About houghridge

Currently studying Animation at University of Ulster, Belfast. Enjoy cycling and the odd bit of photography!

Creative Solutions reflection

Creative solutions, I feel was a huge learning opportunity this semester, not just for myself but also for the rest of the team. It was a chance for us to develop our skills and gain experience in working in a professional manner.

Working for a client was very different to doing the usual university projects. There was a certain level of professionalism that was expected of your work, it needed to be of the same standard (or as close as possible) to the standard of the work being produced by the company, which added a little more pressure – well that’s what I felt anyway!
Black North are currently developing a game to be played on the Oculus Rift for which they wanted us to model, texture and light an environment to a hyper realistic style. The level of realism that was expected in our work worried me slightly, more so in the first two weeks, as during that time we would be creating concepts. Firstly I had never worked to a photorealistic style before so this was going to be a new challenge for me to take on and secondly I wouldn’t be as confident in my skills when it comes to digital painting. However I feel that I produced work that was of a higher standard than I had expected from myself, so I was rather pleased with the final set of ice environment concepts.

I was much more comfortable when it came to the modelling, although I didn’t have much experience of working in Mudbox, this provided me with the opportunity to develop a new set of technical skills. I found mudbox was easy to grasp and a much more efficient way of working. It was a lot easier and quicker to sculpt the models to a high level of detail within Mudbox and then retopolgise using Maya.

When it came to building the scene there was a lot more teamwork involved than compared to the previous couple of weeks, the environment had been split into seven parts – there would be a different set in front and behind your own, or in my case just behind – so there was a lot more discussion happening between group members to make sure the environment felt like one piece, although this was a lot more important when texturing. The textures for each set needed to flow together to make it seem as if one person had created it. I feel I worked well within this group of people, as a team there was good range in skills meaning that we were able to learn from one another. Personally, I didn’t have much experience with texturing, so when it came to that stage I benefitted from the knowledge and experience that other team members had which they were happy to share, I now have the skills and understanding to be able to say that I am comfortable with texturing to a hyper realistic style.

I enjoy working within a team, I am quite a competitive person and I find that working within a group motivates me to work just that little bit harder – there’s a level of friendly competition that pushes us to be better.
We also had the chance to experience the pressure of deadlines. After packaging up and handing over our set, we were contacted by Black North and told that the game had in fact been changed and we would have to model, texture and light a new level by Friday – giving us four days to complete it. With Friday also being our semester two deadline we were all feeling a bit stressed but nevertheless as a group we managed to complete the task, still to a high standard, getting it out of the way and allowing us to concentrate on the other deadline.

Outside of the client work I had been pushing myself to develop my technical skills to create work suitable for my showreel. I found that I really enjoyed experimenting with Maya’s dynamics and discovering what they are capable of, even managing to experiment briefly with Houdini. This semester I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to gain new skills in areas that my knowledge was lacking and I am pleased with the progress I have made.

Through the module of Creative solutions I was able to gain an insight into working within this industry. Hoping to have a placement come September, I feel this module has helped prepare me for the incoming year; I have gained experience in working in a professional manner and the standard required. Even with the problems that we experienced which were overcome through communication, teamwork and research, I really enjoyed the work I was creating.

Change of plan

Our entire set for Black North was optimised and packaged up, which we then handed over to them and they seemed pretty happy with it. At our most recent meeting we were told that a few more blocks of ice were needing modelled and textured…

Below are a few images I looked at to see how ice would react to light (is it transparent, is it solid) and how the surface of the object could look: scratches, cracks etc…

article-0-195225D6000005DC-566_634x422 d4891fe307b7c06300bf6e428653857a ice ucm197598

I then used the tutorial below as a guide/starting point for texturing the ice model, the results were achieved by using a ramp shader and noise map:

Starting off in mud box, I created a rough shape from a cube…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.07.44

I then brought the model into maya, where I started applying the techniques from the link above, but also making a few adjustments of my own to fit the requirements of what Black North were asking for…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.11.35

first render:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.16.03

I felt that the render above was a little plain looking.. there was no colour, nothing interesting about it, so I tried to change that. I duplicated the model and resized it so it would fit inside itself,  then changed the colour of this smaller model to a light blue and gave it a slightly brighter ambient colour, in the hope that the extra light might bounce around a little inside the larger object. The transparency of the object was also adjusted to make it more solid/ visible through the first model.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.22.09

I still wasn’t happy with the colour, there was too much blue – no other colours were present, so in an attempt to fix that I placed a cube inside the smaller model, which was less transparent than the others and I gave it a grey colour. Im a bit happier with the render below as now there are a couple of colours bouncing around.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.24.21

We then received a message from the guys at Black North to say that the game had been changed and could we create a new level based on the new designs, giving us 4 days to create the level so it was going to be a bit tight with time. The file below is the example we were given…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.32.16

This time our set would be 7 tiles that would join together (we will create one each.) This time the models were to be as low a polycount as possible, this being the main reason the game was changed, and we would still be sticking with the ice environment.

