<![CDATA[RussOgi.com - Blog]]>Sat, 10 Mar 2018 11:09:26 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[What Knot To Do.]]>Thu, 25 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/what-knot-to-doAgemaki knots
What Knot To Do? That's the question I was faced with when working on the Do (torso armor) of my Samurai armor replica.

If you've been following my build.  Thank you.  If so, please skip the next three paragraphs explaining this project.

To get more insight into my own armor designs, I am constructing a half-scale model (about 2.5 feet tall when completed) of Feudal Lord, Date Masamune's Samurai armor.

This blog continues with my hands-on study of the design and construction of traditional samurai armor. 

If you're new to my project, welcome.  If you would like to read this blog series from the beginning start here.  I am also writing a build diary on the ModelSpace website here.  In the build diary, I detail the steps taken in the construction of the replica.  My blog here will focus on my thoughts and insights from this project.

I deviated from the instructions with the knots on the shoulders. The instructions show creating faux knots by looping cord and gluing them in place.

There are often knots in various locations on Samurai armor.  Some are purely decorative, others also have practical applications.

I had not included knots in my own armor designs previously, and this was my first experience with the knots on traditional armor.  It seemed odd to me that Japan armorers would glue rope to create knots rather than tying a knot.

Doing some research, I could not find references to the same knot shown in the instructions (pictured right).

The knot I found most often in various parts of Samurai armor was the agemaki. I've heard it referred to as the dragonfly or clover knot.
agemaki close up
I decided to use this as the knot on the shoulders of the model. I managed to find both video and diagram instructions on the creation of the knot online.

The cords provided with the kit were a bit short for an agemaki. Understandable since they weren't intended for that type of knot.

The agemaki usually have, and look better with, longer tails with full tassels at the ends.  Pictured to the left is how my knots ended up.  Perhaps down the road, I'll change the existing cords for longer ones.

The knots are one of the elements of traditional Samurai armor that I probably would never have looked into had I not started this project.  It led me to learn more about knot tying, their variations, and their meanings.

After working with the agemaki on the Masamune armor, I'm interested in including knots on some of my future armor designs to add another level of traditional aesthetic.

Anyone knowledgeable in knots especially as they relate to the Samurai armor please leave a comment below.

<![CDATA[What Happened?]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/what-happenedDark sky
Thank you to everyone who has been following my blog and my current project – building a half-scale replica of Date Masamune's Samurai armor.

I hope the New Year is off to a great start for all of you.

I undertook building the half scale Samurai armor replica to learn more about the construction of traditional Samurai armor.  The idea was to apply that knowledge to my contemporary Samurai armor designs.

At the beginning, I had the intention of posting a build diary on the ModelSpace forum and a corresponding entry here.

The build diary would focus on the actual construction process while my blog would focus on my thoughts and insights gained from building the replica.

In the real world, things don't always go according to plan.  So what happened?

Punchbowl cemetary statueThe statue "Columbia" overlooking the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific where Mom and Dad are inurned.
Back in mid-May 2017, my father passed away after years of struggling with COPD and Emphysema in addition to surviving lung cancer. He fought hard to stay as independent as possible for as long as he could.

Two weeks prior, our dog of almost 18 years lost her struggle with a brain tumor, failing kidneys and dementia and we had to put her down.

In the time leading up to both of those events, my wife and I spent a lot of time caring for both my father and our dog. Needless to say, it was a taxing situation for both of us. I didn't realize how stressful everything really was until...

Two days after my father passed, I came down with the shingles. It's a disease that usually affects older people but my immune system was compromised and my body and mind were overtaxed from the prolonged strain of caring for our ailing family.

After 3 weeks and two trips to the emergency room, the shingles rash and blisters were gone. For people, my age, symptoms and the after effects usually pass quickly. Unfortunately, not for me.

Armor parts
As of this post, it has been 7 months and I still have nerve damage from the shingles. It causes me pain and itching in the affected area and extreme fatigue. It makes it very difficult to focus on tasks.

