On Office Hours I experimented with lots of different ways of "doing" hair and if you look back over previous posts( by hitting "hair" or "particle hair"in the TAGS) you'll have seen the various tests I've tried to acieve a believable - though not necessarilt realistic - look. The female chracter in Office Hours has been proving a problem in the hair department. I've tried particles before and then reverted to UV mesh-style options. So far I have'nt been satisfied with how it looks. From some angles and with certain lighting it can look and move alright but it is a really difficult thing to get just the way I want it to be.
So back to the Experimental version of Blender. In previous and the current stable official release of Blender, hair is formed by using curve guides on a mesh that has a number of particle effects applied to it. To get a vaguely real-looking hairstyle can take anywhere from 6 to 20 curve guides and an awful lot of time twaeking and testing. Also - and this is a major downer - the hair must be split up into different groups such as "left side", "right side" and "fringe", and each of these must be kept on seperate layers. This is because the curve guides affect only the layer that they are on, but it means that you can end up wasting at least 2 or more layers just for hair - and Blender offers 20 layers (This may seem a lot but whenyour animating a character in a scene and the scene has lots of locations and cars and other objests which each need their own seperate layer for easy access it can become very annoying).
The new particle system uses a different method. You physically "comb" and ""cut" the hair - a bit like the "Sculpt Mode" modelling tools added a couple of releases ago. This is a more intuitive way of "making" hair. You push, pull, comb and chop the hairstyle you're looking for. I'm testing it out at the moment to see if I can make better hair for the female character in the film. Early tests have proved hopeful but I gotta keep trying to make her hair work.
Ok, at the moment it is buggy and prone to crashing but this is a major strp forward - in my humble opinion - for Blender. Modelling hair is one of the most hardest things to do in 3D animation and at last the workload of Blender users may just have gotten a little more manageable!
You can download the experimental build of Blender with the particle hair system here.So far it is only available for Windows operating systems I think.
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