The core prop for our prototype scene is the Haida shaman mask, which has influenced the design of the scene and the story used to tell it. To create a realistic representation of this object in the scene, I developed a 3D model in Maya and imported it into Unity to use as an interactive asset. This post covers the process of taking the mast from a reference photo to an interactive 3D model.
I set up the sketch as a planar reference image in Maya, around which I would model the 3D mask.
As the mask design is largely symmetrical, I modelled half of the object first, later mirroring the geometry to create the full 3D object. Initially, I used a flat plane to build the general shape of the mask and set up the geometry for extruding features like the eyes, nose and mouth. These polygons were then extruded to create a 3D ‘half-mask.’
I used vertex modelling and face manipulation to sculpt the half of the mask into the correct shape and add the more complex detail such as the nose and lips. When the model was complete for half of the mask, I used the mirror tool to mirror the geometry and merge the vertex seam, creating a seamless model of the whole mask.
The colouring of the actual mask is fairly crudely painted onto a pale wood. I used a simple wood texture to simulate this effect in 3D, and hand-textured the areas of the mask that required colour. The colours on the model are slightly simpler and bolder than those on the real mask, to help the object stand out again the background when used in-game.
Loading the 3D model into Unity was simple, thanks to Maya’s Unity-specific export function. The final assets are an .fbx model and the associated materials for texture and colour.
Unity’s modular nature made implementing the model in the scene simple – I already had a working mask model and script using a temporary white-box asset, so all that was required was to point the script at the new mask model and the mask was up-and-running in the scene.