I started off by modelling an environment in mud box…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.35.33

which I then brought into maya and retopologised using the quad draw tool (remembering not to press three to smooth the model as it will be taken into soft image when we pass it on) :

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.39.19

Unwrapped the UV’s by firstly unwrapping using the best plane, decided where my seams would be and cut the UV edges before finally using the 3D unwrap tool. These UV’s were obviously a lot easier to unwrap compared to the previous set…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.40.21

This time regarding textures were decided we would go for more ice rather than rock and snow, seeing as the panels looked like they were some sort of cave. Below are some of the textures I experimented with…

13-scratched-ice-texture-free-hi-res 10422269_862539437136109_6774744961511944772_n Chiseled Ice clay_snow1 ice_texture___2_by_agf81-d4p2kkm ice_texture2998-1 ice-texture--1033-1 Ice0021_L snow_texture1550

Before settling with the textures below:


Originally I had ice walls and banks of snow at each side but it just didn’t look right, so I switched it to be snow walls with banks of ice which just in general a lot better.

The ambient occlusion was baked in:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.56.35

And multiplied over the textures in photoshop:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.57.33

A normal map was also created using crazy bump:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.57.49

Then it was onto lighting the scene, I added an ambient light with a rather low intensity to give some basic light. I wanted my light source to be coming form the ice.. as if it was giving off light that was then being reflected by other bits of ice. So to create this I added in a few spot lights, all different in size (penumbria and cone angle) intensity and colour giving the results below.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.59.24 Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 00.59.01

Once I (and the rest of the team of course) were happy with the lighting, the light and colour were baked in:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 01.07.43


Fly through:

Creating my showreel

After researching and finally deciding what to actually put into my showreel, I got to work. As time went on it changed as I was creating more work that could be put into it, so there are multiple versions of my showreel:

Version 1:

Version 2, this time I added in some more dynamics work:

Version 3, I’ve added a Bifrost simulation and corrected the run cycle:

the latest version, another Bifrost simulation was added and the order changed:

I also had adjusted the Bus stop animation, trying to improve the movement of his leg while he’s sitting, the wireframe images were also changed: I managed to render out the lower poly wireframe. When smoothing my model (after hitting 3) I also pressed fn and the down arrow.



Game Craft

Why have I never been to a gamecraft before?! I had a fantastic day!

The theme was Heroic pursuits. My team consisted of 3 other classmates and a programmer named Kevin Beimers (Italic Pig).

We started off by brainstorming the theme, really thinking outside of the box to generate ideas such as:

  • heroin – an addict whose quest is getting his next fix
  • unsung hero’s… janitor’s etc.
  • you play the part of a celebrity trying to escape their fans and the paparazzi.. but to make the character run you had to sing

and many more but on to our main idea…

we chose to look at unsung heroes and went with the idea of a comic book store owner. A customer would come in and ask for a certain issue of whatever comic and it would be your job to find it before they got angry and left. The only problem is that the the back of the store is filled with boxes of unorganised comics. When playing (on a touch screen) you would pick a box and scroll through the piles of comics but if you let go of the screen, you will jump back to the start and if you passed the comic you would also go back to the start. We were aiming to create a game similar to the idea of flappy bird – it’s annoying but completely addictive!

My job was to create some comic book covers, some contain downloadable comic backgrounds:

comic #1 cover#2 comic#3 COMIC4 comic #5 cover #6 cover#7 cover #8 comic#9 cover #10 cover #11 cover 12



Before creating my own showreel, I’ve done a little research to see how I should go about it, including tips and showreels from a few artists…

Some notes I took while reading the links below:



The link below contains artists showreels to back up the points they have made…





Adding tags to your showreel to show what you did/what it is. Mike Bain’s showreel is a good example of this as it contains shots from easily recognised films:

Gerard Dunleavy, won international CG student of the year 2012, his showreel is below:

A playlist of the best showreels and demo reels on vimeo created by premium beat (most of these are company showreels and not individual artists but they are still very impressive…)


I really enjoyed the showreel below by Leticia Reinaldo, focussing on modelling, lighting and texturing. The timing is what caught my attention, there is enough time to view the models yet they aren’t overstaying their welcome…

A rather dramatic showreel.. some dramatic camera movements: