Sunday, 23 August 2015

Kinx MK1 - Build Log

As someone in love with the idea of Mini-ITX PCs but completely fed up with the lack of good cases designed well, without wasted space and capable of housing a complete PC. Damn who decided ITX cubes were attractive?! I decided to work on my own case. As a DIY and maker-type person this isn't too far-fetched an idea. I've actually dreamed of doing this since I was about 16 and my friend made a case for his DT GCSE project. But I am well aware this is going to be an iterative process until I am happy with the case.

The thing that really sparked this was when I went to France last year for my internship at Ubisoft Montpellier. How was I meant to last 6 months without a computer?! I played with the idea of buying USB monitors and a NUC and toyed with the idea of building a Mini-ITX workstation to take over and buy monitors there, but none of these options were really viable and buying a GS60 Ghost was unfortunately a far more sensible and time efficient idea. I was actually really suprised, it performed well with ZBrush, 3ds Max, Unreal Engine 4 and Photoshop all open at once with way too many triangles and pixels. I could continue working on my personal high poly and engine work. Gotta get good after all.

During the 6 months I was still completely taken with the idea and I had actually started thinking and designing how to do this before leaving for France. Other than the exclusive cases like the Alienware x51 and the Digital Storm Bolt II both of which I really like there were very few ITX cases that catered for somone wanting an entire PC (GPU included) and not a cube. At the time there was the Silverstone RVZ01 and ML05 to look at for inspiration, both of which had the functionality but were either a bit too big or simply not that pretty. Later on, along came the Lian Li PC-05S a beautiful design but a chunky one. As it turns out had I waited longer I would have found some potentially great looking cases but to be honest I was too far down the rabbit hole of "I'm going to make this" that that probably wouldn't have changed anything.

All this time I was gathering references, measuring things out, making cardboard mockups and working on a design in 3Ds Max. I was also trying to plan out how I could fit watercooling into it ;) just for more pretty. It turns out all of this becomes a challenge of millimeter accuracy and minimalism. Nonetheless I continued to take cool designs that I liked and develop an idea of what I wanted to make. I found Parvum selling modding cubes separately while looking around which was great because I had been planning on making my own version of them as a way to use the most simple tools as possible.

When I got back from France I had a Z77 ITX motherboard waiting for me to swap my desktop over to but I didn't have a case so for a long time while I finished off my degree and didn't have the time to build or finishing the measurements of the case.

During my free time I put together this simple idea.

So when I finally finished my FMP and had a bit of time between Uni and starting at Dambusters I realised that I actually NEEDED a functional version of the case so that I could move. So I got my Dremel, Parvum modding cubes, materials and got going.

Firstly my BeQuiet! 300W TFX PSU had way too much cabling so I needed to go in and take out a molex connector so that there would be some airflow at least.

I tried to use an old Mini-ITX case from my Atom for the motherboard risers and to provide a base for the case but it didn't really work and I just ended up drilling and tapping holes in the rear aluminium plate it was a bit more difficult to get the positioning right, this is one of the areas of improvement.

Trying to get some airflow...
Enclosed :)

Trying desperately to make a air channel out of the cables. I think I'm going to need to shorten the cables, tiny 60mm fan. Another thing that needs improving.

And there we go a bare-bones functional case that would house Kinx from Leicester to Nottingham. As you can tell, it works but there are things that need to be improved.

Old and New, bye Kobalt
Issues to solve for Kinx MK2:
  • Airflow
    • Top and Front panel re-shaping will provide more space for airflow
    • 60mm fans above GFX card to pull air out the top of the case
  • Power button
    • With Front Panel re-shaping power button will go on the side of the front panel, you won't be able to see it but you'll be able to press it
  • Cable managment
    • Front Panel re-shaping will provide more space for the mass of cables
    • Take some time to shorten cables and sleeve them.
  • Slight issues with hole placements
    • Make a jig to get the right placement every time.
  • Side panel removal, magnetic?/slots?
    • Needs some research and designing.
  • Tinting on Acrylic
    • It is far too strong, either need some LEDs or more clear acrylic.
    • I have thought about getting some tempered glass cut to size for the side.

