The Neziņa Project (nudity)

My next long-term personal project completes a series I started years ago with two digital paintings, subject the Valkyries. Casting about for an original approach to such a well-worn fantasy femme theme, I let the (dark) spirit of All Hallow’s Eve take hold and poof there she was! :smiley:

Just basic modeling/sculpting and materials so far, lots more detail to add. Big problem with the hair, though – trying to render it twice in a row crashes 2.54beta :frowning: Doesn’t bode well for animation, but I may keep the rig fairly simple and just do a single pose. I hope to adapt the rig that was distributed for the Durian animation sprint.

I spent some of the time waiting for the hair to render (it takes forever!) drafting up a little mock-historical bio for the character:

"Known in legend as the ‘Undead Valkyrie,’ Neziņa Kareivis was a 13th century kurši woman born in Kurzeme (Courland), now in present-day Latvia, on the coast of the Baltic Sea. She gained fame, and infamy, in battles against the newly-converted Christian army led by the traitor-pretender Caupo of Turaida. In 1212 she was reported to have been killed by treachery, having consented to a meeting with Caupo under a flag of truce, only to be assassinated by hidden archers.

But Neziņa’s body was never recovered, and sightings of her were reported by the men fighting under the Estonian warrior-king Lembitu as late as 1217. Tales of her earlier savagery in battle against the Christian forces led to stories of her ghost ravaging the enemy, draining their strength and life as she passed among them. By the end of the century, she had become known as the “Undead Valkyrie” both for her battle prowess and her apparently vampiric apparitions during the Livonian Crusade.

Despite obvious similarities to France’s Jean D’Arc (later made St. Joan), both the Livonian pagans and Christians of the region denounced her as evil because she was believed to be nosferatu, and sought with nearly complete success to expunge her memory from all records of the era."

– Excerpted from Baltic Vampires – A Dark History by Jamie Attenborough, NeuGothic Pressworx © 2010 K.G. Nyman

Happy Hallowe’en!

Plenty of progress despite many, many crashes when rendering in 2.55, which I otherwise like a great deal.

Added detail to the armor & its Materials, gave her some weapons based on Viking references (historical & reconstructions), and UV-unwrapped the figure, adding quite a bit of Material detail to the face, though that’s still being revised as well. I’ll also need the UV-unwrap for normal-mapping more anatomical detail from a hi-rez sculpt.

She now has vampire’s teeth, though showing her fangs will have to wait until I get the rigging at least partly done – I plan to try using my Othello rig for the face, but much of the existing Sintel rig for everything else.

She now has three “wigs”: one fully loose (at top), one bound at the back of her neck with a long free “ponytail” (not shown), and one closely-cropped for under her helmet. For the last I’ll be modeling a non-particle-hair version of her hair tightly bound into some sort of plaited configuration in back so it wouldn’t be a liability in battle.

Her story is also coming along. I have the first sequence I want to animate drafted, and I’m sketching out a larger screenplay, using the Livonian Crusade as the main backdrop for Neziņa’s story. The research for that has been much more interesting than I thought it would be, with heroes and villains aplenty. The story is almost writing itself! :wink:

Very good, your excellent interplay of shadow and light really emphasize the form and masses in her face. As I understand about valkyries,
they were supposed to gather the slain vikings and guide them to Valhalla where they would party hearty because at the end of the world
they accepted that they would be destroyed for their lustfull excesses. Certainly the mood conveyed here.

Yeah, that’s the “traditional” aspect of the Valkyrie legend. Here, I’m using it as a springboard to an original treatment: A mortal woman who, much like Joan of Arc, was a highly successful warrior (in this case against Christian Crusaders), and because the Southern Baltic of the Dark Ages and early medieval period saw many Viking visitations & settlements, came to be associated with the supernatural women of the Viking pantheon. So not a “pure” Valkyrie, but rather one by popular reputation, which grew even stronger after her becoming nosferatu.

