Slowly Nestor comes to life. In this first step you can see him show his anger, disgust, sadness, fear, surprise and sly laugh – and thus portray his poor creators’ emotional rollercoaster during animation.

Part Two of the Development of Nestor

Yes, we’re taking the seven-league boots tour with this character, as only recently – well, two months ago – he has been a sketch. Getting him so far took me three months and a bit during normal school and other life routine but – I’m in my final year give me a break, I gotta do some back-catalog-ing here.

So „now“ you can see him portray six main expressions. But let me tell you, until the final animation there’s still a long way to go. Still not happy with the current texture… For example.

6 Facial Expressions of a Bird-Man-Character

How to get an animated Single Mesh Head – this time

Head modeling

Last year you could already read about how I got around building a single mesh head for Jane. There I build from polygons and slowly build up the character’s head. This year at school we went from a cube and slowly sculpted our way to the form we wanted. In short:

  1. Create a cube.A deformed block - which will become a head - 3D head modeling
  2. Insert as many edges as you need.
  3. Move vertices and edges to your liking until your head looks like you want.

Tip: As with the other version start with one side (Front or side view) and then go to the other as you build after your sketches.

Front and side view of a work-in-progress Nestor 3D HeadWork-in-progress Nestor 3D Head - three-quarter view close up

If you want a more detailed tutorial search for „3D modeling from box“ and you will find videos like this one: Character Modeling – Lesson 17 (Head) by Carol Ashley

I skipped through the video, and it’s a bit long, but has all the things we did during head modeling, as far as I can tell – even the making half of the face an instance so the head stays symmetric during modeling. You can also have that effect by simply turning the symmetry on the selection tool on.

Big advantage of modeling from box towards the other method is that you’re working from rough to detailed and have control of the level of detail – which means it’s easier to create a low-poly character.

Once your head is done – and you’ve create a proper UV for texturing – it’s ready for animation.

Animating with Blendshapes

In Maya you can use Blendshapes to change one object into several states. For this you create different versions (targets) – in our case facial expressions. To make it simple, you copy your modeled head, move the vertices around, so your character smiles, frowns, etc. Than you select the targets and your basic head (base) last and apply the Deformer Blendshape.

When you now switch into the Blendshape window (under View) you will get a list of sliders. Moving them up and down will make your base head deform in the way your targets were shaped. This way you can combine anger and fear, happiness and sadness, etc. and get a wider portrayal of emotion.

Neutral Face Expression in Maya of Nestor Smiling Face Expression in Maya of Nestor

Attention: Do not add or remove any vertices to your targets. They have to have the same amount of vertices as you base head, otherwise - - - chaos!

Nestor’s World and Mood (and Music)

Actually this wasn’t a requirement for school but I just had to pick the right music to give away the mood Nestor’s world would have. Luckily, I found „Unheard Music Concepts“ and since their music is CC.BY I really consider using their music for future Noir Audio Dramas as well. They’re brilliant for that kind of setting.

Screeshot of smiling 3D Nestor (Bird/Man)

So I really thought of a 30s kind of superhero setting. A bit of Batman, a bit of The Shadow – and mostly Darkwing Duck. Yes, I once again out myself as a 90s kid. But as a 90s kid with urge to research. Since not only was Darkwing Duck inspired by the obvious sources like Batman, Spiderman and the like, but also has its roots in heroes of the Pulp Area like The Shadow. Therefore caused me to listen to some of the shows in my mid-teens.

Now with Nestor I want to do something a bit different. I want him to be a hard-boiled superhero in a modern setting. Meaning the 21st Century.

He would still be a bit like the inspirations mentioned before but more serious and dramatic in tone. Which means no smoke and coming out of thin air. And the surrounding would have an iconic flair, without falling too much in to the clichéed black and white settings.

There probably will be hard shadows, dark alleys and a lot of lonely nights for our hero – but no absence of color and modern technology.

I hope that gave you a bit of an idea. Keep in mind I haven’t written any actual story for the character, so there are a lot of open ends, but if you have suggestions or ideas for me to weave into this tale, let me know.

And if my description triggered some visual ideas on settings and surroundings – feel free to follow the urge, post the finished sketch or image and let me know about it, so I can reblog. 🙂