Fourth Year

Clothing and cloth physics

Until now the characters have been nude. Whilst this was fine whilst working with proxies, as soon as I tested with the full models things became a bit uncomfortable. So I finally carved out the time to put some fabric down.

I wanted the female character to keep the ballet inspiration. She was always going to have this outfit, and I knew I wanted to simulate the lower dress with ncloth. However I’ve not had much look with this in the past, and the idea was discouraged as it does create complications. Stubborn as I am though, it’s what I wanted to do. And thankfully this has paid off.

I modelled a simple leotard for the character, adding in some nice shaders created in substance. This is a programme I hadn’t used that much but I’m really enjoying the process. There’s a lot of character and history you can imply within the textures of an object. With just small visual cues you can tell a story with one glance. I chose to keep it simple, an elasticated fabric that ballet dancers would wear with some grunge and dirt that came from the characters journey. It was also meant to imply the idea that, though seemingly pristine and ethereal, there was a human quality.

With the leotard done I moved on to the skirt. I wanted something small that paid hommage to typical outfits worn for dance. But to keep the ephemeral aesthetic I wanted to make it slightly translucent. To get the model itself I created a simple flat mesh and ran a simulation with it against the body with stickiness turned up to maximum. This ensured the dress would fall in a natural manner but still cling to the model. Once it had settled in a pose I duped the model and cleaned it up. This is something I would have loved to do with the Marvelous Designer programme, but adopting a new piece of software this late into development could potentially sideline the more important aspects of the film.

Now with a nice base for the mesh I skinned it to the rig and reset up the ncloth parameters. In order to keep it skinned to the character around the waist and maintain the cloth physics everywhere else I painted in some input attract in the areas I wanted to follow the joints. Smoothing this out further down the skirt. Now it wouldn’t need stickiness to cling to the character and will move in a realistic manner. I configured the parameters to imitate silk, making it light and airy and imported the custom shaders I had made in substance. Being sure to drop down the presence for the see through quality and bumping up the emit light value to give that ethereal feel.

(Please note that colours are slightly darker here than in the software due to the colour space difference when exporting image files as JPEG’s)

I ran the simulation and was first worried by the results. Much like I had been warned it bounced and flew around everywhere. But after some trial and error I got it working as expected. The main contributing factor to this was the world scale. Simulations use real world maths to solve each step, by default it assumes Maya is set up to use the grid squares as 1 metre increments whereas mine was closer to 1cm. So by dropping the nucleus scale from 1 to 0.01 it allowed the cloth to move in a realistic manner.

I then cached the geometry animation in order to better see the results for every frame and ensure nothing unintentional was happening. The animation I used to test this on was rather simple in it’s movements, the next step is testing this tech out with some of the more intense dancing scenes and see how it holds up.

For the male character, I wanted to keep it simple. I knew that I wanted both characters to have an opposing colour pallete. One dark, one light. One using hints of green whilst the other blue. But subtle enough hints at blue and green to not be too noticeable. So the male character had some simple dark clothes created, a shirt and pants, non descript enough so that the era and time of the film was not clear. I didn’t want to make it feel like 1800’s or modern times, rather to just feel like a timeless story, as if it could happen anytime or maybe outside of time.

The shirt and pants were set up similar to the skirt for the basic geometry. Some simple models were made based from the character mesh, I averaged the vertices to relax the clothing slightly and then ran a simulation to get the cloth folds and weight. I duped the models, cleaned them up and then wrap deformed them to the character mesh.