a driver and a driven. We do not need an FK for every element of the rig. Some other examples where we could use SDK is on a tail – wrap and unwrap. Another point to make is you can affect the way the SDK movement using a graph editor meaning as riggers we can drastically change how it moves this could be a nice conversation with animators as well. We do this action by doing the following:

Driver selected>Windows>Animation Editors>Graph Editors (Make sure SDS is located in channel box)

For instance look at the example we did in the workshop below. We added SDK on the index finger in order to make it curl the way we wanted it to. Instead of the animator going in one at a time animating the index joints using SDK will create a sort of hierarchy that controls one joint that the others will follow. It is different from parenting as you can edit the difference in values for joints.


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Above you can see the UI of the Set driven key (Key>Set driven key> Set) To dissect this you can see two main ports – Driver and driven. The driver drives. The driven is driven (As the name suggest!) This relationship means we can tell how we would like the translation to be carried out. So above we chose to make the Wrist joint, with the Index curl the driver. We want the index to drive when the animator goes to animate. We understand in order for it to move in the correct way we need to click the index joints on Rotate z to move up and down. After selecting these and applying load driver and load driven to tell Maya these are what they are. We select Key.
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After determining the driver and driven and clicking key we need to tell Maya the degrees to which the movement or in this case the rotation in accordance with the index curl. So the steps we carried out was firstly : Making sure the Rotate Z attribute was red in channel box to ensure it understood the previous commands. Then we state the maximum movement you would like : 10 for this. Then click the joint (driven) and change the rotate x the min -60 for instance. Then click Key. Make sure the attributes are neutralised out before testing.

Blend Shapes

Blend shapes are a very useful tool which can be very helpful to riggers. A blend shape essentially is a way of of making one mesh look like another, if they have the same topology and vectors. If the blend shapes are identical in vectors you can duplicate the original shape. Make sure these duplicates are well named.

For instance : GEO (for original shape) and BS, BS2 (Blend shape)

Making sure you are on Rigging menu go to deform>Blend shapes click the option box ensuring the local is ticked. Going to the channel box we can see under input, there is a new node which allows you to edit numbers and consequently mimics the two other blend shapes.

There is no limit to the amount of blend shapes you can have on maya. Meaning organisation is the real key to successfully working with blend shapes. You can carry out an organisation process by going to blend shape window.

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Here you can see an example we was given with the rig tutorial. There is a huge amount of blend shapes here which can be mimicked on the original mesh by using the blend shape properties. This also shows why we use blend shapes it allows for face deformation, character expressions. To create an illusion of breathing. Another great point is how they can be used for corrective blend shapes. If a joint for instance collapsed in itself which can happen, using a corrective blend shape can trouble shoot the problem and reset the rig quickly for animators.
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Here you can see me practicing with duplicating the original mesh to create my own expression. As I carried out the duplication I made sure to call it clear names to help the workflow.
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Using the soft smoothing tool in maya to create the deformations on the duplicate mesh.
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You can see in this image on the right the input, under character_mouth the attributes. 1 – means visible and 0 – means invisible. You can put the two on to create a whole smile. You can also slide it so it is in between a smile for instance.
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Above you can see a control curb I created for the new blend node we create. In order to connect the control curb with the blend node we used the SDK.
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After freeze transforming the nurbs we lock and hid all of the attributes of the control curbs for the selected square as you can see above other than translate y. We want the control to be like a switch.
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Selecting the control we can set a limit for how much the translate Y can go up and down. This way the animator dosen’t move it more than it should.
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Above you can see that the ctrl is the driver and the blend mode is the driven. We did the same thing as above with the index curl. However to find the blend shapes and add it to the driven we went to windows>animation editor>blend shape and select.

Skinning and Painting weights

Refresher from last lesson* Sanjen forgot to mention how to reflect the joints from last lesson. This is done by reflecting them. Make sure the Rigging menu is on go to skeleton> mirror joints. A box will appear where you can write the degrees to reflex. And it will give you the option to rename the opposing side. you can search for “l” to replace with “R”. This is another reason why to include clear names.

Skinning or also known as binding is the process of binding the joints to the mesh. In order to speed up the process of binding naming joints appropriate will save you time.

For instance Sanjen named all his joints with _bn_ to identify which were to be bound.

A quick way of binding all the joints is to search *_bn_* in the top right area in the maya interface. The * means you are telling maya to select everything with _bn_ in its name and go to skin>bind skin.

When we are skinning we are telling the vertex of the mesh to be bound to the joint. To see the mesh go to wireframe mode *4*. Select joint then shift select flesh . Skin>Bind Skin> Options box. You can instruct the binding to follow joint hierarchy. Its important to test at every stage to ensure nothing goes wrong in the workflow.

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Above you can see better the different options for binding skin. Ensuring these are correct to what you are binding is important.

If you want to change the influence on each joint you can paint skin weights. Maya on default will see which one is close to each other and dictates the influence.Painting the weight after binding gives the control back to you.