I find it easier to focus on doing rather than writing. Bottom line, I enjoy making stuff more than writing about it so while I've been adding to my build diary, I haven't kept up with my blog as I had originally intended.

I will be adding entries for the Samurai armor project to my blog soon. Stay tuned.  My New Year resolution I suppose.

Thank you again for following along with my blog and build diary. If you're just joining me on this journey you can start to read the blogs from the beginning here and the build diary here.

Please share this project on Facebook and Twitter. I'd love to hear any thoughts you have.

You can also follow along on Instagram where I'll be posting some additional pictures.

<![CDATA[Crowning Achievement: Samurai Helmets]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:48:24 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/crowning-achievement-samurai-helmetshachi or kabuto crown
I continue my blog series about Samurai armor as I move forward with my build of the half scale replica of Date Masamune's armor.

If you haven't already, please have a look at my previous Samurai armor blogs where I talk a bit about traditional armor and how traditional design influences my Samurai armor designs.

And please follow along my build diary as I continue the construction of this armor replica.  You can find my diary here at the Model Space Forum.  My build diary focuses on the details of the actual build process.

On to the crown or hachi as it is known in Japanese.

The hachi is part of the most iconic section of the Samurai armor - the kabuto (helmet).  It is a key part of the silhouette of the helmet and suit. Traditionally, the hachi is built using wedge shaped sections of metal attached together. Generally, these plates run vertically.

The shape of the hachi is an element of the Samurai armor that sees quite a bit of variation historically and in my own designs.

metal and 3D printed helmetsSteel helmet (left) 3D printed helmet (right)
Although, I don't usually incorporate separate plates into my hachi designs, I often mimic the appearance of plates as decorative elements.

In earlier designs, I ran them horizontally partially in an attempt to differentiate my designs from traditional armor. This is a design choice I started using when working with metal.

My design choice was driven by a decision to differentiate my helmets from traditional armor and reinforce the idea that I am not creating replica armor but extending or continuing the traditional armor design. However, with a few of my more recent designs, I decided to mimic the vertical plates of traditional kabuto.

Momotaro helmet
With my Momotaro armor design, I took another design cue from traditional kabuto and went with the momonari profile for the hachi. The term, momonari, is derived from its profile that is reminiscent of a peach. Often, momonari were constructed of fewer plates.

I thought the momonari shape was very fitting considering the theme for this armor.  The Momotaro armor is based around the Japanese folk tale "Momotaro".  The title translates to Peach Boy.

The momonari hachi is distinctly different from the bowl shape of Date Masamune's kabuto.

hibiki-no-ana shiten-no-byo
While I do appreciate the scale model's attention to detail, I wish the instructions came with more information about the parts of the armor.  More details about construction methods and purpose of various armor parts would be nice.

The Hibiki-no-ana and shiten-no-byo (pictured right) are a good examples.  Not much information about their purpose is included in the model's documentation.

These are spikes and small holes with lacing.  There are four sets of these around the midsection of the hachi.

These elements are decorative but I believe they originally had some association to the shinobi-no-o or chin strap.  I haven't been able to fully confirm that though.

Another aspect of the model helmet I am curious about is the absence of the tehen-no-kanamono.  The tehen-no-kanamono is the round fitting that surrounds the hole at the top of the crown.

On the model, the hole is present but the tehen-no-kanamono is not.

I have seen historical armor missing the tehen-no-kanamon but usually because it was broken off or otherwise lost but not a kabuto made without one.

Please share any thoughts you have about armor design or information you might have about Japanese kabuto in the comments below.  I would especially love to hear from those who are knowledgeable about armor and Samurai armor.

<![CDATA[The Surface Pro 4.5 Out Of The Box]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/the-surface-pro-45-out-of-the-boxPicture
For the purposes of this post, I'm going to refer to the 2017 Surface Pro as the Surface Pro 4.5 or Pro 4.5 or just 4.5.  I get the marketing behind Microsoft not naming their new computer Surface Pro 5 and for the most part, it's not an issue.  However, when talking to people about it, it does get confusing with the original Surface Pro (mine is still running by the way).

