Full human ecorche in Zbrush. Long and fulfilling anatomy studies. Frazetta fan.

Today was an especially good day. I’ve finally finished retopo of characters for Going Live and was able to get some sleep and had some free time for independent studies. I think the best way to level your artistic skills up is NOT to actually work like hell to meet the deadline but to take your time and use your brain to thoroughly analyse and study something you want to improve at for a really long period of time with no rush. The key is to understand and memorise and after these sessions of self-studies previously intuitive things will be systematised in your head and then you can perfect certain things in your workflow.

So I wanted to do some anatomy studies and started doing doodles, looking at the art of one of my favourite artists – Frank Frazetta.

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I know, these doodles are awful, it’s usually something that I don’t show, just a stretch, and not a good one, it took me 10 minutes to do them and I was trying to analyse the way he blocks out his characters. But, hey, we’re reflecting, right? So I’m allowed to write any b.

So while doodling I was listening to the lecture of one really cool 3d artist where he was ranting about how it is important to perfect you anatomy fundamentals in 3d and he mentioned software that he uses for referencing called PureRef. I decided to give it a try. IT’S A BOMB! How could I have lived without it???!!!

This completely free software lets you bash as many images as you like in their original size and create mood boards/ reference boards and full screen that stuff and navigate through it. OMG, it is so much better than opening hundreds of tabs in Pinterest and scrolling down and not seeing stuff on the second monitor when you need a reference.

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I was so excited that I decided to make Frank Frazetta anatomy tribute reference board and kept on doodling. After a warm-up I thought, it might be a good idea to start modelling full human ecorche that I could use for all my future human male models. I have gathered tonnes of references and started sculpting.

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Started really quickly with a basic head block out took probably 15 minutes, the key to keep it fast is to make resolution of the mesh as low as possible at this stage and concentrate on the shape.

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Trying to meet Frazetta’s anatomical proportions, sculpted a rib cage and a neck.

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Added blocks of chest muscles looking at Frazetta’s titt  references.

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Blocks of shoulders and biceps follow ahead.

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Added block of lower and mid back muscles. Everything is quite fast, low res and made of a single sphere.

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Frazetta’s characters breathe testosterone and have quite developed traps to pack a good punch and wrestle with monsters.

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Correcting block shapes on the front.

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Added forearms.

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Added hands, each finger is separate, I made every major limb part and muscle group separate so that I could control it when I will be using this ecorche for modelling purposes. Every finger is made from two Zspheres, that were shaped out to look like fingers. I noticed that fingers are actually really square shaped, not round should note that when doing fingers.

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Adding some nice sexy and juicy gluteus muscles.

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What is natural – not shameful.

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Adding some abdominal muscle group.

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Adding some side-rib muscles, whatever their name is.

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Adding outer chest muscle group that connects shoulders and chest. If you strengthen these muscles your hook will be swift and dangerous, lad.

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Adding some thighs.

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Knee.

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The tibia /ˈtɪbiə/ (plural tibiae /ˈtɪbii/ or tibias), also known as the shinbone or shankbone, is the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee in vertebrates (the other being the fibula), and it connects the knee with the ankle bones. The tibia is found on the medial side of the leg next to the fibula, and closer to the median plane or centre-line. Just so that you’d know, man.

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Added some feet and duplicated legs. That’s it. Ecorche is basically ready. I know that it needs some corrections, but general proportions are there and each part is separated into a polygroup which makes me really happy, this little dude here now can be transformed into different cool characters.

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I’ll tweak and perfect some details of ecorche and will keep it in my database to quickly model male characters when needed. The most satisfying fact is that this ecorche is MINE and has my “alternative” touch to it and it’s separated into parts which mean I can pose him any way I like! This was a really fruitfull day. And, yes, anatomy is super important.

P.S. Next time I’ll try and model and render Frazetta’s characters using this ecorche, should be really fun.

Main character final look test shots.

Okay this is going to be quite a long post about me studying pbr texturing and doing final test looks of the characters trying out some different shaders, it took a lot of time and it could easily be separated in several posts, but I’m just going to rant on about it.

So I was okay with skin being textured in Zbrush it provided quite a  decent result, but texturing clothes in Zbrush proved to be a nightmare, especially metallic and leather materials. This is my first test shots of my main character:

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As you could notice there were many problems with textures, details of the skin looked good, but I had also problems with the mesh of mouth (it was too thin) so I was constantly making changes trying to study different techniques.

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Here, I gave my test look scene a background to get the mood right. But I was not happy with texture colours and I started tweaking the texture manually in Photoshop, applying different textures and etc.

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These are the texture files that I literally drew on top of the existing ones in Photoshop.

These procedures, that took a couple of days of tedious work would give me this result:

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Still better that the last one, but it lacked certain OOMPH and swag to it.

