It's by no means the finished article, but I have made further progress in bringing this fascinating picture into 3D. It's almost finished, so here's another demo of the 3D scene. And just to reiterate, this is not an animatic.
If you're wondering why the textures are a bit pixelated, I had to cap the texture resolution of this preview to 2K because my graphics card doesn't have enough memory to display several 8k textures at once. This shouldn't be a problem when it comes to final rendering though.
So in the end, I have resorted to good old fashioned sculpting. I realised that displacement mapping didn't give me enough control, and so it wasn't worth trying to fix all of the problems it created.
However, sculpting turned out to be a mini adventure in itself. You see, I wanted to be able to sculpt using the projected texture as a guide. Unfortunately, there were a few issues which made sculpting tricky.
Firstly, Maya's newest sculpting tool-set doesn't appear to work with projected textures (maybe it's a graphics driver issue, but I'm not sure), so I would have to sculpt blindly if I used it, and Maya's classic sculpting brushes are painfully slow to use on high resolution meshes. In both cases though, there was one missing feature which I wanted them to have that would make my life so much easier.
I wanted to be able to sculpt the mesh in such a way that the individual vertices could only move closer or further way from the projection camera. I overcame this problem by writing my own sculpting brush.
Notice how I can sculpt the mesh towards and away from the camera, but also notice how the vertices never appear to move from the cameras view point.
It's worth noting that Maya's classic sculpting tools appear to have an option for sculpting in the direction of the camera, but it doesn't work correctly. It's either broken or has a been labelled misleadingly. Maya's newest tool-set has the option too, and it even works in the same way as demonstrated with my tool, except with one caveat. It doesn't allow you to pick the projection camera, it only ever uses the current view-port. This of course means you can't really see what you're doing in 3D unless you have two view-ports open all the time.
I initially wondered whether it was worth the time and effort to create a tool for this specific use-case, but I think the results show that it has paid off.
There's just one Monday left before the deadline and there's at least one aspect of the animation I haven't properly considered yet, and that is the sound-scape. My only thoughts on the subject have been about creating a sound-scape out of sounds alone (not music). So keeping things relatively muted, and using the sounds of the various materials used in the picture (newspaper, paints, sculpting clay etc), to add texture to the piece.
That's all there is to show for now.