I've been using the Surface Pro 3 for about 3 years and it's still a solid machine.  It has served me well and I didn't feel the urgency to upgrade like I did with the original Surface Pro.  This time, I did not pre-order the Surface Pro 4.5.  I waited a couple of months.

I physically went into the store and I'm glad I did, turns out there is a business bundle. 

The business bundle is not available online and is not mentioned anywhere.  If you're planning on a Surface Pro purchase, you should definitely consider one of the bundles.

There are a couple variants of the business bundle.  I opted for the one that included the keyboard and the "Business Complete" support package.  The important part of the bundle is the "Business Complete" component.

Microsoft's "Complete" packages include their replacement programs.  If my Surface is damaged in any way, Microsoft will replace it.  The standard Complete has a $50 deductible, with the business version you don't pay anything for a replacement.  And the business bundle includes 2 replacements in 3 years as opposed to 1 replacement in 2 years.

Surface Pro 3 damaged
Corner impact (left) pushed the display out and led to the crack (right)
Is the replacement plan worth it. Yes. 

I consider myself pretty meticulous with the care of any of my belongings.  So with something I rely on as much as the Surface, I'm especially careful.  But accident's happen and it slipped out of my bag one day.

As luck would have it (said with sarcasm), it landed on the corner, cracked the screen and bent the casing.  A quick trip to the Microsoft Store and they replaced it with a refurbished unit for $50.
Pro 4.5 product packagingPro 4.5 packaging
The packaging looks great.  Very different from the Pro 3.  The Pro 3 was mostly plastic.  Slick looking but with all the plastic, I would imagine not a environmentally friendly.  The new packaging for the 4.5 was pretty standard.  Slide cover box with info and graphics.

The bundle included either the Alcantara signature keyboard or the type cover with fingerprint reader. I opted for the keyboard with fingerprint reader.  The added fingerprint reader was worth more to me than the Alcantrara covering.

I've been using the 4.5 for a month or so now.  I like it.  The upgrades are subtle but appreciated.  So far, I've done a good amount of writing, some video watching and photo editing.

The battery last's much longer.  Very noticeable when doing photo editing and watching videos.  I used to have to charge the battery after 4 hours or so (I usually charge the battery to about 80-90% and don't run it down past 20%).  I've noticed I now get almost 6-7 hours doing similar work.

Another big difference is the heat.  The 4.5 runs much cooler, which is good since it doesn't have a fan.  Even at it's hottest, it still feels cooler than the Pro 3.

The screen and processing power don't seem to be much different.

Type cover comparisonPro 4 Type Cover (left) Pro 3 Type Cover (Right)
The keyboard (Pro 4 Type Cover with fingerprint reader) differs from the older Pro 3 Type cover.  The Pro 4 has island style keys.  Meaning it has spaces between the keys.  It took a couple hours typing with it to get use to the spacing of the keys.

The Pro 4 keyboard sounds much more substantial.  It has more of a thud when you hit the keys.  The Pro 3 was more of a click.  I do notice a squeak sometimes with the Pro 4 keyboard.  The back light is better with the Pro 4 type cover.

The fingerprint reader is a great addition.  It was easy to train and makes logging in faster.  It reads quickly and accurately most of the time.  If I've just washed my hands, the fingerprint reader seems to misread.

The track pad has a much smoother feel on the Pro 4 keyboard.

I do seem to lose Bluetooth connectivity to my mouse (an HP x4000b) quite often.  Haven't figured out what's causing that yet.

The capacitative Windows button is no longer on the screen.  That works for me as I would, on occasion, accidentally touch that button while sketching.

Volume button
The most disorienting change was the relocation of the volume button from the side of the Surface to the top.  It's disorienting because 1) I got use to it being on the side with the Pro 3 and 2) when it was on the side the on screen volume indicator matched the direction of the volume rocker button: louder was up and softer was down.  Now, louder is left and softer is right but the volume indicator still shows louder/softer as up and down.  

Haven't gotten too much time in with the pen yet. 

