Inspired 3D: Organic Texture Mapping Tutorial — Part 1
Rhythm & Hues’ Tom Capizzi presents an in-depth tutorial for organic texture mapping.
By Tom Capizzi
[ Posted on August 11, 2003 ]

All images from Inspired 3D Modeling and Texture Mapping by Tom Capizzi, series edited by Kyle Clark and Michael Ford. Reprinted with permission.
The first of two articles about Organic Texture Mapping, this excerpt is the next in a number of adaptations from the new Inspired 3D series published by Premier Press. Comprised of four titles and edited by Kyle Clark and Michael Ford, these books are designed to provide animators and curious moviegoers with tips and tricks from Hollywood veterans. The following is excerpted from Modeling & Texture Mapping.

In this chapter, I explain the process of applying organic textures to models, using a model of a bird. Lopsie Schwartz, a texture painter who has worked on several films, including Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2003), created the textures on the owls for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), and the techniques she used are explained in this chapter.

The most common question asked by people trying to learn the process is, “How do you attack a project?” Although there is no one right way, this tutorial presents detailed steps on how textures are created and applied in a production environment, in which the model is usually already designed and modeled for you. In addition, the animation setup technical directors and the animators may be working concurrently on the same model as you paint the textures. As a result, you often do not have the luxury of being able to change the model to fit your needs. You must adapt to the model. This tutorial walks you through the same steps taken when texturing the digital owls for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, using a model of an owl and aiming for a “photo-real” style of textures. Usually, the model is built before any texture mapping is done. The model shown in Figure 1 is a different model than the one used in the actual film, but is similar enough to be used in this tutorial.

[Figure 1] The base model before textures were applied.
For the Harry Potter movie, the textures were created using Rhythm & Hues’ proprietary software and Alias’ Studio Paint, but for this tutorial, Maya, Photoshop and Deep Paint will be used.

The key to making something seem photo-real is to get photographic reference material. For this project, the first step is to determine what type of owl this is supposed to be. For the purposes of this tutorial, the model shown in Figure 1 has the textures of a barn owl.

First, check the UVs on the object. Sometimes the modeler will apply a checkerboard pattern to get approval of the UV’s on a model. Using a simple checkerboard pattern may not provide enough information about the UVs.

[Figure 2] This checkerboard pattern was used to inspect the model for proper UV placement.
The map illustrated in Figure 2 provides more information about the UVs than a simple checkerboard. Using this illustration as a guide, this map can be replicated. This map can be helpful in many different situations, and a map like this one should be kept handy so it can be used on a regular basis. A map helps you identify problems quickly during the approval process. When the UVs have been checked, the modeler can be informed of changes that need to be made to the UVs, or the changes that can be made by the texture-mapping artist.

This modified checkerboard pattern gives much more information than the simple black-and-white checkers. This checkerboard technique gives you a quick visual cue on the UVs and can easily solve 80 percent of your texturing problems by catching them before it is too late. Some of the things that are being checked when inspecting UVs using this technique are strange non-square patterns, overall map placement, the number of pixels allocated to high-definition areas, and how much of the map is actually being used.

By checking the model with this texture map, the seam where the two symmetrical halves of the model were joined is visible. This seam is nothing to worry about. It is also possible to see something that would not be apparent with the black-and-white checkerboard. There are different roupings of feathers, and they have different UV coordinates. This condition makes it impossible to create a single texture map that can be used on all the feathers.

After examining the model with the map applied to it, the UVs on the model can now be approved, and the actual texture mapping can begin.

The first things needed to begin texture mapping are a few high-resolution rendered images of the bird. The images need to be higher resolution than the maps that will be created later. For the purposes of this tutorial, the rendered images are 2K, or 2048 x 1536 pixels.

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