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M48 Cyclone

polycounter lvl 9
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Niknesh polycounter lvl 9

Hello fellow Polycounters!

Here's a little making of for a knife that can't cut an apple, but is definitely great for stabbing and crushing heads. Best to be used in a zombie apocalypse scenario. Before I started, I was digging up a bit about history and the usage of knives in wars. I found out that tri-edge trench knives were used in the First World War, after which they were banned by the Geneva Convention because of the grievous wounds they created. That's how I came to finding this crazy commercial.

My goal was to make the M48 Cyclone knife look as close to the real one as possible. I wanted for it to also look game ready, so that if a player was using it he could imagine what kind of damage it would do against an enemy.

First things first, I needed references.
For this I used a combo of Google and PureRef. 

I chose a pic that would best serve me as a guide for modelling and started to work from it. I wanted to try and do the knife in Fusion at first, but it proved too difficult for me, so I went on to do it in Maya which is my primary software.

For the sides on the handle I used booleans and adjusted the geo after. I used KTools script which is awesome for this kind of stuff, made by Klaudio Ladavac, but regular boolean tool would apply also. Where I could I used floating geometry, keeping it in layers so that it can easily be switched on and off in viewport.

I used the same approach for the sheath. You do the shape first, then you can cleanup all you like. Those bold edge lines that you see are from mirrored instances. I made it like this so that Maya is always showing me ends of an object with a bolder line. The option is in preferences and you can change it however fits you personally. I like to cut objects on the symmetry and copy them as instances in minus xyz, that's how I prefer to symmetrize. You could also use the symmetry function, but I'm kinda used to my shortcuts.

As for the blade, I made one part of it, which i positioned and instanced two times to get the tri-blade. Then I applied a twist deformer that would get me as close to the shape that was required as possible. I've written down the numbers for this deformation which I would reapply later.

The thing with Maya is that it always creates a history node, for almost everything that you do. If you delete it it's gone, like collapse in Max. I needed a straight blade for the UVs, so the unwrap had to be done before the curving of the blade or you would run into a problem like in a pic below. General rule of thumb is to have straight UV islands, which equals in less distortion, better textures and bake. Plan ahead whenever you can, that's why in one of the pics above I already tried to do the twist so that I could see how much geo I would need for it to look good and for the holes that are in the blade itself.

After all modeling was done, it was time to smooth the objects. I kept most of the geometry adjustable near the end, made a lot of copies in case I would need to redo something. It's more challenging to do something complicated, but it's fun and you learn a lot throughout the process like I did.
Basic principle that I use is to model cleanly. That way I can get the object that I can easily subdivide for the highpoly, while keeping a copy of it on which I will reduce the geometry a bit to finalize the low poly version. 

I make the edges of my highpoly object into hard edges, where there would be a sharper transition between the shapes, and leave the rest as soft edges. Then I select only those hard edges (you can do this manually or with a script which is faster) and apply bevel on them with chamfer option off. It's like a solid bevel without averaging the edges and this is how you'd get your smoothable highpoly. Kudos to the Chamfer Zone, because I made my approach based on the videos that I watched from there.

If you happen to use another awesome, but free script made by the polycounter artquest (works in 2017), this workflow would be even easier. Just read how it works.

I should note that you can bake materials as ID's in Substance Painter, that's why the inner part of the blade is of different color in this pic.
And here's is my final geo:

For the texturing part, everything that I could not do by floaters or modeling, I was drawing in Substance Painter. The trick is to make a fill layer with only height activated, which you would adjust by the slider. Then, make a black mask, so that when you paint the whites here the normal details will start showing based on the brushes that you use. Even though it's height, Substance exports it as a normal map. In this step I only do the normal details, which I export and reimport so that the generators and smart mask would work on them.  

For the diamond pattern on the grip, you can model and bake it onto a plane, or search the alpha from the internet, because it's quite the default pattern and easy. I think it can also be made by using the tile maker inside Substance Painter or by using Substance Designer, there are really many options to choose from.

I applied the pattern on selected parts of the mesh, but because I used masking by polygons it gave me a sharp transition which I adjusted with brushes. Also, I applied a transform filter to adjust the pattern and make sure it will be seamless across the the whole handle.

I had one issue while doing the normals, which was that the symmetry line wasn't in the right place. Substance Painter sees the whole model as a bounding box, so I had to add an actual box in the fbx export in order to keep the symmetry line where I needed it. The reason is that my sheath wasn't symmetrical in the same ways as the knife is and this was the only way to fix it.

Here are my texturing layers. First I make a base group of layers which would represent my primary material.
My usual order is base color, color breaks, surface details and some edge highlights. I rotate the model a lot and switch between the environments in order to see if that's how I want the base to look. Then I go into every other detail like dirt, dust and dents or a fingerprint here an there. Again, I rotate the environment and see if my texture is looking good in many different lighting situations.

Those references that you gather beforehand come handy right at this moment.

I had a separate material for the sheath and for the blade. My guess was that in a production pipeline it would be easier to downscale one thing that you don't see that often, like the sheath texture for instance, while keeping the blade looking good. That was my reasoning for doing it this way.
I overkilled the texture size, which is 4k for each, but 2k looks good enough to be honest. Heck, I barely could load 4k in Substance Painter because my computer sucked until now, so it was a wild guess.

And here's my final UV map, for each texture set.

More images are here

Feel free to add your thoughts and critiques if you'd like.

Also, I want to thank Polycount for giving me this opportunity, which was really out of the blue for me. I'm a long time lurker here and only started to post this year, best site ever for artist of all kinds. I plan to remedy this with being more active in the future :wink:


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