Please share your experiences, thoughts or questions about the Surface Pro 4.5 in the comments below.

<![CDATA[Building Date Masamune's Armor: The Stand]]>Tue, 15 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/building-date-masamunes-armor-the-standArmor stand
I decided to start construction of the model with the wood stand.  The assembled stand is pictured to the left.

From my understanding, the wood stand that is included with the model is of the more traditional configuration. 

The other version I've commonly seen looks a bit like the Blair Witch stick figure.

I decided not to glue the stand together so the stand could be disassembled when the armor was stored.  This is also a traditional aspect of wood stands.

You can read more about the construction of the stand in my build diary on the  ModelSpace Forum.

The stand provided with the model includes a nice heavy wood base that provides enough weight to counterbalance the armor.

Stand parts including a hefty wood base and shoulder cross bar
MannequinFiberglass mannequin pictured with a 2' ruler
For my own full size armor designs, I originally used a fiberglass mannequin. However, shipping a mannequin, even just a torso was size and budget restrictive. 

When I started to travel and show my armor designs at expos, I had to rethink my stand design.  That became a project of its own.

I ended up custom making stands. I used PVC pipe as it was readily available and easy to work with.  I could also easily make a stand that could be disassembled for shipping or storage.

My travel stand for full body armor was based around an inflatable mannequin torso with the PVC frame.

The inflatable mannequin provided the bulk to fill out the do (torso) armor but was light weight and portable.  The PVC frame would handle the weight of the armor.

PictureMy current travel stand configuration
Based on my experience with this model, I'm considering a configuration closer to a more traditional stand.

One of the tricks however, would be avoiding a heavy base in favor of one that is lightweight but could still provide stability.

Please share any thoughts or ideas you have about the design of armor stands in the comments below.

<![CDATA[Building Masamune's Armor: Part 1]]>Tue, 25 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/building-masamunes-armor-part-1The Unboxing
Masamune armorArmor from DeAgostini instructions
My reason for building this model is as a research project for my art work – contemporary Samurai armor. Or maybe “research project” is my justification for taking workday time to build probably the COOLEST scale model I have ever built.

I haven't had the chance to build a scale model kit in years primarily because of work. I've always put off “just for fun” projects. Not to say that some of my work projects haven't been fun to work on. But this one combines the best of both worlds.

My build diary in the ModelSpace Forum will focus on the mechanics of putting the armor together. I'll also have a supplemental posts here, on my blog at russogi.com/blog with insights and other thoughts I have about the armor design and construction and how it has, or will influence my art.

For a more detailed introduction about who I am and my reason for undertaking this project you can go to my introductory post here in the ModelSpace Forum or here on my personal blog.

Now on to the unboxing.

I ordered the entire kit rather than a part-work subscription. So if you're wondering what it looks like when the entire kit arrives in one shot, here it is.

Inside each of the big boxes are smaller packages each containing one pack. 12 packs in all.  Each pack encompasses several steps.  55 steps for the entire project.  Each pack comes with a full color instruction booklet and each of the steps are packaged in their own blister pack sealed with a cardboard backing.

  Here is a detailed look at each of the 12 packs.  For reference, each floor tile is almost 39.5cm or about 15.5" square.
Car parts
As you can see, Date Masamune used some of the best technology available in the design of his armor.  This includes parts from a McLaren Honda MP4/4!

In case you missed it in the gallery above, one of these things is not like the others.

Kidding aside, somehow this Pack 7 for the MP4/4 was mistakenly included in my kit in place of the Samurai armor Pack 7. 

In addition to the incorrect Pack 7, the Yoroi bitsu (armor storage box) is missing.  The yoroi bitsu serves as both storage container for the armor and as the base for the wooden display stand to sit.

I quickly contacted DeAgostini customer service and informed them of the errors.

The correct Pack 7 was dispatched at no charge to me.  It did take about 2-3 weeks to make it to me but, being in Hawaii, you accept longer shipping times as part of the price of living in paradise.