Skin>Paint skin weights. Looking in the tool settings will tell you the influence. This can be by colour or shading. Using colour you can see how the influence of the joint is determined. Blue – Not a lot, Red – a lot and white 100%. Another way of seeing the influence of the joint is to go to the component editor. Here it shows your the contribution form and the influence of joints written down.

For instance

Joint 1   Joint  2  Joint 3

0.002    0.439   0.400       = The joints full contribution is 1

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Testing the joint influence of the head.

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As well as editing the influence of the joint using the weight paint can help prevent collapsing or deformation with the rig. Sanjen suggesting key framing to test the arm in different positions to see how painting the weight was affected. Above I used the paint to get rig of some of the influence on the shoulder, after I did this there was less deformation. I still think I need to look further into this as it was the only bit I was slightly confused on.

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In todays workshop, we were introduced to substance painter. A software which speeds up and textures sophistically. Some of the benefits to using substance painter is the fact you can create and reuse smart materials, masks and bake your maps!

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Here you can see the blank interface.
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The interface is really simple and separated clearly. The Layers section reminded me of Photoshop and worked in a similar way. When you create layers you can decide on specific layers like a mask, fill,  smart layer etc. Here you can see we open the file Josh had sent us.
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On a new layer we tested out brushes, furthermore how we can manipulate and customise the brushes.
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Changing the above sliders, can change the properties of the brush.
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You can see how you can use one brush but change the properties enough to make the strokes look completely different.
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Adding a new fill layer I applied a new material. You can see I chose the wood material. However there are lots of default materials that could have been applied. Josh gave us the task to apply several materials.
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I chose the platinum material to go with the wood, to give it a stylish look! So making sure you have a new fill layer, and a new material applied you can right click add black mask. Now you can paint/select the area you want this material to be applied.
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Here you can see me painting the area I would like the material to appear.
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To change the masking fill mode changing the above selection can change the way the material is filled in. Either by selection or using UVS.
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The interface can be changed so you can view the model 2D or 3D(or both as the above).
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I redid the above step so I could add another material to my arm! I’m really happy with how it turned out, but most importantly how simple it was to texture the hand.
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Finished arm with 3 different materials : Wood, Silver and Platinum
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I want to select certain areas of the arm only do I use the polygon in the mask properties.
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I was going for a medieval looking arm, inspiration from the javelin tournament.
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Baking in substance painter.
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In the instance where you want the texture to show through the arm you need to create a folder with a new fill layer (and new material). Write clicking the material layer and right clicking to create a MG. Once at this stage changing the properties you can affect how much the layer comes through. 
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We were given some tasks to add staples on wounds, create a wound and make a ring. You can see from the above that I began to give a wound on the forearm. Josh told me to think about how cutting into wood looked like.
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Here you can see I changed the background of the environment. This can be changed really easily and allows you to see how the object is viewed in different lighting. Furthermore you can easily rotate round this environment to see different lighting.
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Using fracture and selecting a colour/material I have selected this layer and turned down the layer norm – which is similar to the opacity in Photoshop.
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After turning down the opacity I have changed the layer drop down settings to overlay the fracture to create a veiny look. As my material is wood it dosen’t look as natural as skin but it still adds another layer of depth.
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Here you can see the finished arm.


This workshop was focused on Topoligy. But further than that it took a look at trouble shooting, identifying the problems and correcting them. I was a bit worried as to whether I could correct, but as Josh explained some of the principles I was able to understand how to fix the problems.

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This was the model we were given to correct. As this object is symmetrical we was able to slice it in half so later on we could reflect our corrections.As there was already a line along the top we selected the faces of the side we wanted in the top view and deleted.
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Looking closer we saw this twisted looking face, the way around this was to snap the vertex point together and amend the affected face.
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Snapping vertex point into place and merging it.
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The numbers in the corner here was another great tool that Josh showed us. When you select faces on a mesh there should be one face appear on these numbers and depending on the shape have a specific amount of tries. On this specific bit of polygon mesh Josh said we want to make these edges simpler. How can we change the topology to make it simpler?
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Josh told us to go on Photoshop and try to work out how we could make topology simpler. You can see that this is way to complex and the previous one was simpler than this!
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This was the correct way. You can see we loose the tries now and it is replaced with a simpler, stronger topology.
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Deleting the edges and using the cutting edge tool to create a new edge in the centre. This is a way of taking a problem and figuring it till you can create a better solution, yes the other one was fine but it could have been simpler. This shows why it is important to leave time after making the model to inspect your creation.
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We did the same with the bottom of the model deleting all the unnecessary edges.
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This edge we decided to replace other edges to have a better flow to topology. We deleted and merged vertexs. Below is the final topology for this corner.
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In order to make sure that all of the vertex are merged once deleting all the other unnecessary tries we selected the whole object and merged.
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Josh said you should always manually clean up don’t ever use this clean up option to fix the promblems of the mesh. Maya will sutomatically select so it asseses it. Only use this tool to help POINT OUT where the promblems are. If you click “f” after clean up it should take you to where the promblems are.
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The next step is to duplicate the mesh and merge the vertexs. In order to place the new side perfectly we needed to make sure the pivot was centred. We scaled these vertexes till they were close enough together to merge, we continued this process on all the other points.
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The last thing we did was clear history! This is a really important step so it dosen’t build up.