I really thought that blending two such disparate legends – valkyries and vampires – would be a chore, but as it turns out, the Livonian Crusade is exactly the sort of historical event that could conceivably spawn the tale of love, treachery, betrayal and revenge that I’m currently potboiling up :smiley:

And thank you for the comment on the lighting – its just a start, but it’s good to hear that the forms are being well-modeled, that’s something I always strive for.

very interesting legend, an animated storybook then this project is?

I suppose so, as much as any movie (even a short one) is an “animated storybook.” I don’t have the resources to make a feature-length film with a cast of thousands, or even dozens (though I’d really like to!), so as I develop the story I have to decide on how to present it very succinctly, maybe with a series of vignettes rather than the continuous story line a longer movie & more production resources might permit.

Here are some skin materials tests, very close to finished:

Very good modeling. Although I always pictured the armor and clothing of any Valkirie to be more… Norse or Norwegian.

I admit to taking a few liberties with the design of the armor, which is more fantasy-inspired than historical, but then, this will be a fantasy, so I can live with it. But I have researched the period and found a lot of visual resources that are providing inspirations for the designs so far. I have a couple of other characters to develop (such as a Crusader Knight) that will have more traditional look, but still stylized, to fit the art theme I’m working out.

Have you ever seen the movie Excalibur? I’m kind of leaning toward that kind of highly stylized treatment of the armor and costuming.

the second, paler skin test looks more vampire like IMO

Oh. I get it. She wasn’t actually a Valkirie but was named so fro being an excellent warrior. Make for sense now. And also, make a great helm on the Templar. Studying armor is my number one hobby (besides drawing). Here’s what I’m working on, just so you can see. Note: I did not use one culture for this armor and the Cuirass isn’t to scale and the tassets wouldn’t work, etc. etc. More just for fun… and I’m a noob. /uploads/default/original/3X/d/4/d44b257eeb6a35c542a4c78ee0ab75e3e966692c.pngd=1289615853

Oh, BTW, again the modeling is Supurb.

Thank, GraphiX. Your armor suit is probably similar to the style I’ll be aiming at for the Crusader Knight, though probably not a full suit.

The historical docs I’ve read on the web refer to a particular order, the Swordbrothers, made up primarily of German knights. They along with the Danish were the principle Crusaders on the Baltic Coast, what is now Latvia and Estonia, which is where my story is set. The Swordbrothers, I gather, were particularly brutal in their conversion methods, so they (or one or two of them at least) are cast as the bad guys in my story.

@chip4brains – Yep, the nearly bloodless look is what I plan for Neziņa’s undead persona. I boosted the red of her lips and the darkness around her eyes to make her both more sinister and more attractive, in a spooky kind of way, sort of corpse-like but not really dead-looking. I also made her eyes significantly paler, which I think lends a very unearthly air to her gaze.

Don’t want to interrupt your blending so I’ll quietly watch wip after this.
The long hair made me realize that as a vampire, she doesn’t go for a hairdresser too often.
Excellent, creative addition. Can’t wait to see how animation will make these locks flow.

Something about the 2 skin tests made one more eerie, realize now that it is the specular light reflection from the eyes. Both heads were rendered at different angles.
Made me recall that for ‘spookyness’ I once made a render with bright red light pixels at exact center of corneas, made for great effect.

Just a suggest.

bye for now.

Shouldering a heavy design task!

Spent yesterday and today dissecting cessen’s Sintel proxy rig, seeing what I can use, what needs modifications for this model, starting with the body part every rigger loves to hate, the shoulder. But by adapting the idea from my Othello face rig of using bones that emulate muscle actions, driven by various kinds of Constraints, I’ve been able to put together a design that does what required many hand-adjusted bones to do in Kata. The Constraints system makes about 90-95% of the deformation of the shoulder area automatic, with only small tweaks needed after setting the main pose.