Trying to get the storage box however is an on going issue.  More on that later.

wood and metal parts
This is my first model from DeAgostini, and my first impression was set by the packaging.  I was impressed.  Each step comes in a blister pack with a snap-fit backing keeping the parts secure. Both arrive sealed with a cardboard backing. I was surprised at the weight of some of the parts.

The model itself is made of multiple materials including metal, wood, faux leather and multiple types of material.  The kote (armored sleeves) are made of chain-mail.  Half scale chain-mail, how cool is that!

I've been reviewing the instructions online and reading the build diaries of others on the ModelSpace Forum to get an idea of what's ahead.

Since I have the entire kit, I am planning on building the armor in sections rather than following the steps in order. For example, lacing all the kusazuri (tassets) sections at the same time. I find when I work, it's much easier, and more enjoyable, to tackle similar tasks together.

But building out of order presented the problem of keeping parts from getting lost and keeping them organized. There are a lot of parts and many of them are much smaller than they look in the instructions.

Fortunately, I found that the packaging is durable enough to be opened and closed several times. 

Both top and bottom are contoured to keep the parts in place and snapped together at several points keeping top and bottom securely closed.

This allows me to use them as storage containers making the parts accessible while keeping them organized.

I'll be following up shortly with another post as I start the build.  If you have ever worked on a project like this or have any model making tips, please share your thoughts or stories in the comments below.

<![CDATA[Letting The Cat Out Of The Bag Part 3]]>Thu, 20 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/letting-the-cat-out-of-the-bag-part-3Part III: How Do You Bring A Virtual Cat Into The Real World?
Stages of finishingRaw 3D print, primer, finished
If you would like to read about how this project started, you can read part 1 here or part 2 about the creation of the virtual model here.

Once the changes to the virtual model were completed and approved, a 3D printed version of the model was made using a process called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

For those unfamiliar with 3D printing, the software for the 3D printer takes the virtual model and divides it into layers. Depending on the part, this could be hundreds, even thousands of layers.

The layer data is sent to the 3D printer where the machine recreates each digital layer as an outline in plastic. It does this using a plastic filament that is heated and fed through an extruder. Each physical layer is stacked one on top the other.

Each layer is hot enough to adhere to the layer before it. With all the layers stacked on one another the result is a 3D physical replica of the computer sculpture.

PictureSections of the model before assembly
Once the part is 3D printed, it goes through an extensive finishing process. The entire Cat was printed in several sections. Some of the sectioning was done to fit the build chamber of the 3D printer. Other parts were sectioned for ease of painting.

Because the Cat has multiple colors, the different colored parts either need to be painted separately, parts need to be masked or different colors are hand painted.

When parts of a model are supposed to be separate objects, I often prefer creating the parts separately. The Cat's medallion is a great example.

Medallion partsMedallion parts
The Cat's medallion was printed separately from the Cat and the circular “coin” section was printed separately from the Island Insurance logo. In this case, the 3D printer was entirely capable of 3D printing the medallion with logo on the Cat all in one shot.

But if everything was one piece, to paint the medallion blue would have meant masking the Cat and logo in order to paint the blue or would have required careful brush painting by hand.

I often spray paint rather than brush as it's quicker and you don't have concerns about brush strokes in the finish.  But doing so usually requires masking with finishes that have multiple colors.

Printing separate parts is one of the construction strategies I use to make fabrication easier. Often, this adds extra time in the CAD modeling stage of the project but can save considerable effort on the physical finishing side. Also, the finished product looks better and generally feels higher in quality.

Alignment pointsAlignment points
With the computer model, I can ensure the parts fit perfectly.  The trick is to make sure that the virtual precision translates into the physical model.

To ensure each section lines up as accurately as possible in the real world, I create alignment points in the computer model.  The alignment points are pits that I fit small dowels into.  In this case, I use BBQ skewers.

The alignment points are 3D printed as part of the model.  In the picture to the left, you can see the alignment points some of which have the wooden dowels in them.

partial assemblyPartial assembly
The first step is assembly. I didn't assemble all the parts at the same time. I attach the main sections like the head and body halves frist. 

