VR for Comic Panel Layout – Part 1

Overview

  • Usability
  • Challenges from making DUALITY comic project
  • Takeaway
  • Why not 3D software on PC?

Usability

To quickly layout a scene in 3D, walk around the scene and find a dynamic camera angle for the final composition

  • A big time saver for any pre-vis projects involving visual storytelling
  • Fast iteration before exporting to any major 3D software for final touch-up and rendering

Challenges from making DUALITY comic project

  • 2D medium limits the speed to do pre-production (character design, storyboards and scene layouts)Traditionally in a big studio, each task is assigned to a different group of artist who is specialized in that role. A small team can’t afford to hire several artists to work on the same comic page
  • Getting the correct perspective for both character and background is challenging. When making a comic panel for past projects, we usually find posing image references for character first then match the background perspective accordingly. But when the camera length in the background reference doesn’t match with the character’s, the panel looks wonky
  • Flat coloring and shading are time-consuming. When it comes to traditional comic production, the first thing is line-art, than flat coloring. Since art direction for DUALITY comic is mostly line-less, it’s quite a waste of time to draw the line-art so that the flatting artist has something to work with, then re-moving it once the flatting is finished

Takeaway

Base on the challenges listed above, here are what needs to be solved:

  • Find a new way to combine all pre-production tasks using digital media
  • Having both character and background living in the same scene in 3D
  • Develop a toon shader for character body parts which can be used as a flat coloring

Why not 3D software on PC?

#1 3D tool Maya is designed for the large production pipeline. When it comes to small production, it feels like using a tank to open a jar of beans

  • It takes forever to load the software
  • Workspace looks and feels old (Easy for 3D artists to work together because it never changes much between versions)
  • There are too many fancy tools for making fully rigged characters for CG animation with simulated hair can be rendered as real as possible to distract me. At the end of the day, I just need simple posed characters and background living in the same 3D scene

I was in search of such a tool when I was introduced to Blender 3D

Pros:

  • Compare to Maya, Blender is behaving like a Swiss knife. It’s designed for makers and small studios who need a little bit of functionality from every aspect of a 3D software to aid their already established creative process
  • Blender is much easier to use once you remember all the Hot-keys. It has everything aspects from a 3D software, including sculpting (like using Zbrush), texture painting (similar to Mari), 2.8 version even including a real-time render engine which usually cost extra with any other 3D software. I can also plugin additional add-on and most of them are free
  • I can set up multiple scenes within the same Blender file, each can be fully customized

Cons:

  • The process is too slow to model a character or an asset from scratch comparing to digital painting in Photoshop
  • Require rigging to move character body parts efficiently
  • Blender Rendering provides nice comic style shader, but take a while to render (20 – 40 mins for 5000px x 5000px image)