Monday, September 26, 2011

Zoanthrope Conversion Beta Test Model

Beta version under construction

Hey everybody, Chaosheade here with an updated look at the Zoanthrope conversion that I recently shared.  I have made a few tweaks to the model and have several ideas on how to improve on the design.  I will share pictures of the model in its current state and several ideas on how I plan on improving it.  Full story after the jump.

I have recieved a lot of feedback from and owe thanks for many of these ideas to members of DakkaDakka and The Tyranid Hive who provided a ton of excellent feedback on my conversion.  And now without further stalling for time I present to you the current beta version of the converted Zoanthrope.  I did do a bit of work since the teaser pic I posted previously.  The only major change was filing out the holes at the back end of the crest and adding a ridge down the middle of the top side to add some character and make it not just a flat plate extending from the plastic part.  The rest was pretty much just a bit of cleanup.

This is as large as I could make the picture without going full size that would engulf  half the screen including the right sidebar.  You can, of course, click it for an unobstructed view of the full size version so you can see all the details.  Thanks Blogger.

Overall, the feedback I received was quite positive but there are some trouble areas that I think need some attention.

  1. The head 
  2. The brain.
  3. The "hourglass" shape.
  4. The arms.
  5. The pose.

1. The Head

Another unsuccessful head conversion.

The head was definitely the #1 area of concern.  You can clearly tell the current head looks like a warrior head and the green stuff extension isn't, mostly due to my inexperience with sculpting, what I would call... good.  The solution that I will be using does add a bit to the cost but is quite manageable.  I decided to use spare head crests from the Trygon/Mawloc kit which will provide several benefits.  It will make the head longer so it is closer to the size of the head on the official model, it will allow me to lower the angle on the head so it's looking more downward like the official model, the change in the head angle in turn will allow me to make the body more upright so it's not leaning forward so far, it will make sculpting the brain much easier, and it will just look a lot better than what I was able to manage with my meager sculpting skills.  I found the crests on eBay for about $2 each which is more than I was hoping to pay for them but considering all the benefits I think it is well worth the small additional cost.  The Trygon/Mawloc kit comes with 3 different crests so if there are any Tyranid players in your area there is a pretty good chance that they will have extras.  I am also considering using a Termagant or Hormagaunt head instead of the warrior face and if I do end up using a warrior face I will be swapping for the one without the barbed tongue.  I'll just have to experiment and see which head/face works best.

2. The Brain

This is your brain on my sculpting skills.

The second area of concern is also due to my lack of sculpting skills and not having a solid plan ahead of time, and it is the brain.  The first mistake I made was trying to do the crest extension and the brain all at the same time.  This did not work out well because when I worked on the top part of the crest it would shift the brain around, but even worse than that was when I tried to work on the brain it caused the crest extension to shift around and screw up the alignment with the plastic part of the head.  If I had done the crest first and then used the solid underside to work on the brain without it shifting around on me I think it would have turned out much better and I would have had a lot more time to work on the texture of the brain before the green stuff dried up on me, which turned out to be an issue.  Using the Trygon head crest will also correct this problem because I will have a solid piece of plastic to work with instead of the green stuff that shifts with the pressure I am putting on the brain.  The second mistake I made was not having a good plan on exactly how to sculpt the brain texture.  I had a rough idea and thought I could make it look OK by just winging it but as you can see that obviously did not work.  I need to have a plan of attack ready to go before I get to work.  I am looking for a good tutorial on how to sculpt grey matter but in the meantime I did get a couple of suggestions.  One was to make a long tube/rope/whatever of green stuff and lay that down on top of a basic shape.  The other suggestion was using a toothpick or similar tool and instead of slicing at the brain, create the texture by poking holes in it.  It's something I need to do a bit more research on.