The bones forming a distorted chevron on her chest and in the deltoid area of the raised shoulder are made to contract and expand according to the position of the upper arm bone and the clavicle bone. The Constraints which do this are set from 50% to around 85% Influence depending on the bone, so there’s some ability to tweak the deformations even after the pose is set. I’ll be doing something similar for other problematic regions as I progress with the weight painting and deformation tests.

Sharp-eyed blenderfolk may notice that the wireframe shot & the render are subtly different: after the rendering was done, it was very apparent that there is a small problem with proportions in the model. Looking back at earlier renderings I then noticed it more clearly in those as well – her head is about 5% too large, not really enough to look totally odd (and in fact this character is based in part on a young woman I once knew who, being very petite, had a proportionally large head), but enough that in this pose the arms looked too small. I fixed the render in Photoshop & will fix the model tomorrow… glad I caught it now & not after a few thousand frames of animation were done!

The Art of Moonlighting

After three days of twitching bones about I took a break from the mechanical end of things to do some lighting tests. One of the major scenes in the movie as now imagined (and partially written) takes place during a night of the full moon in winter, with thin snowfall on the ground. I wanted to see what it would take to get both varieties of Neziņa’s skin to look good in low-key but high-color-contrast lighting. The red counter-light will likely be a different hue in the movie (probably flickering flame-light) but the idea is the same – a deeply saturated back/edge light, contrasting the cool, low-value key light, with plenty of rich shadows. There’s also a subtle kicker of yellow-gold rimlighting that really helps round out the figures, if you’ll pardon the obvious pun.

The BG for this image was mocked-up in Photoshop but is a good guide to what I want to do with the eventual scene lighting. And yes, I intend she will be nude in these scenes, it’s part of the story, not just gratuitous skin-baring.


This is a diagram of part of the rigging system I’m developing for the Neziņa model & will be using for the other character models I plan to build as well. The bones shown are for the upper torso and arms, and some imitate the muscles as labeled. The rig requires that the character modeling follow a fairly specific topological plan, so I intend to reshape/resculpt all my characters from this one, with a few necessary mesh edits/modifications for different muscle mass and anatomy.

Neziņa Rig Demo Movie password = chipsvids (due to nudity)

A 5-fps 100-frame step-through animation of some basic flexing and arm motion to demonstrate the way the rig acts on the model. Since OpenGL animation is busted in 2.55 beta, this is currently the only way to preview any animation to check for deformations and timing – hope that’s fixed soon because this method takes way too long, and real-time UI playback is still a pipe dream. But the basic rendering with lighting does help identify places where some adjustments to the mesh or rig animation is needed. OpenGL would also make showing the rig in action possible.

Most of the bones shown move interactively with one another under both Constraint and driver control. 2.55 is a Universe ahead of 2.4x in that regard! Everything I had to laboriously script to do in Kata with pydrivers can now be done in the UI with Constraints and Drivers, which are incredibly easy to add! This makes it much more feasible to employ lots of “helper” bones that mimic muscles and tendons rather than just moving the major parts around.

This is some very good work! Was this all rig, or did you add shape keys, as well? I was also wondering if all of the bones shown are deform bones? Or are some just used for constraints and and control of the other bone’s motion?

If you had the time and inclination, I would love to see you walk through the various bones and their functions – not a full blown tutorial (I’m sure that would take far too long) but just a vid showing: “OK, this bone is a control for this… this bone deforms here…” etc…

But, really a nice looking project so far! I am watching this with great interest! Keep it coming!

Thanks. MJ60. Yep, so far it’s all bones – while shape keys have their place, and I know many use them for deformation correction, I like working directly with the mesh surface while animating. Not everyone’s cuppa but it works for me.

In the set of bones shown, all are deforming bones except the vertical “posts” that stick up from the apex of the triangle formed by the three pectoral bones on each side of the chest. Those are IK targets (handles) for the pectoral bones, which are set for maximum stretch. The handles are under Transform Constraints, and when they move, the pectoral bones move with them, while still maintaining the basic triangular shape, which was abstracted from the shape of the pectoral muscles. The point where they all come together at the handle is analogous to the point where the pectoral muscles insert between the deltoids and the biceps (roughly speaking).