The last task we were each given a different model from the people next to us. I was given a bus. We were asked to write down all the problems you thought was wrong with it and to start correcting them.

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Some of the problems I noticed:

  • Too many unnecessary edges– I simply Identified the edges to delete and tried to make the topology simpler.

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  • A lot of random Vertex – I clicked on a face and it said 1 face 6 tris. I knew there was something wrong her so selecting the vertexes I realised there was loads of random vertexes. To correct this I selected the whole bus in vertex mode and backspace to delete any isolated Vertecs.

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  • The wheels have been really overcomplicated considering they are just cyclinders.

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  • There was a face dragged out near the wheel. I needed snap and merge the Vertex.

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The other promblems which people from my bus group/Josh pointed out was:

  • There was information in the faces of the wheel if you pulled them out you could see.
  • There was a lot of history – Make sure it was cleared
  • Josh also pointed out that there was reversed normals.

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Josh gave us a file as you can see above, it opens with default the Red wax so I change for white mat cap so that it is visible in the zBrush.

We discussed what was wrong with the model if we was to export it out. This being it has been painted, has no Uvs and a very high poly count at around 2.5 mil.

What have you noticed that is wrong with the model?

Another problem with the model is the fact there are three separate sub tools, we need to merge them. We do this by going to Subtool> Merge visible> New subtool. 

The next step, we want to make the polycount low but keep all the detail. We do this by Decimation.

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Pre current Predesimation > Zplugin  and change the Percentage of k polys to 200k. Tgis will consequently put the poly count down! As you can see the count is no longer 2.5 million but instead 480k!

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You can see that this process stripped the paint from the model. We will now export him as an OBJ, making sure it is saved with a clear name.
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After we did this Josh said to export the high poly file also, you can see that when you export to an OBJ in zbrush it exports with polypaint. Polypaint allows paint without assigning a texture map.

Photoshop is per pixel colour (per vertex colour) You need higher divisions to make nicer marks. When you take the model in Topogun in comparison All those vertexes all 2.5 millions are numbers we can assign a colour to each on. Maya will not read this.

Here is the interface of Topogun.

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We load the file by File> Load Reference

Some hot keys to remember:

‘x’ – Symmetry , Orange dot shows it will snap to centre point, Right click determines draw tool or move tool , Cmd to say which point is the start and make a line round. The navigational system is the same as maya.

We begin the drawing process by right clicking, you switch from the drawing tool and the move tool by right clicking. With the symmetry on we defined the line. To clear the start line right click. You can then determine the start with Cmd. After recreating the line below it we can you use the bridge tool. 

We are going to draw over the arm, using the tube tool. When you use the tool DO NOT MOVE THE CAMERA.

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Click and drag over the arm, If I move the camera the lines will no longer line up So click and drag. Do it from the same direction, if you don’t do this you are telling topogon to start the order of the polygons the opposite way. Click drag, click drag and it will give you tubes around the arm. To confirm right click once. We have weird looking arm so the tool will not give it the shape that matches the curve. To correct this use we need to relax this. (Brush tool, relax).

The next stage was to experiment with the face. Above is a face retopology I got online. The way the face has been retopologies determines the flexibility for the animation. The majority should be quads faces however you can use triangles on the static places of the face.
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I began drawing out some tests on photoshop.
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Here you can see me carrying this into Topogun.
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I created a shortcut for make faces by going to Tool Keyboards shortcuts, simple create. You can write in the shortcut you choose and then click Assign.

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If a point does get missed the hot key to add a point – Shift. Hold down shift and select. 

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Taking it into Maya we can see the difference from the low poly above to the high poly below.
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The triangles allow to keep the detail in this higher poly model.
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We put  the low poly and the high poly on separate layers, and soften the edges of both.
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We want to use a transfer map so we can keep all the high detail.

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Turn off include materials, it will do weird things. Connect maps to shaders, after baking process. If you continue to bake normal maps you will get truck loads of materials. World space – So maya can determine what space it is looking at. Filter size you want an element of blue so it dosen’t look rasturise put it on 1. Fill Texture seams will prevent you have black seams so it will fill the gap. Make sure its on surface normals otherwise you will come back with a weird map. Geometry normals have each edge and they split out. 12 gives you a bit of leave way so it can go 12 percent over and inside. 

Above are some of the settings and why we chose these settings. 

After baking the transfer map when we view our model in the viewport it has that original detail again.

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