Since writing this section I was pointed to a short but sweet tutorial on sculpting brains using the toothpick method.  It looks like something I can handle fairly easily and looks pretty good too.  I also really like the OP's Doom conversion using The Red Terror as a base.  I was originally thinking about using a stock Zoanthrope as a base for my doom conversion but after seeing this one I changed my mind.  Thinking about how awesome that Red Terror conversion would look with some Mawloc head pieces is getting me all excited.  I think I need to go take a cold shower.

3. The "Hourglass" Shape

Looks good on a woman (maybe not quite so literally,) doesn't look right on a Zoanthrope.

This next issue was due to my choice of bits to use in the conversion.  I didn't want my Zoey to look like a warrior with a big brain like a lot of other conversions I've seen so I chose to use a termagant body for the chest.  The other reason for this is that I don't have a surplus of warrior chest pieces but I do have enough gant/gaunt bodies that I won't miss them if I steal a few for these conversions.  Unfortunately, there are not many good substitutions for the warrior tail bit.  The problem is that the warrior hips are huge compared to the waist on the termagant body.  If you look at the model from the front (best view in the picture above is angle #3) you can see that rather than a fairly smooth taper from the chest to the tail like the official model, my plastic Zoanthrope has a teeny tiny waist and some huge friggin' hips.  This really gives the model an unnatural look and kinda throws off the feel of the whole conversion.  The official model does have a small waist but the hips are much smaller than the standard warrior ones so I need to put Zoey on a diet to shrink those hips.  It will also help with the placement of the lowest level arms because the holes for the warrior legs are also pretty friggin' huge.  Trying to attach the lower set of claws was like throwing a hot dog down a hallway.

4. The Arms

I'm not sure a caption is really necessary here.

There was some concern about using the talons and claws for the arms since Zoanthropes are supposed to be floating brains and basically have atrophied limbs.  This is a valid point that I won't argue against but for my Zoanthropes I'm going to invoke the "Rule of Cool" and go for aesthetics over fluff because I personally think the talons look awesome.  I wanted a more imposing looking figure even if my Zoeys can't take advantage of the talons in game.  For those who prefer the more traditional arms you can always use the small claws on the termagant body, the trygon spikes, ripper arms if you can find a suitable set, or even sculpt some out of green stuff if none of those options appeal to you.  One thing that I do need to change about the arms is make them more uniform rather than the 3 different types of arms that I have now.  I am planning on stealing a second pair of hormagaunt scything talons for the middle arms and keep the trygon claws for the bottom pair but I will be re-positioning them so they are vertical like the official model instead of horizontal as I have them now.

5. The Pose

Not exactly relevant but good advice anyway.

An issue that seems minor but does have a significant impact on the overall feel of the model.  The standard Zoanthrope is basically upright and slightly slouched back while my converted model looks more like it's lunging forward.  The effect is that to some people it looks more like a ravener than a telekinetic alien brain monster levitating through the air.  Of course a side by side comparison would easily show the differences but the leaning forward position does make the model look/feel wrong in a subtle way.  This is pretty simple to fix, I just need to make the model more upright and re-pin it to the base.  I might also make it float over the base a little bit or have some kind of rubble or something on the base for it to float on/over.

In Conclusion

So there you have it.  The beta version of the model, the things that I think need to be changed, and how I plan on improving the model.  I really think the second generation conversion will be a huge improvement over the current version.  This conversion will save a huge amount of money compared to buying the official zoanthrope models.  Chances are you will have a lot of the required bits lying around already or can scavenge them fairly easily and the bits that you are not likely to have available are inexpensive.  Depending on how many bits you already have or can scavenge/trade for you could easily save $150-$200 off of the cost of buying 9 Zoanthropes at retail value.  Once my bits arrive in the mail (should be any day now) I will get started on the new and improved conversion and tutorial.  The first conversion was done almost all in a single day with a few changes/cleanup on the second day so there wasn't really any opportunity to post updates aside from the twitter feed sneak previews.  If the second conversion takes longer than that I will post updates as I work on it.  That's all I have for today so stay tuned for more updates and the new and improved Zoanthrope Conversion.  Chaoshead signing out.  Catch you on the flip side.

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