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I started adding some mood lighting to make textures work.  But I was still not delighted with the results.

Then I would consult with Sean and I thought that maybe using displacement maps will increase the quality of my work. Sean showed me how to use Mental_rays mia_x_passes materials and apply displacement materials and the skin of my character would look way more detailed:

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I was still not delighted with how she looks like, her leather jacket did not stand out and the iron shoulder pad did not look like it was made out of metal. I was also experimenting with her hair, trying to give her polygonal hair patches maybe, but all in vain, I did not like how it would turn up.

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Then I was studying how Mental ray materials are working and which shading options should I use, I would create different spheres with different settings to render how it would show up in the scene.

Then I decided to retexture all my character again!

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I started with the leather belt and a shoulder pad. I have retextured those in Substance painter, exported 4 different texture maps and used MILA shading materials. It took me a while to understand how MILA shading material works, I would constantly get certain anomalies upon rendering objects like this unusual glossiness on the right side of the leather belt that you can observe.

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This is how re-textured leather jacked would look like in Substance painter.

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This is how it would look like in Maya upon rendering, and it took me two days to correct the issue of that excessive glossiness, dear god, I lost a lot of brain cells trying to fix that problem.

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OMG, WHAT IS THIS?

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Better, but the jacket and boots are way too glossy and have that strange white shade.

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Way better…

I think weeks of studying pbr texturing payed off. Now I know how to do it fast and easy. I made a little short video of my character in the end:

Creating realistic eyes in Zbrush and Maya. Mentalray render video.

Okay, I haven’t been updating this blog for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing anything. I have actually been busy doing tonnes of characters for Going live project and have been documenting all my progress of my Major project.

I have enough materials for 10 posts already, I guess. Okay. Let’s start where we last dropped off. After I’ve done texturing skin I decided to give my character really expressive eyes, that would draw attention, would be quite realistic and vivid.

So I have studied the structure of the eye and read tonnes of materials how to make the realistic eye.

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I made an eye in Maya and replicated all 3 layers of the eyes that are visible from the outside. These are the cornea, pupil and iris, In Maya, they were represented by 3 different models and looked like that.

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I made a dent on the outer sphere representing iris and sent it to Zbrush where I used radial symmetry to and drew the structure of the iris.

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This is how it looked like in ZBrush. After poly painting and creating all these dents imitating the iris I have exported normal and texture maps and exported it back to Maya.

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Then I’ve tweaked the texture map in Photoshop adding detail and realism to its colour.

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Then I was playing around with different render settings.Realistic eye creation 11.jpg

Finally, I had the result that I was okay with:

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This is what the UV of the eye’s look like:

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Note that UV of the back of the eye, that we don’t see is super small, so I don’t waste the valuable texture space and can put more details to the frontal side of the eye.

I have been recording the whole process, and also I animated the eye in the end and rendered it in Mentalray to test how it would look like, here’s what I came up with:

Texturing the main character. Workflow notes. Skin.

My new super-beast-spec laptop has arrived! That is awesome news because my old laptop couldn’t handle the extent of details I was putting onto my models! So, while the hard drive is squeaking and screeching, installing all them Windows 10 updates I will BRAG blog about the texturing process because the last time we stopped at UVing.

In my humble opinion texturing can take forever, especially if you’re trying to give your character realistic look. When I was texturing the skin I was trying to maintain the anatomical structure of that organ. Generally, we have like 3 layers of skin (derma) that are actually visible really well in different lighting conditions.

So I textured all the skin parts in Zbrush using poly painting method. I applied a SkinShade4 material to my model and was mixing three colours that represent different layers of our skin which are: Epidermis, Dermis, Hypodermis or basically fat, blood vessels, veins and these layers can be represented with red, yellow and blue colours.

This is the result of the texturing process of skin parts of my model:

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So the middle part of the face is a little bit red-ish (as a lot of blood is actually being collected there and this is why we blush and you can see that in good lighting conditions), the top is yellow/brown (forehead, the area where we have a layer of fat, not a lot of blood vessels and that stuff is yellow-ish), the lower part is a little bit blue-ish as we have a lot of veins going up from the neck really close to the outer layers of the skin.

The same three colour technique can be applied to other parts of the model that includes skin:

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All those dents, wrinkles, veins, pores are added in Zbrush. I increase the polygon count number by dividing the geometry and then used sculpting tools provided by that magnificent software. I use a lot of alpha maps (textures that allow you to modify the shape of your sculpting brush strokes) as they save a lot of time, I wouldn’t recommend overusing them, though. Once I’m okay with all the details, I export texture map and normal map (it’s a map that will emulate the lighting conditions of all wrinkles and small details on the lower polygonal model, emulating volume of the object, making it really crisp and pleasant to watch).
I’ve made a giant database of my own with alpha maps for different materials like wood, metal, skin, animal skin and etc. Here’s a screenshot:

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I think that’s it. Enough of bragging blogging for today.