The Transform Constraints use the rotation in various axes of the upper arm bone to cause the pectoral “handles” to translate in proportion to the flex of the upper arm/shoulder area. This approach is used on a number of bones, including the clavicle. But the Constraints are only partially influential (a range of about 0.5 to 0.8, usually), so all these “muscle” bones can be tweaked by hand as well.

The deltoids use a Damped Track Constraint to always point at a position on the upper arm (again analogous to a muscle insertion point). They can be translated and scaled, and rotated in one of the three axes, to tweak the deformation at the shoulder.

In the elbows, the “bone” bone is static – it represent the “point” of the ulna we call the elbow, across which the skin is stretched as the arm flexes at this joint. It overrides the influence of the upper and lower arm bones. The “tendon” bone is essentially a corrective to prevent soda-straw collapse of the inside of he arm. Again using a Transform Constraint to have the forearm Rotation change the tendon’s Location, the inner surface of the arm is stretched out as the arm is flexed to prevent the usual “kink” at that area that simple weight-painting between the upper & lower arm bones causes. This is again an analogy to anatomy – the tendon that connects the lower end of the bicep to the upper part of the forearm bones (as well as other volume-maintaining tissues) acts to keep the skin from creasing very deeply until the arm is fully flexed.

I’ll see about putting together a movie of the action, but not having OpenGL animation capability is a big drawback in that regard.

Karl, this look amazing! Lovely character and she is movin’ :wink: Keep in mind that there are some people around that would love to put their sweaty fingers on that beauty (first and foremost the rig) :wink:

Keep us posted!

Hip deep in weight painting!

Thanks, 'ski! “Sweaty hands,” huh? On the rig, huh? Yeah, right :wink:

Movin’ along, I’ve used my experience from Kata in setting up a fairly extreme pose to get the correctives for the hip/thigh joints working properly. In Kata I had scripted correctives that really didn’t do a great job for this pose, an aerial split or grand jeté, so I made sure this time 'round I had this problem solved before starting the animation. The bones shown basically grab the verts in the “creases” of the thigh joint and pull them out to maintain an approximate constant volume for the joint area even under extreme flex.

This is not a particularly elegant solution, as the leg motions range is so large that the constraints/drivers I plan for them will only roughly approximate final positions for the corrective bones – considerable hand-tweaking will be needed. Getting the creases to evert smoothly required a great deal of finicky weight painting, often using a brush weight of around .01 on individual vertices. This was complicated by the need to have two crease correctors, one for the side and rear, and one for the front, for both right & left joints. With the pelvis & thigh bone influences also involved, it meant having to balance three or four influences on almost all the verts in these areas; four bones influencing any one vertex is about as many as you want to permit, otherwise it gets really tricky finding the right balance. I have about 20 hours into just the weight painting of these joints, but the results are worth the effort:

While plodding through the weight painting I came up with a different approach I want to try using a “volume object” inside the joint, which the mesh surface rides over like skin over a bone or muscle; this will employ the Shrinkwrap modifier. I’ve done something similar with the Othello face rig’s eyelids, so I know the principle is sound, but making it work in this application may be a lot trickier. But if it does work, it may completely eliminate the need for such corrective bones as shown above,

A Truly Grand Jeté

The previous pose was useful while setting up the constraints that drive the corrective bones for this model, but to really test the range of leg deformation (and shoulders, back & chest as well), I tried matching a pose I found as a ref:
Some ballet & dance images

I came close, but the human body is remarkably flexible, and the ballerina manages even more extreme “deformations” than my model can manage! But this character won’t be doing any classical dancing, this is just a means of stressing the rig’s and model’s capabilities, as well as a pretty picture. :smiley:

Why is she always wearing boots? 'Cause she has no feet. Modeling feet & toes is time-consuming, and since the character will always wear some sort of footwear, no need to spend the hours on those details.