I had read about Marvelous Designer in a review by 3DWorld some months ago and remember being intrigued. But it wasn’t until Kizo posted on ronenbekerman about the application’s potential for furniture-modelling that I decided to visit their site and download the 30-day trial.
MD is a CG cloth-making app that allows the user to cut cloth patterns as fashion designers would before draping and sewing them around an “avatar” (an A-posed character). For our purpose, however, MD is first and foremost an amazing cloth simulation engine, with striking real-time capability. Although it evokes 3ds Max’s garment maker and seems based on similar principles, its engine is incredibly fast and allows real-time interactions (pulling and pushing of the cloth while draping).
Above and below are examples of what I came up with when trying to apply MD’s tools to furniture making. Since this is not what the app was developed for, this involves quite a few steps and workarounds.
MD is good for draping cloth around objects, but it won’t help you for things like cushions and pillows. So I first defined the base shape in Max, using simple volumes that were given some puffiness and a degree of “weight” using Max’s own cloth tools (see here about how to blow things in Max).
I then imported the model in MD as an .obj and proceeded to dress it up – very much like you would wrap a pillowcase around a pillow. Attempting to drape fabric around individual cushions when they are so tightly squeezed together will send any simulation engine into the computing equivalent of mental breakdown. Not a problem here, though, since MD supports .obj as Morph Targets. Just prepare an “exploded view” of your base mesh, drape it in MD, then import your original base mesh (making sure to tell MD it is a morph, not a new avatar) and MD will animate between the two .obj over a set number of frames, allowing the cloth to fall into place as nature intended it to.
There are still limitations: the engine is very fast when dealing with a single avatar but struggles when faced with a bigger number of collision objects and interacting cloth pieces. In this case, I had to run four separate simulations to complete the sofa while retaining reasonable simulation speed.
Another limitation is that MD (like Garment Maker) only outputs tris. Without quad output, MD’s meshes cannot be further subdivided in Max, nor can they be properly sculpted in ZBrush, and they need to be very high-poly (something that can be set within MD’s simulation engine) in order to render without artefacts. I worked around this problem by importing the original 1.8m-poly mesh into ZBrush and using its excellent decimation plugin to bring it back to a much more civilised 300,000 without any visible loss of detail.
Lastly, although MD outputs decent UVs out-of-the-box, these are not necessarily scaled properly, meaning that some parts of the same cloth object could have completely different-scaled UVs. These cannot be easily rescaled either since the islands are overlapping and not properly separated by seams.
Arguably these could all have to do with my incompetence as I have not explored all the myriad settings the software offer.
All in all, MD certainly has the potential to revolutionise soft-furniture-making in CG by allowing things that just not were possible before without an enormous amount of tweaks and trickery.
Here are a few more images of the sofa. The design was inspired by Carlo Colombo’s chat sofa, with some liberties taken. The interior above was inspired by David Kohn’s Stable Acre (more views of this one to come soon). I used GrowFX for the twigs and ForestPro for the deep-pile carpet.
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