I then attach the assembled head to the assembled body.  I leave the raised arm, the medallion and logo separate until later.

After the initial assembly, I give the sections a rough sand to reduce the printlines. Then, I use a filler to even out the surface. It's the same basic process that auto body shops use.

Once the model feels smooth, I do a primer coat of paint. The primer generally helps the paint adhere to the plastic and depending on the 3D print material, helps to seal the surface of the model.  The image to the left shows the first coat of primer.

This first coat of primer also helps to show any places on the model's surface that needs more attention.

When I am satisfied with the model's surface, I apply a final primer coat.  The Cat then gets an undercoat of black. At this point, I attach the head and right arm so I can blend the seams for those parts before the final paint goes on.

Hand painted sectionsHand painted sections
After the arm is attached, I start the final top coat of white paint. I opted to hand paint the collar red instead of masking it off. The decision to mask or brush paint is often a preference of the artist.

Each technique offers different benefits and limitations.  I find that the situation usually dictates which technique I use.

I chose to brush paint the collar since the painted edges were well defined and getting the tape under the raised arm would be difficult. I also chose to hand paint the paws and slippers for similar reasons.

Almost finishedAlmost finished
Last but not least, was the face. I again chose to freehand the painting of the Cat's facial features rather than tape masking. I used a magnifying glass to make sure I got clean painted edges. Since the face was the focal point, this painting was especially nerve wracking.

The pupils were a bit tricky. To get the shiny look of eyeballs, I opted to apply a gloss coat of clear nail polish over the black and white paint. The self leveling and quick drying nature of nail polish was perfect for the eyes.

The picture on the left shows the Cat's eyes prior to the gloss coat.

With that, the Island Cat was done. Thanks for following along. Please share any painting or fabrication techniques you use in the comments below.

<![CDATA[Who Needs The New Surface Pro?]]>Sun, 16 Jul 2017 19:20:05 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/who-needs-the-new-surface-proSurface Pro 4.5
It's pricey, it's not the fastest, it's not the lightest, it's not the most compact and it doesn't have the best battery life but... looking through all the Surface Pro clones, 2-in-1 computers and tablets on the market today, the 2017 Surface Pro is still the the best full desktop computer system in a tablet form factor.

So who needs the new Surface Pro?  It is ideal for the person who needs it's unique form factor.

By the way, I refer to the 2017 Surface Pro as the Surface Pro 4.5.

Bottom line:  If you're like me, and have mid to high end general processor needs, a need for a good stylus for drawing and value the comfort of working on the same computer wherever you go, then the Surface Pro 4.5 may be the computer for you. 

However, if you have specific, high end needs from your computer, like heavy video editing, gaming or 3D rendering, the Pro 4.5 might be a good choice as a second computer or you might look at a cheaper Pro 4.5 clone.  If your second device is going to be used mostly for media consumption then a tablet may be a good choice.

If you're looking at the 4.5 as a second computer, then purchasing a lower end or older model might be a good way to save some money.  Pro 4 prices have dropped dramatically since the release of the 4.5. 

Microsoft has gotten bashed for not including their keyboard and Surface Pen as part of the 4.5 but this actually allows you to scale your purchase up or down depending on your specific needs. 

For example, if you don't need much from the stylus, you can either not buy a Surface Pen or buy the, less expensive older model.  I believe some 3rd party styluses work with the Surface Pro. 

Same goes with the keyboard.

You also don't even need to buy a new keyboard or pen if your old keyboard and pen are still working properly.

Surface PenNew Surface Pen sold separate but backwards compatible
By making their Surface Pro hardware backwards compatible, Microsoft has created a modular system allowing the user to customize their hardware choices to best suit their needs and budget. 

I got the business bundle and opted for the i5 8gb of RAM but I didn't want the premium Alcantara covered keyboard.  Instead, I opted for the older Pro 4 keyboard with fingerprint ID.

