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The limitations of normal maps

From: Creating Game Environments in Maya and Photoshop

Video: The limitations of normal maps

In games we use normal maps in combination with diffuse and specular to add realism and detail in our models. What a normal map does, in short, is change the apparent direction of the polygons as they react to light. Now, there is more to it, and there are lots of materials available on exactly how they work and what they do. But the way to think of it is it makes the surface look like it's got more detail in it. A good place for a normal map, for example, is on this garage door. We can tell this garage door has a lot of wear and tear on it, and it's got windows and some recessed panels; however, on the garage door there're nothing that sticks out in silhouette, so it's a perfect candidate for a normal map.

The limitations of normal maps

In games we use normal maps in combination with diffuse and specular to add realism and detail in our models. What a normal map does, in short, is change the apparent direction of the polygons as they react to light. Now, there is more to it, and there are lots of materials available on exactly how they work and what they do. But the way to think of it is it makes the surface look like it's got more detail in it. A good place for a normal map, for example, is on this garage door. We can tell this garage door has a lot of wear and tear on it, and it's got windows and some recessed panels; however, on the garage door there're nothing that sticks out in silhouette, so it's a perfect candidate for a normal map.

We want to make sure that the panels look recessed and the windows look recessed as well. We also want to make sure that this trim around the window shows up correctly. As another example, we could use normal maps on the siding of this building/ The siding looks cracked and warned and is droopy in places but doesn't change the silhouette of the building, which is determined by the roofline and the corner boards here. So a normal map will really make the siding look like it's got some age and weathering to it. I have constructed a quick bump map to illustrate this.

A bump as a grayscale going between black and white for high and low, and it's relative; it's not a particular distance out. We've got different normal map filters available, and I'm going to quickly use xNormal here in Photoshop to make a normal map out of this. I'll use the default settings in xNormal and see how this looks. I'll click on Continue, and there is my normal map. Normal maps tend to look a little bit odd when you look at them just straight. Blue is strength and red and green gives us direction.

It's going to make these panels look recessed, and the dark lines in between the door panels became groups. The rivets here at the quarters popped out. And I'm ready to apply this in Maya. Here in Maya I've made a plane, and I have put a light in the scene. I'm going to put a normal map in the Bump Mapping texture on this material. I'll click on the texture node for bump map and in the Create Render Node dialog, pick File. In the Bump 2d that Maya creates, I'll go under Use As and change over to a Tangent Space Normal.

Then I will go into the File node and go pick the normal I've saved out. I've called this a 01_04 example, and there is that normal map. I'll click Open and make sure my High Quality displays on, by clicking on the gold sphere. Those are the hotkeys 6 to show textures and 7 to shows scene lighting, to get back to this view. Now, we can see that this door looks like it has a lot of detail. This is a great example of where a normal map is useful. We can't take a sphere for head, as an example, and normal map a nose out of it, but we can have a lot of detail that's within a plane with a normal map and make things look richer in our world in game.

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This video is part of

Image for Creating Game Environments in Maya and Photoshop
Creating Game Environments in Maya and Photoshop

45 video lessons · 6277 viewers

Adam Crespi
Author

 
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  1. 8m 26s
    1. Welcome
      42s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 37s
    3. What you should know before watching this course
      22s
    4. Setting up the workflow
      5m 45s
  2. 18m 51s
    1. Identifying key contours and shadows in concept art
      3m 25s
    2. Analyzing concept art for texture possibilities
      4m 19s
    3. Adding perceived detail through texture
      2m 20s
    4. The limitations of normal maps
      2m 57s
    5. Analyzing concept art for key shadow details
      2m 43s
    6. Identifying shadow details as generated or painted
      3m 7s
  3. 34m 35s
    1. What is a module?
      3m 15s
    2. Overview of the snap tools and precision modeling techniques
      6m 30s
    3. Blocking out the basic form of a building
      7m 5s
    4. Designing modular elements
      6m 29s
    5. The iterative process: Assembly and teardown
      3m 35s
    6. Planning for occlusion and texture stacking
      7m 41s
  4. 47m 10s
    1. Adding foundation elements
      8m 28s
    2. Modeling a high-poly roll-up garage door
      8m 35s
    3. Improving building details
      5m 35s
    4. Building an island and a canopy
      12m 53s
    5. Constructing high-detail doors
      11m 39s
  5. 21m 58s
    1. Adding door elements
      7m 43s
    2. Building a roof
      4m 11s
    3. Modeling light-tight walls
      5m 14s
    4. Adding miscellaneous elements such as air conditioners, signs, and steps
      4m 50s
  6. 35m 38s
    1. Mapping UV projection types
      7m 33s
    2. Moving and sewing UVs
      7m 34s
    3. Planning a texture sheet
      10m 49s
    4. Stacking UVs
      9m 42s
  7. 42m 53s
    1. Overview of ambient occlusion
      6m 46s
    2. Overview of the Transfer Map dialog and baking
      6m 4s
    3. Baking occlusion using the Batch Bake dialog
      7m 20s
    4. Using occlusion as a foundation for dirt
      12m 3s
    5. Baking a normal map using the Transfer Map dialog
      10m 40s
  8. 56m 23s
    1. Assessing the size of elements on a texture sheet
      9m 41s
    2. Drawing detail at the right size
      13m 22s
    3. Using tiling and non-tiling textures
      11m 29s
    4. Painting layers of dirt and wear
      9m 25s
    5. Painting specular and transparent textures
      12m 26s
  9. 44m 38s
    1. Cleaning up, exporting, and importing the model
      15m 19s
    2. Importing textures and marking them for use
      6m 52s
    3. Adding lights to test smoothing and textures
      7m 6s
    4. Refining materials
      14m 22s
    5. Viewing the final project
      59s
  10. 17s
    1. Next steps
      17s

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