Vehicles, SketchUp, and Mudbox

In our final class before the holidays, Tony showed us a couple of interesting things. The primary of these was linked to a new project: Dystopian Utopias. We’ll be responsible for researching artists/movies showing a dystopian future. From there, we’ll design 20 different vehicles as thumbnails and, much like our robot designs, we’ll group crit then choose one design to further finish.

With this in mind, we were shown (once again) how silhouettes can help create unique designs that may not be otherwise thought of. Firstly, we needed to search online for a vehicle in complete silhouette. I chose one that resembled a tow truck; it was harder than it sounds to find something that would suit what image I had in my mind.

After that, we were told we could free-hand any edits we wanted to make to the vehicle, to make it seem more “random” – in my mind, this felt like I was going with a Mad Max theme, with a cobbled together vehicle design found from a multitude of other vehicles. The idea that I could turn the crane around, round it out, add a chair… eventually I would get something that would resemble a canon on the back of the truck. I added some spokes to the wheels and changed a bit of the front cabin of the truck. Overall, I think it turned out quite neat:


After this, we were told we could overlay rust, pictures of vehicles, and essentially anything that would match the look we were trying to achieve. I had a little trouble finding the right angles of cars that would matches the side-view I had of my silhouette. I got as far as the image below before we turned our attentions to something completely different:


I felt like this was a really neat exercise, but we moved on to learning about SketchUp. This program is really neat: it’s a 3D modelling program that can be used for a variety of things, but Tony started off by showing us this video from Naughty Dog and SketchUp.

In it, Art Director Robh Ruppel explains how SketchUp helped him design the environments for Uncharted 2. He elaborated on how it helped give height and depth to the designs he came up with for the video game; he could use a modular system and repeatable geometry made through SketchUp and arranged in engine to work out different levels in the game. It’s all extremely neat to see in a professional capacity.


We were asked just to have a play around with the tools and try to create a vehicle design in SketchUp. The only issue I had was that the toolset wasn’t as intuitive as I’d like; there were a lot of cases I had to reference the Tool Tips or Help section to get the look I wanted. However, I’m sure with practice it will become so much quicker and easier.

As seen here, there is a quick toolbar on the left side of the screen for the most useful tools. I didn’t get to try them all and some of them I would have to look into further, but in many ways the 3D modelling could be treated like Maya or 3DS Max. We could extrude shapes, bend them, tilt them, and even free draw shapes/lines.

I could definitely see how this would be a useful program for designing environments, since making buildings and structures has to be quite easy and quick for those who are artistically inclined. It took me a while just to get the shape of a truck going, but some patience and time meant I had something before we moved on to the final part of our class.


I think, because I don’t draw very well, this program can be a cheeky way to get my ideas across. It helps you figure out depth and 3D design without much effort. There aren’t too many drawing programs that help you as much – the only other program I’ve come across so far that I like to use for concept art is Krita.

Finally, speaking of 3D art, we were shown a quick introduction to Mudbox. If I remember correctly, we have very lightly touched on it before, but this time Tony showed us some of the more useful tools for sculpting and moulding the clay.

Again, we were just let loose to try and make a face.


There are a number of tools (most of which I misused, if I’m being honest) in Mudbox, but for this I mostly used Sculpt, Grab, Pinch, Smooth, and some Knife/Smear. Without sounding like a broken record about not being artistically inclined, as least the sculpting resembled the makings of a face!


I feel like, much in real life, sculpting takes a lot of patience, tons of practice, and definitely talent. However, in Mudbox, I think you can get away with a lot more mistakes you wouldn’t be able to if you had the lump of clay sitting in front of you instead.

While I’m not too sure how much I’m going to utilise the program as we go, I think it’s interesting to add it as another tool for conceptualising ideas rather than just using Maya for all my 3D needs.


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