I've been using a version of the Surface Pro for the past several years.  What do I use it for?  Everything -  from email and web browsing to sketching to 3D computer modeling.  I use it as my primary computer and it allows me to work on my primary computer wherever I go.  I even use the built in Surface screen almost exclusively.

It may not seem like a big deal, but I found that when I use a computer, for my art especially, the subtle differences between computers can be distracting and I lose my rhythm or focus on my work.  It's the small things like file locations, changes in UI and even the feel of the keyboard or mouse.

Whether it's going from home to an office or traveling to another country, as an artist, I like working on a system that feels the same.  A system that's mine. When I'm on the computer for hours at a time, I know where everything is and it feels natural.  When I jump on another machine, it's like staying in a hotel, it might have everything you need but it's just not home.

If you want to know my history and why I'm so sold on the "tablet PC" format, you can read more in my blog post, "How I Got To The Surface (Pro 3)".

The Surface Pro 3 and 4.5 allow me to have my home with me all the time.  It's compact enough that I can take it with me even if I'm not sure I'll need a computer.  It's powerful enough that I can create my 3D works in Maya.

I don't do a lot of rendering in Maya but I often work with 3D models upwards of 600,000 polygons.  There is sometimes a lag with the Pro 3 and digital drawing if I'm doing fast, heavy crosshatch but I'm not strictly an illustrator so it still works for me.

For 3D digital artists that deal with complex renders or renders with simulations, heavy video processing or artists that rely on illustrating, the 4.5 may not be enough even at the high end i7 version.  If you require specific GPU processing power, like gamers  often do, then the 4.5 would probably not be your primary computer.

My work doesn't seem to push the boundaries too much, or maybe I have low expectations.  Either way, the 4.5 has enough processing power combined with a good stylus in a compact form factor that meets my needs.  If your needs sound like my needs, the Pro 4.5 may be a good fit.

I don't care what the marketing material says, there are always compromises.  Even with the Surface Pro 4.5.  From my research, it is one of the higher priced options but if you can afford it, you make the least amount of compromises for devices with a full OS in a convertible form factor.  What you have is high end power with maximum versatility.

Do you own a Surface Pro 4.5 or are you thinking of buying one?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

<![CDATA[Building Date Masamune's Armor]]>Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:12:27 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/building-date-masamunes-armorSamurai Armor
How times have changed. When I was a kid, I hated eating vegetables and watching anything educational. I also dreaded research projects in school, especially creating bibliographies.

Now, I eat veggies on a regular basis...ok...I don't dread eating vegetables. I often find the shows on the Science, Discovery and Smithsonian Channels the most interesting things on TV. And I find myself researching almost constantly.

What do I research? Everything. Among other things, cars, electronics, and... armor.

With the armor comes a lot of history, culture and philosophy, in addition to the things you would expect to be associated with armor such as metallurgy, weapons and fighting styles. And lacing!

I love European and Asian medieval armor. But the armor of the Samurai really captures my imagination. The way they are traditionally displayed sitting with their anthropomorphized masks, they look like their own being.

Like they could stand up to greet you or to challenge you.

It's what inspires many of my armor designs. You can see some of my works here.

To that end, I'm about to embark on a research project to learn more about historical Samurai armor functionality and construction by building a ½ scale version of Date Masamune's armor from DeAgostini. I'll be posting a build diary to the ModelSpace USA forum.  Link to my build diary soon.

Who was Date Masamune? For those who want to know more about him but don't trust the Wikipedia entries you can visit the Sendai Museum site. If anyone has better information about Date Masamune please share it in the comments below.

In the ModelSpace USA diary, I'll be focusing on the mechanics of the actual build. Pointing out things I did differently or observations about particular assembly steps.

I'll also do supplemental posts here in my blog. My posts here will focus on my thoughts about the traditional Samurai armor design and construction and how, what I've learned from this build, may influence my future armor designs.

Stay tuned.

Please feel free to leave any thoughts you have about my research project or let me know if you've ever done a build like this as a research project in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

<![CDATA[Letting The Cat Out of The Bag Part 2]]>Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:26:31 GMThttp://russogi.com/blog/letting-the-cat-out-of-the-bag-part-2Where Did The Cat Come From?