Main character modelling process

Just wanted to share my character creation workflow.

It all starts will dynameshing the basic shapes in Zbrush. For this character, I used ZSpheres to get the anatomical proportions right and then applied adaptive skin for further sculpting. This was the initial result, that I’ve got after hours of working:

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After I’m okay with Dynamesh shapes, I use Zremesher to decimate the number of polygons on the model and then I reproject my dynamesh shapes using ProjectAll in the subtool pallette of the program and then export the model to Maya.

In Maya, I continue my work on retopologising the model (decreasing the number of polygons and getting the overall geometry of the model right). It’s quite a tedious process, but kinda inevitable.

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After I am done with retopology, which usually takes ages I move on forward and create UV’s for the model:

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To get the whole thing correct I make these workflow notes, because when you’re using a lot of software in your project, sometimes you can forget the steps you need to follow through, especially if you’re doing EVERYTHING for your project, so I make these little reminders like that:

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I keep this note open all the time, I use OneNote as it is really handy and you can have multiple tabs and it’s super comfy to keep it open while you’re working on the second monitor.

As you can notice I have separate 4k UV’s for basically every part of the character, eyes, face and hands (skin), two texture maps for body and accessories.

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An example of UV map of my character (face and hands).

After all the UVing is done I can proceed on forward to texturing and preparing normal maps of the character’s model which is really time-consuming and intricate and is a topic for another post.

P.S. I made a turnaround video of the base-mesh of the character model, watch it:

Aliens, Sculpting, Character creation practice and more practice

Last month I’ve received a real level up in character modelling. I’ve practised Modelling and retopology on a quick hoofed alienesque character that I made:

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I’ve practised normal mapping and texturing:

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That’s funny how the character looks like when you just simply quickly UV it in Zbrush. Also, I’ve modelled and rendered character turnarounds for 5 other characters for GOING LIVE project’s pitch. I wish I could share that stuff, I hope we will able to show this stuff after we will finish the movie.

Practiced some Speed sculpts, I’ve actually sculpted jaws with all the teeth, that I’m going to use for my characters and the my imagination broke loose:

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Project management and animation pipeline rant

Continuing with my blog update marathon… The thing I want to share is project management. Throughout my life time I’ve tried all kinds of different software for project management purposes. Heck, I actually used to work as a project manager for a couple of year, lol.

So, the software that I’m using for my individual project is really simple, it’s called Manage it, and it’s brilliant. You can synchronise the tasks between all kinds of different devices and always keep up to date with what needs to be done. So, basically, right now I have tasks distributed up till mid March 2017. Every day I know what I’ll be doing next! YAAAY!

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So, I have separated tasks into following categories: Characters and Assets. I’ll finish all the tasks in the first category which include hi-poly modelling of characters in Zbrush, then exporting them to Maya and retopologising, creation of UV maps, exporting base mesh back to Zbrush where I polypaint these models and then export normal maps and texture maps based on my polypainting, the last part is rigging and testing the character.

And the environment modelling is basically the process of modelling all assets in Maya and then texturing them and UV’ing them in any software of my liking. After going through all the processes I will talk more about the general pipeline. I will be keeping on adding tasks and reviewing my progress, depending on the deadlines and the stages where my project is at.

Modelling UV mapping and texturing assets for animation production

Ok, while my computer is busy processing some really complicated stuff and I can’t use it for 3d modelling I’ll start with updating my dusty blog!

Due to lack of any updates for a month, it might seem that I was doing nothing, but actually, I was too busy working on Going Live and Final project. So I’ll start in chronological order.

We’ll kick off with modelling assets and UV mapping that I did a while ago. I wanted to improve my skills in hard surface modelling so I started off with building a base mesh for a shotgun assets, the main weapon of my main character according to the script.

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So, I ended up with mesh like this and then I proceeded with UV mapping. I have to admit it was quite a struggle fighting with software to understand the whole logic of UV mapping. I would try different methods and would get different results. This is the UV done by automatic UV functions in Maya:

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Now I understand that these UV’s would work, but back then I was thinking about getting fewer parts and I’ve tried UV’ing the mesh the way Sang showed us during one of the classes. I have to admit I had a lot of problems, here’s an example:

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As you can see all UV’s are overlapping and looks awful, upon thorough investigation I realised, that there were problems with the geometry of the object and so some parts of the shotgun had to be recreated again.

Then I have moved forward to texturing the asset for my animation project. For texturing purposes, I used Software called Substance Painter. It took me an evening to understand how the software works. and I got a decent result in the end. Here it is:

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So, I can’t wait the moment when I’ll finish all the assets and characters, and rigs so that I could play with the objects I created and animate them.