Oculus Medium is a virtual reality sculpting application that has the potential to revolutionize the CGI industry. Unlike Tilt Brush and Quill, you work with molding a clay material with your hands, but you can also draw out 3D strokes, and then mend those strokes together if you like. There’s also a brush or spray paint tool to add color to your clay, and even change the way that your clay reflects or emits light.
The menus are easy to grasp as well, considering that I learned my way around within an hour. The reason it even took that long is due to the plethora of features that I wanted to explore, not because it was hard to understand where everything was, or what everything was supposed to be used for. Medium is available on the Oculus Rift, here’s how it works.
Sculpting / Fastest Way to Conceptualize 3D Ideas
Medium is more similar to traditional sculpting applications which professionals are used to, like Pixologic’s Zbrush and Autodesk’s Mudbox. You can select stamps like primitive objects, human anatomy, and mechanical components from a large library, and then draw with those like you would in Quill and Tilt Brush. You can even create your own stamps. The difference is that each stroke combines as one when they intersect each other, which can then be smoothed into a singular object. You also have the option to use a variety of tools that can be easily accessed from the menu hand to inflate, deflate, cut, add, and erase the clay.
2D Vertex Color Painting
On your sculpt, you can paint in 2D on every part of the 3D surface to add character and additional shading, allowing you to achieve a level of color realism that just isn’t possible with any other VR app at the moment.
3D sculptor Gio Nakpi has been playing with Medium a lot lately, and has been able to create some very detailed characters entirely within virtual reality. Here is a great example of an Orc that he sculpted, painted, and photographed all within Medium.
Materials, Lighting, & Environment
In the above image of Gio’s Ork, you’ll notice that the shoulder blade armor reflects light differently than the rest of the body; that’s because Medium allows you to customize your materials. At the moment, you have the option to choose a default, metal, and emissive material then customize sliders that affect the material’s reflectivity, diffuse color, and more.
Medium is also the only professional VR design application that allows you to adjust the light source position by placing it with your hand, and then change its intensity and color. While this doesn’t allow for the same level of customizability as professional desktop applications, it’s great for quickly understanding how your model will react to light later on.
It’s easy for the casual user to work on the lowest resolution on a single layer, Medium allows you to create up to 20 layers, and increase the polygon detail density as high as your GPU can handle. This means that you can sculpt a character on one layer, sculpt their clothes on another, and then morph the character’s body without affecting their clothes. It also means that you can consciously allocate your resources by deciding which parts of your sculpt deserve more polygons than others.
Don’t worry, if this is all new to you, that can sound pretty technical, and it is. But some of the top Medium sculptors are starting to release videos of their workflows. If you follow the Medium Facebook page, you can get updates about new live streams, lessons, and workflow breakdowns.
At times, the limitations of Medium’s resolution can be frustrating. In Quill or Tilt Brush, your design’s resolution doesn’t change as you zoom in, but in Medium, things can get blurry and choppy at the smallest scale. Desktop sculpting applications work the same way however, so this isn’t a design flaw. If you’re serious about detail, you can buy a better graphics card and everything will work beautifully. But if you’re a beginner, the extra step of increasing your resolution just to paint non-blurry lines, while simultaneously worrying about not overloading your computer, is difficult to grasp.
Medium’s photo export feature is great, the camera screen is big, the resolution is high, and you can adjust your focal length (the camera’s zoom) with a slider. But you can’t use these features to record video, you can only record your headset’s point of view, which can be very shaky at times. So for users who don’t know how to export and animate their sculpts with traditional software, the lack of handheld video exporting can make Medium sculpts hard to display cinematically.
Medium can’t completely replace desktop sculpting applications, but it does deserve a place in the professional workflow.. The UI is clean, the dev team is responsive, and the things people are starting to post continues to push our understanding of what this early build is capable of, and where it’s heading. Based on my talks with professional digital sculptors, the consensus seems to be that they’re willing to start most of their projects within Medium since morphing clay with their hands allows for quicker idea translation.
Above all, it’s fun. Try to remember what it was like to create with Play-Doh as a kid, but now you will never run out of Play-Doh, you have an infinite amount of colors, and gravity doesn’t exist. Can you imagine what that experience will be like in a few years with augmented reality?