Art Spotlight: Bird Facts?!

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

My name is Aaron Garrison. I am a Professor of animation and a digital sculptor/animator from Kansas City, MO. I mainly use ZBrush and Maya in my work and I am currently exploring strategies that include Agisoft Photoscan, Substance Painter, and Quixel for future creations.

Which Came First; The Bird or the Egg…

Bird Facts was a fun piece to create. Its development pipeline was very short and practical. Conceptually Bird Facts was the result of a speed sculpt demo that I imported into Maya to test the FBX importer/exporter in Zbrush. Sketchfab’s mesh hosting options allow me to take the polygroups that I made in ZBrush and Maya and turn them into material IDs which allow me to modify the surface traits individually.

How the Bird Evolved

Taking advantage of decimation strategies and material set creation between Zbrush and Maya, and because Sketchfab can read the color from vertex color and texture maps, I was able to articulate surface and color values very quickly.

I created the sculpt of the bird in ZBrush using Z-spheres and then applied a series of appending, extracting, dynameshing, and z-remeshing actions. I try to cap the active points of my creations to around two million on a sculpt so that the upload will not exceed file size limitations.

When I created the meshes I didn’t rely on topology and unwrapping, but instead focused on vertex color, selection sets, and file sizes. Since vertex color relies on resolution, I focused on the polygroups that needed the most resolution to meet the design challenge.  

A deep understanding of the polygroup creation tab is essential to the process, as the FBX importer/ exporter allows the polygroups created to become the separate ID slots in the material tab in Sketchfab. If IDs aren’t created, meshes are limited to one universal shader rather than multiple shaders.

When you import the mesh into modeling software, the FBX vertex color data and material ID is still active, so applying any new shaders isn’t needed. The import should allow any asset that requires UV mapping and texturing to be developed without affecting vertex color of your high-res mesh.

During this stage it is important to note that applying new materials to the low poly objects is also needed, and renaming the unique shaders help during the adjustments that you make in Sketchfab.

The material IDs created earlier can now be adjusted individually in Sketchfab’s material editor. This is where I load textures to specific materials for Maya meshes and ZBrush polygroups.

Polygrouped bird

Vertex painted

Vertex painted

Learning how to incorporate Sketchfab’s tools into my own work process has been a fun challenge. I am constantly inspired by the work I see displayed on Sketchfab, and I am very appreciative of the support I have received from the Sketchfab community. I will definitely be adding more Bird Facts to the series, along with more Bird Confessions.

Thanks, Aaron! What factoids have you learned today about modeling or birds? Questions and comments go below! 

About the author


Seori Sachs

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