PictureConcept illustration
In this post, I'll be continuing where I left off in Part 1.  If you haven't read that post and would like to before reading this post you can find it here.

What came first? The 3D print or the virtual model? Unlike the chicken and the egg, the virtual model has to come first.

I started on this project with the client, Island Insurance, providing me a concept illustration (pictured right).

The illustration provided was only a front view but Island Insurance wanted him to be a full 360 degree sculpture in the round and not just a facade.

Sometimes, even if a character or prop is not intended to be seen from other angles, having it complete gives the marketing and production teams the opportunity to improvise on the spot and shoot from a larger variety of angles.

It also gives flexibility long term to be able to shoot the character from other angles even if the original intent was to shoot it only from the signature angle, in this case, the front.

Creating a sculpture in the round from just one image always leads to a lot of interpretation on my part. It is more time consuming. I have to imagine what the character looks like from the back and from the sides, top and bottom.

PictureThe Cat in full 3D
I also consider how all the details and features work together as you move around the sculpture. Sometimes, what looks good from one angle looks odd from another.

It takes more time not only in modeling but also in communication with the client. I have to secure approvals for all the decisions I make.

As an artist, I tend to work more on projects with a single sketch or image that requires me to infer what the rest of the 3D piece will look like. It is a challenge, but it leaves leeway for creativity and interpretation. I prefer that freedom of creativity opposed to following exact measurements.

PictureFront view (left) Perspective view (right) in Autodesk Maya
To match the concept image as closely as possible, I use a process similar to rotoscoping in computer animation.  I start by importing the concept illustration into the 3D modeling software.

I position the concept illustration on an image plane.  The image plane is a virtual flat plane that shows any image applied to it.

Then, I use 3D shapes to trace over the illustration on the image plane by looking through the front view.

In the image above, the left half of the image shows the front view.  This view is orthographic with no perspective distortion which allows me to trace the picture on the image plane exactly.  If you look closely, you can make out the picture of the Cat through the 3D model's wireframe.

The right half of the image is what you would see in the perspective view of the software.  I included that view to give a better idea of the position of the image plane in relation to the 3D model of the Cat.  

PictureClaw lines as indentations
As I built the features, I also kept in mind painting the physical prop.  It was to be hand painted but also needed to match the drawing exactly. 

To accomplish this, I modeled references for all the painted details.  For example, to paint the black lines that define the paws, I created recessed grooves (pictured left) to indicate the exact shape and placement of the paw lines on the physical model.

Once this computer model was finished, it was 3D printed. The surface was prepped and painted to give a smooth appearance.  I'll be talking more about that process in the next installment.

For this first round of TV commercials, the Cat's face would be animated so its facial features were not painted black.  You can see an image of what that looked like at the end of Part 1 of this blog series.

This is where the real and virtual worlds take a twist.  The facial features from the computer model used to 3D print the physical prop was utilized again in the animation of the face. Since the same computer model gave rise to both animated and physical Cat, they more easily matched up.

A couple of years down the road, Island Insurance approached me to recreate their iconic mascot. This time they wanted it fully formed with a painted face. On the second Island Cat, a few changes to the face were made as the expression of the Cat had evolved from their original concept illustration.

Picture3D Cat with 2D face
To get things just right and match the current images of the Cat in advertisements, many little nuances were discussed on just the face alone. You'd be surprised how many.

The image to the right was the picture of the Cat's face that I needed to match.

I used the same rotoscoping technique described above to model the new facial features.

Once the 3D computer model is done. It is again 3D printed, assembled and painted.

That's about all for the Cat in the virtual world. I'll talk about what happens back in the real world in the next installment.

Perhaps in a future post, I'll cover more details about dealing with the challenges of “imagining” the rest of someone else's design and maybe even the difficulties of creating a real figure from a cartoon.

Click here to continue on to part 3 where I talk about the finish work that went into the Island Cat prop.

Please share any questions or adventures you've had with 3D computer design in the comments below.