Here's Kinx at the moment.

i7 3770k
16 GB Kingston HyperX DDR3
AMD 7770HD (soon to be swapped out for a GTX 970 Mini itx)
BeQuiet! 300W TFX PSU

Friday, 3 July 2015

WIP TechPriestess

Wanted to paint and have been wanting to make Thanquol's helm (Ref) so thought I'd take some inspiration from that helm and this photo of someone awesome at Amphi Festival (Ref). As I started to think about what to do I thought maybe a wasteland-y vibe would be cool and Degenesis has a really cool post apocalyptic world that I thought would be kind of good as an idea starting point (Ref).

So a found item Priestess Headdress with a little LCD screen and crushed bottles as horns which glow from LEDs in the base of the headdress. I'm still working on the painting and especially the back section of the headdress but have started to test out some of the gif stuff I wanted to play with.

Cant decide between heart and DoomGuy

Friday, 5 June 2015

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

FMP - Ignore Comfort Zones

So after talking to a few people about the lighting in the last post I have worked up a night time lighting situation and I'm going to keep pushing and experimenting the next being a overcast cloudy British day. I'm also going to be experimenting with some colour grading with the goal of unifying the colour palette a bit better.

Edit:playing with night lighting again so thought I'd add this in here too

Mike Kelly was kind enough to do these two paintovers for me, there is a lot in there that I had planned but also a lot that will help to balance the compositions and colour palette.

While working on lighting and composition I am also working on my soft surface scultping abilities with a sofa, hopefully it will look comfortable when I'm done. I think I have another evening's worth of work left and I'll be baking it down to start work on the textures.

Both lighting and soft-surface are areas I'm not incredibly comfortable with at the moment so I'm going to keep pushing and working on them so if anyone has suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

FMP - Lighting and Composition

After the previous post I continued to work on different layouts and compositions I have moved more and more towards the idea of a industrial factory area. After going to Sheffield I got some good reference of small roads with abandoned factories which could fit quite well with the work I had already done and help to push the reworking forwards. Unfortunately I was going to a festival and such didn't have my DSLR with me (next time I'm going to need to get myself a press pass somehow) but I managed to get this one picture which slightly shows the kind of smaller buildings I'm meaning.

So after reworking the layout a couple of times I settled on one and feel better about the composition and layout both in terms of single shots and in terms of wandering around the level. However I really struggled for the past few weeks with lighting and the precise composition I wanted. Here is where I was at the beginning of this week.

Here are a selection of the paint overs that show the progression this week.

Using a technique showed to me by Mike Kelly I used a posterise adjustment layer set to 6 levels to separate the different values from each other. This really helped me to visualise what is working and what is not. Using this technique it becomes much easier to see the way the foreground, middle ground and background are reacting to each other. As you can see the value range in the top image is very confused and the background area seeps into the forground space without much distinction. the next few images worked on this without quite hitting the right value ranges and the last image is almost there. Still work to do but the value ranges and distances are definately improved.

This is where the lighting is at the moment:
All of the lighting is straight out of engine, there are a couple of things painted in (police stripe on the breakwater wall, no stopping sign, traffic light and pavement material).

Please bare in mind there are lots of assets currently in progress and this isn't a fully fleshed out paintover of where I want to get to but more of a indicator of the lighting and scene, there will be more clutter and human elements.
This shot is at the very beginning of the walk through of the level and needs some work in all respects (its very yellow at the moment and I don't know how to feel about that)

Here are two other vantage points which may be used for the final screenshots... (WIP) 
Lots to work on and push forwards. Unfortunately the composition isn't quite sitting right and the eye seems to get a bit stuck around the no stopping sign so this is something I'm going to be looking into over the next couple of days.